Happy 1st Birthday BellBoard!

The Ringing World's BellBoard was launched on Monday, 16th January 2012 and we are delighted to celebrate the first anniversary of our website.

This milestone coincides with another success for the site as the 2,000th active BellBoard account was created shortly before this anniversary. We are pleased to report that the number of registered BellBoard users continues to increase at a healthy rate. Thank you to all ringers who have supported BellBoard during 2012, please continue to do so in 2013.

The launch and subsequent development of BellBoard during 2012 has been a very exciting period for The Ringing World. BellBoard has undergone extensive improvement since January 2012 with the simple objective of creating a high quality and sustainable resource to allow ringers to share, store, search and view the most comprehensive ringing information, both now and in the future. Inviting and acting upon feedback received from BellBoard users has been central to our approach to improving the website. There have been several instances where suggestions received from you have been implemented with much success. We encourage you to continue to provide this feedback, and we will continue to act on it.

So how are we doing?

The perceived popularity and success of BellBoard will naturally vary significantly depending upon to whom you are speaking. We would like to share some statistics with you, which tell the story of BellBoard ’s first year objectively and which we hope you will find interesting.

We are encouraged by the information shown in the graphs below which indicate a consistent increase in the level of BellBoard use since its launch in January 2012.

graph 1
Number of activated BellBoard accounts

The number of registered users shows a sharp increase in the two weeks following the launch of BellBoard, and a further increase in the rate of new users at the time of the Diamond Jubilee in June.

graph 2
Number of performance views per day

The trend in the graph showing the number of performance views is slightly less pronounced but there has still been a clear and steady increase in the overall level of use of BellBoard over the last few months. The local fluctuations in this curve are due to higher levels of BellBoard use at weekends, but there are also spikes owing to specific events or performances, including those at the time of the Diamond Jubilee and at the beginning of 2013, presumably when people return to their computers after the Christmas break.

We will continue to monitor the use of BellBoard, as this informs us when the introduction of new features or changes to the site increases or decreases the level of use and number of users.

BellBoard’s most liked feature …

Throughout 2012, we have reported on new features released on BellBoard in our 'BellBoard Bulletins' published in The Ringing World. The development of BellBoard during its first year is also chronicled in the 'Latest Features' section of the front page of the website.

We will not repeat a description of each separate development in this article, but instead focus on the information obtained from one of the most popular features on BellBoard, the ability to "like" performances. For the uninitiated, this works as follows:

Any registered BellBoard user is able to click a button to "like" another performance. Each performance has a score which is equal to the total number of "likes" received, although the value of each "like" reduces over time, ensuring that older performances do not retain the highest score indefinitely. This scoring system ranks all performances and the one with the highest score – the "most liked" – appears on the front page of BellBoard as the 'Featured Performance'.

This fun feature allows each user to interact with and influence the appearance of the website. Looking more deeply, however, the information obtained from the ability to "like" features on BellBoard tells us something new; the list of 'Featured Performances' indicates what we, as ringers, thought about the performances of others, and highlights what we considered to be the notable performances of 2012. Whilst the meticulous work of The Ringing World and other record keepers over many years has ensured that we have detailed and accessible records to tell what was rung, by whom, where and when, we cannot easily assess what the ringers of 1912 thought was notable and how they regarded what was happening around them. The ringers of 2112, however, can look back at BellBoard and see clearly what was hot (and what was not …) in 2012.

So what did ringers consider to be notable in 2012?

There were 64 'Featured Performances' between Monday, 18th January and Friday, 28th December 2012. These included:

  • 6 long lengths (> 10000 changes)
  • 42 'normal length' peals
  • 12 quarter peals
  • 4 other performances
  • Performances in methods on 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 16 bells
  • 51 tower bell performances
  • 13 handbell performances
  • Featured Performance "reigns" from 19 seconds to 24 days

In this article we take a look at the list of 'Featured Performances' up to Friday, 28th December (total number of "likes" as at Sunday, 6th January) ordered by the total number of "likes" received, including the date first featured and time spent at the top of the list:

The clear leader at the top of this list was the Ladies’ peal rung at St Paul’s Cathedral during the Women’s Olympic Marathon; the first time that this feat had been achieved. This peal was rung in memory of Alison Regan who was due to ring in the attempt and was a close friend of several members of the band. This impressive achievement stands out at the top of the list and also held the top spot for the longest period of any performance in 2012, for 23.9 days.

In second place (on significantly smaller bells) was the first quarter peal for Alfred Pipe from Willingham, who achieved a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor on handbells aged 6 years and 335 days, following in the footsteps of his ringing parents and elder brother. There are many examples of "firsts" and younger ringers amongst the Featured Performances; it should be noted that reaching the top of a list does motivate younger (and older) ringers as they see their achievements being recognised by others.

In third place was the peal of Cambridge Surprise Major that was rung aboard a boat floating down the Thames in advance of the bells’ appearance in the Royal Jubilee River Pageant in June 2012. This peal was reported in detail in The Ringing World and, although not technically complex, is unique amongst peals rung to date and considered to be a challenge and a significant achievement by all those involved.

In joint fourth place was the first peal on tower bells for Henry Pipe, ringing Cambridge Major at his home tower aged 9 years old. Henry had rung several handbell peals in advance of this peal in tower, but the physical challenge of this performance enhanced the scale of this achievement and, again, the peal’s high placing in the table reflects the support of young ringers shown in the Featured Performances ranking.

Also in fourth place was a truly impressive team effort with three freshers from the Oxford University Society ringing their first peal; Plain Bob Minor on handbells. It must be exceptionally rare for anyone to ring their first peal with a band of first pealers (it must have happened at least once before!) so this rightly stands out as an exceptional achievement of 2012.

In the top five performances alone, there are several names which we can expect to recur in the Featured Performances of 2013 and beyond.

We should highlight that although the peal at St Paul’s Cathedral achieved the most likes in 2012 by a significant margin, this result has already been overtaken in 2013 by the peal of Bristol Maximus rung on Sunday, 6th January 2013 with Simon Melen ringing four handbells (176 likes received as at Friday, 18th January). This is an incredible achievement and we will be intrigued to see if this peal will hold the top spot for the BellBoard league table in 2013.

An up-to-date list of all 'Featured Performances' to date can now be found on BellBoard.

Our favourite features

In addition to the "like" function, there are many other advanced features that have been implemented on BellBoard over the last year of which you may not yet be aware.

SearchingBellBoard has been designed by Richard Smith who has used his considerable skill to create a carefully structured database to enable quick and powerful searching of an individual’s ringing records. The searching capability of BellBoard has been improving throughout the last year and allows a wide range of searches to be performed. Examples include:

  • All quarter peals you have rung with any other person, including specifying where you have both rung certain bells
  • The peals that you’ve rung on the tenor at your home tower

Searches on BellBoard are quick and easy to set up and can be saved for future use. An exciting recent development is the ability to create email alerts for saved searches. For example, you can ask BellBoard to send an email once a month with a summary of all the peals and quarters you've rung in that month. Alternatively, you could ask BellBoard to send you an email every time a band rings one of your compositions. The possibilities are endless!

Comprehensive ringing recordsBellBoard includes complete and accurate peal and quarter peal records as published in The Ringing World. We have worked hard to improve the quantity of ringing records available on BellBoard, in particular by collaborating with Campanophile, which has allowed BellBoard to include performances not posted directly. We will continue to work towards incorporating more ringing records from peals.co.uk and elsewhere to create a complete ringing record for the whole ringing community.

Photographs – We have greatly enjoyed the range of photographs being posted to BellBoard since this feature was launched in September 2012. We encourage everyone to make full use of the facility.

What’s next?

BellBoard has come a long way since last year but we still feel that there is much scope for important and exciting new BellBoard developments. Examples of priorities for development in 2013 are as follows:

  • Identifying and removing duplicate performances more effectively
  • Introducing the ability to upload audio clips of certain bells or performance.
  • Improving the underlying quality of the BellBoard data, for example tying tower names to Dove' Guide entries to allow much better reporting of tower performance statistics

Questions like "what are the heaviest tenors I’ve rung to a peal?" and "what is my longest published performance?" will soon be easy to answer.

This week, a new feature has been released which allows you to find out more about where in the circle you, or someone else, typically ring. For any ringer, you can find out if they have circled a tower, or more generally where they ring in the circle. Please do try this out.

We are developing BellBoard to streamline administrative processes within The Ringing World and improve the efficiency of our business. Whilst you may not see these effects directly now, this will help The Ringing World to make a transition into more sustainable working processes and to continue to serve the ringing community effectively for many years into the future.

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers