I’m a great fan of the eccentric machines cartooned by Rube Goldberg in the US and Heath Robinson over here. They are wonderful parodies of the supposed benefits of automation, the little man blowing a raspberry at the pomp and self-importance of the Machine Age.
They also sum up pretty accurately a fair amount of my working life, at least on the software development side. Most of it still feels like having to stand on my head in order to comb my hair. But there is a genuine satisfaction in seeing one of my software contraptions chug into life like a piece of homemade clockwork.
The reason for going on about this is that I’ve finally put up a step-by-step wizard on this site, taking whatever someone knows about their Irish ancestor and producing an unthreatening summary of sources and links to get research going.
The old Irish Times/Irish Ancestors site had something like this, popular enough, but dating from 2012, the era when dinosaurs roamed the landscape of Irish genealogy. When I started re-coding for this present site, the wizard was high on the to-do list but it’s been in production on and off for more than a year.
The problem was that records were coming online faster than I could incorporate them into the wizard. And every new set of records changed the relative importance of all the others. Rube Goldberg on steroids.
Over the past week, I’ve found myself tinkering with bits of punctuation and wording and realised it’s time to make the thing public. It will always be a work in progress (a euphemism for Rube Goldberg if ever there was one) but it has to be tried out by real researchers.
So give it a go. Try to break it. Make it come up with ludicrous suggestions. Just let me know when you do.