About this Site

Legal Info

This site and its adjuncts on strathspey.org are owned and operated by

Anselm Lingnau
Donnersbergstr. 8
55129 Mainz
Germany

Tel +49(0) 6131 2752592
Fax +49(0) 6131 8807902
anselm@strathspey.org

(For our German visitors, this is an imprint as per §5 TMG.)

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The maintainer of the Strathspey Server assumes no responsibility for any off-site material accessible via hyperlinks in content served by www.strathspey.org. Should you have any problem - legal, moral or otherwise - with non-www.strathspey.org material that you could conceivably reach by starting here and following hyperlinks, please take it up with the other site's maintainers, not us. Unless we explicitly tell you otherwise, a link from www.strathspey.org to another web site does not imply that we support or endorse anything on that site, or even believe what it says. Draw your own conclusions.

Ancient History

The Strathspey mailing list was established in August 1993. At that time Anselm was working as a student system administrator and general computer dogsbody at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Frankfurt. Having just installed a mailing list management package, and having some time on his hands while preparing for his final diploma exams (we all know how things like that make you desperate for distraction) he wondered idly why there wasn't an Internet newsgroup or mailing list specifically for the discussion of Scottish country dancing, which had become his favourite pastime after having taken up lessons in early 1991. Then he decided – one morning while stepping out of the shower, actually – to do something about that. He doesn't quite remember how he attracted the first few dozen subscribers, but as a matter of fact the list mushroomed at an amazing rate. (Thank goodness the university paid a flat fee for its Internet connectivity, so a few extra kilobytes of mail per day didn't matter. Actually, the extra mail traffic due to Strathspey usually vanished in the noise of all those students downloading stuff that we probably don't really want to know about …)

The Strathspey Server came about soon afterwards, when it seemed that an archive of past postings might be a nice thing. Obviously, putting up more dance-oriented material wouldn't hurt either, and it gave Anselm an excuse for messing about with the Web, which at that time was still quite a new idea. In the meantime he had graduated and changed jobs inside the university, and the list and server followed him over in due course to the Department of Computer Science. Since then the list has settled down a bit, surviving a changeover to a new mail server machine when the clunky but extremely dependable DECstation 3100 was finally retired in mid-1998. However, the next big change came in 2001, when, at the age of almost 8 years, Strathspey left its native home and moved out into the world …

The Recent Past

Right now Strathspey (list and server) is being hosted on a Linux server which Anselm leases together with about a dozen other people. That server lives in a huge air-conditioned machine hall at a big German ISP's premises, with a nice fast permanent connection to the Internet and lots of bandwidth. Strathspey has also acquired its own, eponymous domain name (it turns out that strathspey.com and strathspey.net are already spoken for, but anyway strathspey.org is the one that Anselm really wanted to have) so you no longer need to remember that weird, long tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de thing.

Incidentally, in 2000 Anselm was awarded the RSCDS Scroll of Honour for the contribution that the Strathspey list made towards the communication between Scottish country dancers all over the world. (This made him the youngest Scroll recipient at the time, by a margin of 25 years or so, and the second German to receive one at all. He's probably still among, if not the, youngest person to have been thus honoured.) However it seems that the award really ought to have gone to all Strathspey subscribers, since it was the community of Strathspey participants that made the list a (continuing) success. But that would have been a very awkward AGM! Anyway, thanks to all of you for taking part, it's been wonderful so far and will hopefully go on like this for a long time …

The Very Recent Past and Present

Since the big move in 2000, really not much has changed at all. The Strathspey Server has hopped from one computer to the next as time went by, and bigger and bigger servers became available at more and more ridiculously cheap monthly rates.

The software has been rewritten a number of times, and the current incarnation is finally such that it seems to work and can do most of what Anselm would like to do.

We have inherited the Scottish country dance database, formerly called “DanceData”, from its original instigator, Alan Paterson, and have mangled it into something Alan probably wouldn't recognise. The positive part is that there is now a team of a dozen or so people looking after the data, which bodes a lot better for its continuing survival.

The Strathspey “ecosystem” has also acquired two interesting outgrowths; one – “Strathspey Q&A” –, is a curated question-and-answer platform in the spirit of “Stack Exchange”. It should really be used more. The other is a fledgling social-networking service called my.strathspey, which isn't going to beat Facebook at its own game anytime soon but does have a few helpful things to offer for people who would like to share SCD-related information. Anselm is working on making my.strathspey a more viable concern for dancers' and SCD group web sites, including services such as publishing dance events and managing attendance at such. (The relevant functionality has been in use for ages at the Frankfurt SCD Club, so it is fairly well-tested – it just needs documentation and some UI tweaks.)

If you would like to host your own SCD web site, or a web site for your SCD group, class, or club, on Strathspey then get in touch. It is completely free of charge, and as long as you don't mind an URL ending in rscds.net, scd-group.org, or schottentanz.de, you won't even have to pay for a domain name. (If you would rather have your own domain then that is of course also possible.)

How To Help

You're perfectly entitled just to browse or “lurk” but it would be great if you were to make a contribution to the list or server, however small. Answer a query. Announce an event. Tell a story. Post a dance. Give your opinion. Review a CD or dance book. Let us know how you like the list, or the server. If you're a bit shy or don't know whether what you'd like to post is all right for the list, then do not hesitate to ask Anselm at anselm@strathspey.org.

If you're serious about helping out, there are lots of areas that could use work. For example, over the years there have been many discussions on the list analysing the history and/or finer technical points of many dances, and it would be great to go through the archive, extract all that information, and add it to the dance database for convenient access. This does not mean that a single person would have to volunteer to read a backlog of nearly 70,000 messages (including lots of stuff that doesn't talk about any specific dances at all) – it would be easy to split this work into batches of, say, 500 messages (which would be about right for a rainy autumn weekend with not much else to do except the dishes and a social dance on the evening – we don't want to keep you from things you would rather do). Every little thing helps. Let us know if you're game.

Technical Details

The web site used to be operated by a nifty piece of software called Zope, which is given away for free by a company called Digital Creations, but was later moved over to a new, similar system written by Anselm himself – Zope really proved too unwieldy in the long run and also annoyed Anselm's server's co-owners by randomly taking up all of the server's CPU resources. To be honest, this has probably more to do with Anselm's sketchy knowledge of Zope arcana than with the system itself. The new system also didn't prove viable in the long run – it had all sorts of problems not just with resource usage but also with odd and flaky behaviour, so another rewrite was eventually in order.

The newest system – now in its second, again completely rewritten incarnation – is based a nifty web framework called Django, after the jazz musician not the western movie hero. Django is a lot like Zope, only more light-weight and flexible and it doesn't make your head explode after ten minutes. It also has the big advantage that there is a large international development community taking care of the hard work, so Anselm is back from being a framework developer to being a “user”, which is an arrangement he much prefers. There is still enough programming work to be done in order to put helpful and exciting SCD-related things on top of the framework, but Django is a very nice environment to develop with and Anselm gets to have lots of fun.

The appearance of the Strathspey web sites is (for the most part, anyway) based on a CSS framework called Bootstrap, which is what the cool kids are using nowadays. This makes it easy to build web sites such that they work well on a variety of devices, from mobile phones to desktop computers with big screens.

The Strathspey mailing list runs on top of a program called Project Lancelot, which is a powerful mailing list management package coincidentally also written by Anselm (but available to all takers as “free software”). In the distant past the list used to use another program called “ezmlm-idx”, but when Anselm and his friends moved to one of their new servers they decided to get rid of the “Qmail” mail server they were running until then, in favour of the more modern and friendly Postfix, and since ezmlm-idx is fairly closely tied to Qmail that spelled the end of that package as far as Strathspey is concerned. The Strathspey list then for a while ran on a package called “Mailman” (which most everybody else used, and still uses), but Mailman sucked in many significant ways – including the one where no two lists on the system could have the same name even if they were in different e-mail domains, which isn't a huge issue if your mailing list is called “strathspey”, but more so if you want to call it “news” –, and Anselm finally bit the bullet and replaced it with something much more flexible, modular, and streamlined. In fact, when compared with the competition, Project Lancelot is probably the best mailing list manager out there just now by a variety of standards – it's just that few people seem to know about it.

Who Pays For It All?

The university used to (without actually knowing about it … but again, the extra CPU load, mail and web traffic, and disk space used didn't even show up in the statistics). Nowadays it is funded by Anselm - and at less than ten euros per month, not including labour, it's a reasonably cheap hobby! Of course it would be more trouble than it is worth to charge subscribers for the service, besides being against the idea of free exchange of views and information on the Internet (which Anselm finds quite important).

If you like Strathspey so much that you want something nice to happen to Anselm, he's always glad to find dance books and other SCD-related stuff in his mailbox … and if you send him something that you published, you might even get a review and lots of world-wide publicity out of it! Anselm also maintains a wish list at Amazon; this is the German server because of postage costs, but Amazon customer accounts seem to work on all Amazon servers (hint, hint …).