General articles

Developing BellBoard – give us your views

It has been The Ringing World’s policy to allow ringers to describe the location of a peal or quarter peal in any way that the submitter wishes. Unless the description is outlandish, we have normally published the peal online as it is sent up.

As a result the same tower can appear with different names. Dedications can be described in multiple ways such as "St Mary’s Cathedral", "Cathedral of St Mary" or "Cathedral Church of St Mary". Some have more exotic variations such as the tower that is listed as "St Martin in the Fields" in Dove which is often sent to The Ringing World as "Liberties of St Martin in the Fields" and sometimes "St. Martin-in-the-Fields". Do we need to cater for those who would like the tower in Ashford with dedication "St Mary the Virgin" to appear as "Ex-Collegiate Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin"? Is the tower in Cornhill in London "St Michael"; "St Michael, Cornhill"; "St Michael’s Cornhill"; or "St Michael-upon-Cornhill"? Is the twelve in Cheltenham dedicated to St. Mary or St Mary the Virgin? Whatever the "correct" answer to these questions, all of these variations have been used by ringers when submitting performances.

The location is also subject to variation. Should it be "Trumpington" or "Cambridge, Trumpington"? Is it "Aston, West Midlands" or "Birmingham, Aston"? London towers seem to provide even more options. For example is "St Martin in the Fields" in "Westminster" or "London"? Is "Cornhill" a place in a county called "London" or is the place "London" or maybe "City of London"? Again, all of these possibilities have been used.

This multiplicity of names makes record keeping difficult. For example, if you search for all peals at a tower on BellBoard you cannot be sure that you have got a correct result. You may have missed some that have been described in such a way that meant your search did not find them.

We currently maintain another database of peals, peals.co.uk, where we solve this problem by identifying the tower when a peal is loaded. However this means that we have to update every peal that does not conform to our naming standard when we load it onto the database.

We are considering introducing standardisation at the point at which performances are entered and have developed software for BellBoard to do this. When you start to enter the details of a tower, BellBoard looks it up and pops up a list of possibilities from which you can choose the appropriate one. This has the advantage to the person entering the information in that the tower data (place, location, dedication, tenor weight) is all entered automatically (with some flexibility such as the ability to change the tenor weight). Our software also allows synonyms for names. If there is more than one commonly used location name for a tower (such as the Trumpington and Cambridge example), it allows either to be used.

You can see a similar function in BellBoard already when you enter a ringer’s name. As you start to type a name, BellBoard pops up a list of possible names. It does this by looking up people with similar names who have been in performances that you have entered previously. This means that you don’t have to remember ringers’ initials and spellings unless you are entering the person for the first time.

If we implement standardised names, then this raises the question of which database we should use. Dove has a full list of towers, has a dedicated team maintaining the database and already has some alternatives for names. Or we could use our own database (which we already have for peals.co.uk). This would also give us more flexibility in accommodating variations and synonyms and better control over the style for publication (for example Dove uses S for Saint whereas The Ringing World uses St for peals). Whatever database we use for tower bells, we will still need to maintain our own database for handbell and mini-ring locations.

Obviously we would not be able to check peals entered on Campanophile at the point at which they are entered. We would have to manually edit imported performance in cases where our software could not automatically identify the tower on our database.

Standardisation would not only mean that a tower would have a standard name and location on BellBoard but also that names would be printed in The Ringing World in a consistent way (albeit with a limited number of allowed variations).

Ringers can be amazingly sensitive when they think that something is being imposed on them. I am sure that there are still people that want their tower to be in a historic county or to call the church using their pet name. Despite this, we hope that the Exercise will accept that standardisation will bring a long term benefit in terms of ease of use and improved record keeping.

Before doing anything we would like your feedback. We would like to know if the Exercise agrees that this is a sensible approach and whether you have views on which database we should use. You can give your feedback at http://tinyurl.com/BellBoard.

The Editor would also be happy to receive This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the subject.

NIGEL HERRIOTT
Chairman, The Ringing World Ltd

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers