Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 5 May 2012 08:32
"It was Penny that got the ball rolling, I seem to remember she asked me whether I could update and prettify the existing SMG pages on the sussex-butterflies website. It was something I had been thinking about but had never really got around to. I think the idea then started escalating and it then occurred to me that maybe we could use the SxBRC records as the basis for a site that was more than just a few moth photos and the contact details for the committee members.
The important thing in my mind, was to create a site that wasn't a slavish copy of other moth websites, some of which are undoubtedly excellent, but to produce something a bit different and, importantly, Sussex-centric. I also felt that as it was the Sussex Moth Group and not "Sussex-moths" website, it should be designed so that group members would find it easy to contribute to the content.
I enjoy a programming challenge and the thought of having to work out a way to extract and display data in a useful form from more than a third of a million individual records sounded like fun. Not only that but it had to be designed so that as new records came in they could easily be added to the site in order to make it as up to date as possible. Because the data the site uses are "real" records, submitted to the SxBRC, it allows for detailed distribution (1km scale) and phenology charts (single day) and can generate some remarkable images.
After putting together a "test" site and with the input of the committee, the site started coming together. There was one big problem, If we were to have a detailed account of the status and ecology of every moth in Sussex, where on Earth would we get that sort of information and, almost as importantly, who was going to write it? At the time the site was being developed, Colin Pratt (county moth recorder) was publishing his epic "Complete History of the Moths and Butterflies of Sussex" and he very generously allowed us to use this as the prime resource for this information. Great, that's the solution to a major problem, but it didn't answer how we were to get somewhere between 100 and 150 words written on all the 1828 species on the website (that works out at a word count of approximately quarter of a million!). Distributed computing - that's the answer - if it's good enough for hunting for extra-solar planets or alien intelligence, it's surely good enough for us. A spreadsheet of all the Sussex species was prepared and chopped into chunks of thirty, these chunks are passed out to willing members (who also own a copy of Colin's book) who fill in the blank column, they're then sent back to me and I pop them into the database - simple. More than 800 species have this information on their individual pages now and hopefully the rest will follow in the not too distant future. This information can be, and in quite few cases has been, augmented by any registered user of the site. Relevant information on any species can simply be added, creating a more complete picture of that species's status.
The number of species that we have photos of is increasing almost daily. The simple system for uploading photos was designed to allow users to upload photos to the site with (hopefully) the minimum of hassle.
- A trapping report (sightings) page.
- E-mail updates of new news items, events postings or other site updates.
- Equipment loan booking page
- Possibly even a page on moth parasitoids"
A huge thank you to Bob, this website really is the jewel in the crown of the group and I look forward to using and adding to the website over the coming years. Bob's efforts have resulted in him being 'rewarded' with a place on the SMG committee through the creation of a new position: Webmaster! What are you waiting for? Go and have a look here! http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/