Rollout: A Look Back

History of the App’s Development

Earliest phase

Our app has a long history of development that stretches back into the 1990s. It was originally conceived as the first CD-ROM multimedia project of the Diederichs-Verlag (which is also the publisher of the Wilhelm-Edition) together with the Data Becker-Verlag. However, the project was still ahead of its time; the thinking in terms of media projects hadn’t yet reached maturity. A few years earlier, Adrian Stahel had developed a data model for the Eranos Foundation, which we were able to adopt almost 1:1 in this new edition, as well as the ideas of many of the app’s features.

The last 2-3 years

With the Russian software development company Edison, Adrian Stahel first developed an app prototype on his own. Soon after, Amando Zanetti, the son of a friend, joined the company, who took over the digitization of the Wilhelm and Baynes works and their transfer into a database structure with high precision. Stahel knew that he needed additional digitizing and technically talented people for a comprehensive project like this one; so he turned to the Sinology Department of the University of Zurich and its head, Prof. Wolfgang Behr. Although Behr at first greatly underestimated the students’ interest in an attractive and flexible sideline such as this, he forwarded Stahel’s request to Arthur Fritzsche, who was a Sinology student at the time and had already displayed a combined interest in China and technology on several occasions. Fritzsche transferred the classic work of James Legge into the database structure and soon enthusiastically coordinated the work of a larger group of students from the University of Zurich and ETH.

Interface Design

Fritzsche advocated a modern interface design for the app, which was soon realized in the still unreleased version 2.x of the app. What was planned as a pure interface redesign from a black and white to a modern user interface turned out to be much more complex than expected. Large parts of the program code had to be rewritten, and the development time was thus extended.

Fritzsche and Liliane Krüsi jointly created an attractive web presence for the newly founded Yi Jing GmbH, which is based on the app’s design: With Chinese red and Chinese golden yellow as dominant colors, as well as with Chinese ideogram designations of all 64 hexagrams in calligraphic script in vertical type bands as a decorative element.

The digitization work

As mentioned elsewhere on this website, the transfer of the book texts into a fixed database structure serves the purpose of making the books easier to compare and contrast. For each work that is added to our library, an editor is responsible, who must know the structure of the Yi Jing texts. Fritzsche and Stahel helped the editors to correctly identify the book sections and to insert them in the database by means of charts and cross-references with the Chinese Yi Jing original text. A database tool specially adapted to the Yi Jing database structure is used for database input. The editors are also responsible for the correctness of the works they edit during the time when their own works have already been published.

The quality of the editors’ work was consistently high, and deadlines were generally met. In particular, the digitization of a Russian translation of Wilhelm by Ilya Stepanov and the Chinese Yi Jing work by Yang & Zhang by Shengrong Zhou were extensive projects that met high quality standards.

Obtaining copyrights

Our library purposely contains various exceptional works of special interest to Yi Jing experts. On Stahel’s initiative, Fritzsche had the original text of the probably first Yi Jing work from the West, the «Y-King» by Jean-Baptiste Régis, a French Jesuit missionary who lived in China in the 17th and 18th century, photographed and licensed from the Austrian National Library. The Latin text was then recognized using the ABBYY FineReader OCR software and cleaned of most of the errors by the editors Nicolò Bernardi and later especially Caroline Stettler in painstaking detail work.

Stahel successfully obtained further copyrights from authors and publishers, various other requests are still pending.

Cooperation with the software development company

The cooperation with the team of programmers of the Russian company Edison in West Siberia was agreeable. During most of the time two programmers worked on the development of the app, led by a confident Chief Technology Officer. The communication between us was facilitated by the fact that it was the company’s policy to have its Russian programmers attend English courses paid for by the company, which enabled them to achieve a very high level of language competence.

Towards the end of the development period, we also learned to communicate more often with the development team via Skype instead of text messages. Especially when writing comments and short messages in a hurry, many incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings can arise, which can build up during the course of communication. Such a result is much more likely to be avoided in a verbal exchange with the easy way of asking questions and counter-questions.

The intensity of the exchanges between the “Western” and “Eastern” teams is also evidenced by a number: In the space of two years, more than 12,000 e-mail project-related messages have already been sent between and within the teams.

 

— Arthur Fritzsche, July 20, 2020 (translated by DeepL)

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