Counting down the days

Yesterday marked 10 days until the release of the Dictionary, and I planned to post a summary of where we are at at that point. However, by the time I’d finished reviewing and finalizing 699 forms of Joan for inclusion, it was time to call it a night!

The last few weeks we’ve focused our energies in two places:

  • The code to generate and display the entries
  • Reviewing and finalizing header files and individual citations

To create the entries on the web, the individual XML files are imported into an SQL database, which is then accessed via python in order to extract, sort, and format the relevant data for each entry. Sorting has proved to be one of the complex parts of creating a complete entry: The default sort order is first by country, then language, then by whether it’s a diminutive or not, then by date, and then by spelling, but we are working to make it possible for individuals to choose their desired sort order (for example, for those who wish to have spelling before date). In order for the entries to display correctly, we’ve had to spend quite a bit of time finding appropriate fonts: Not many fonts out there support Roman, Greek, Hebrew, Gothic, and Cyrillic letters, as well as combined characters such as u with a superscripted o, in a way that is both legible and attractive.

Regarding content, in the three weeks since the beginning of the month, we have jumped from 639 entries to 721, and we continue to finalize between 1 and 10 new entries per day. From 10288 citations, we’ve increased to 14229, and have hopes of reaching 15000 by the end of the month: a 50% increase from where we began the month!

During this time, the inputting of new citations has slowed, but not completely stopped. We find new sources to work from every day, and sometimes the draw of, e.g., 14th C Friulian names is too much to resist. Or, we get a specific request for a particular name, which will thus concentrate our efforts in that direction until we can find evidence and create the relevant entry for it. (This will be a regular feature of upcoming editions: If you are unable to find the name you are looking for, there will be a form you can fill out to request that this name be popped to the top of the queue for the next edition. If you include your email address in filling out the form, then you will be notified when the entry with your desired name is published.)

One thing that we have not devoted a lot of our time to is making a flashy website with lots of bells and whistles. At this point, making the data available is more important: New features for the website can always be introduced as they are completed in the future. So even though new editions of the Dictionary will be published only on a quarterly basis, the website will be updated more frequently, and we have all sorts of plans for features and functionality that we ultimately hope to add.

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