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Timeline

The Timeline Concept

Bruce Powell - April 2014

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This new revised Timeline section (1 April 2014) is up and will be added to when possible; but it is a lower priority right now until a volunteer steps forward to manage it: "Keeper of the Timeline". If you are interested; talk to me.

Background of this Project: It seemed like a great idea several years ago. Take a bunch of events and arrange them in chronological order and make a Timeline.

You remember those terrible timelines we used to have to memorize in history class in high school? Well this would be far more interesting and we would not have to memorize it. If enough people contributed and we got most of the dates in the ball park, then it should make for a good read.

On the technical side was how could the Timeline be sorted and resorted as new information arrived or was revised? It would have to be a spreadsheet or data base of some kind, we thought. There are commercial apps for timelines, but even if the cost was taken care of, none of them quite worked for this mission.

As an experiment I took a bunch of my stuff, letters and notes, that had dates, and added several Tropic Lightning news articles. Coding them into a spreadsheet that would work on the website (HTML5 code; was a real pain). It was finally loaded to the website under the "Timeline" button (This was a year or two back).

It was apparent that even with this relatively small amount of data, the Timeline was real long. Scrolling was a pain. Articles seem to be limited to Tropic Lightning and Powell stuff. Buttons representing each tour year were added on the right side to speed up finding things.

A second copy of the Timeline was created using only a short summary of the articles to make it easier to quickly look through things and then click on that short text summary to go to a full version of the article.

The site ended up with three buttons in the Timeline section across the top. "Intro" to explain things, "Outline" contained a short version of articles and "Full Text" was with all the articles expanded.

There were problems with this plan. Who can remember specific dates? It was too complicated of a format. Few Centaurs were interested.

Currently: With more and more interest being expressed in having our stories told in sequence, it was time to come up with a better way to do things.

All the stories have now been pulled from the original spreadsheet and pasted, in order, into a simple text field. It eliminates complicated coding so that it can be easily updated by a non technical person.

Sorting is not automatic anymore, but since items will be added one at a time anyway they can just be pasted into the appropriate spot. Some items will not have specific dates, only estimates like "in the spring of 68" or something like that. Initially those will be pasted in where it looks best and flows with the other items on the list. It can be revised as more data is obtained.

Placing long articles in a different version of Timeline (as originally envisioned) isn't really necessary. Most are really just War Stories and can be told in full and with photos in the War Stories section. Only the summary of the story will be in the Timeline to make the Timeline shorter and easier to navagate. Key events, names mentioned, places and such will be in the summary so that a viewer will know if they want to read the full version.

With our new "Linking" capabilities, where we can link any words to any other section or article, the Timeline can be an outline of Summaries with links to the full stories which will be in the War Stories section. When the reader comes to a summary article in the Timeline that looks interesting or mentions someone they are interested in, they can click on it and go directly to that full story in the War Story Section. In other words, the full stories remain on their own page in the War Story section and have a summary of the story appear on the Timeline. This makes creating and updating the Timeline easier, (except for the fact that someone has to write the summaries).

As I had talked to some of you before, I believe this Timeline will read like a book; a diary type book maybe. From the memory jogging perspective, it may help the viewer remember his things by reading the articles that happened around when he was there. It could become one of the biggest draws of our website.

When you go to read War Stories now, there is no particular organization (yet). Someday maybe. But with the Timeline section a viewer can go directly to the articles that were written for his tour time. A nice feature.

Admin Notes: Click on the Timeline button above to review what we have right now. It is pretty much the same as before but in the new format. Brian Harrison has begun adding F Troop entries. Some of the articles have not yet been "Summarized" and are still too long for this section. They will be summarized and the full stories added to the War Stories section as we have time.