Agenda for the Heraldic Technology Roundtable

[Update July 1:] I’ve written up some fairly-detailed notes from this weekend’s discussion.

A couple of months ago I posted a proposal for a panel discussion of SCA heraldic software development, which will take place this weekend at KWHSS 2024 (June 29 at 3:30 PM).

I’ve put together the below agenda to help focus the discussion, although of course we’ll play it by ear during the session depending on who shows up and what folks think are productive topics for conversation

Goals of the Panel

  • Survey the IT resources that SCA heralds depends on — including both websites and custom software, both official College resources and non-College projects. 
  • Discuss which IT projects are underway and which new ones might be worth encouraging people to undertake in the coming years.
  • Expand the community of herald coders by making it easier for new folks with technical skills to get started and find ways to leverage their talents to play a meaningful role for the College.


  • I don’t hold a Society-level office in the College of Arms, so nothing I say is an official pronouncement, and I don’t have any authority to set policy or make commitments for anyone.
  • I’m just a participant who has done some work in both SCA heraldry and SCA IT, has some observations on what I’ve seen over the last eight years, and is thinking about what I should work on next.


Building Significant IT Resources Is Challenging

  • Coming up with neat ideas and starting a new project is easy, but getting it finished and launched and widely adopted requires sustained effort — and keeping it running and up-to-date for years is a real challenge.
    • It’s relatively easy to find volunteers for a two-hour task or a twenty-hour project, but hard to find people who will commit to hundreds or thousands of hours of work.
  • Volunteer software projects (not just in the SCA) are almost all single-person efforts; very few of them ever get significant help from anyone else and they are rarely handed off to a successor when the initial developer stops working on them.
    • Each person has different technology platforms, languages, and techniques that they know and like, and are understandably reluctant to invest a lot of unpaid time in learning a new set of prerequisites before they can make their first contributions to someone else’s project. 
    • Single-developer projects don’t need to spend much effort on coordinating and communicating and documenting and decision making, but once you start adding collaborators all of those costs kick in.

Building Official SCA IT Resources is Challenging

  • Laurel is understandably conservative about adding new official College IT resources, because official resources are expected to be authoritative and to have a lifespan of decades, which is a huge commitment.
  • From the outside, the workings of the SCA’s IT efforts are mostly opaque, and if someone with technical skills wants to get involved, it’s difficult for them to figure out what’s going on or how to start helping.
  • The SCA has been slow to adopt the open-source / working-in-public approach to IT projects that has become common online over the last few decades; for example, very few SCA IT resources have a public source-code repository or issue tracker. 

Building Unofficial Non-College Heraldic IT Resources is Challenging

  • There are a bunch of heraldic IT resources that are non-College personal projects, but it can be hard to discover those because there isn’t a central index so people have to learn about them through word of mouth.
  • Heralds can be slow to adopt new technologies — if you learned to conflict-check armory with a paper ordinary, you might not want to jettison that knowledge and start over with the complex search form — so if you build something new it might take a long time for it to gain any traction.

Official IT Resources and Projects

Main College Website

  • Infrastructure, appearance, navigation, and “about the college” content
    • Launched in the 1990s. Overhauled by Reis when he became Codex circa 2013.
    • Several efforts to update the site have been started but then stalled, including by Sciath as Clarion circa 2019–2020.
    • Emma mocked up a possible redesign in 2017; I mocked up another earlier this year.
  • Rules — SENA, Administrative Handbook, etc.
    • Updated frequently by Jeanne Marie as Palimpsest.
  • Articles
    • Most articles are from the 1990s-2000s and some are showing their age. 
    • A project to build a CMS to facilitate publishing articles, “FELIX,” was undertaken by Robin as Codex circa 2006-2008, but never launched.
    • Over the last decade, has published a handful of articles per year from heralds at large, plus some archived cover letter items, and each year’s KWHSS proceedings.
    • There’s a project to update this content currently underway led by Wu as Clarion.

Submissions / Commentary / Decisions

    • Built by Istvan, circa 2006? with continuing maintenance and improvement to present.
    • There were two rounds of work to build an “OSCAR 2” circa 2017–2019 but that effort stalled.
  • OSCAR Forms Program  — helper tool used to load new submissions into OSCAR
  • Post-Meeting — LoAR Production
    • Built by Elsbeth in the 1990s.
    • Originally converted WordPerfect LoIs and commentary into LoARs; now takes output from OSCAR. 
    • Uses Jade, a Java XSL/XML transformation system. 
    • Process is finicky and requires Sovereigns/staff to hand-edit XML every month.
    • This system does not currently support kingdoms KLoIs being converted into LoDs.
    • A project to upgrade or replace this is being undertaken by Reis.
  • LoARs
    • Updated monthly by Herveus as Morsulus.
    • For searching these we rely on Google.


  • Ordinary and Armorial — Back-end database tools and public web interface
    • Built by Iulstan as a personal project circa 1993, before he became Morsulus. 
    • Maintained and improved by Herveus as Morsulus 2000-present.
  • Precedents
    • Summaries of rulings were created from the 1980s through the 2000s but stopped in 2011.
    • A project to build a new web database that would index recent rulings was undertaken by Yehuda (code) and Beatrice (content) circa 2018–2020 but has stalled.
  • Scanned Legacy Archives — from pre-OSCAR era
    • There was a major project (mostly circa 2008–14 or so?) to scan more than a hundred linear feet of paper files, now stored on hard drives passed between sovereigns and staff.
    • There’s a project underway to clip out the emblazon images and find a way of making them available online, which I think might be led by Helena (archivist), Shauna (as archivist emerita) and Emma.

Non-College Resources

  • Kingdom-level OPs and Rolls of Arms — many of these have been built independently, with copies forked informally.
  • Kingdom heraldic websites and handbooks — some include useful articles and educational material, like Yehuda’s EKHU videos. 
  • MARES Heraldic Education LMS — being built in Meridies.
  • O&A desktop applications from Aspilogia and 
  • O&A EPub Converter — converts O&A database into “book” format similar to old printed ordinary.
    • Built by Jason of the West circa 2013.
  • Heraldstick — save a mirror of the College website, O&A, and non-College websites onto a laptop for use at events without connectivity.
    • Built by Istvan, circa 2011, and updated occasionally since then; now out-of-date.
    • There was a project to package a version of this on a commodity network appliance as a “HeraldsPoint Hot Spot” undertaken by William Brewer circa 2017 which ran into problems and never shipped.
  • Blazon Parser — Converts blazons to descriptions used by O&A armory search form
    • Built by Xavid circa 2008-2014, occasional bugfixes since then.
  • Individual heraldic blogs with posts and articles names, armory, and more.
    • Iago’s list of period armorials, Cormac’s display articles, Mathghamhain’s IAP catalog, and so many others.
  • The Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry
    • Created by Bruce as a print book circa 1990, then moved online circa 2013.
  • Traceable Heraldic Art
    • Started by Mathghamhain in 2016, updated regularly since, incorporating other sources along the way (Pennsic Art, Viking Answer Lady, etc).
  • Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources
    • Started by Aryanhwy in 2015, with regular updates since.
  • Academy of Saint Gabriel / Medieval Names Archive
    • Lots of articles from the 1990s – circa 2010, quieter in recent years.
  • SCA Heraldry Wiki
    • Created by Sofya in 2012, maintained since then.

Possible Future Projects

  • LoAR search of items in chronological order
  • Possible improvements to O&A public web interface
    • Nicely-formatted interface to
    • Integrated version of Xavid’s blazon parser?
  • Next-generation armorial interface with integrated LoAR commentary and submission images.
  • Web-accessible interface for armory indexing to allow other people to assist with the process, currently done  by Morsulus on a local workstation.
  • Version history for SENA/AH changes to see changes over time without using
  • O&A-style index of armory in period sources.

Big Questions

  • How do we get a few more collaborators trained up to contribute to the College’s core system (and reduce our “bus factor” exposure)?
  • How do we make it easier for heralds to discover the unofficial non-College IT resources that people have made available to them?
  • What cool IT resources could be built by individuals (or very small teams) as unofficial resources?
  • What are the “pain points” or technical deficits that have built up in our IT resources over the last decade?

Advice to New Heraldic IT Developers

  • Charge In: You don’t need a special invitation to build something; just do it.
  • Be Prepared for Frustration: Not everything you do will be successful, and the ones that are will take time.
  • Persist:If you keep putting the effort in and learning things along the way, eventually some of those endeavors will pay off.

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