Use of online services by the NZ Rail Maps project

As you can see with recent posts on this blog and on Facebook I have rejuvenated the old nzrailmaps site on Trainweb so that the URL to it can be used on all published maps as a single point of reference for all aspects of this project. In the past all of the content was hosted on that website. This was easy to do because I had authored my own site builder software that maintained all of the pages and it was simple enough to add new content, click a few buttons and automatically sync the updates to the site’s FTP server. 
Since I no longer maintain that software and have no desire to use it now, and because the volume of content is much greater than what could be hosted on a free web site with maybe 100 MB of space available, the options I have considered are:
  1. Building an entire website to host all the content. However this entails additional cost which I am not willing to meet.
  2. Building a free website with Google Sites or another free webhost. Whilst there are pros and cons, such as built in web page builders in many of these systems, the space available is unlikely to be greater than I could access on Trainweb now.
  3. The option I have arrived at is to use the Trainweb site as an index or portal of sorts, with most of the actual content hosted elsewhere. Many of the resources are graphical in nature, and as such can be hosted on sites like Google Photos, where the album design paradigm works well when scrolling through a set of map tiles. 
In total, the free webhost sites being used for NZ Rail Maps content are seven:
  • Trainweb is where the web site is being hosted, and where the registered domain name points to as the first port of call for accessing project content. I have revised the site in accordance with the organisation of map content into 12 volumes covering different parts of NZ, and removed the old content. Some of that content will come back onto the site in future as time allows or be hosted on one of the other sites.
  • Facebook is where the project has a page that receives posts and updates.
  • Blogger is where this blog is hosted and this blog is where more in-depth articles are posted.
  • Google Drive is where the GIS files are hosted for map development. 
  • Google Photos is where map tile sets and other original content of the maps are posted for easy access and viewing. In order to provide a public gallery of the different albums that contain the various areas of content I have set up 12 collections, one for each map volume, on Google Plus.
  • Scribd is where the produced PDF map volumes are stored for public access and download.
  • Flickr is where some public domain or non-original resources are stored so that they can be downloaded at full size, which is not possible with Google Photos because of its storage limitations. Original resources produced by the project aren’t at a high enough resolution to be affected by the Google Photos resolution limit of 2048 pixels, but most of the Linz historical aerial photos on Retrolens as well as those I have had scanned from Archives New Zealand are much bigger and would lose quality if they were placed on Google Photos.
From the inception of the project in January 2008 until early 2012 the project was solely represented in the Trainweb site. After that date I began to make use of other online resources and the website went into “archive” mode and did not receive any updates for more than five years. I used Bitly custom URLs and latterly a simple Flickr URL to reference individual map tiles back to some of the other online resource sites I have been using. However with Flickr problems of late and the discovery that registering and using a custom web domain is a very cheap option, it is now the case that will be the web address at the bottom of every map tile and used in a few other places as well, pointing back to the Trainweb site. 
I can’t really register more strongly my disappointment with Flickr as a hosting option. Not only have there been issues with their failure to provide notifications of images being reported (in the case of other Flickr sites I have used), there is also their lack of ability to transfer a Flickr account to a new email address. So the custom Flickr site will not appear in conjunction with any more aspect of the project because I’m going to shut down the email account that I use to log in to it (as I have too many email accounts now). I have set up a new flickr account (nz-rail-maps) to host the public domain content mentioned above, and only for that purpose, not for all of the content. As much of the content as possible will be hosted on more dependable sites. These problems have arisen because of Yahoo’s many service capability failures and their having fallen well behind Google and other cloud providers over a long period of time. It is a salutatory lesson on how these online services hold all the cards and how few rights we really have as customers.