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The Harry Potter Canon


I can’t believe that I’m finally writing this.

About eight months ago, I had a crazy idea. I started sharing it with the staff and tried to explain just how amazing this new “thing” would be. They didn’t get it. I drew sketches of what it would look like. We held long IM chats as I tried to share how I imagined it all working. They still didn’t get it. Eventually, Clint started writing code, even though he wasn’t sure how it would all work. Lisa took my sketches and sloppy html mockups and started creating more elegant pages.

I remember when the lightbulbs started going off. As the project started to take shape and the first clumsy builds actually worked and were oh, so cool, we were all getting more excited.

This was going to be cooler than anything fans had ever imagined. The Lexicon staff took on the work with gusto…other projects were put on hold, pages were left out of date, there didn’t seem to be much posted on the What’s New, and eventually, we were all getting overwhelmed.

We needed help. In order to make it work, we needed people to start filling in the rich content that would make this thing so marvelous. One by one, some amazing and talented (and good looking) people came on board. We’d swear them to secrecy, then lift the curtain and let them see what we were working on. Every one of them was stunned by what they saw. I remember one person, as I showed her around, just kept typing “OMG OMG OMG”. Everyone was thrilled to help, to be part of what they knew was going to be one of the most amazing projects fandom has ever seen.

The work stretched on and on. (It’s still going on, in fact, and might never be completely finished.) Months went by. We started to worry if we’d be able to go live before book seven, which was our goal.

Then, a few weeks ago, a contest was announced called the Webware 100. This was a contest for the best Web 2.0 sites and services. I wanted to enter our project in that contest. How cool would that be to be recognized by CNET as a top web 2.0 reference site? We pulled everyone together and decided we would go for it. The deadline was May 7. Things went into high gear. The new page layout had to be made to work since the new project required it. We needed help files. We needed to set up a way for you all to create user accounts on this thing. And we had to decide which features we just couldn’t get operational in time. But we were determined to make it by May 7.

It was a near thing. For the past two days, we’ve been working almost non-stop to get things ready for unveiling in a public beta. At about 11 pm tonight, on the day before the deadline, Clint told me that it was live. We were ready to roll.

I really can’t believe I’m writing this. I can’t tell you how excited I am to announce that, through the amazing effort of a wonderful team, the Lexicon can present for your fandom pleasure…


The what? What’s a “canon portkey”? I’ve written a short introduction which you can find here. I think it would be a good idea if you’d read that before you try it out to avoid some confusion. Then have at it! Play with it! Explore with it! Find out what it can do. Follow the links, wallow in the detail and the wonderfully rich information you can find. Try things, test things, and let us know how you like it. Feel free to give us feedback about what worked and what didn’t. Bear in mind, of course, that this is a beta build and some features are still being fine-tuned. Also, the data entry part of the project is still very much ongoing.

Clint provided some coding factoids in case you’re curious: There are 93 separate files that make the Portkey work. Over 7000 lines of code were written for this project. (That’s in addition to all of the stuff written for the timeline that was incorporated into the Portkey).

I need to express massive thanks to the people who have made this possible. It started out as a weird and wonderful idea of mine. Through the efforts of Clint, who coded the whole thing, and John, who entered all the synopses for all the novels, to Lisa who created the page layouts and Bel who manages the volunteers, the Portkey is everything I dreamed of and much, much more.

Here’s a full list of the wonderful people who have made this possible for you:

The Canon Portkey Team
Steve Vander Ark – creator and project manager
John Kearns – chapter synopses and massive data entry work
Lisa Waite Bunker – page layouts and design, technical advisor, project writer
Belinda Hobbs – team leader, project writer, creative advisor
Clint Hagen – just wrote all the code, that’s all!!!

Data Entry Team
Mike Ball, Martje Ross, Ruth Meyer, Elanor Isolda, David Stamm, Kimmy Blair, Naomi Boyer, Gina Anstey, Torill Gronhaug, and Meann Ortiz

Graphic artist: Camilla Engelby


Pensieve (Comments)

  • Peanut

    Wow. Well done guys! That must have taken so much work. Congrats on a job well done 🙂

  • Bible Spice

    Wow. This is amazing. Congratulations and a thousand thanks to everyone who worked on this thing. With Lexicon regulars on board, this extraordinary resource is only going to get more phenomenal. What a gift to HP enthusiasts! Thank you for all your hard work!

  • I think programmers like Clint are the *real* wizards. We’d say: “Can you do this?” and the answer was almost always yes. Aberforth, a round of butterbeers for everyone!

  • auntypsycho

    😀 that is fantastic. I came here to look for something and had resigned myself to searching for awhile and with the new ite I got what I wanted in mere minutes!!!

    Thank you to all of you for all the very hard work you have put into this. I hope you get the recognition you deserve for it in the contest 😀

  • Doretta

    I like it, but I don’t find so amazing and thrilling. Nothing great, only beautiful and helpful – but no more far. It’s just an opinion.

  • In some ways that’s true. But as more and more information come available, I think you’ll start to realize the power of this tool. Just for an exampe, check out this entry and explore the various tabs:


  • down the bottom of the pages when the page is small, the copyright and users online bars are underneath the menu. so, are these supposed to be viewed without favourites up?

  • Yes, BBBob… anyone can see who’s logged in at the moment, and using the Portkey, even guests.

  • Malene

    What a fantastic idea… Going to explore it now!

  • Sandra

    Just a thought, but Jo once said that fans know her books better than she does. And she also once said that she might write a Harry Potter encyclopedia. So if she really is going to, maybe this might help her? 🙂

  • Ginevra Potter

    I am afraid the search page is returning an error. I think we have overloaded something or other. Or perhaps it is just me.

  • Starling

    It works fine for me, Ginevra (goodness, there are an awful lot of mentions of the colour “green”, aren’t there).

  • Kacky Snorgle

    Wow. Just wow. I think a hearty “Holy Flying Giraffes!” is definitely in order here…. 🙂

    Nice work, Steve et al.!

  • Ginevra Potter

    Here is the link that isn’t working for me: http://www.hp-lexicon.org/portkey/help/Search%20page. I get there by clicking on Steve’s description of the Canon Portkey (http://www.hp-lexicon.org/portkey/help/intro.html) and then clicking on the “Search Page” link at the top of that page. I originally thought this was the link to searching in the Canon Portkey, but I was mistaken.

  • Pat Pat

    This is absolutely fantastic. There are so many times that I remember a small detail but can’t quite put my finger on where I saw it or how many times it was mentioned in the books. You guys did an excellent job. Keep up the good work.

  • omikse

    I have just one word…..WOW!

  • Wieldy

    That`s so cool!

  • KimmyBlair

    Woot! I’m so glad this is finally out! This thing is totally amazing…. I’m so proud to be a (very) small part!

  • Big_Kelpie

    I believe it’s amazing. It must have taken so much work.. I wished i have time to make more searches

  • hpboy13

    This is positively amazing! Well done, Lexicon staff. This’ll make my life so much easier – before when I had to look up something, I would have to guess what chapter it was in, and sometimes what I’m looking for wasn’t even mentioned. And I’m sure this’ll help Jo out, as well as the filmmakers – now instead of going thru a hundred-pages long book, they can go thru all teh scenes of a book using the Lexicon and decide what to include. Hurray for the Canon Portkey!

  • Spies Like Us

    This thing is totally amazing! But can someone elucidate exactly what it does? Since it is the “Canon” Portkey, will it also search JKR interviews, or just books? Maybe I just haven’t found one yet. Great job, guys!!!!!!

  • kzspot

    Excellent! Great work everybody!

  • I’ll try to elucidate, Spies Like Us 😀

    Yes the Canon Portkey will eventually include some JKR interview excerpts! The cool thing about interviews is that they can show up in the Portkey two ways, as a Portkey entry and also on the entry for the passage she is talking about.
    Cool huh?
    It will also include synopses of other canon sources, such as the Daily Prophet newsletters, the Famous Wizard cards, and info gathered from Jo’s Official website.
    (But we only have the books entered at this point, we are working on it!)

    To give an example of what the Portkey does, let’s say you are curious about the passage in the books where Harry receives a singing Valentine. You can put “singing Valentine” in the Portkey, and it will locate a synopsis of the passage in CS chap13 for you. If you only enter “Valentine”, the Portkey will return a list of all the events in Canon involving Valentines. If the passage you are curious about is in the list, you can click on it to Explore further.
    In the Explore screen you will find several “tabs” that display all of the Lexicon’s resources relating to that event!! The page number in the book where it can be found, in both the UK and US versions, a customized timeline of the events surrounding this one, images by our Artists depicting the scene, our own Commentary from the Reader’s Guides pertaining to the event, and much more!
    And here’s where the cool part of the Interviews will come in, on the Related Resources tab, you will find the excerpt from the TLC interview where Jo tells us it was Ginny who sent that Valentine.
    So the Portkey can be useful in many ways.
    First we had a list of how often Valentines appear through all the books and canon.
    Then we could closely examine one particular passage, and all of the Lexicon’s content about it.
    We can also use it to find other passages featuring the same characters, and compare them. OR make a list of every event that happens in one location. OR we can look for examples of “friendship” or “murder”, and see what characters are involved most often. OR we can use the Book Outlines for a quick reminder of which events happen what in order. OR we can see how many places in Canon the Weird Sisters are mentioned. OR find the page number for a passage in the US versions and tell a friend the page number in their UK version.

    Can you think of more things you might use it for?

  • Here are some of the uses I listed over on my blog. It is a…
    # Location finder. Let’s say you can’t remember if Jo told us something in the books or in an interview. The Portkey will find it for you and tell you what page it is on for both the UK and US editions
    # New path to the Lexicon’s information. I write for them and I still have a hard time finding things because it is so huge. The Portkey will take you to the Lexicon’s pages that are entirely focused on what you are looking for, and then let you tag and save them. It is like having your own Potter secretary.
    # Mashup tool. If you use the icon search you can mash up one set of data with another. Let’s say you are building a conspiracy theory and you want to find the places where the Ministry of Magic had dealings with Death Eaters. Mash the Ministry icon with the Death Eater icon and up pops all of your links.
    # Community tool. What do others think of your favorite passages? You can see the most popular tags for any event in canon.
    # It is empowerment. You organize canon the way makes the most sense to you. Did we leave out a detail that is important to you? Add it yourself as a tag.

  • Emmalinde

    Heya! Well done, very nice idea! Congratulations! 😀

  • Anna L. Black

    I have another idea – it would be cool if there was an option to see statistics by books of the search. I’ll give an example: I searched the Portkey for Albus Dumbledore, and I’ve got 12 pages of results. What I’d like to see is how many results were for each book. Then, it’ll be possible to see which book mentions some character/setting/device the most.

    Anyway, this portkey is a really great idea, good luck with the contest!

  • hpboy13

    Yeah, it is a really great way of gettign statistics, which are instrumental in proving theories (“Andromeda is mentioned x times in the book, she must be important!” and so forth)

  • Time Turner

    Good job!
    Congrats on this and it’s going to be very helpful to HP fans!

  • summersky

    I’m awed … and completely overwhelmed.

    Will there be a separate forum for portkey members?

  • Torill

    I cannot even begin to tell how amazing I think this is. I came in late in the process, and I nearly fainted when I was let in to see the pages under construction and realised what an awful incomprehensible lot of work that went into all of this!!! So really, congratulations and gold medals to the amazing Lexicon staff that dreamt this up and made it real!!!

    As I said I am playing only a very very small part in this and do not feel that I have earned any congratulations, but I am very proud to be allowed to keep working on this project and add even more data to it. Because it is still expanding, more data is still added, all the separate events in the book are still analysed to see what is there and what can be added for us to find when we search. This tool will only get better and better. I don’t have words for how full of admiration I am…

  • Jessie K.

    Hollyy moses, this is truly incredible. Wow. I’m just…speechless, congrats on getting it done so quickly, it’s going to be so very useful!

  • Amazing! Great work, Lexicon Team! Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to the canon of the wonderful world of Harry Potter. I’ve bookmarked the Canon Portkey, as I know I will be using it often!

  • hpboy13

    I just used this feature to search something for my fanficiton, and it was so helpful! This Canon Portkey totally rocks!

  • ShirKi

    welcome to Web 2.0 guys! What a great job, can’t wait to dive in!

  • daisy

    Sorry that you didn’t get in to the finals for webware100. For what it is worth, you would have had my vote.