News

What new features would you like to see?

As the new year arrives, we can try to be optimistic that 2013 won't bring as many demolitions and UCEBs as the last year. But I'm not holding my breath.

This is a good time to pause and reflect. What features or improvements would you like to see on this site? You can use this story to post your thoughts.

Reminder: I'm collecting nominations for the TRUSS Awards until Jan. 18, but please don't procrastinate. Right now 26 nominations have been submitted, but that's much less than in previous years.

One final plug: The hosting bills for this website have been steadily increasing thanks to the recent growth in traffic and uploaded photos. It's a good problem to have, I suppose, but it's still a problem. You can help by making a donation toward hosting costs.

Comments  (34)

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 12, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

Regarding the metadata, I really don't think it's necessay to keep _all_ the fields - <10 of the available hundreds is enough. I don't know which backend you are using for resizing and tag stripping, but exiv2 and exiftool are the two command line tools I use heavily for tag manipulation. Both of these can be used to strip all but a few select fields. Comment and Copyright are the two I would most like to see preserved.

Regarding adding modern bridges - I like the idea of a warning. :)

Regarding removing "bad" bridges. What about an editor visible only anti-star mark. I think it would not even have to be graduated - just as simple "Is this bridge to ugly to be here? YES or NO". Once there are, say, five or so "yes" votes it would be flagged so you could make a ruling. Don't know how hard that would be to implement...

I really like the idea of an intro wiki. Let me know when it's up and I'll start adding stuff!

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 10, 2013, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

As expected, James has used our input to make wise decisions on the functionality of his site.

My thought about downvoting uninteresting bridges is that the star rating system would work correctly if everyone would take time to vote when visiting a page. Currently those with strong negative feelings can skew a rating because the more moderate among us do not add our voices to drown theirs our.

Resolve to vote honestly for every bridge you visit and a valid, more useful community opinion will result.

Many thanks to James for his work maintaining this site. It's an pleasant gathering place for those of us who enjoy these structures. In addition, it is a way to attract people who search for a particular bridge from their past and who can share their memories, and perhaps even become involved in the preservation of some of these landmarks.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 9, 2013, by James Baughn (webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com)

Thanks to everybody who submitted ideas. Here are my responses:

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS: I'm reluctant to disallow anonymous posts, since we do get a lot of useful tips from people who happen to drop by, but aren't likely to register just to make a single comment. You all might think the forum comments here are rough, but this website is really quite tranquil compared to the sites I oversee at my day job.

ABILITY TO EDIT OWN POSTS: I'll add this to the to-do list, but this will likely only be available for people with editor's accounts, since there's simply too much chance for spammers to abuse this: for example, they could post a seemingly innocuous comment, but then change it later (when it's dropped off the opening forum page and we're not paying close attention) to include a bunch of spammy links.

ADD MAPS SHOWING THE LOCATION OF EACH COUNTY: Will add that to the to-do list.

EMAIL ADDRESSES HIDDEN FROM ALL BUT SITE ADMIN: This is already available to editors -- just uncheck the "Show my email address" box on your Settings page. For everybody else, when posting comments, the email address box is optional.

HIDING MODERN BRIDGES: While this is available to editors, I'd like to make this available to everybody without requiring registration, probably using a cookie-based preference. This is on the to-do list.

The next challenge is deciding on the criteria for "modern." The big problem comes from bridges that don't have construction dates, especially footbridges. I'm thinking of adding new design categories specifically for pre-fabricated, welded truss pedestrian bridges. These bridges would be classified as modern regardless of the date built, which would help take care of most of the problem. For everything else, I think 1970 is still a good cutoff.

PREVENTING EDITORS FROM ADDING BRIDGES BUILT AFTER A CERTAIN YEAR: If somebody is willing to take the time to photograph and document a bridge, I'd rather not block that work, even if they've found something that most of us would consider boring or insignificant. There have been exceptions: some bridges are simply too hideous to allow posting here (and that's why I created uglybridges.com as a home for all bridges on the NBI).

I would never automatically forbid certain bridges, although I might consider showing a warning when adding UCEB-ish structures. The message might say, "Are you sure you want to add this bridge? This action is likely to cause the forum commenters to try beating you over the head with a clue stick."

PRESERVING STREET VIEW IMAGERY THAT MIGHT BE LOST IN THE FUTURE: I originally didn't think this was a problem. I had done a test with a particular bridge (in Alaska) that had been replaced. The latest Street View pass showed the ugly replacement bridge, but our Street View widget continued to show the old scene from a few years before. But when I last checked, the old scene had suddenly been removed and I was stuck gazing at a 360 degree panorama of a UCEB. Shudder. So I guess this is a problem, but I'm not sure how to solve it without running afoul of Google's arcane terms of service.

HIGHLIGHT ADJOINING COUNTIES WHEN USING THE "WHAT'S HERE" BUTTON: This is on the to-do list. I have quite a few improvements planned for the What's Here? tool... eventually.

REDUCE VOLUME OF UPDATES ON FRONT PAGE: Done.

ALLOW SORTING PHOTOS BY CATEGORY: This is something I've wanted to do for awhile, but I haven't quite figured out a good system that isn't too complicated or time-consuming for everybody to manage. I'd like to be able to tag individual photos with multiple categories (just like the tagging system for bridges), but it would be a lot of work to do that.

VOTE UNWORTHY BRIDGES OFF THE SITE: This was actually the main reason I added the 5-star ratings for each bridge. I was hoping that I would be able to quickly generate a list of 0 or 1 star bridges, and then easily decide which ones to delete. Unfortunately, the Half-Star Bandit -- or Bandits, as there appear to be several -- ruined this idea by downvoting perfectly good bridges.

LOAD ENLARGED PHOTOS IN A NEW BROWSER WINDOW: I added this today, although I'd like to find a better solution where the browser can remember your place in the photo gallery when using the back button.

DON'T STRIP METADATA FROM PHOTOS: This is a good idea, but I've found that the metadata (especially color profiles embedded by certain programs) can really bloat the size of JPEG images. There's also potential privacy concerns, but I can add a user preference to decide whether to strip the metadata or not.

INTRODUCTION FOR NEW VISITORS: Another good idea. I might build this as a Wiki-type setup, where editors can add informational pages as needed with links between them.

SLOTS FOR YEAR REHABILITATED: I don't really want to make the bridge editing form even more complicated than it already is, but I can add a series of categories for Year Rehabilitated to go along with Year Built. These would have to be manually assigned, but I can pre-populate them to a certain extent.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 4, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I have been asking for the elimination of anonymous postings as well. I have a few reservations however.

1. Many folks have great input, but might not take the time to register for an account. I would hate to lose out on good information.

2. Some of our anonymous posters have provided valuable information - this obviously ties in with part 1. above. Some of them have notified us of bridges that we did not know even existed. Even Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms. MODERNE/NON-HISTORIQUE is correct about some bridges not belonging here. On the flip side, you have folks like the MODERN/NON-HISTORIC (ie Half Star Bandit)person who simply slams bridges based on who updated them (he/she has done this to pre-1900 bridges - especially those found by Sheldon or myself).

3. Chelsea could no longer post...

Overall, however, I would rather see anonymous posting eliminated. (Or perhaps anonymous/non member posts could be sent to the moderator for review).

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 4, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Fmiser:

That is a good idea. I know I sure don't have the counties in many eastern states memorized. Well, except Adams Co. Pennsylvania...but that has nothing to do with bridges.

It would be especially helpful for huge states like Texas that have a massive number of counties.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 2, 2013, by Anonymous

Email addresses hidden from all but site admin.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 2, 2013, by Bill Eichelberger (wallyum [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Anonymous posting disallowed.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 2, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

On each county summary page, I think it would be handy to have a small map of the state with the current county highlighted. This wouldn't be necessary if I had all the counties of all the states memorized...

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 1, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

How about the ability to edit our own posts? This would allow myself and others to correct typos that accidentally slip through to the forum.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted February 1, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

As a fellow Bridgehunter, I agree that there are several dates of significance. Here are a few.

1876: A cast iron bridge in Ashtabula County, Ohio collapses. Wrought iron immediately replaces cast iron for load bearing members. Cast iron becomes relegated to use for decorative additions such a plaques.

1900: Numerous independent firms were incorporated into the American Bridge Co. Steel had almost completely replaced wrought iron. Pinned connections were being phased out in favor of riveted connections.

ca. 1910-1940: The golden age of concrete bridges. Closed spandrels, open spandrels, Rainbow arches, curved tee beams, standard tee beams, and concrete girder bridges are constructed in large numbers.

1939: The truss bridge era is largely over. Steel stringers and concrete bridges dominate the next several decades. In 1941, the US enters World War II and steel is used for the war effort.

ca. 1970: No more interesting bridges are constructed. (Well, very few). This seems to be a year that Nathan and I agree on as being significant. Up until this point, riveted truss bridges and interesting tee-beams were occasionally constructed, albeit on a rare occasion. Thus, I agree with Nathan that it should be kept as a filter date.

Jayhawk:

I agree about allowing the occasional new bridge on here. There are a very small number of modern bridges that represent unique and interesting technology. I agree about Oregon's new open spandrels. I have also given some thought to the new Amelia Earhart Bridge in Atchison, KS as it is a network tied arch.

Should these bridge become commonplace, then I would want to see all of us exercise discretion in adding them. I would not want hundreds of modern tied arches or modern open spandrels on here. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Editors have an existing option to hide bridges after 1970. If there is a desire to change or have more filter dates like 1980+ or something, that is fine, but I would hope the 1970 option would be retained. 1970 marks the approximate time where a fundamental change in bridge aesthetics and bridge construction methods occurred. No more rivets. No more built up beams. No more attractive railings. The few aesthetic bridges built after 1970 are still strikingly plain in appearance. Evan as post 1970 bridges age, this transition point will remain.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Jayhawk: I feel as if a "filter by date" option for people would work best if the website was set up so that people could sign up for a non-editors account, that way their settings could be remembered (Maybe this is just me thinking like a website designer, though.) Your idea is a great one, nonetheless.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by jayhawk

How about a "filter by date" function so that if you don't want to see bridges after a certain date you don't have too.

Not everyone who visits this site is interested in historic preservation - while I do in fact have an interest in preservation (and I mostly photograph 1930's concrete arches), I'm also an architectural engineering student and the architecture of bridges is the main reason I visit this site. I think architecturally significant modern bridges should be listed here.

For example, if everything built after 1970 was excluded I would never have learned of the beautiful open spandrel concrete deck arches Oregon has built in the last ten years or so.

Surely there's enough room on the internet for everyone's interests!

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Anonymous

Take a look back my suggestions of addition by subtraction from last week. This is a perfect example--a whole page wasted on this discussion. Please make a decision as to what's appropriate and what isn't and end the blah, balh, blah once and for all.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

I'd suggest 1980 as a cut-off date, as the 70s is approaching being 5 decades ago.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

If we do have the automatic rejection as suggested by Mr. Marvig, I would suggest a date of 1960, or perhaps 1970 as a year. Of course, if the user does not input a date, then the plan would fail. It is a tough decision either way.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

The potential of a moderator abusing of the moderator privilege is why I feel the moderators, except for few James chooses to give the power to delete bridges to (If any of these proposition go through), should only be given power to delete comments.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Abuse of moderator power is certainly a concern. I guess there is a balance between taking that risk and allowing this website to get overran with non-interesting bridges.

I generally avoid adding bridges less than 50 years old, unless they are of substantial interest or associated with a significant event.

I know some folks probably think I am too generous (ie I did add a 1966 through arch recently), and some folks probably think I am too restrictive (ie, I don't think any MOB is worthy).

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Maybe what could be done then is if someone is attempting to add a bridge, and they select a date after 1990 and a beam, or stringer design, then it should automatically not allow it to be added, and any bridge that should be a special exception should go through James.

I do agree with the moderator idea, although one must worry about what happens if someone were to abuse a moderators power...

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Luke, I know these anonymous postings can be annoying - and perhaps allowing users to remove them might be okay. But...I would rather have the ability to delete the modern and mundane bridges that seem to trigger his/her comments.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 31, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Users being made Moderators/Janitors with the ability to delete this horrendously annoying anon's posts whenever he/she/whocaresanyway posts them.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 26, 2013, by Jann Mayer (jannmayer [at] gmail [dot] com)

I know of at least one lost bridge that has a Street View image but no actual photos. If Google heads down this street again, the image will be lost. I have seen other websites save a static copy of the Street View image to protect against this. Perhaps that is worth doing here as well?

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 26, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Have the "what's here" button highlight the counties like the "show counties" option did.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 25, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

Anonymous suggested "Reduce the volume of updates on the first page to new bridges only..." I like it! But I don't want to loose a place where I can see _all_ the updates. So leave "Updates > Recent updates", and have the home page show only new bridges. And I suppose a "new" bridge should be any bridge that is new to the site _plus_ one that is no longer just NBI data.

Joseph Hinson suggests folders, or sub-directories. This would indeed help manange the large quanity of images on some bridges. However, I have come to dislike the inflexibility of directories. For example, if there is a directory for "historic" and one for "detail" and one for "damage" - where would I put a historic detail photo of damages?

Therefore, I suggest using tags, or categories, instead of directories. Then as many as apply can be assigned to an image.

Here is my off the cuff list of categories:

Long range - pretty much the whole structure is in the frame

Medium range - not the whole structure, but a sub section. Like a portal brace

Detail - close range, say the rivet head bolts on the portal brace

Historic - from more than 50 years, or if the bridge was significantly different than it is now

Damage - Car through the railing. Lateral tie twisted and hanging

Repair - clearly not original. Concrete replacing coursed stone, a weld on a riveted bridge

Feature - something the editor considers noteworthy or significant

Substructure - Abutments, piers, and bents

Environment - Things around or near the bridge, but not actually the bridge

We could then go further and have one for each member. Diagonal, vertical, floor beam, ties, struts, spandrel, barrel, voussoir, parapet, etc. But I think that would be too much work and would be too fine-grained.

The page could load showing only the long range, or a random selection from each category. The visitor could then choose to view all, or only show images in the selected categories.

But I'm not a web developer, so I don't really know how much effort that would be to implement. :)

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 24, 2013, by Mike Goff (michael [dot] goff [at] hotmail [dot] com)

How about a way to "vote" unworthy structures off the island. Similar to the 5 star rating, but a simple does it belong or not and if there is lets say a super majority of "not" they away it goes. At least this way it's a vote of bridge peers and not just a single opinion. However, it is James' site so he would ultimately have the final say.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 24, 2013, by Joseph Hinson (joethephotog [at] yahoo [dot] com)

On the photography side, when a bridge gets a lot of photographs, perhaps there could be folders for the pictures. I'm not entirely sure how this would work and it would take some work on either the person uploading or the site owner and admins. Albums could be "Wide View" "Detail Shot" "Historical Views," etc. etc. Mainly for the bridges with a lot of shots.

If the photographer could caption the shots, too, that would be great.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 23, 2013, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

I would like to see a way to order the photos in a more sense able, chronological fashion. When there are a large number of photos (100 plus) they should be put in a order which shows the history of the bridge. For instance the Moscow Indiana bridge has a very good photo history including it's reconstruction but the photos are all out of order. Second, and I don't know how this would get done but photos should be edited to some extent as too many repetitious and even just outright bad ( out of focus!) photos get posted and the site would be improved if photographers would ask them selfs 'What is important about this particular photo that is not already shown in an already posted photo.' if the answer is nothing than they should please refrain. If you just want to post every single photo you've taken use Flickr or Picasa.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 23, 2013, by Anonymous

I would suggest a few improvements that would be addition by subtraction:

--Reduce the volume of updates on the first page to new bridges only, rather than showing a listing every time someone makes a minor change in the data.

--Have the owner decide once and for all which bridges are worthy of being on here and which ones aren't, and also in what format all the data should appear. Then eliminate all of the comments of people telling each other what to do and how to do it from the Forum pages. Doing so would cut the number of pages significantly and make it much easier to read through older comments.

--Devise a way to make the Street Views optional. Nothing bogs down the reader's screen more than the pictures loading every time you go back and forth through the pages.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 17, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

Don, if you are using a Mozilla-type browser (firefox, or probably chrome), holding control down while clicking will cause any link to be opened in a new tab - unless it's a javascript link...

This might also work with MSExplorer, but I don't have a way to try it.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 17, 2013, by Don Morrison (bacchus [at] mchsi [dot] com)

I'd like images to open up in a new window when enlarged.

As it stands now, if you click enlarge on say, picture #58, then use the back button to return to the bridge page, the picture on the page reverts to #1. On pages with lots of pictures, it might take a lot of clicks either direction to get back to the picture following the one you enlarged.

Maybe you could have both an "enlarge" button and an "open large size in new window" button.

Maybe I could just learn to use "right click | open link in new window". Nah, that's too inconvenient.

Thanks,

Don

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 14, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I agree that adding the license information for photos would be a good idea. It just helps protect people's property.

Donations
Posted January 12, 2013, by Robert Thompson

Is there a snail-mail address where I can send a check?

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 11, 2013, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

I've been meaning to post a request - so I guess now is good. *smiles*

I'd like a few of the photo tags to NOT be stripped by the server. Comment and copyright especially, but caption, geolocation info, artist or creator, and date/time original would be nice. Thus if I download and save a photo from the site, that data will generally stick with it.

Then - if some of those tags could be _read_ while uploading photos...

Caption-Abstract could be the title - if present. Comment could be comment, Copyright could be searched for standard license data. I don't know how much this would help others - but I could get lazy.

And I will say I _really_ appreciate your adding the license fields for the photos.

Finally, I think a introduction for new visitor would be helpful. I have some content that I will contribute. I have diagrams of all the major and most of the minor truss types and a glossary of terms. If there was a page for it, I would also be willing to do more.

What new features would you like to see?
Posted January 2, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Love the website, but a couple things I would like to see added is at least one more build date slot, and at least one rehabilitated date slot. One thing I have found with railroad bridges is that often times, they were built at different times. And often times both road and railroad were rehabilitated. I think creating multiple build date categories and a rehabilitated catagory could really help with people attempting to find bridges.