Monday, May 07, 2007

8 months in the making: the Lexicon's new Canon Portkey

Portus! Last night the Harry Potter Lexicon launched our most ambitious project ever: the Canon Portkey.

Clint Hagen, the programmer for the Harry Potter Lexicon spent 8 months, produced over 7000 lines of PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. John Kearns spent that time paraphrasing every single event in the whole Potter series, noting the page numbers, main characters, setting and time period, etc. Whoa.

Why? So that Harry Potter fans can search the events of the books and organize the them (and the rest of the canon) anyway they want via tagging and bookmarking. Legally.

Many others helped. We had a small army doing data entry and as this group got larger and larger, Bel stepped in and did her own management magic to keep everything rolling along. My role was in pestering Steve about having a new design and then wishing (sometimes) that I hadn't volunteered =). I am very proud of it now, and an chomping at the bit to convert more of the Lexicon now that the Portkey is launched.

What does it do? It is a:
  • Location finder. Let's say you can't remember if Jo told us something in the books or in an interview. The Portkey will find it for you and tell you what page it is on for both the UK and US editions
  • New path to the Lexicon's information. I write for them and I still have a hard time finding things because it is so huge. The Portkey will take you to the Lexicon's pages that are entirely focused on what you are looking for, and then let you tag and save them. It is like having your own Potter secretary.
  • Mashup tool. If you use the icon search you can mash up one set of data with another. Let's say you are building a conspiracy theory and you want to find the places where the Ministry of Magic had dealings with Death Eaters. Mash the Ministry icon with the Death Eater icon and up pops all of your links.
  • Community tool. What do others think of your favorite passages? You can see the most popular tags for any event in canon.
  • Empowerment. You organize canon the way makes the most sense to you. Did we leave out a detail that is important to you? Add it yourself as a tag.
This whole thing was Steve's idea. It came to him one day in a dream and he knew he had to make it happen. When he told us about it it was difficult to conceptualize. I tried to understand what he meant by researching online textual indices for the Bible and Shakespeare. Then I'd show them to Steve he'd say "Sort of, but it also does this, this and this." Thank goodness his vision was strong because we all had a hard time grasping what he meant.

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