Blog

Sun 31 May 2020

The promised poll is now online!


Sat 30 May 2020

I do actually have a grain of an excuse this time for missing the deadline I set myself: I never imagined that the free offerings from the mainstream survey providers would be so stingy on how many responses you're allowed to collect. SurveyMonkey gives just 40 and SmartSurvey 100. So I've decided to build one myself from scratch instead. This will take slightly longer, but should still be ready by the end of tomorrow.


Wed 27 May 2020

Most of you are probably used to me by now – when I say I'll do something in a couple of days, it means "maybe this month", and "soon" means "at some point in the next two billion years". This past week has been poor even by my standards, but I'll get the promised poll online by the end of Saturday, and also aim to regain some momentum on the additions.

One thing I have managed to do is to add hover text to the status suffixes, displaying the full description. Coming soon is the ability to sort or filter by status.


Mon 18 May 2020

Apologies for a few glitches this afternoon whilst I was putting the new status field in place. I think I have now ironed most of them out! The option to record a vehicle as withdrawn is now found by clicking the change status button, rather than the change depot button. Similarly, to record a vehicle as reinstated, the status needs to be changed back to "Normal", although it probably won't continue to be called that, because there are definitely more informative phrases I could have picked, I just found myself dithering as to which one was best. I'm thinking something like "In use" or "Available for service". I think I'll make this another question for the poll that I still intend to create soon!

Today or tomorrow, I'll reset all those Stagecoach allocations as promised, and set the status field to "Temporarily out of use".


Sun 17 May 2020

I said I'd re-enable the submit suggestions facility today, so, as the new version isn't quite ready yet, I've temporarily re-enabled the old one. The new one is not more than a few days away.

The other thing I said I'd do this week - namely add a status field - should be done tomorrow.


Tue 12 May 2020 (again)

I said recently that you can tell what sort of Volvo a coach is by looking it up on DVLA; maybe I spoke too soon, because BV17 CRF is certainly the first B19R I've come across. And that's not to mention LJ51 DJO, the only bus ever to have two identity crises: a DAF, and a brick wall. Perhaps I place more faith in government agencies than I ought to ☺


Tue 12 May 2020

I've been prompted to think about the naming of depots. Sometimes, the choice is obvious; other times, there's a balance to be struck between a locally-familiar name, and something that will be more meaningful to people from across the country. For example, the Stagecoach depot on the outskirts of Methil is widely known as "Aberhill", and that just outside Workington as "Lillyhall", but I went for the names of the larger towns as being easier for outsiders to comprehend. Similarly (and this being the example I was asked to consider), I called First South Yorkshire's two depots "Sheffield" and "Doncaster", even though I know that the official name of the former is "Olive Grove", and apparently the latter is known locally as "St Leger" — though I can't actually find any references to this anywhere else, and therefore, others unfamiliar with the name may struggle too.

Conversely, I realise that, for example, "Green Lane" probably doesn't convey much to non-Scousers, nor "Marine" to non-Edinburghers; though to be fair, "Stoneycroft" and "Craigentinny" wouldn't be that much of an improvement, and given that the operators in question have more than one depot in the cities of Liverpool and Edinburgh, there is no obvious non-ambiguous, nationally-recognisable alternative. So I went with the local names.

How best to resolve this? Eventually, I hope to set up a system (once again modelled on the ethos of Wikipedia) in which anyone can make a suggestion for a change, then everyone can give their opinion on its merit, and hopefully reach a consensus. In the meantime, I will probably set up a poll on SurveyMonkey for the examples above, and post a link here. If there are any other depot names that I've chosen which you consider dubious, please email me, and I'll include those too.

A separate issue, though also related to depots, is that some operators have more than one operating centre, but do not have fixed allocations. In these cases, it makes sense to "allocate" all vehicles to their "main" depot. The problem is that I don't always know whether an operator has depot allocations or not, and if so, which depot should be considered the "main" one. So, if you know of any operators for which this is the case, please do let me know. Also, any missing depots, or depots that are listed but don't exist any more, please let me know.

The address at which to contact me is fleetlists at quack77 dot uk.


Sun 10 May 2020 (again)

I got myself so distracted sounding off about number plates that I forgot the main point I'd been intending to make!

It's been noted that someone has blanked out quite a lot of allocations in several Stagecoach fleets. Looking at the vehicles involved, my guess is that this has been done with good intent to show which vehicles are temporarily non-operational due to the current reduced vehicle requirement. If so, please hang fire on doing this, because I intend to introduce a status field within the next week, which will provide a better way to record this without losing the depot information. When I do so, I will reassign all the allocations that have been blanked, and set the status flag to indicate temporary non-operational status.


Sun 10 May 2020

Definitely an improvement - 393 added so far this long weekend. Though I swear (sometimes literally) that it would be twice as many if operators didn't keep on reregistering buses. Half of them aren't even personalized in any sense, they're just an even more arbitrary collection of letters and digits than the mark they replaced. What's the point? "To hide the age" is the usual response. But why hide the age? After all, hiding the age clearly isn't the same thing as making a vehicle look newer. I suspect it may even have the opposite effect. I always attempt to find out the original identity of a vehicle, and even if I can't, DVLA will tell me how old it is. And as often as not, it actually turns out to be newer than I'd imagined. Bit of an expensive own goal! Meanwhile, I end up poring over photos, trying to figure out from minor details, such as cab window stickers or trivial cosmetic defects, which vehicle I'm actually looking at. Admittedly, many photographers on Flickr are very helpful by providing previous registrations, but they can't be expected to always know, nor to realise when a mark has been transferred onto a different vehicle. Anyway, rant over!

I have done another large-scale reversion of changes to NXWM made yesterday, these won't show up in the change audit because I forgot to paste in the second part of the script.

A slight change to the lists is that you can now hover over a current registration to see the original registration (if known) without clicking into the vehicle record. I hope some of you find this useful. I'll try to introduce a few more enhancements soon.


Thu 07 May 2020

As always, big thanks to everyone for the continuing updates - especially the large scale fixing of NXWM allocations.

Whilst I was trying to figure out the best way to make selection of make and model easy for new submissions, I ran a query to see what the most popular ones were, and I thought the top 10 might be of interest to some. It currently stands as follows:

#Make and modelCount
1Alexander Dennis Enviro2003804
2Alexander Dennis Enviro4003067
3Alexander Dennis Enviro400 MMC2027
4Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMC1931
5Wright StreetLite DF1397
6Optare Solo1299
7Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 21081
8Wright New Routemaster999
9Volvo B7RLE / Wright Eclipse949
10Volvo B5LH / Wright Gemini 3882

The predominance of ADL is probably unsurprising. Of course, the above may not represent the true proportions in which these vehicles are in service, because I haven't been adding them in a completely random manner, much as it might often appear as though I do. In the early days, I tended to concentrate on a particular type rather than a particular operator, and my efforts have also been biased towards larger operators until fairly recently.

Another issue is that I recognise that I haven't been consistent as to what level of detail I include - for example, the Dart MPD has its own entry, distinct from SLF, but I didn't differentiate between any of the other lengths of SLF, and I have made no distinction at all for its successors. I've included separate mark numbers for some types (e.g. Wright Eclipse and Gemini) but not others (e.g. Plaxton Panther). And whereas I separate Volvos by chassis designation, because it's easy to tell by a combination of looking at the vehicle and checking its DVLA record, I have been more generic with Scania and MAN, where the designation is not so easily deduced. Generally speaking, I aim to keep the detail level fairly minimalistic, at a level that can be easily ascertained simply by looking at a picture of the bus. (The one thing I have been meaning to add for ages, but haven't got round to yet, is a flag indicating open-top buses.)

Hoping to get more done this weekend than last, check back soon.


Mon 04 May 2020

Ah well, 111 - not quite 400, but at least it has the word "hundred" in it. I'll try to do a bit better this week.

May the Fourth be with you!


Fri 01 May 2020

Firstly, thanks to the anonymous editor who has made inroads into reverting the glut of vandalism recently, primarily targeting NXWM. Sadly, it seems there has since been more, which I will attempt to revert tomorrow. If I inadvertently undo any genuine edits, please let me know. To whoever keeps making false edits, please stop - the time spent fixing it is slowing down the addition of information and functionality to the site.

Thanks of course also go to everyone who has made genuine edits, or emailed me with updates, additions and any other information.

I'm never quite sure what to do about crediting people for their contributions - my day job involves processing a lot of personal data, so it's ingrained in me that you don't put someone's name on the internet without their explicit consent. Generally speaking, I like to be anonymous, and yet I can also understand the enjoyment of being thanked publicly for having contributed something. Therefore, if anyone would like their contributions credited by name on the site, let me know and I will do so. Eventually, the plan is for users' nicknames to be automatically attributed to their edits, rather like Wikipedia; it will be made clear at the time of submission when this is going to happen.

In order to re-enable the facility to submit a vehicle record, I'm currently reconfiguring the lists of values for chassis and body to make them more consistent. At the moment, all vehicles have a chassis and body (each represented within the database by a numeric code), and the pages decide whether to display this as a single value (integral vehicle), or as a slash-separated chassis/body combination, based on whether one value is a substring of the other. Unfortunately, where integral vehicles are concerned, I haven't been consistent as to whether the detailed value is stored as the chassis or as the body, hence the need for rationalization. At the moment, I'm erring towards creating a correspondence table, even at the risk of missing a few potentially valid combinations, because for example if you've selected "Optare" as chassis, there's no point making you scroll past "Alexander ALX400", "Irizar i6" and "MCV Evoseti" as body options before you get to "Optare Solo"!

After re-enabling the submission of vehicles, next few items on my to-do list are:

I hope to spend quite a few hours adding vehicles this weekend - I'll publicly set myself a target of 400 now, in the hope that it encourages me to meet it!

All the best for now.


Sat 18 Apr 2020

I don't know if I'm likely to have enough interesting to say on a sufficiently regular basis to justify starting a blog, but I figured that it can't do any harm to try - as long as I don't let it distract me too much from working on the lists!

Many of you are probably frustrated at my slow rate of progress in adding vehicles, and in order to address this, I'm going to make a few changes to the addition of vehicles and of operators.

Firstly, up until recently I have tended to check that older vehicles suggested for inclusion are still taxed before I add them, in order to confirm that they are (at least probably) still in use. However, as demand for bus and coach travel is vastly reduced right now, many operators have opted to "mothball" a proportion of their fleets, and therefore a status of SORN on DVLA is no longer much of a clue as to how likely the vehicle is to see use again. Therefore, I will start being less discriminate about whether a vehicle is definitely still in use before I add it. As ever, should you see that I've added a vehicle that you know to be permanently withdrawn, please do remove it.

I have also in the past tended to wait for visual confirmation of new vehicles on Flickr or elsewhere before adding them, but as opportunities for photography are somewhat curtailed at present, I will henceforth add new vehicles without waiting for photographic confirmation. This does increase the likelihood of errors slipping through, so please keep an eye out for these, and let me know by email where I've slipped up.

Secondly, I underestimated the likely popularity of the "suggest vehicle" facility, and now have a backlog of over 1,800 suggestions. I'm therefore going to pause the "suggest vehicle" facility at the end of tomorrow (19th April), and start coding an enhanced version, where instead of just submitting a registration for me to research, the submitter will be prompted for full information about the vehicle, which should significantly speed up the rate at which I can add them. My target is for this to be available by 17th May. A "suggest operator" facility will follow. I will continue to work through the backlog even after the facility is paused.

Whilst all of this in the short term this may result in an even slower rate of additions, hopefully within a couple of months the time investment will have paid for itself in increased additions.

Hope you are all keeping OK during these times of unprecedented usage of the word "unprecedented". I will try to keep in touch via subsequent blog entries. Previous experience may tend to suggest that I will fail, but I will attempt to prove it wrong. In the meantime, feel free to email me.