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Forum: Web Site
Topic: Diary of a Webmaster

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What next for LTSV?
Thu 15/09/16, 14:13
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Besides keeping the database up to date with reported changes (and adding photos every month or so) there are several other pieces of work to improve the LTSV website. Some are already underway, some are only planned. I thought it might be useful to provide a list of these. Feel free to let me know which you think would be the most useful, or about any other suggestions you may have.

1. Continue with inputting of vehicle histories
Over 32,000 vehicle history records have been added over the past few years, and together they give complete coverage for a lot of the vehicles, particularly those from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Earlier events can be covered now that vehicle record cards are to hand for the oldest vehicles, but the newer stuff is a bit harder. Some fleetlists from the 1980s and 1990s are currently being combed through and these will provide at least partial histories for the central fleet in those decades. More recent vehicles, and all the bus company vehicles, will have to be covered using reported sightings and licensing data.

2. Add more archive documents
In June 2016 I started adding downloadable copies of historical LT documents relating to service vehicles, mainly fleetlists at given dates. There are still quite a lot to do, though the information they contain has (in general) already been used to update the vehicle database.

3. Add more downloadable documents
In March 2015 I provided a set of documents that enabled the bulk of the content of the LTSV website to be downloaded, the main aim being to provide a back-up of sorts. The documents containing the first 1500 photos have still not been completed, while the basic fleetlist was to be updated regularly (perhaps annually) but has not yet been done.

4. Add leased unmarked cars to the database
This is a recent idea, which could potentially add another thousand or more vehicles to the database. It has been covered in another forum posting added today.

5. Upgrade the forum
The forum is perhaps the weakest part of this website, and it was not dealt with in the upgrade last year. Perhaps as a result, the forum does not get much use. But would it do so if it were to be improved?

6. Fix the registration process
I am aware that there are some minor problems with the process of registering as a member of this website. It evidently does not stop people joining but it should probably be addressed.

7. Add more external photos
A couple of years ago I started work on a facility whereby external photographs (ie ones on other websites and in books) could be added as thumbnails. This could be especially useful for increasing the coverage of older vehicles. Just five photos were added and the work to enable visitors to upload images was never completed. The LTSV photopool on Flickr (which I am not connected with by the way) currently has over 1500 photos, many of vehicles not shown here.

8. Do something about 'changeable' information
By this I mean the details of a vehicle that can change during its lifespan and which may be useful for sorting and filtering purposes. The problem is that each vehicle entry in the database can only have one value for the operator, livery, registration number etc. In most cases this is sufficient but, to give an example, a van that started in white livery with South London but was later repainted red with Arriva London can only be listed under one of these states. If put under South London, a search for Arriva London vehicles will not return it. A similar situation applies to trade plates. I did create a solution for this ('LTSV3') a couple of years ago but the amount of work entailed meant that what eventually appeared ('LTSV2.5') did not incorporate the ideas.

9. Improve the home page and general site design
Despite major behind the scenes changes, the appearance of LTSV has not really changed in over ten years. The site works, but it could hardly be described as attractive, and it may be off-putting to new visitors (see also point 12).

10. Add sightings from photographs
The sightings reported on LTSV are very useful for determining the allocations of current and recent vehicles. However, not everyone is interested in adding sightings. There are a large number of photographs (most of which have not been published) which could be used to 'generate' sightings, thus helping with allocations.

11. Improve the sightings report process
Starting in 2014, sightings can either be linked to existing service vehicle locations or entered as plain text for other places. The benefit of this is that you can see all sightings at a given location, this again helping to determine allocations. The process is not quite fool-proof and could probably be improved.

12. Add more background information/guidance for 'newbies'
I am sure that a lot of the content of this website would be meaningless to a first-time visitor, and this may deter people from signing-up and contributing. Some guidance and explainations are needed, covering such basics as 'what is a service vehicle', 'what is the central fleet' and so on.

13. Add an annual review for 2015
In recent years I have provided an annual summary of changes to the service vehicle fleets and to the LTSV website, but that for 2015 has not yet been done. The reason for this is that, in the absence of official information, vehicles added during the year are still being reported. As such, any statistics that I produce (for example on the quantity of vehicles added to each fleet) may not be accurate. I will provide the report sometime over the next couple of months anyway.

14. Replacement follow-through links
A lot of service vehicle additions can be seen to be direct replacements for existing vehicles, either through observations or data on official documents. This information is now being included in the vehicle histories or notes (where available), but how about making them links? For example, a single-click could take you from one vehicle to the one that replaced it. The trouble with this idea is where there is not a one-to-one relationship. For example, where two vans (A and B) were replaced by two new vans (C and D), it would not be strictly accurate to say that van A was replaced by van C.

15. More devolution
A small number of members contribute by far the majority of content to LTSV, and a couple of years ago I started work on granting these people greater editing rights. The only aspects enabled so far are vehicle licensing data and history entries. More rights could be granted, allowing new information to appear slightly more quickly.

16. Links in notes
Members can add notes, which can contain the URLs of (for example) photos of particular vehicles. At present there is no method by which these URLs can be turned into clickable links, other than by my manually editing them. Would such a function be useful?

I must not forget of course to also keep the other LTSV website up to date (the one covering UK railway wagons), and I do have some long-standing plans to upgrade that site with a database, log-in, sightings etc. I am curious as to whether anyone else has interests in both of these disparate topics, although I do have at least one contributor who provides photographs to both. Right, that is enough from me. Any feedback will be welcomed, carefully considered and then ignored!


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