We'll open with the rant...
I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I am so over this pandemic...
I left work on the evening of 13 March with orders that the following week was supposed to be staggered. The order was simply to start rotating days for telework, where each day only one person was in the office. The rest of us would be at a remote location or teleworking. 17 March, I showed up for regular duty. Just before I went to bed the following day I was told that we were switching to total telework scheduling the following week - not surprising based on what I had learned on the 17th. I was under the impression this was going to be a two week affair. But here we are...49 days later.
49 days away from my post, my organization, my coworkers, my archives, and out of my routine. Oof.
Polls & User Input
Some of you by now are following along on Facebook, and I greatly appreciate that. I think we are up to 25 the last I checked, which is honestly more than I was expecting at the get-go. I've continued to back-post information from Facebook onto the site, as a lot of you may not have Facebook or any intention of giving them clicks. That's fine, and I have you covered.
With all of that being said, I'm posting a lot more diverse content over there simply because a Facebook post takes a very little amount of time to compose. For that reason, I'm thinking of a new plan for people to give me feedback on what they want to see - and I have that plan outlined below - we'll try this for May 2020:
- Posts continue throughout the month.
- On the last day of the month, I will post the wrap-up post on the site here, and link to it on Facebook.
- On either of those posts, visitors and followers can comment the number of day (the date, for example: May 7th would simply be "7") they want me to do a deep dive post on.
- The poll will conclude on the 7th day of the following month (that should give about 8 days to vote).
- The winning topic will be posted sometime between the second and third week of the following month.
Granted, some of my posts are simply me challenging my own knowledge, so there might be a time or two that the follow-on article may not be the most stellar performance. That being said, I'll always put an effort into whatever I post.
Cataloging of Everything (The Header Image)
One of the big initiatives that I've been working on during this whole COVID mess is the organization of my own files, books, resources, documents, and pictures. That includes my physical and digital files. When going through my digital files, however, I discovered that things were kind of all over the place, and I had already been extending that over to the site here. For that reason, I figured before I start posting a wild amount more, I'd begin to go back and start fixing those files and adopt naming conventions going forward. Thus, you may notice these "MH Numbers" popping up in/on images on the site. All of these are catalog numbers that refer back to certain identifiers that help me and any bot sort through them. All future image uploads will use that naming convention as well, and all document and resources will also use this method as well. In fact, everything that I have uploaded since 1 May uses this structure.
The new structure also lets me edit metadata a bit more seamlessly. For example, there are a dozen or more photos on the site that do have a known photographer, a known acquisition date, or a known description, but those are all omitted from the site database and not searchable in any way. Going forward, all of this information and data will be available. The goal is to simply make things easier to find, search, and identify explicitly what is in the photo or document without necessarily having to open it. This will be especially important as I begin to work on a sister website that will be launched sometime in the next two to four months (Small Arms & Rock Island Arsenal fans should stay tuned for that).
The inclusion of things above have more means to an end than simply differentiating for new/additional projects and endeavors that are coming in the next few months. The key items are listed below, and I'm honestly looking forward to these as they're not something I had initially thought I'd get to do on the site.
Site Asset Gallery
By now, there are well over 150 different images that are used in some shape, way, or form on the website. That includes figures, examples, and just simple gallery fodder. Going forward and coming soon, a whole-site gallery will be launched that will allow people to search for specific images and items that they are interested in. That includes the databases of armor, artillery, missiles, aircraft, small arms, and vessels in various different form factors (painting, photography, digital renders, etc.). I have to finish converting and updating all of the site media entries before I can launch this, but it is coming soonish.
Fact Sheet Database
I will be making a big push in the coming days and weeks to get new fact sheet data posted. This won't be limited to just artillery, but will include a variety of other systems as well. The point of this is to make it easier when writing articles and posts to simply refer to the fact sheets for technical-but-not-so-technical data. The most recent example of this is what I found myself doing for the Blackbird post, where I injected a lot of fact-sheet-type data into the post, rather than delving more into the message I was trying to convey. Think of the fact sheet database as a glossary for the contents within each post going forward.
Document Databases aren't "new" to the site, but the types of documents are what I'm revisiting. Most recently, I began to include some limited technical detail to entities with accounts on the site. That included drawings and technical manuals. While I have no intention presently of bringing this feature to non-registered visitors, I do have the intention of linking to data in DTiC or NARA as I find it. I also am going through many of my resources to find useful and relevant documents that researchers may find useful or visitors may find interesting. An example of this is the document which discusses NSC-68 and Flexible Response in the 1950s and 1960s.
As I am sure you have noticed by now, I did serve the site a bit of a facelift earlier last month. This was to help with navigation and get rid of redundant links that only serve to confuse people. I also did some tweaking to help make the site a bit easier to read for most of us. Way too much white for my liking. It also helped realign the sites mission a little bit. I haven't totally nixed my other interests off the site, but I do recognize that the primary bulk of visitors to the site are here because of history content, not something else. For that reason, I'm working on ways of keeping the less serious stuff out of view for those who are here for the good stuff. (Sorry, fellow weebs (there are new things coming for you too).)
If the COVID issue has done anything for me, it has allowed me to catch up on a lot of benign work and training. It has also given me time to go through my files and documents here, catch up on reading, and then some. So there's some good to come out of all this. It sadly, does not change how stir crazy I've slowly been getting. I've been in touch with several of my volunteers at work, and they have all been saying similar things (although one of them is stranded near an Air Force Base in the desert, and I'm a little jealous - you know who you are!). However, we press on - it's what we're all best at.
Stay safe, stay well - rock on!