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Error reporting mechanisms

There are many users of GENUKI, and they do need to contact the page maintainers. This will be to report errors, and hopefully to offer assistance and to give us information. There are of course also users who will find that the information that they want is not there, and ask us to provide it. And if we had it, it would be on the page anyway.

Basic techniques

A link should be provided on every page as mechanism to contact somebody who will deal with the query, otherwise the queries tend to be sent to all the GENUKI developers rather than the person responsible for a particular area. The simplest way to do this is to put a mailto: link on each page, but this has a number of disadvantages.

Help pages

We can solve these problems by using a link to a common page for that part of the structure. On such a page appropriate text can placed to field the common asked questions, and to deter trivial questions. Changes then only need to be made in one place. However there are a number of other items that need to be addressed, such as:

Tailored help/error reporting

The WWW does actually provide a mechanism which allows to deal with these points, and that is to use a cgi-script rather than use a common page. The most important additional data we have available to us using this method is the URL of the page containing the original link, and we can provide other information via parameters to the script.

County developers may not have the ability to run cgi scripts on their own servers, or may not have the expertise to write them, and so we have a common one that can be tailored to the needs of individual counties. It uses information stored in a database that is also used by the Spider program, and others that require county information. The database is keyed by Chapman code, and contains items such as the name of the county maintainer, their email address and the county URL.

Usage

It is used via a URL such as

http://www.genuki.org.uk/cgi-bin/problems?LAN&Non%20Existent%20Place

This calls the cgi script with two parameters, the first being the Chapman code, LAN in this example, and the second the place name (Lytham). If there is a space in the place name, use the usual technique of replacing it with %20.

When the script runs it builds a standard page header with an up icon for the county given by the Chapman code, it then gets a skeleton for the text part of the page, and at the end displays a form for actually entering comments and sending them. When the send button is pressed, an email is sent to the page maintainer, and a final 'Thank you for commenting' page is displayed.

Skeleton text

The skeleton text used to provide help, and hopefully prevent emails that need to be answered is fetched from a file named Help.txt stored in the top level directory of the county involved. This is read via the WWW by the cgi script. If the file isn't found a common skeleton (in the top level dir at www.genuki.org) is used. Here as an example is the Lancs skeleton used in the example link above.
Help with Family History problems. Surname information.
Contribute information. Report problems.

Help with Family History problems

So you are having problems researching your family history. This is something that we all suffer from, and one of the best ways of getting help is to join a Family History Society. As Lancashire was a large and populous county, there are a number of societies each covering different parts of the county.

If you want an answer quickly, then ask it on an e-mail list such as LANCSGEN, a mailing list for anyone with a genealogical or historical interest in the county of Lancashire, England.

Please don't ask for personal advice from the Lancashire WWW page maintainer, as frequently he does not have the local knowledge that you require, or the time to provide such a service.

Help with surnames

The first place you should look if you are interested in a particular surname, is the Guild of One Name Studies. The GOONS members collect and research information about all occurrences of the particular surname they are researching.

The other source of place to look is the surname lists that individuals maintain for particular locations. Have a look at the Lancashire surname lists

Contributing information

You may wish to contribute some information about $PLACE, or elsewhere in Lancashire. If you want to supply information about your own family, or a link to your family web page, then I'm sorry but you're out of luck. We are trying to provide information that will interest most users, and that would tend to be swamped by personal information. Links to personal pages are also a maintenance nightmare, as experience has shown that they change URL's or disappear quite frequently. I suggest you use the surname lists for this purpose.

Now if that hasn't put you off, it is quite likely that you may know some basic facts that will be of use to other people. For example look at a page with plenty of information, Lytham. That's bound to give you some ideas of what can be provided. In particular I need to know the basic items, which frequently need a bit of local knowledge.

So if you know any of this information, and it's not currently on the $PLACE page, then do let us know on the form at the bottom of the page. If the appropriate town/parish page hasn't appeared yet, then please be patient and wait till it is.

Reporting problems

If you have found a problem on the $PLACE page, or on any other Lancashire page, then please report it on the following form. We will then do our best to fix it.

The skeleton is html code, but not a complete WWW page, as the headers and trailers are written by the cgi script. The following strings are replaced in the skeleton when the web page is built by the script:

The contents of the skeleton text are at the discretion of the county maintainer. The aim should be to suggest the best methods of finding the answers required, and hopefully avoid the need for email to the county developer. But don't forget to include requests for contributions, as that is a very good way to obtain more information which in itself may help prevent questions being asked.

If you want your email address to appear on the page, then it should appear in the skeleton, but not as a hot link, as users will use it, and you won't get the additional information in the email that the cgi scripts adds at the front of the email. If the email address doesn't appear on the page, then there is no way it can be obtained by mail harvesting programs to generate junk email.

The additional information sent in the email is the place name given on the calling URL, the URL of the page that contains the link, the hostname on which the browser is running, and the name of the browser being used.


Page maintained by Phil Stringer
[Last updated: 23rd December 2002]