Marhofn 280.16 - May 2014

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Towards version 14 of the Hills Database

Chris Crocker

2013 saw three incremental updates to version 13. Two lists of minority interest were added, the Carns in Ireland and the Synges in the Lake District. The latter produced a flurry of postings on the RHB forum, split 50:50 between those supportive and those opposed to another subjective list. We have been aware since releasing v12 of a faction opposed to the addition of more lists to the database. Some do not see a need to catalogue every bump in Britain, a view eloquently put by Martin Richardson in his Last Words to the 2012 Marhofn. Others believe that lists not based on prominence have no place in a modern bagging agenda.

In the past we have not had a lot of sympathy with these opinions. Firstly (in case we need to say it) the database is a resource for all baggers. We seek to avoid being associated with particular groups or ideologies, whatever our individual interests and allegiances.

Secondly, we regarded the database as just that - a repository of information from which users can extract whatever interests them. Over the past year we have had to modify that view. It has been put to us that such is the influence of the DoBIH, the addition of any list legitimises and promotes it. From comments in the forum and the pattern of logs on hill-bagging we concede that many baggers behave that way. We are sticking to our principle of adding a list when there is sufficient demand, but will take into account whether its popularity is going up or down. Thus we will continue to put aside the Yeamans unless we get evidence that a significant number of people are actively bagging them, as opposed to recording retrospective ticks before they were superseded (in our eyes) by the Humps. Conversely, we are adding the Fellrangers (not another subjective Lake District list, you say) because an HR register already exists, backed by Cicerone's publicity machine, so we expect the list's popularity to increase rapidly. We do though keep the codes of less popular lists that do not fulfil a topographical function out of the Classification field, which is not used in searches.

These issues have come to a head with the Tumps. The prospect of adding 10,000 new hills created sufficient angst among the list's detractors for them to voice their opposition long before we contemplated adding them. However it was clear a year ago that the Tumps were here to stay. Rather than conduct a user survey, we decided to add them to hill-bagging with an optional filter while we assessed their popularity. Soon afterwards we added a DoBIH-compatible Excel file called the P30 Appendix, based on work by Andrew Tibbetts. After nine months the statistics were as follows:

These figures speak for themselves. An additional consideration is that it takes substantially less effort to maintain one database than two. We matter too. So the Tumps will be integrated in v14, with apologies to those who disapprove. We are also changing the database structure by separating the parent of Munro and Corbett Tops etc. into a new field. If we can complete the IT work in time, this major release will be out by the time you read this.

Door to another bagger hall, Beaumaris (photo: Martin Richardson)

Door to another bagger hall, Beaumaris (photo: Martin Richardson)

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