Week Beginning 19th November

I am writing this week’s post from the delightful surroundings of my new office.  It’s been almost three months since I started the job, and although it has been great spending that time with my old HATII colleagues it feels very pleasant to finally be in my own office!

I began this week by completing work on the revamped Digital Humanities Network pages that I was working on last week.  I spent most of Monday tweaking the pages, adding sample content and fixing a few bugs that had reared their heads.  By the end of the day I had emailed Ann, Jeremy, Marc and Graeme about the pages and received favourable feedback during the course of the week.  On Friday Marc, Ann, Graeme and I met to discuss the pages and to decide who should write the site text that still needs to be supplied.

I spent the majority of this week working on the STELLA apps, something I’ve been meaning to start for several weeks.  Initially I focussed on looking into some possible Javascript / HTML5 / CSS3 frameworks that I might be able to utilise to develop the apps.  I’m a big fan of Jquery and I really liked the look of Jquerymobile (http://jquerymobile.com/).  It provides a wide array of UI widgets and structural page elements that can be configured to work really quickly and effectively.  After reading up on the framework I began creating some actual pages and really liked how it worked.  My only concern is that it uses a variety of custom HTML5 attributes to handle themes and structure, e.g. <div data-role=”page” data-theme=”b”> specifies this div is a page-level element and it has the styles for theme ‘b’ applied to it.  Although jquerymobile has been develop to be cross-platform and to fail gracefully when used with older browsers or with Javascript disabled I do still have a slight concern that in a few years time these attributes will be completely outdated.  Having said that, Jquery has a massive amount of support and is very widely adopted so I’m hopeful their custom attributes will continue to work for many years to come.

I decided to start developing the ‘Readings in Early English’ app as I figured this would be the simplest to tackle seen as it has no exercises built into it.  I familiarised myself with the Jquerymobile framework and built some test pages, and by the end of the week I had managed to put together an interface that was pretty much identical to the Powerpoint based mock-ups that I had made previously.  Currently only the ‘Old English’ section contains content, but within this section you can open a ‘reading’ and play the sound clip using HTML5’s <audio > tag, through which the user’s browser embeds an audio player within the page.  It works really smoothly and requires absolutely no plug-in to work.  The ‘reading’ pages also feature original texts and translations / notes.  I created a little bit of adaptive CSS using Jquery to position the translation to the right of the original text if the browser’s window is over 500px wide, or underneath the original text if the window is smaller than this.  It works really well and allows the original text and the translation to be displayed side by side when the user has their phone in landscape mode, automatically switching to displaying the translation beneath the original text when they flip their phone to portrait mode.  I’m really happy with how things are working out so far, although I still need to see about wrapping the website as an app.  Plus the websites that have a lot of user interaction (i.e. exercises) are going to be a lot more challenging to implement.

The test version of the site can be found here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/readings/ although you should note that this is a test URL and content is liable to be removed or broken in future.

Also this week I met with Marc to discuss the Hansard texts and the Test Corpus Server.  Although I managed to get over 400 texts imported into the corpus this really is just a drop in the ocean as there are more than 2.3 million pages of text in the full body.  It’s going to be a massive undertaking to get all these text and their metadata formatted for display and searching, and we are thinking of developing a Chancellor’s Fund bid to get some dedicated funds to tackle the issue.  There may be as many as 2 billion words in the corpus!

I also found some time this week to look into some of the outstanding issues with the Burns website.  I set up a local instance of the website so I could work on things without messing up the live content.  What I’m trying to do at the moment is make individual pages for each song that is listed in the ‘Song & Music’ page.  It sounds like a simple task but it’s taking a little bit of work to get right.  I will continue with this task on Monday next week and will hopefully get something ready to deploy on the main site next week.

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