Monkey Map seeking help

I am delighted that my Monkey Map project has been so successful, and that so many people have joined in and shared our enthusiasm and our love of the monkey puzzle tree. But I am almost drowning in monkeys here and desperately need help if this lovely project is to continue. Which is where you might come in?
I started this Monkey Map project in October 2013, and it is a work of personal passion and has brought me great joy. So whilst I am pleased about its success, the reality is that the work involved to keep up the cataloguing and database, in the current method, is becoming very time consuming for one person – lil’ ol’ me – to run on their own.
I set up the project as I love monkey puzzle trees and have done all the work in my own time. But it is something I do in addition to my work, I am self-employed and work as a funeral celebrant. Working in the funeral industry is an extremely enriching career and I feel enormously privileged to do the work, but at times it is very demanding and challenging. So in the time when I am not working I like to do other things, like spending time at my own garden at Plot 44, walking, sewing, knitting, cooking and yoga. And of course spending time with my beloved husband, Ronnie.
20 January 2016, happy birthday to Ronnie on the shining shore.

20 January 2016, happy birthday to Ronnie on the shining shore.

Back at ‘monkey central’ I currently have just over 2,700 trees on the database, which is an Excel spreadsheet, and probably at least 100 ‘pending’. On the spreadsheet I record all the details of each tree – location, full postcode if known, who found it – and give each tree a unique reference of letters and a sequential number, and keep a running total. The letters in the UK are the postcode location of the tree, in the rest of the world it is the three letter abbreviation of the county. That might be enough – but I decided to extend the project to show photos of each tree (using a separate blogging tool) and the location of each tree on a Google map. (If you are interested, the structure of the project is illustrated here.)
I then write posts on this WordPress blog and keep everyone up to date with latest finds and other news in monkey world. Phew. It’s a wonder I manage anything else! But I have much fun and banter with ‘my’ agents, and it’s been a good social experience – especially for me as a rather shy and reluctant social media user. And I thank you all for that.
I evolved this process of ‘cataloguing’ a tree in several stages, and it is time consuming. However I was delighted when I recently showed the full catalogue to a developer friend, who said I’d effectively created my own database, using free tools and it was very good!
Seriously though, as I am using free blogging tools to create the database, with the amount of data it’s getting pretty slow and clunky, as there are massive amounts of information and photos. I will reach a point where it is too big to operate.
Also a day rarely goes by without at least another tree arriving in my inbox, and usually more, and they are stacking up in a ‘need attention’ folder. I am struggling to keep up with all the trees I am receiving. And if people taken the time to send me trees I’d like to make sure I make use of them.
So, something needs to change.
For the Monkey Map I’ve explored options with my programmer friend, and we’ve made good progress with a possible way which could automate some of the tasks, and where the person who finds the tree could enter the details, using JotForm. (Thank you Agent Jones for that ). We’re still experimenting with that. But at the heart of the catalogue is the fact I’m using free tools, and they are not necessarily designed for thousands of entries of data.
Another way would be to develop an app to link to database software. This is above my own skills and more work than can reasonably done free, so this option would involve taking commissioning someone to do that, and then to manage the project. Not quite sure that’s something I can do, as I’m a funeral professional.
So – for now I will add all new finds to the spreadsheet, when I can, and will file the photos, and update the Google map when I can, with the photos catalogue as my last priority – it is possible that all that data might transfer somewhere else eventually. Plus I am concerned that those free tools are being overloaded. I’ve also put some guidelines for submissions on this page – if you can send me maps and photos clearly labelled (and many of you do) it will ease the burden on me. Thank you.
But what I do know is that there are now lots of us, agents and regular contributors who love monkey puzzle trees, and perhaps there’s something we could do together to make this a more collaborative project?
Any ideas? Software I haven’t heard of? Software skills you could offer? Help from academia or powerful horticultural data bases? Or other things I haven’t even thought of?


This ‘Monkey Map’ project is a personal project and the work of me, Sarah Horton.
I am helped by my task of cataloguing all monkeys by keen monkey puzzle hunters who also do this in their free time.
Thank you everyone for your support.


4 thoughts on “Monkey Map seeking help

  1. A cri de coeur from the Shining Shore.
    It looks very remote and in the far north of somewhere.

    I see that Ronnie didn’t put his posh camera in the sand to take that selfie.

    Mmmmm, what to do? Don’t know.

    You have passed that tipping point. You are a victim of your own success. Your site surpasses easily the attempts of others to spot and plot monkeys.

    The bottom line is that you have to earn a living. Monkey hunting is hugely enjoyable, but we all know how easy it is for pleasurable activities to steal our daily bread.

    One way of reducing the pressure on you is to reduce the number of monkeys that you plot, so that this work is still a happy task and not a chore.
    Say limit your plots to 15-20 a month, or 200 ish a year.

    If that is a manageable number, then your ambition of plotting all the monkeys in the UK will not be possible, as new monkey plantings will outstrip your plots.

    So does it look like this option is to be put to one side?

    Perhaps share the task with others, who could be people and or technology/IT?

    Mmmm, again.

    This site is so personal to you. How do you share the work, yet not spoil the fun of it? Don’t know again.

    From where I am typing, I know the greatest pleasure at this end is reading your blogs, and seeing the spread of your monkey empire.

    And I guess that perhaps this is where the pleasure is at your end?

    If you were a business, you would hire an assistant to receive monkey emails, do the catalogue, plot the monkey map, sift the stuff in some sort of order for you to appraise, ready to write up to load to your blog.

    This raises four points.

    1. Would handing this over to another bod take the pleasure away, of you loosing your direct link to the monkey project?

    2. And who would this gentle soul be? A retired person? Possibly. But why a village elder? There must be lots of IT competent youngsters, well, younger than me, who weren’t born when England won the World Cup, but who are ‘housebound’. Wouldn’t the challenge of keeping your site in Monkeys be rewarding?

    3. The numbers game. To say achieve that number I tossed into the arena of the number of monkeys in the uk, 40,000 in say ten years, (so that we agents can see that that we are winning, and not treading water) then that needs a spot and plot rate of 4,000 a year. Ouch?

    4. I said if this was a business, you’d hire someone. Which it is not on, Perhaps this someone could a sponsored volunteer, or am I exploring this options to rapidly?

    Another way would be to allocate postal codes to various agents to sort and satisfy, but again this could take your pleasure away.

    I’ve no knowledge of website running, or IT data bases, but again would these take away your direct pleasurable feedback?

    An observation from here again, is that most monkeys have a little story attached to them. That makes your site special. I guess at some stage, most monkey owners will log in and see their tree on your site. And be pleased.

    But, numbers again, your writing 4000 reviews a year will drive you nuts, so this might have to be delegated. Perhaps the agents could post their own words once the plots are done.

    Your site shouldn’t lose the personal touch. It shouldn’t just be a data base.

    As you realised, you’ve reached that tipping point.

    Hope these notes from a shy and reluctant agent is helpful,


  2. 24 Bank Rd L20 think rest of postcode is 4AP. Lovely well looked after monkey puzzle in the little front garden. Have sent Ronnie a pic on Twitter. I will do the same for you. I didn’t want to put the postcode on Twitter. Hope this is helpful! Andrea
    Ps just Liverpool Monkey puzzles?

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