Past the holidays…

Whew! We successfully got through the annual rites of Saturnalia and the Gregorian Anniversary, but as I mentioned to a friend of mine, it seems like these celebrations always occur too early in Winter. I’m not talking about the big stores putting up their Christmas decorations way back into August. I mean that December is usually the first month that we really experience Winter around here, and Christmas always seems like it should be a reward for surviving another Winter. The whole denouement after the season’s climax as much as four months later sometimes is far out of proportion to the build-up which only takes a few weeks. Is it my Southern California rearing, where daily highs almost never dipped below even 60°F, that did it to me? I guess that lady I met in Pueblo, Colorado, was right in her opinion of Wisconsin… “Oh, it gets cold there!” Funny, I don’t think a 5°F daily high is all that unbearable any more.

So, lately I’ve been working through the US National Transportation Safety Board’s web archives to add information and images from the accident reports there, all of which is released in the public domain, to Train Spotting World. The first part of this is to add short blurbs to the various date and year pages and to the US Railways portal anniversary pages. After that, it’ll be time to start creating articles for the incidents, bringing together information from the NTSB reports, newspaper stories, industry press releases, and in some of the more significant cases, railroad company annual reports (I’ve got a couple Wisconsin Central annual reports that have sections that deal with the impact of the Weyauwega derailment, while one of the Union Pacific annual reports that I have mentions the derailments in the Powder River Basin, for example).

Another source of public domain information that could be added is the US Federal Railroad Administration. There are reports there that list rail service nationwide and aggregate statistics by region and ranks them as appropriate. I’ve added some of this information to the List of Wisconsin railroads page, but I keep thinking there’s got to be a better way to include this information.

Bot thoughts

So I’m reading more about bots and how to program them. It turns out that a lot of them are doing some form of screen scraping to read and make their updates. That’s all fine and good, but they still need to do something. Some ideas for new bots on Train.SpottingWorld are…

  • Add {{USR}} (the banner template for Workforce:US railways) to the talk pages of everything under Category:Railway companies of the United States. This will probably need some kind of exception handler so we can tell it not to iterate through inappropriate categories, such as those for CN and CP (since both are Canadian companies but both have substantial operations in the US as well).
  • Randomly choose five red links on the US railways list of articles to write and five articles out of Category:United States rail stubs and update the “Things you can do” section of Portal:US Railways.
  • Collect links to all the pages tagged with {{USR}} to build a page of links to all of them through which interested editors can use the What links here link to find out what’s changed in associated articles.  The bot that does this can also update a list of the ten most recently tagged articles on the portal; if the articles weren’t on the recent changes link page, then they should be listed in the recently added list and if there were more than 10, make a random selection of 10 from among the new articles.

Hmm… looks like it’s time to start a specifications page within the Workforce to build a working design for these.

Hello world!

Woo hoo! Here we are getting up and running with another blog. Since I’ve already got a model/prototype railroad site at The Rip Track, I’ll stick to primarily discussing wikiwork here. So what am I working on?


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