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The future of contributing

In the late 1980s when I began working for the Standard Catalog of World Coins, all of our updating was done on paper, with pens. Photographs of coins were produced and these prints were converted to veloxes and blue tones for mocking up pages and producing final pages to be shot by huge cameras. This is what the world of print publication was like back then. Our updates were entered into an electronic system, so that printouts and pages could be produced, but there were many steps and nothing was easy.

These days we operate on a database on the Internet, and almost all of my time is spent in front of a pair of computer screens, with a third one not so far away. There are still paper pages with many notes recorded and my trusty red pens accompany me on a daily basis; however, the speed with which we must operate requires us to take a different approach.

For my entire time with KP and F+W, updating the data has occurred primarily during the book production period. This has always been a difficult process and has become even more so as our staff has been tightened and our duties expanded. For years I have proposed methods to improve this system, but difficulties kept us from achieving our goal. Recently, in our current age of Excel spreadsheets, we have hit upon a practical solution. It’s simple and we have tested it with enough contributors to be satisfied that it works. Read on for a brief explanation.

Right now, months in advance of the production period for any given SCWC project, you, our contributors, receive by email a set of Excel spreadsheets for the countries and type of data you have expressed an interest in working on, or perhaps I have chosen for you based on your known expertise. Either way, it happens shortly before the book production period, without much communication between the editor and contributor, usually en masse for everyone all at once.

What we have been successfully trying is a more staggered system, where a special project may be tackled by a contributor at any time. Step one, the editor and contributor communicate about a project and agree on their approach to completing the goal. Step two, we produce the Excel sheets needed for the update and send them to the contributor in the timeframe they need for completion. Step three, we keep communicating until the spreadsheets are updated and the project can be completed. It’s a simple process on a two-way street with understanding of the goals and methods for completing the project.

So far we have used this new method successfully to add new pricing columns for an immense number of countries in over three centuries of data. Contributors have been able to target a concern and address it in their own timeframe, so the work remains less stressful. Editors have been able to enact much larger projects, which would never have been possible in the old production period based system, where time is always very limited. I can happily relay that our success rate has been 100% thus far and we are ready now to open this system up to other contributors.

If you have an idea for adding or revising data in the SCWC series, please think it through a bit, then email me and we will discuss the project. If you simply want to do work similar to what you have been doing, but would like to work on it in the spring or summer rather than the fall, email me and we will make the arrangements. Whatever it is that you think can improve the SCWC, let’s talk and figure out a plan for doing the work in a practical way, in your timeframe. As always, thanks for sharing your expertise in this wonderful hobby of numismatics we all love so much.

Best Wishes,

Tom