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.
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.