Week Beginning 19th August 2013

At long last I managed to complete reworking the ‘English Grammar: An Introduction’ application this week.  It has been a long and somewhat arduous process but both ‘app’ and ‘web’ versions are now complete.  The ‘web’ version took rather longer to rework from the ‘app’ version that I had anticipated due to the complexity of the grammar exercises.  The ‘app’ versions were heavily reliant on Javascript both for processing the results and also for displaying the exercises, but this was proving to be too much for older versions of Internet Explorer, which were completely failing to load some of the exercises.  For this reason I pared back the use of Javascript in the ‘web’ versions, transferring a lot of the logic for the display of the exercise questions to PHP and using PHP session variables to track correct and incorrect answers throughout each exercise.  This reworking took some time but the end product is better suited to PC based browsers and any subsequent updating of content, design or layout should not take as long to develop.

I have sent the URLs of the ‘app’ and ‘web’ versions of the tool to Christian, Jean, Marc and Wendy for feedback, and now that we have three ‘apps’ ready to go (Grammar, ARIES and Readings) it would be great if we could undertake a proper round of testing and feedback gathering.  I spoke to Marc briefly about this and he thought it would be good to get the students involved in this process in the next academic year.  Originally I had been hoping that the properly wrapped and deployed apps would be available before the next academic year, but with all of the other work that has been going on it hasn’t been possible to do this.  However, it would still be good to get feedback on the non-wrapped apps (i.e. plain HTML / Javascript / CSS websites that run in a phone’s browser rather than stand-alone apps that run directly from the phone’s list of apps) this year anyway, with a view to releasing the wrapped versions later in the academic year or next year.

You can view the ‘app’ version of the Grammar tool here:


And the ‘web’ version here:


I also had a very useful meeting with some of the mapping metaphor people this week (Marc, Ellen and Flora) and we discussed the database structure that would be required for the metaphor website and visualisations.  It looks like the database will be relatively simple and will mainly consist of a joining table that will sit within the main HT database, joining the category table and lexeme table.  A lot of the data will be automatically pulled in via these joins so will not need to be recorded in the metaphor table at all.  It’s all looking very encouraging.  I also started to look into the D3 Javascript library this week (see http://d3js.org/).  We will probably be adapting a D3 based visualisation for the Metaphor website (most likely ‘hierarchical edge bundling’ – see http://mbostock.github.io/d3/talk/20111116/bundle.html) and I’ve started playing around with this. D3 is very similar to jQuery, which I’m very familiar with, so a lot of it is pretty straightforward for me.  Some of the visualisation stuff involves a fair bit of scary maths behind the scenes though, and we’ll just need to see how possible it is to update the behaviour of the visualisations.  I have also started thinking about website layout possibilities for the Metaphor project.  Marc and Ellen are going to come up with a few colour schemes and I am going to come up with 2-3 layouts and these will then be shown to the other members of the team before the next project meeting on the 16th of September.

Also this week I started work on the mockups for the redevelopment of the SCOTS website.  So far I have made an updated version of the existing layout.  I’m not quite ready to share this yet, but will continue to develop this mockup and another one or two.  I also had a chat with Jennifer Smith about a project she is putting together this week as well, and I will be meeting with her next week to take this further.