Week Beginning 24th September 2012

This week involved slightly less meetings than previous weeks, and for the first time since I started I managed to tackle some redevelopment tasks.  I managed to get access to some of the STELLA resources this week; access to some of the websites (but not all, yet) and access to the desktop-based applications.  Access to the latter was made possible by Arts Support bringing me one of the old STELLA lab machines for my desk.  I haven’t tried any of the applications yet but I have started to go through some of the server-based resources.

As a ‘quick win’ I tackled the issue of the ‘Basics of English Metre’ website (http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/Metre/MetreHome.html) only working in Internet Explorer.  In other browsers none of the coloured text was working, and more importantly none of the Flash-based exercises were displaying.  The first problem was solved by removing non-standard comment tags from the CSS file while the Flash no-show was fixed by adding an additional tag (<embed>) within the <object> tag.  The <embed> tag was deprecated in HTML4 but has since reappeared in HTML5.  The Metre website isn’t actually HTML5 so use of the tag isn’t entirely valid but it does at least mean the Flash exercises are now working in Firefox and Chrome.  It should be noted that this is a temporary fix and eventually the whole website will be overhauled as there is still much about it that needs modernising.

Also this week I began to think about how to systematically implement an overhaul of the STELLA resources for both PC and Mobile devices.  I have begun the creation of mock-ups of both versions for one of the STELLA sites (ARIES – Assisted Revision in English Style) and should hopefully be in a position to show these to people next week for comment.  The redeveloped versions of the resources will be fully client-side, using nothing more than HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.  This should be sufficient for all of the STELLA resources, but it will mean migrating functionality from a very broad array of current systems including Flash, Applets, JSP, Moodle, PHP, ancient desktop based applications and others.  It’s going to take a long time to migrate every resource, and the task will need to be fitted in around other priorities within to school, so it’s unlikely that anything will be completed in the near future.

Also this week I met with Flora Edmonds to discuss the work she has done on a variety of projects such as the Historical Thesaurus, the Thesaurus of Old English and Mapping Metaphor.  It was really useful to see the databases for these systems and to learn more about how they work.  Flora is in the process of migrating some sites to a new server and will potentially be updating the interfaces to the thesaurus websites.  I offered to give Flora some ideas for enhancements to the user interfaces and to help out with PHP based issues if any crop up.  I also gave some advice to Alison Wiggins about the possibility of making a mobile version of the Bess of Hardwick site.

I had a meeting with Marc and Wendy about legacy corpus issues and I learnt a lot more about the system used by the corpora and some of the compatibility issues that have been encountered.  I will spend some time next week identifying problems with the interface when using IE and Chrome and will then aim to address these problems.  I also read through a lot of documentation relating to the corpus websites and attended this week’s Course 20 lecture, which was handily about corpora.

My final meeting of the week was with Mark Herraghty of the Cullen project.  This took up most of Friday morning and was very useful.  Mark is at the stage where he is investigating different possible avenues for working with the XML encoded letters for searching and display on the public website.  I was able to talk him through a number of previous projects I have been involved with that took quite different approaches to this problem, for example the French (http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/french/ ) and Italian (http://italianemblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/ ) Emblems sites and the House of Fraser Archive (http://www.housefraserarchive.ac.uk/).

I also attended Graeme Caie’s retirement do on Thursday, which brought back very fond memories of being taught Old English as an undergraduate by Graeme.


Week Beginning 17th September 2012

Lots more meeting people and discussing projects this week.  I spent some time reading through the project documentation for the Mapping Metaphor project, and also looked at some of the ongoing research, which is being compiled in Access databases and Excel spreadsheets.  I participated in two meetings for this project, one a more general project meeting and the other more technical in nature.  It seems like the technical aspects of the project are progressing nicely at this stage.  They are still very much at the data input and analysis stage, and discussions about how to visualise the connections between words over time will not be focussed on until later.

I also had a very interesting meeting with Alison Wiggins about the Bess of Hardwick project and was given a preview of the website through which the letters will be made publicly available.  The website, which is being produced by the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute, is looking really great, with lots of search and browse options available.  I spent a little bit of time this week trying out the site and providing feedback to Alison about the functionality of the website.

Another meeting I had this week was with Carole Hough to discuss a couple of upcoming conferences that will require web presences.  Nothing is imminently required for these conferences but I was able to provide some advice on how to manage the paper submission process and how the front ends of the websites could be created and managed.  For handling the logistics of paper submission I recommended easychair.org, a free online conference management system that I have used for previous conferences.  It’s a really handy system for keeping track of paper submissions, editorial groups and the peer review process.  For the front ends I recommended setting up a WordPress instance for each site, and I spent some time looking into WordPress and the customisation options for this.  There are so many modules, themes and plugins for WordPress that there really is no reason to create a conference website from scratch as everything is ready and waiting to just be tweaked and configured.   I’m still not sure at this stage whether I should personally be setting up these instances or just advising on which solution to use, I’ll raise it at the next DROG meeting.

A further meeting I had this week was with Marc Alexander and Stephen Barrett, who is currently creating a Gaelic corpus within the School of Humanities.  There were a lot of connections between the work Stephen is carrying out and the corpora held within SCS and we are hoping to work together to create one big corpus (with many subsets) for use by the College of Arts as a whole.  We are hoping to use the Open Corpus Workbench and are attempting to get some server space set up for test purposes.  I spent some time this week investigating the Open Corpus Workbench and corpus software issues in general

My final meeting of the week was with Jean Anderson, the previous head of STELLA and one of the major driving forces in Literary and Linguistic Computing projects at the University of Glasgow.  We had a hugely useful chat about my role, STELLA, projects and the School and I received lots of helpful advice.  Jean should be able to continue to provide advice and maybe participate in future DROG meetings, which I think would be very useful.  She also proposed that the Digital Resources Owners Group should have the acronym DROOG, a reference to the slang term meaning ‘friend’ in Burgess’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which I think is really rather good.  We just need to think what the second ‘o’ could stand for… Digital Resources Owners and Operators Group, perhaps?

Through the meeting with Jean I have a clearer picture of which STELLA teaching tools should maybe be prioritised and I’ll run this by Marc.  After that I should hopefully be able to get started updating them.

After the meeting with Jean we went to look at the work being carried out in 13 University Gardens.  It’s all looking really good, but things are definitely not as far advanced as I had hoped.  The previous estimate of October for moving in looks more and more likely.  Here’s hoping the HATII people don’t turf me out before then.

In addition to meetings I also attended the first lecture of the Literary and Linguistic Computing course and I am planning on attending a few more of these over the course of the academic year.  It’s useful to see what is currently being taught on this course as although I took the course myself as an undergraduate that was a fair number of years ago and it’s interesting to get an up to date overview of the subject.

Week Beginning 10th September 2012

It was Fresher’s Week at the University this week, so University Avenue was mobbed, with loud music blaring from vans and free noodles on offer to passers by.  It’s definitely a sign of getting middle-aged when you can walk through a throng of people handing out advertising bumf to students and not one leaflet is pushed in your direction.

My second week as Digital Humanities Research Officer was spent meeting people in the School, emailing more people and gathering further information on the wide range of current and legacy projects that have a digital component in the School.

A big thing this week was the first meeting of the SCS Digital Resources Owners Group, which took place on Tuesday.  This was a really useful meeting, bringing together people involved in projects with a digital component from across the School so we know what’s going on, what the current priorities for development are and what’s on the horizon.  The meeting really helped to define what tasks I should and shouldn’t be tackling.  For example, itmy responsibility.  Instead this was considered an administrative task and ideally the School will get someone else to manage such updates, although I will help in identifying problems with the pages.

At the meeting it was agreed that my current priorities should be working with the Cullen project, fixing the issues that exist when using the Corpora sites with Internet Explorer and looking into updating the STELLA teaching resources to use HTML5 so that web and app versions can be released.

Also this week I had very useful meetings with Marc Alexander and Jane Stuart-Smith, which gave me further insight into the projects associated with STELLA and GULP respectively.  There was also a post-work beer on Monday evening for the prospective tenants of the top floor of 13 University Gardens, and it was great to meet such people as Jenny Bann, Tamara Rathcke, Brian Jose and Ellen Bramwell for the first time.

Speaking about the top floor of 13 University Gardens, the building work there has still not been completed so as of yet I’m still based next door in HATII.  There was some talk of it maybe taking until October before the big move can take place so we’ll just need to see how that goes.  Thankfully my HATII colleagues are managing to cope with my continued presence with good grace.

Last week I started compiling a spreadsheet of projects within the School that have a digital component.  I’m documenting each project’s name, its type (e.g. if it’s a STELLA resource, a Thesaurus resource etc), associated URLs, a note as to whether there is an associated digital resource available, a project description, the primary contact for the project, whether I have spoken to the contact about development / redevelopment of any associated digital resource, the funder, the status (i.e. Active or Inactive), the priority for redevelopment and some further notes.  I’ve managed to complete the list this week, with a total of 70 projects listed.  I will send the document to the participants of the DROG to see if they know of are any further important projects I’ve missed off.

Also this week I attended the Cullen project’s induction workshop for new transcribers, which was a really useful couple of hours.  I found out lots about the editing and transcription process and Mark gave a demonstration of the Cullen database system as well, which was really useful to see.  It seems like the project is really going well and all the groundwork is in place and very well established.

Next week I have meetings arranged with the Mapping Metaphor project and some further meetings with SCS staff to discuss projects past and present.  I’m also hoping to be able to get started on the modernisation of one of the STELLA teaching packages, which should be an enjoyable task.

Week Beginning 3rd September 2012

This was my first week as Digital Humanities Research Officer for the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow.  As mentioned in the ‘About’ page, I’m writing this blog primarily as an ‘aide memoire’ for me so I can keep track of what I’ve been up to each week, and also so that other people within the School can see what I’ve been doing, if they’re interested.  It’s not really intended for anyone else, although if other people feel like reading that’s absolutely fine with me.

This week was mainly spent getting up to speed with the projects and people within the School and getting myself all set up. I’ve emailed a number of people who are involved with projects that have a digital component in the School and I’ve arranged to have meetings next week with Marc Alexander of STELLA and Jane Stuart-Smith of GULP.  I haven’t heard back from other people I emailed yet, but I think some people are away before the start of term.  I’ll chase these folks up next week if I still haven’t heard anything.

Also this week I set up this blog, which I aim to add an entry to every Friday, and also a wiki that will hopefully be used to document my involvement with projects and can be a place where project materials can be shared with others.  I’ve also tackled a number of other administrative tasks this week, such as creating a suitable email signature, clearing my inbox of all pre-SCS emails, getting myself added to the School mailing lists and writing a biography for the SCS staff page. At the time of writing is not currently online – searching for me leads to a ‘not found’ page as my previous School of Humanities entry has now been removed.  Hopefully that will be fixed soon!

Apart from the above I’ve been going through all of the current and legacy projects associated with the School and adding details of them to a spreadsheet that I hope will eventually be used to plan redevelopment of some of the older and more outdated digital resources.  Jeremy has arranged for a ‘Digital Resources Owners Group’ meeting to take place next Tuesday and I hope to be able to talk about this list there.

I also had a couple of meetings last week, before I had officially started working for the School.  One was with Jeremy, which provided some very handy information about my role and the projects and people in the School.  Jeremy also introduced me to Wendy Anderson and we talked a little about the Mapping Metaphors project.

I also met with David Shuttleton and Mark Herraghty of the Cullen project and learnt a lot more about this project.  Mark showed me the staff interface for managing transcriptions and associated content, which was very interesting.  It is likely that I will be spending quite a bit of time engaged with this project, possibly working on TEI / XSLT issues and next week I will get back in touch with Mark for further information about this.

I’m currently still in my old office in HATII as building work is still being carried out at 13 University Gardens next door.  Hopefully next week I’ll be able to move into my new office, but we’ll just have to see.