Launch of the new UKDFD

20 January 2018 — 24 Comments

FRIDAY 19 JANUARY 2018

Yesterday Gary Brun, on behalf of the UKDFD Team, announced the launch of the new United Kingdom Detector Finds Database (UKDFD). This is what he had to say:

Launch of the new UKDFD

We know that it’s been a long time coming, but we are pleased to let you know that we are finally ready to launch the new UKDFD. Before providing more details about the new software, it is worth reflecting on the success of the scheme since its launch on 1st September 2005. Here are some key points:

  • Well over 50,000 items have been uploaded to the database.
  • Around 47,000 of them have been validated and retained as permanent records.
  • The number of individual record-views exceeds 35 million.
  • At any one time, day or night, there are typically between 100 and 200 people online from around the world, making use of the database.
  • We have designated over one hundred recorded items as finds ofspecial significance, due to their uniqueness or extreme rarity.
  • There are many references to UKDFD records in academic papers, published books, and specialist websites.It is also appropriate to acknowledge the difficulties we experienced in 2017. Our database became increasingly unstable, and we were unable to update the software, as the supplier was no longer in business. We very reluctantly took the decision to switch off recording, as we would otherwise have been at risk of losing recorded data. This was particularly frustrating for our recorders, as some had paid an annual subscription only shortly beforehand.
  • Fortunately, we were able to leave the database online as a view-only facility, so the thousands of people who use the database for study, research and identification purposes were not adversely affected. The combination of the obsolete and unstable state of the software, and the shortfall in income (only £900 received towards our 2017 target of £3000) presented a significant dilemma: To have the existing software rewritten would cost a small fortune, and it would still be very dated, but to have new bespoke software written would be even more prohibitively expensive.
  • We ultimately decided to buy existing software that could be reconfigured to meet our particular needs. This was by no means a cheap option, but at least we now have up-to-date and dedicated software. Its complete reconfiguration has taken considerable time and effort, but unfortunately, there was no quick option.In working on our new software, we have taken account of requests, suggestions and criticisms received from our users. In particular, we have:
  • made improvements to the range and effectiveness of searches;
  • made improvements in respect of viewing images;
  • provided for creating personal, offline (pdf) record files;
  • provided for printing individual records;
  • restored and improved the ‘My Records’ facility;
  • provided research tools for creating temporary record sets and comparing records;
  • created Membership Plans and Recording Packages to suit different needs;
  • Integrated mapping of findspots with individual finds and searches.We have spoken above about the costs we incur in providing the UKDFD, so hopefully it will not come as too much of a surprise that we have had to look at how we can fund these costs. We have sought to spread the cost equitably across the various types of user, and minimise the impact on those who already pay to record. We summarise below the changes we have made:
  • All who wish to view the records and use the database will need to register and purchase a Membership Plan. These start at £15 per year.
  • Those who also wish to record will need to buy a Recording Package. These start at £5.
  • All services (membership, record packages, etc.) can be purchased with pay-as-you-go Credits. These are ‘UKDFD money tokens’ valued at £1 each, which can be purchased at a discount once registration is complete. They are a particularly cost-effective option for those who intend to upload a lot of records, and they remain valid while membership remains active.
  • As promised, all members who paid a subscription after April 2016 have been proportionately compensated, and have been awarded Credits with which they can purchase Membership Plans or Recording Packages. The number of Credits awarded is based on both time ‘lost’ and the cumulative amount they paid during the period. (e.g. a recorder who made two £20 payments will have received more Credits than a recorder who made a single £15 payment.)
  • All registered users will be able to log on to the new software using their present username and password, but will have very restricted access (‘My Records Only’) until they purchase a Membership Plan. On purchasing a plan, they will have access to all features included in the particular plan they choose. Those members wishing to record finds will also need to purchase a Recording Package. Registered users can gain an advantage by using Credits to make their purchases.Further details of the subscription arrangements can be found on the new website. A great deal more will be learned about the new UKDFD by exploring the website and trying out the various features. The site is much more complex than any of our previous versions, so it will take a little time to get used to it. For the same reason, we quite expect to experience a few ‘teething’ problems, as the complexity makes it more likely that we have missed things during our own testing. For a short period after launch, recording will remain switched off. This will enable us to address any problems progressively. A separate area has been set up on the present forum to post any questions, concerns, problems, etc. that arise, so please use this, rather than any other area.

Among other things on the new website, there is provision for a periodic Newsletter. We hope that this will be published quarterly, but initially it may need to be more frequent. We are also going to introduce a more professional ‘Help Desk’ facility with a ‘Ticket’ system and ‘Live Chat’ facility. We will require additional help to run both these services, so we would be very pleased to hear from anyone who is prepared to volunteer and become involved with either of them.In addition to this email, there will shortly be a video giving further information about using the new UKDFD website – a picture is worth a thousand words! We hope very much that everyone will enjoy the new UKDFD and find it pleasant and easy to use. Please remember to post any queries, problems, concerns or comments on the dedicated ‘UKDFD 2018’ section of the Forum. The UKDFD Team

John

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24 responses to Launch of the new UKDFD

  1. Do you support this, John? Massive shot in the foot for the hobby if you ask me. It is pretty startling to note that there are detectorists so “responsible”, they’ll pay more than fifteen quid a year in order NOT to use the PAS as a form of legitimation of the hobby by ‘recording’. That sends a pretty nasty message to Britain’s main stakeholder community – the non-collecting public – that they’ll have to PAY to see what you lot have taken from them and pocketed. A non-public record is a record hidden from the public. This WILL be used against all of you. It also rather suggests to me – unless I have missed something, and if so please enlighten me – that the ‘Revised Code of Practice…” is not worth the paper it is printed on. And let us recall that it was from the publication of the original PAS/CBA ‘code’ that the UKDFD took its beginnings.

    It is all a big Portable Antiquities Scam, isn’t it John? Shame on the UKDFD

    • Yes. I wholeheartedly support this initiative and fail to see how it is a ‘shot in the foot’ The database is an alternative to the PAS and all credit to Gary Brun who has created one that is superior in many respects to what is currently available. Many detectorists use both means of recording. The records are not ‘hidden’. I hope Gary sees this and responds accordingly. But, he’s one of the sensible guys and will probably starve Mr Barford of the oxygen he craves!

      You use emotive language to suit your own ends … how you can
      interpret this as a ‘scam’ is beyond me. But, par for the course and your negative comments were expected.

    • John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 21 January 2018 at 2:24 am

      John not being from the UK, but fascinated and intrigued to see what has been found, I think this idea is fantastic.

      I’m sure there is an awful lot of time and energy put into compiling these lists, maintaining these lists and investigating the artifacts found, so a pay per use only seems fair and logical to me.

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I’m going to head over to the UKDFD site and sign up.

  2. Wow. Can you just clarify that, you really do support a pay-to-view database of information about the common heritage taken by public consent from the common heritage on the understanding that it is done responsibly? How do you square that with the 2017 Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales? Do you not see any kind of conflict there between what it defines as responsible behaviour and what Mr Brun and his mates claims is “being responsible”?

    Such a private pay-to-view database is in no way any kind of ‘alternative’ to the records curated and made publicly available by the PAS.

    Do you not see a scam in that Mr Brun and his mates are now proposing members of the general public (going into those ‘future generations’) put money into their pockets just to see the 47000 items recorded on the original database by finders at their own cost and effort? Don’t you think it is scamming all those finders who believed they were making their data available as a free public service – only to find that Mr Brun is turning it into a money-making scheme? Can you give me another definition of the word ‘scam’?

    If you do not see it as a ‘shot in the foot’ the all the more easy will it be for the opponents of this manner of treatment of the archaeological record to outrun you.

    More on this on my blog where more will see it, Gary is welcome to reply to my more extensive comments there too should he wish to try to put over his side of the story.

    • ” … More on this on my blog where more will see it” … Really?
      Let them go over there then, pompous man!

      I have better things to do than engage with you in endless and silly debate. Trying to reason with you is akin to piddling in the wind. After all, I am simply the messenger.

      I’ve allowed you to have your say … that’s it!
      You are best left to marinate in your own bitter juices.

  3. This UKDFD creation can only do a lot of good for the hobby and metal detectorists in general. Being a hobbyist myself I hope government continues to enable the hobby to continue and be regulated as it is. I was part of a very small team which created a similar mapping facility for my local museum which had photographs of metal detected finds recovered from within one of its parishes.This facility also had many layers which could be updated.The UKDFD’s webpage will encourage metal detectorists to record finds of interest to the authorities and help finders of metalwork identify what they have dug up.Towns ,villages,parishes,counties all over the UK will have instant access to a facility that provides up to date historical information about any area within the UK. Looking forward to viewing the UKDFD’s new site.

  4. An excellent idea whose time has come John… and as expected, I see Mr. Barford has chimed in with his two cents worth of negativity.. As I have said before, ; some people are not happy unless they are miserable..

    And with the mapping that this project has undertaken, there will be a more complete analysis of where and when items are found. Hopefully patterns can be extrapolated

    Micheal

  5. Hello John.
    Thank you so much for doing a blog post on UKDFD.
    It has been a long time coming and has taken countless of hours to create.
    Rod Blunt and I have worked very hard to create what we belief is a fantastic research facility.

    We have been active for over a decade now… and a certain person only said we would last two weeks… but HIS pond will dry up 🙂
    Remember this?
    http://www.ukdfd.co.uk/winters_tale.wmv

    I think I feel another video coming on!! 🙂

  6. I have used this UKDFD site for years and found it invaluable for research when I first started detecting … and have missed it being available while update being carried out….a lot of time and energy goes into running a site like this and it costs money when updates are required … I voluntarily donated in the past and am very happy to pay a small sum ( approx the cost of one dig ) to be able to carry on using this facility.

  7. Responsible detectorist 28 January 2018 at 12:28 pm

    I will not be continuing with this site ….. subscriptions are a ripoff especially for people who contribute their finds info to you. GOODBYE

    • You have a choice, but not everyone would agree with you.
      I find the way you have expressed yourself a little offensive.
      But, maybe that’s your style.

      Many thanks to the Polish connection for sending so many readers my way. Appreciated!

    • Northern Archaeologist 29 January 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Go to PAS.
      It’s free, the Data is open, and the point of the scheme is to share knowledge on our shared heritage. You can even be given training to enable you to record your own finds on the database, all free and all expenses paid.

  8. Great to see the new UKDFD format. It does indeed provide an alternative for those who do not wish to use the services of the voluntary PAS. The latter as a resource strapped initiative is for ever struggling to record the finds it is offered by detectorists and others having to turn many away by eliminating the possibility to record many classes of items which can be recorded with the UKDFD.
    The PAS use a cut off date of 1540 for recording and have absolutely no interest in items found pre -PAS even if they had the funds to do so they have always shown a total disinterest in recording them. The PAS is also so slow. I have items going back to 5 months waiting to be returned from recording and seemingly every time i email the FLO to find out what is going on they are either too busy or are on leave. Not very encouraging at all and my landowner’s are equally not best pleased when i have to tell them their property has still not been returned.

    I can see that the Polish based detractor is not happy which of course is his normal stance on all things metal detecting, but i agree with many of the comments made that the UKDFD has a role to play. For example the PAS only covers England and Wales with Scotland not having a similar system in place only a Treasure Trove system which is not an identification service ,but an allocation or return one. I am sure the Scottish detectorists on this site will have opinions on this aspect.
    Another aspect concerns the funding of the PAS from our taxes so it is not a free system and thankfully all taxpayers chip in on this one. All finds located and passed to the PAS to record is done so at no cost to the public purse and in doing so providing the resource which created the FLO posts in the first place. The database created provides the many researchers and users of the data an income or benefit from finders goodwill in recording items in the first place. The UKDFD may well not record as many finds as the PAS ,but the data it does add to its database is equally important to researchers.

    • Northern Archaeologist 29 January 2018 at 6:25 pm

      “The PAS use a cut off date of 1540”
      Not true. Objects dating from pre 1718AD will be selectively recorded, depending on rarity, perhaps social history value, pressure on the FLO and a variety of other factors. Coins are an exception, thus milled coins are not recorded (due to how many survive, though there are exceptions), but struck/hammered coins are always recorded.

      “The PAS is also so slow. I have items going back to 5 months waiting to be returned”
      Considering that the objects may have been in the ground several hundred years, may have huge value to researchers now, and represent the remains of our SHARED national heritage, a few months is not long to wait. PAS usually take around 3 months to record and return finds. If you’re unhappy, speak to your local MP increasing funds for the PAS, or take advantage of the volunteering scheme PAS runs that teaches finders to record their own finds on the PAS Database (it’s all free!).

      “the PAS only covers England and Wales with Scotland not having a similar system in place only a Treasure Trove system”
      Scotland is completely separate in terms of the laws around artefacts and metal detecting. ALL objects recovered in Scotland are automatically property of the Crown and must be reported to a local museum.

      “The UKDFD may well not record as many finds as the PAS ,but the data it does add to its database is equally important to researchers”
      I’m afraid it just isn’t ‘equally important’. Finds recorded by the PAS are done by qualified experienced archaeologists who’ve spent their careers training to do this job. The quality of data recording is nowhere near as good.

      I don’t normally respond to posts such as this, and i’m not meaning to cause offence, but i’m fed up of PAS bashing.

      • Thank you for your comments Benjamin. However I will clarify the points I made.
        I am not seeking to knock the PAS only highlight some of its inadequacies due mostly to the way it is funded.

        The 1540 cut-off date was set by the PAS Central Unit no doubt in discussions with FLO’s and their Local Managers. The advice given states that FLO’s will selectively record post medieval objects and coins. Exceptions are made for items of social or historical interest. However the point I was making for brevity in my earlier comment is that the vast majority of finds recorded will be those pre 1540. I am sure the PAS statistics will be able to quantify the number of post 1540 finds actually recorded.

        The PAS has always been slow to record items and with more stringent selectivity that can be as few as 6 or 7 items taken in at one time. Despite the use of interns and other helpers the turnaround has not improved and has declined since I started recording with one of the Pilot Scheme FLO’s in 1998.

        To put the situation in a true perspective a FLO can be expected to record about 1000 items per year plus or minus a few hundred. That equates to say 20 to 25 per week and with a bit more work on the calculator an hourly through put can be established. In many areas a few active detectorists can keep one FLO and all their helpers busy for the year so hence no doubt the reason for the restriction on how many finds to take from each recorder in order to keep more finders happy.

        Whatever shade of Government we have had in power the PAS has always been starved of funds which means that it can only ever record a set amount of finds out of the overall volume it is offered each year. Not an ideal situation and just to put the record straight on this aspect I have been very much involved in highlighting to MP’s and Ministers the need to fund the PAS on a proper basis. The PAS is a politician’s dream by it or rather the finders producing the glittering finds on display at annual PAS and Treasure Reports launches to be eagerly handled and admired by the incumbent Minister on hand for the launch and digested by the waiting media. All that publicity of a £ million a year – got to be worth it.
        I have no intention of becoming a volunteer recorder. It is a time consuming process with lots of hoops to jump through and I don’t have the level of personal time outside work hours to do so. Some people do and good luck to them in their work. I don’t have the figures to hand on the number of self-recorders, but there are not too many.

        The point I was making with respect to the situation in Scotland was to confirm that it did not have the equivalent of the PAS and although this has been requested by Scottish detectorists it was turned down I understand by the last Review of the Treasure Trove system. However I am not up to speed on the Scottish system, but I would look to Scottish based detectorist reading this blog to make informed comment for all to read.

        I am sorry that you chose to exercise the elitist archaeological view point as to the accuracy and overall value of recording undertaken by the UKDFD staff. I recall that the former head of the PAS Dr. Roger Bland was very put out when the UKDFD came into existence and tried as you are doing, to rubbish what they do. None of this is helpful and is indeed counterproductive.

        Some FLO’s are very good at their job and some not too good at identifying finds. I am sure most detectorists would confirm that they have already pre identified the items they have deposited for recording and by recording seek to ensure that the information is placed on the PAS database for the benefit of future generations. Do not make the mistake of placing FLO’s in ivory towers seemingly better that everyone else – that will not help.

        I noted your reluctance to get into debates on divisive subjects. I am well aware that some other FLO’s have been drawn into discussions with others who have a totally different agenda to serve. I can assure you are am not in that club. Thankyou for taking the time to respond and i hope you will continue to do so in future.

  9. Your alternative view is welcomed, Steve.
    You have stated the case for the UKDFD in an erudite, reasonable and responsible manner.

    Thank you also to the ‘Northern Archaeologist’ (Benjamin Westwood), Finds Liaison Officer for the North East, for his point of view. It is appreciated.

    • Northern Archaeologist 29 January 2018 at 6:51 pm

      I’m FLO for Durham, Darlington, and Teesside only, actually, since you’ve chosen to ‘out’ me…!

      • I apologise, but I didn’t realise that your real name was ‘sensitive information’, Benjamin. You are down on the PAS site as FLO for the North East. If this incorrect, it needs changing. Please advise and I shall remove all comments if that is your wish.

        • Northern Archaeologist 29 January 2018 at 7:07 pm

          No, no, it’s fine.
          As an FLO I’m wary as commenting on divisive issues as it hasn’t worked out well for some colleagues…
          But, I’ve been at this archaeology game for a while now, and firmly believe that debate is healthy!

          • I am aware of your misgivings and apologise again for the indiscretion, but I thought my comment was relevant and didn’t give it a second thought. Sometimes it is useful for people to know to whom they are speaking.

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