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GRAND PLAN for a Roster of German WK I Soldiers


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Commenting on my mention of a German e-friend who would like to create, as much as possible, a roster of WW I German soldiers, Rick Research indicated that there is a Grand Plan in this area, being worked on by some people.

Anyone able to chime in and comment on what this effort is? It is clear that such a project would need quite a cooperative effort to be successful, unless someone found a source for a budget on the scale of the Manhattan Project.

I have thought about how this could be done a bit, and as I have had years of experience building, maintaining, and using very large data bases for research purposes, my ideas might be a useful input. Some aspects of computer and data systems seem to change overnight, but a lot of the basics remain chiseled in stone, much like the laws of physics applying to the Wright Flyer and the RB-71 are the same.

I was thinking that if some consensus was reached on some technical issues, at the minimum some of us happily working away on mini-rosters of one sort or purpose or another could employ some common flexible formatting so that when the happy day arrives that sees an actual launch of a major roster project, our own individual work will not have strayed too far up a variety of technical dead ends.

Bob Lembke

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This thread certainly evoked a lot of interest! Is there such a project under way?

I could see a process where a person wishing to contribute data could give some ID and possibly qualifications to some sort of (saintly) administrator, and be given an ID and a password. (Or I guess we could rely on a Wikopedia form of trust; would mischief be likely?) The the contributor could open a record and put in the data he has, from three or four items from a death card to 30-40 fields of info from a Militaer=Pass, and his contribution would be tagged with his ID, perhaps not visibly to others. (if there was junk or malicious input, that would be useful for damage control.)

If funds would be required it might be possible to give free access to data contributors, but charge a small amount to others, perhaps say $0.50 per record, less for large extracts, or perhaps a modest annual fee, perhaps payable by PayPal. But hopefully that would not be necessary.

If it would be possible to get the cooperation of the German war graves society it might be possible to obtain their WW I machine readable data on about 1.5 million (Is that right?) soldiers in one swoop.

Bob Lembke

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I suspect

1) they aren't online (they aren't all, which is part of our communications problem)

2) your scope is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay larger than anything being worked on now. I did not realize the magnitude of your intentions.

The gnomes of my acquaintance are working on OFFICERS and officers only. That is in itself a daunting task and one which is constantly being amended and added to-- mainly from those of us at the low end (tens rather than hundreds of thousands of people) with individual award rolls.

Online is not the best way to be posting works in progress, from what I understand of the scale. The labor is in CONSTANT flux. Prussian officers, which is where we are currently most active collaboratively, is no way near anything near completion. Each Hanseatic roll that gets done, for instance, will make tens of thousands of changes on top of work already done. Every award roll added does that, but we are struggling even to do those. I've spent 14 months to do five little states!

That and being modest, I suspect that those involved do not feel ready yet. Also, any suggestion of commercial use gets hairy. It's too much work (rationally) for that.

A mega-format-whatever may be several stages and years in future from where things are now.

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My comments are in bold face.

I suspect

1) they aren't online (they aren't all, which is part of our communications problem)

2) your scope is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay larger than anything being worked on now. I did not realize the magnitude of your intentions.

When my German friend first mentioned the idea, I thought he was nuts. Then I gave it some thought, and it is actually not nuts, IMHO. Clearly an ambitious project, to be sure.

The gnomes of my acquaintance are working on OFFICERS and officers only. That is in itself a daunting task and one which is constantly being amended and added to-- mainly from those of us at the low end (tens rather than hundreds of thousands of people) with individual award rolls.

My principal effort in this direction is building a roster of Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) and predecessor and associated units. I have done this so far in word processor format, which I with hindsight regret. I would now rather have done so in a spreadsheet, and I am guessing that I will eventually go in that direction, allowing sorts, for example, to be able to quickly find or group individuals on the basis of many different variables; e.g., last name, date of death, sub-unit, rank, decorations, etc., etc.

Online is not the best way to be posting works in progress, from what I understand of the scale. The labor is in CONSTANT flux. Prussian officers, which is where we are currently most active collaboratively, is no way near anything near completion. Each Hanseatic roll that gets done, for instance, will make tens of thousands of changes on top of work already done. Every award roll added does that, but we are struggling even to do those. I've spent 14 months to do five little states!

Doing something like this on-line is certainly hair-raising. But it would also be the only way to get inputted labor of hundreds if not thousands of students of WK I into the process.

That and being modest, I suspect that those involved do not feel ready yet. Also, any suggestion of commercial use gets hairy. It's too much work (rationally) for that.

I don't have an idea of the current costs of computer storage, band-width, etc. when maintaining a very large data-base on line, but I am sure that they are dropping. I used to work on-line over 40 years ago, sitting in a basement office in Ithaca, New York State and writing and running computer models on a computer in Syracuse, New York about 60 miles away, working on a teletype machine communicating over phone lines. That was enormously expensive. 20 years later I used to work on multi-million record files, running programs for hours on a six million $ computer. Maybe today one can maintain such a data-base on a lap-top, but probably not, to date. If money for computer rental or some staff expenses was required, I am sure that non-contributors would cough up a modest fee for searches. But one would hope that it would not be necessary.

A mega-format-whatever may be several stages and years in future from where things are now.

This idea is certainly years from being actually launched, if ever. However, aside from planting the bug of the idea in the minds of bunches of "WW I nuts", it might be a catalyst to getting the "gnomes" you mention from figuring out a common file format, which would probably be very useful to them, even if the work never goes beyond individuals working up seperate small data-bases of officers and their decorations. That should assist their work and possible cooperation in several ways, and make future cooperation much less painful and laborous if it was deemed attractive in the future.

Bob Lembke

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