Week Beginning 7th January 2013

Back to work after a thoroughly enjoyable two weeks off for Christmas, and still the Christmas chocolate mountain has yet to be completely devoured.  It is at least getting smaller, as my waistline gets bigger.

I spent the start of this week getting back into the swing of things after the holidays, completing such tasks as getting through the email backlog and planning what to focus on in the New Year.  After that was sorted the bulk of the rest of the week was spent continuing with the development of the ARIES app, which I had begun in the run-up to Christmas.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had implemented a nice little drag and drop feature for placing words in sentences, which I managed to put to good use in the ‘Apparent Problems’ page of the ‘Apostrophe’ section.  I was really happy with how this was working, but then over Christmas I managed to get my hands on an Android based tablet running the Chrome browser.  In this browser my drag and drop failed to work properly:  Drag an element down and the whole page starts scrolling up, making it impossible to complete the exercise.  The annoying thing is that in Chrome (made by Google) the drag and drop is broken whereas using Android’s built-in browser (also made by Google) on the same device the drag and drop works!  This was most frustrating and it was back to the drawing board for this section yet again.

I don’t have regular access to all the major smartphone and tablet operating systems which makes testing things rather tricky.  I probably could have found a way to fix the Chrome drag and drop issue but lack access to the hardware to do so.  It was primarily for this reason that I decided to abandon drag and drop entirely and revert to a more old fashioned approach for adding text to a box:  simply tap the text to make it appear in the box rather than dragging and dropping.  It’s less satisfying to use, but works equally as well (and is probably quicker).  You can try out the new version here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/aries/the-apostrophe-3-apparent-problems.html and if you’re interested in trying out the ‘broken’ draggable version you can see it here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/aries/the-apostrophe-3-apparent-problems-draggable.html.

By the end of the week I had added all the content to the ARIES site, although I’m still in the middle of developing the biggest and most complex exercise (see below).  All the exercises (apart from the big one) are now complete, although I’m not altogether happy with one or two of them.  For example the exercise on this page: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/aries/spelling-2-confusing-pairs.html would really have benefitted from the drag and drop functionality.  Instead you have to first select the word you want to use, then click on the gap to place it.  It works perfectly well, but it’s slightly clunky.

The big exercise that I’m still working on is the ‘Test Yourself’ exercise in the ‘Further Punctuation’ section.  In the original site a two paragraphs of text are presented without any punctuation and users have to update the text by editing it in a text box (see http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk:8180/aries/test_yourself.jsp).  This approach isn’t suitable for mobile devices as it would be a real chore to tap on parts of existing text then find the right character to add in.  Instead I decided to break up each exercise into three sections, using techniques I’d already developed for previous, shorter exercises.

In stage 1 the user adds in quotation marks by tapping once on a word to add quotes to the start, twice to add quotes to the end, three times to have quotes at the beginning and end, and a fourth time to remove quotes.  Users can attempt this as many times as required until they get it right, or they can skip to the second stage.

In stage 2 the user must add in full stops, capital letters, commas, exclamation marks and question marks using the same method as I developed for the ‘Basic Punctuation’ section.  Users can tap on a word to make the initial letter upper or lower case and by tapping on the dotted square following a word the user can cycle through the punctuation options.  As with the first stage, users can try this section as many times as they wish or can skip to the final stage.  Note that the correct placement of quotation marks is displayed in the text in Stage 2 whether the user got them all correct in Stage 1 or not.

In the final stage the user must add apostrophes where applicable, again using functionality I developed in an earlier section.  The text is presented at double size as in this stage users need to tap on individual letters rather than words.  Tapping on a letter adds (or removes) an apostrophe after the letter.  The correct placement of punctuation and capital letters is used in Stage 3 no matter what the user supplies in Stage 2.

I’ve just about finished the three stages for the first exercise and you can try it here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/aries/further-punctuation-6-test-yourself.html. I still need to do some final validation in Stage 3 and present the user with suitable feedback, and remove the ‘proceed to next stage’ button which isn’t needed.  I then need to ensure the code works for the second exercise, which will take a little bit of time.  After that the mobile version of ARIES will be completed and I will move on to the web version.

Also this week I gave some feedback to Carole Hough and Daria Izdebska regarding a website for the ICOS 2014 conference, which I hope was useful.

That was all for this week.  Next week I will continue with ARIES and will implement the required changes to the Burns website, if the required content is provided next week.

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