To Type, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth...

A man of the cloth and the steel he wields

Typewriter Database: Weekend Update!

I worked quite a bit on the codebase of typewriterdatabase.com this weekend, building out the member’s Virtual Typewriter Collection Gallery stuff – it’s not quite ready to be rolled out for members to start uploading their collections, but it soon will be – maybe a week or two if I get some free time. If you visit there now, you will see some results from my testing, primarily if you go to the Smith-Corona or Hermes pages:

Smith-Corona page - I've entered two Smith-Coronas into my collection gallery, so right now those are the only two that show up on the page, but once there are more examples, you'll see that the Manufacturer pages will pull 8 randomly-selected examples for that specific manufacturer from member's galleries.

Smith-Corona page – I’ve entered two Smith-Coronas into my collection gallery, so right now those are the only two that show up on the page, but once there are more examples, you’ll see that the Manufacturer pages will pull 8 randomly-selected examples for that specific manufacturer from member’s galleries.

The “teaser thumbnails” you see are a 200x200px image cropped automatically from the center of the uploaded image. Primarily, I did this for layout reasons, to ensure that the thumbnail is an exact size no matter what size or height/width ratio the uploaded image might be, but I also find the teaser image encourages people to click to see the full-size image, so more visits to your collection gallery!

Clicking on the teaser thumbnail brings you to the gallery page for that particular machine:

The gallery page for a specific machine in your collection. Note the URL embedded at the bottom of the full-size photos. This is an option you'll be able to select when uploading photos, if selected, the system will automatically watermark your photos with a shortened URL that links back to your gallery for that specific machine. This might cut back on eBay sellers appropriating your images to sell their machines, and it's also a handy way to direct people to the full details/gallery page for your machine if they find the photo floating around the intertubes.

The gallery page for a specific machine in your collection. Note the URL embedded at the bottom of the full-size photos. This is an option you’ll be able to select when uploading photos, if selected, the system will automatically watermark your photos with a shortened URL that links back to your gallery for that specific machine. This might cut back on eBay sellers appropriating your images to sell their machines, and it’s also a handy way to direct people to the full details/gallery page for your machine if they find the photo floating around the intertubes.

You’ll be able to upload pretty much an unlimited number of images to each machine’s gallery. Each can be watermarked automatically, and they’ll appear below the main details section for the machine in a PrettyPhoto slideshow:

tw-db-x3tw-db-x4

There will be a game to all of this of course. I have always intended for typewriterdatabase to be part game and part research tool. Hopefully the game aspect will encourage collectors to upload their collections plus collect data and photos for machines *not* in their collections, IE: machines they might have temporarily for repair, or machines they might spot in the wild at thrift stores and rummage sales. You see, your “Virtual Typewriter Collection” will be composed of 2 categories of machines:

1) Machines that you own in your physical collection

2) Machines that you do not own, and aren’t in your physical collection.

This encourages you to enter machines into the database that you may have gotten rid of, or never intended to buy or keep in your physical collection. This should considerably widen the dataset of machines entered, and allows you to “collect” machines virtually without having to own them and store them. This concept is similar to what many Typospherians do already, IE: go typewriter hunting with a camera, and collect pictures rather than machines. I simply want to expand this idea by encouraging these virtual typewriter hunters to collect serial numbers and typeface samples as well as photographs.

Now here’s the “game” part: when this goes live, machines you enter will be worth POINTS, with the number of points awarded being related to the amount of info you enter. Thus, if you collect and enter a serial number, that’s worth 5 points – adding a main front-facing photo is worth 5 points, adding a typeface sample is worth 5 points, and every photo you upload to the image gallery for the machine will be worth 1 point each, so a single machine can yield 20 or more points, if you are thorough in collecting photos and information. It won’t matter if you own the machine in your physical collection or not, all machines entered are worth the same amount of points. Let the virtual typewriter hunt commence!

Collecting points by entering lots of machines with complete data will get you a place on a leaderboard, and I haven’t firmed up what kind of virtual badges, trophies, hoo-dads or whatever will be awarded top “Virtual Typewriter Hunters”, but I expect that this will appeal to collectors, who will now have a fun game to play while browsing the flea markets. My hope is that this encourages a lot of participation and greatly expands the database of machine sightings for future research purposes.

An added benefit will be that you’ll now have a central place to show off your collection, and I have plans to set up an RSS feed so you can embed your collection into your own website, which would draw records and images from typewriterdatabase.com – lots left to do, but now you can get a small taste of where I’m headed with this project…

Updated: January 28, 2013 — 9:54 am

8 Comments

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  1. That’s a really cool idea. Count me in.

  2. Dude…. you’re on fire with this. The database is going to be bigger and better than ever!

  3. OK, this is like adding bacon to salad!

    Or something like that. My point is that you are thinking creatively and this could be big.

    I think some whining in the early stages may make things better in the long run, so: Your main image of the Smith-Corona Electric is gigantic (1.5 MB). Not everyone has a T1 line.

    The “last updated” time is a good feature.

    “Seidelnau” won’t make sense to most users, by the way. In fact, even “Seidel & Naumann” will mystify many people looking for info on their Erika or Ideal.

    I have a large collection of photos harvested from eBay over the years, but I assume those are not fair game. You mean that we should upload photos that we took ourselves, whether or not we own the machines we photographed, right? The policy would make sense to me.

    Thanks!!

    1. Re: 5TE Pic; yes, I know – that’s a test pic that is a 24bit PNG with a transparent background. I’m using it to test the ability of the watermarking function to embed the watermark in these types of files without jacking up the Alpha transparency of the original image. It still chokes on GIFs and BMPs. Normally, people will be just uploading JPG’s, I’m sure, but the anal retentive programmer in me insists on properly error-handling any format that someone might try to upload. :P

      Re: Erika, etc. Yes, One of the things I did this weekend is finally import the manufacturer data into a relational database (this is what allows me to attach machine galleries to manufacturers in a way that makes sense to the computer). The next step for that particular sub-project is to set up aliases for manufacturer alternate names, such as equating Erika == Seidelnau == Ideal, etc. The main quandry I’m facing there is figuring out how to handle certain store brands like Tower, where the actual manufacturer could be one of 5 or 6 different companies. Still pondering that, but soon these aliases will start appearing in the Manufacturer list and will direct to the appropriate parent manufacturer page.

      RE: using eBay pics (or pics stolen from other blogs or sites). That will absolutely be verboten, for a few reasons:

      1) eBay users probably wouldn’t appreciate us stealing their pics any more than we appreciate them stealing ours.
      2) eBay pics are unlikely to include serial numbers or well-researched dates, so are counterproductive to the research goal of the site.
      3) Typewriter Hunters should get out and hunt in the “Big Room With The Blue Ceiling And the Billion-Watt Lightbulb”, not sit in their chairs and swipe JPGs while sucking down Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Typewriter Hunting is about fieldwork and the Thrill of the Find and getting the T-Bone tingling.

      So yes, Use only your pics, or ones taken for you (like if you get your buddy with the thousand-dollar DSLR to take nice pics of your collection). I would also be OK if you convinced a friend or two to go out on hunts and take pics, note down serial numbers and get type samples for you. The game is about the fun of the hunt! (:

      1. oh, while I’m thinking about special cases, I could use some advice from academics and library science people about certain cases like Museum displays of typewriters. How do museums regard people taking pics of their displays and copying serial numbers for research purposes? Are they likely to be against that, or for it, if the records are properly credited?

        Also, I expect to spend some time photographing machines at my local typewriter shop during my hunting. I think that, properly credited and researched, this sort of thing would be OK too.

  4. This looks amazing! Thanks for getting the database up to speed. I can’t wait to see what shows up on the collection sections.

  5. Sweeeeet!
    Can’t wait to see it all done up!

  6. Holy Cow! I knew someday someone would improve (i.e., salvage) the olde Typewriter Database, but I didn’t dare hope for this much! Wonderful! Thanks!

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