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Notes on the Global Gazetteer

The Global Gazetteer from Falling Rain Genomics, Inc., is used on the TowerBells Website to make available to visitors some additional information about places where tower bell instruments outside North America are located.  This page presents the rationale for and history of that usage, describes various problems that have been encountered, and provides some helpful hints for those who might wish to use the Global Gazetteer for other purposes.


In 2005, when the original version of the data section of this Website (then an attachment to the GCNA Website) was being extended beyond North America, the Global Gazetteer was discovered, and was judged to be a useful resource for providing some locator information in regions of the world where existing mapping services did not have adequate coverage.  (For details of the turmoil in the arena of online mapping in that era, see our page on map service history.)  In July of that year, the first Weblinks to the Global Gazetteer were added to site data pages in Central and South America.  Thereafter, such a link was provided regularly as described below.  This continued even after online mapping services began providing adequate detail for areas outside North America, because adding a link is simple and the information available may be interesting to our visitors.

The Global Gazetteer seems to have begun in 1996, as that is the earliest date in the copyright statement at the bottom of every page there.  When we first found it, and for several years thereafter, the home page of the domain ( presented basic contact information for the provider (Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.), though there was no eddress (email address).  Since then, the provider has released newer versions from time to time, with V2.3 apparently being installed in February 2015.  One of those releases changed the URL style; fortunately for us, redirects were provided so that links to the old-style URLs don't break.  (We're working on finding and updating those anyway.)
As of the latest release (if not earlier), the home page of the domain no longer has separate content.  Instead, it redirects immediately to the Global Gazetteer.

Current usage

Clearly the provider of the Global Gazetteer intends that it be widely used, because at the bottom of each city page one finds this statement:  "If this page is useful to you, please link to it."  Accordingly, we have done so, in almost every site data page for locations outside of North America.  The exceptions are those few cases where the place is unknown or indeterminate, i.e., a country has two or more towns of the same name, and it is not yet known which one contains a particular instrument.  In some of those cases, we have provided a link to each of the possible town pages, since no site locator map is yet possible.

Helpful hints

The provider of the Global Gazetteer has never included any help, apparently on the presumption that the user interface is intuitively obvious.  While that is indeed true, it may nevertheless be helpful to point out a few facts about how that Website is organized and then to identify some problems we have encountered there.

There are two kinds of pages - index pages and place pages.
Index pages are subdivided into three types - the main page, country pages and letter pages.  Each type of index can have a list, a table of places, or both; some have more,.as described below.
Place pages are subdivided into three types - cities (including towns), airports and waypoints.

On both kinds of pages, names are primarily in Roman script (the same as this page you are reading).  However, letter indexes and alternate place names can be in any script supported by Unicode.

Page layouts are as follows:

Problems encountered

There are almost 7200 starting characters on the main page, in more than two dozen different scripts, at least some of which are not supported by your computer software.  This is likely to make the main page and some country index pages slow to load.

The two-letter country abbreviations do not always match the "ISO 3166-1 alpha-2" standard, which follows closely.  We have not yet determined whether those abbreviations follow some other standard.

The letter lists on the various index pages are spaced too tightly, so that line wraps occur in the midle of entries rather than between entries, making some of them difficult to read.

In the latest release, the intermediate letter index pages no longer include the words "beginning with ..." in the page heading, only in the page title.

Geographical organization is not always what one might expect.  For example, the United States (US) section includes American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Palau, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, and United States Virgin Islands.

There is no country or city page for the Vatican, though it has a country code of VT on the main page and "Vatican City Heliport" is listed on the "Vati..." index page.  The page for that heliport is likewise unavailable.

Jerusalem is not listed under Israel; the closest equivalent that can be found is the district Mehoz Yerushalayim, within which are numerous cities and towns.

The main page lists "UF BUGPLEASFIXME" as a country; but following the link produces a strange error.

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This page was created 2015/05/01 and last revised 2015/05/24.

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