GillianD
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Joined: June 27th, 2011, 9:09 am

November 3rd, 2011, 10:02 pm #81

Justin-T wrote:Tim & Harry - commiserations, hard to believe it could have happened so quickly, and there clearly are still some quirks in the online system.

I'd be curious to know how many slots were taken up as batches of 5 weeks? Might be time to restrict it a bit further, no more than 3 weeks per person? I can see that there's a benefit to having more experienced people digging, but my impression from my 2010 digging was that about half the people on-site had been in previous years, so they are already experienced.

Given the demand for places, another way to spread things out a bit more evenly might be to raise the price. 645 spots at 100 quid each would be almost an extra 40,000 pounds, so that would surely be put to good use by the Trust, I'm sure the digging places would disappear just as quickly as they are doing today, but the extra expense might deter some people from booking 4 or 5 weeks, leaving more people happy overall.

90 minutes in and only one week left available for booking.
I'm overjoyed I got the two weeks I'd hoped for in June.

I know there are disappointed people out there, but I'd hope that any method of 'evening' out places wouldn't involve pricing some of us out of the market. If the cost of a place has to go up for real financial reasons that's fair enough. However, I'd be very unhappy if the price went up just to dissuade people from applying. This is the one and only holiday I'll be having in 2012; just as it was in 2011 (and what a wonderful place to have a holiday it is!). I certainly couldn't afford an extra £100 per week (I'm pushing the boat out for the second week as it is): I'd be staying home and wistfully following Justin on twitter and checking the photos on We Dig instead.
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Badger
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:10 pm

November 3rd, 2011, 11:32 pm #82

Gillian
No doubt this is a significant headache to the Trust. But it is better to have the problems of success than to have that other kind! iirc they are do operate under some rules. Not sure if it is Trust bylaws or something that relates to their Lottery funding....but they have to keep the excavations open to as many people as possible. And I am quite certain that they want to keep the price reasonable.
So the only real options would be to limit folks to fewer weeks, or perhaps the hoped for second site!
After various griping by computer and human my order got unfrozen, so I am good for two weeks in May. As it was my wife doing the griping while I was at work, these two weeks are going to end up costing me quite a bit. I fear it will be new carpeting in several rooms..... :(
Advance notice....since WeDiggers appear to all be computer mavens by now we will be expecting pictures and written reports on a weekly basis. WeDig tends to get a little short of info as the summer wears down.

Tim Wolter
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GillianD
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Joined: June 27th, 2011, 9:09 am

November 4th, 2011, 9:07 am #83

Great to read you got your weeks digging Badger!

Yes, it's a terrible headache for the Trust being so popular: if only Vindolanda wasn't such an interesting site; and it didn't have such amazing preservation; and it wasn't set in such beautiful countryside; and the people weren't all so friendly and enthusiastic.... Happily, I think they'll have to cope with being popular for quite some time to come.
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Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

November 4th, 2011, 12:58 pm #84

It looks like Badger is right, if you read the "Excavation Fees" section of the Excavators information it describes the Trust being a charity that is trying to keep access open to all and minimize fees, so they are clearly not going to raise fees without very good reason.

Andy is the only one who knows how many slots have been taken up by people digging for 5 weeks, it may well be a small proportion and the real issue is simply there are too many of us who have caught the Vindo-digging bug. However, if there are a lot of 4 and 5 weekers, then reducing the maximum number of weeks might be a way to widen access to more people while still following the Trusts goals.
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Joined: June 29th, 2008, 7:28 pm

November 4th, 2011, 1:05 pm #85

Having spent a couple of days getting over the disappointment of NOT getting a place for my wife and myself, I think that my experience needs airing and, resulting from a lifetimes experience of developing and managing complex software solutions, I have some suggestions for some minor improvements to the Vindolanda booking system which would result in COUPLES getting a fair crack of the whip in the scramble for places that now takes place each Nov 1st.

Nov 1st experience
I logged onto the website at 12 noon, worked out how to book and found at 12.03 that the August 6th week had gone already! I successfully completed the booking of August 13th and 20th weeks for myself by 12.10, went back in to book my wife's place (she works as a teacher and cannot get to computer at 12.00) to find that the two weeks I had booked were no longer available for her.

These 2 weeks are our summer holiday and have been for many years. Because I do not want to dig without her, I have since had to cancel my two weeks so the whole thing was a waste of time.

The system appears to work well for ONE person. But with such demand for places, it apppears to mean that you have to be very lucky to book places for a COUPLE. Therefore I have some suggestions which I think should be simple to implement which would result in a more level playing field for couples. If the system stays as it is I truly believe that we will never be in a position to dig at Vindolanda again as the volume of applicants is unlikely to ease in future.

Suggestions
a) Given the competition for places, for some people to take up to 5 weeks is just plain greedy. Limiting it to 2 weeks would give more people a chance to participate.
b) Amend the system to allow people to buy 2 places for a week with the proviso that the billing and addresses are from just 1 person. After all, if a couple are trying to book, the likelihood is that they are living together and one can pay for the other. All that needs to be changed then is the addition of the second person's name on the form. Any email confirmations can be sent to 1 email address with both names on it. This would mean that the time taken to complete an application would be roughly equal for both a single individual and a couple. Thus achieving a level playing field.

Congratulations to all the successful participants. Sorry for the moan above, but I felt that the situation was really stacked against us given the amazingly high level of demand this year.

Good luck for the next season. we will be turning green with envy watching the progress on 'We Dig Vindolanda'.

Best wishes to all

Mick (and Muriel)
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Badger
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November 4th, 2011, 2:16 pm #86

Mick

That parallels my brother's experiences exactly. I know the Trust folks are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but there are just some quirks that the current system does not handle well.
-want a spouse along
-coming from another continent and would like two weeks together
-been coming for years and years but are of an archeological strata that grew up with vacuum tubes instead of computers.

Lets hope that the notion (not sure it is a plan yet) of opening up a parallel dig at Magna works out. I understand it would be in conjunction with a University program, so there would be quite a few slots reserved rightly for students. But maybe a case could be made that a leavening of experienced old hands could be recruited in on a priority basis?

It could be fun. Right down the walk from Andrew's garden, just down the way from Hadriana's B and B. And the hotel in Greenhead could be a fair replacement for the Twice Brewed Inn!

Darn global economy though....

Tim Wolter

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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

November 4th, 2011, 2:32 pm #87

There were also the discussions some months back about expanding what a Vindolanda experience could mean. If there's only so much room in the trenches, there still might be ways for volunteers to be actively involved. Cleaning, recording, cataloging, surveying. There are so many questions to be asked about a site & the landscape around it. I mean, clearly digging is the *boom* -- who doesn't love the thrill of holding something that hasn't been seen in 1800 years? But if the supply outstrips the demand so much, maybe it's worth looking again at expanding the "supply."

Like, long-term exposure/preservation. Obviously some of the stones revealed in the 1930s (and even the 60s/70s) now have heavy lichen growth on them. And it was shown that over the winter the Antonine sandstone broke apart from freeze/thaw in just a year. With 70 years' worth of excavations at Vindolanda, it'd be interesting to run a program looking at the various conservation techniques & histories. See what works, what doesn't. What holds up well, what breaks down.

Beyond that, there could be room for volunteers/students to learn about traditional crafting/smithing/stoneworking. I think of Pompeii, where the old, exposed walls are starting to collapse more frequently. The more of these sites we expose for the public, the more there'll need to be crews who have experience maintaining & preserving them. Personally I'd have a blast spending a week on-site learning, say, traditional blacksmithing or stoneworking. Masonry pointing. Even the art of harvesting/drying/laying out bracken carpet.

My two coppers.
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lesandmax
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Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 5:31 pm

November 4th, 2011, 7:12 pm #88

Max and I were so relieved to get our two weeks together but to achieve this we used both my laptop and his PC at the same time. Even then our receipt numbers were 20 apart, which shows the demand.
We too wondered if it is possible to enter 2 in the 'quantities' so as to ensure couples can dig together, and give details later.
Certainly we would have felt very guilty to have chosen more than two weeks knowing how popular the digging has become.
I hope Andy and the Trust will find ways to use all the goodwill and prospective volunteering which Wediggers are revealing on this thread. It needs some thought...
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Joined: December 2nd, 2006, 8:48 am

November 4th, 2011, 8:08 pm #89

Er Harry.....

Who pays for the people to show you how to do blacksmithing/stone working etc? It wouldn't be cheap and perhaps the Trust would rather spend the money elsewhere which would prove to be more useful.

You can always do pot washing - you weren't bad at it :D

Malise
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

November 4th, 2011, 11:09 pm #90

Thanks! I improved from '05 when I missed not one but -two- stamps while Robin stood over my shoulder shaking his head disappointedly.

Re the smithing, etc. -- might be the right vision, might not. The one thing we know for sure is times are changing. There is -such- a passion for diving into these ancient sites, being part of learning about them, discovery, etc. There's clearly far more interest in coming to Vindolanda than there are current spaces to accommodate. Every person that gets turned away is a possible future leader in the field, not to mention a definite current spender-of-money!

With sites maturing, the focus is going to shift from excavation over to maintenance, reconstruction, restoration, preservation. It's nice to picture a Vindolanda that's not just the premier excavation/museum/research facility in the region, but also a leader in these fields too.
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