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NFC: club spirit, computers, NFC data (NFC server discussion)

Well sort of late in the game, the chat last night turned towards some
of the computer technobabble that has been going on lately.

A good lot of discussion came out of it, which I will ATTEMPT to
summarize.  I hope the other participants will throw in their three or
four cents as well.

One of the first things that seems to be apparent is that at this point,
we probably don't have assurances that owning our own server is a safe
thing to do with regards to available volunteers and backups for those
volunteers.  Also, who is going to run in to repair the server on-site
if it goes down?

However, the conversation turned towards things that we can do today and
reap benefits from now, while at the same time preparing for a day in
which the NFC may require a dedicated server.

Two words: relational database.  Without getting into all the
technobabble, last night's chat got into record keeping and presentation
of said data to breeders, collectors, aquarists, kiddies, newbies, etc. 
Right now the NFC has a lot of information handy.  But it is spread out
all over the web site, and some not on the web site at all.

For example, if I want to learn about Lepomis humilis, I currently have
to go to the Articles section and visually scan through the titles, or
use the text search engine (great feature, by the way).  This will
return a list of articles with matches.  But to see a photograph of L.
humilis, I have to back up and go into the gallery.  Now if I want to
find out who is currently working with L. humilis, I go to the Breeders
section to see that list.  I can probably contact the people working
with this species, but they may not have any available to ship at this
time.  So now I go to the Fish Wish List and see who has some available.

So you see, in this type of scenario, the NFC has almost all the
information I need to work with this species.  The only problem with it
is not tied together in an intuitive fashion.

One facet of a relational database is that any sort of information the
NFC collects on a species can be keyed on that species and retrieved
on-demand (if the relational database software is running on the web
server at a future date).

But today, here, now, a relational database can do some things to
improve the record keeping abilities of the breeders program without
necessarily having to be hooked to the internet site to do it.  I have
no idea what kind of records the club currently keeps, but based on what
is available on the web site I am worried that as the NFC grows and
matures, some of the early successes will slip through the cracks and
out of memory, thus when someone starts enquiring how to breed a certain
obscure fish, having a person's name MAY not be enough.  In our chat
last night, we talked about how the breeders project could benefit from
a relational database to record names *and* details on how to breed any
given species of fish, and at the same time that data is once again
keyed to the species of fish.

Long-term, this means that the NFC would consolidate all data into one
place.  When the time comes that it is both feasible and desirable to
have a dedicated web server, the database can be moved or replicated to
it, and a one-time revamping of the web site interface would provide a
user-friendly front end to extract information from the database. 
Perhaps the only data given up front would be a single photograph and a
short overview, with links to more detailed information on breeding,
geographic dispersal, wish list, more photos, collection reports, etc.

Rather late in the chat, the discussion turned towards ways to encourage
greater camaraderie.  Some way of keeping people psyched up about the
goals of the NFC and not to simply be content with the status quo. 
Unfortunately it was getting pretty late and we didn't get to explore
this in any depth.  While it wasn't my idea, I did want to raise it here
and see if anyone wanted to pick it up and run with it.

So the ambitions of this model are reduced somewhat from what we have
been discussing here in the last week, but perhaps more refined and
forward thinking via the participation of others in the discussion.  I'd
like to hear what others think on the subject.


Chris Hedemark
Email: chris at yonderway_com   ICQ: 28986378
Rural Living at Yonder Way - http://www.yonderway.com/rural