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UKDFD REVIEW - DECEMBER 2018
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As Christmas and the new year approach, so too does our first full year of operation on the latest incarnation of the UKDFD website. (It doesn't really seem appropriate to refer to it as the 'new website' any longer!) We therefore thought it would be a good idea to review how things have gone, and to update everyone on where we now are, both technically and from a recording and membership perspective.

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We had originally hoped to launch by Christmas, last year, but despite our best efforts we were delayed by technical gremlins and actually made it on the 19th of January. Some 'teething problems' were also encountered immediately after launch, but these were resolved within a few days. In view of the complexity of the project, and the amount of work the new website entailed, it is fair to say that we were pleased that the launch went as well as it did.

Since fixing the teething problems in January, we are pleased to report that we have not encountered any critical errors or any significant down-time. We have, of course, fixed a number of minor bugs (reported in previous newsletters), and it is inevitable that we will continue to encounter new ones - they arise from time to time when the software is updated (our weather plug-in was the most recent casualty!). We have also made a significant number of improvements to various elements of the website, some as a result of requests from members and some initiated by UKDFD staff. Most of the improvements have also been reported in previous newsletters.

Once the software issues were under control, we turned our attention to the records themselves, and identified two distinct issues that needed to be addressed:

(1) Eliminating the backlog of records that had accumulated in the 'Records Awaiting Validation' area.

When we copied the records from the old database to the present one, there was a backlog of 226 records in the 'Records Awaiting Validation' area. Thanks to Bob and Sandra, all the records have now been processed and the backlog was entirely eliminated. Of course, the number of new records in this area will fluctuate from day to day, but we are now endeavouring to process all records within 30 days of being uploaded.

(2) Rebuilding records that were corrupted as a result of moving the database.

There are a number of different ways in which records were corrupted when they were migrated from the old database to the present one:

(a) The clickable links from one UKDFD record to another were broken because all the urls are unavoidably changed in the process. 3650 records with between 1 and 6 links on each were affected.
(b) The old database software used bulletin board code for all formatting of text and url links, whereas the present one uses html tags. In addition to (a), this affected another 1000 or so links to third-party websites (mainly the PAS), and countless other records with formatted text.
(c) The main 'Description' field was copied across with no paragraph formatting applied. Consequently all the text from a multi-paragraph description was collapsed into a single block of text. This is particularly unsightly if, for example, there is an emboldened paragraph header located in the middle of the block.
(d) Some of the default field lengths were shorter on the present database than the old one, hence any very long text entries were simply cropped short.

Although not due to the migration, we also realised that many of the earlier links to the PAS and other third-party websites had been broken as a result of their own urls being changed when their software was updated. We decided that we would also include these in the exercise we undertook.

In carrying out the exercise, we estimate that we have manually corrected over 5,000 records, and this is about as many as we can find by using selective search strings. However, it represents only about one in ten of the total number of records on the database. We would therefore request that members report any instances of affected records they encounter, so that we can correct them. We say a little more about the best way to report any issues below.

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When the present website was launched, we offered free access for a limited period to everyone who had previously registered with us (well over 5000 registrations since our original launch in 2005). This allowed people to explore the site and decide whether to subscribe to one of our Membership Plans. We are pleased to say that a significant number of our previously active recorders subscribed during this trial period, and we have had a fairly steady monthly uptake since. At the time of writing we have 123 subscribing members with representation in all five of our Membership Plans. Between them, our members have also purchased approximately 70 Recording Packages, some of which have already been renewed several times.

Speaking of Recording Packages, we would like to remind members that they are valid for one year from the date of purchase. If you have a few uploads remaining when your Recording Package is due to expire, it is worth considering renewing it by clicking the 'Renew' button alongside the package. By way of illustration, if you have a Silver Package with 3 uploads remaining, renewing it will give you 23 uploads valid from the date of renewal. You can check the status of your Recording Package(s) by selecting 'My Packages' from the drop-down menu when you click your name at the top right of the screen.

Whether you are purchasing a Recording Package or renewing your Membership Plan, it is cheaper to do so by using UKDFD Credits. This is an incentive offered to existing members, as you cannot purchase Credits until after you have registered. To purchase Credits, simply go to 'My Credits' on the same drop-down menu and follow the link 'Buy Credits'. Credits are valid indefinitely while you remain a member.

This is also an appropriate point to turn to the number of records uploaded since our present website was launched. The figure at the time of writing stands at 1365, or an average of about 130 records a month. Long-term members will recognise that this is significantly lower than it used to be, but it is within the range we expected and planned for. The introduction of a small charge for each record was necessary to help cover the cost of developing and operating the UKDFD, but it also helps to prioritise recording of the most worthwhile material and make the best use of our limited resources.

Following the changes we made to our subscription/membership model, the projected income for the first full year of operation is approximately 2300. Although this falls short of our 3000 target, it is an improvement on previous years, and we are hopeful that the target will be achieved in due course. It is worth reiterating that our objective is to cover costs of software development and operational expenses. Any surplus income will be used to enhance the software and services.

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One of the areas that we would like to improve is that of communications, both for members and staff. Our hope was that we could migrate from the 'Old Forum' to a comparable forum integrated with the present website. Unfortunately, this has proved to be more challenging than we envisaged, and as a consequence we are continuing to make use of the old forum for the time being.

Anyone who registered with the old forum is still able to log on and post. Members can therefore use the forum for such purposes as checking eligibility, requesting help, reporting problems and posting additional/missed images for their records. The forum does not accept new self-registrations, but anyone who has purchased a Membership Plan via the present website can request that they are also registered to use the forum. Obviously, such requests will have to be made via the 'Contact Us' facility on the present website.

It is worth mentioning at this point that everyone who has previously recorded finds on the UKDFD will have a basic membership account on the new website, the log-on details (username and password) of which remain the same. These basic accounts are designated 'My Records Only' and allow account-holders to view listings of their own records and change their email, password etc. If you are in this situation and are considering upgrading to a paid Membership Plan, it is important to do this by logging into your 'My Records Only' account and selecting the 'Membership' tab of the 'My Profile' option on your account drop-down menu. If you register as a new member instead, you will no longer be linked to your existing records. If you have forgotten your log-on details, just let us know and we will sort things out for you.

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We are, of course, very keen to promote the UKDFD and increase our membership, both from within the detecting community and from the wider public. As well as being a finds-recording facility, The website provides an invaluable resource for students, researchers, collectors and coin/antiquity professionals. In furtherance of this aim, we are pleased to offer a 'Referral Award' to any current member who recruits new members from their friends, colleagues, fellow club members, etc. To qualify, simply let us know the names of the prospective new members before they subscribe to a Membership Plan, and when they have done so, 5 worth of UKDFD Credits for each new member will be added to your account. (Detailed rules are available on request.)

As always, we welcome members' suggestions for improvement, notification of errors (both technical and in respect of identifications), and general feedback. The best means of providing the foregoing is via the old forum, using either the PM system or the open forum, depending on the level of privacy you require.

Our best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the New Year
UKDFD Team