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.


Week Beginning 12th August 2013

On Monday I completed my scoping report for the redevelopment of SCOTS.  I’ve broken down the work into four stages, the first of which will be to spruce the site design and navigation up a bit, which leaving all the underlying mechanics intact.  I hope to be able to complete this stage of the redevelopment before the end of November.  Stages two and three will involve reworking the advanced search and the audio / visual material, adding pagination and simplifying the search options for the former and migrating files from Quicktime to HTML5 audio / video for the latter.  This will take place next year.  The fourth stage will probably require additional funding and the involvement of other people to undertake tasks such as part of speech tagging.

After completing the scoping report I continued to work through the web version of the grammar app.  This took up quite a bit of time during the week and I was hoping to have it fully finished by Friday but I’m not quite there yet.  I was off work on Friday morning to attend a funeral, which did cut down slightly on my available time.  However, the book is now completed, but I’m only midway through the exercises.  I’m having to rework the exercises in order for them to function on older versions of IE.  Some of the more complex exercises have massive amounts of Javascript behind them and some aspects of this just will not run in IE7 and earlier.  Hopefully I’ll get all this sorted next week though.  The almost finished version can be viewed here:


On Tuesday I prepared for and attended a couple of meetings.  The first was for the Mapping Metaphor project.  The team have now got a really good grasp on the sorts of visualisations they want to use and also have a decent idea of website functionality as well.  We had a really productive meeting and it was agreed that I would develop the website and the visualisations.  I spent some time after the meeting reading through all of the materials that the team has produced and next week I’ll start thinking about the development of the site.

My second meeting was with Susan Rennie to discuss a bid she is going to write for the AHRC ‘big data’ call.  We discussed a few options and Susan is now going to prepare the bid a little further and then I’ll get involved in writing the Technical Plan.


Week Beginning 4th August 2013

I’m back at work this week after a very relaxing week’s holiday on Skye.  The weather was unexpectedly pleasant and there were minimal midges and the scenery was spectacular.  So, back to work now.  Quite a bit of my time this week was spent taken up with AHRC bid related matters.  I guess summer is the time when people like to work on these things because there have been a few flying around.  I gave some further input into Nigel Leask’s bid this week, adding some final touches to the Technical Plan and giving feeback on the rest of the bid documents.  Nigel’s counterpart in Aberystwyth submitted the bid on Tuesday and now we’ll just need to wait and see if it gets approved.  I also worked with Alison Wiggins to prepare a Technical Plan for a follow-on funding bid she is putting together for Bess of Hardwick.  I spent a couple of days writing the plan, but unfortunately Alison appears to have run into some issues with the structure of the project and she’s now going to hold off submitting until she has more time to consult the other participants.   Nevertheless writing the plan was still very good experience and I’m sure at least parts of it will be able to be reused once the updated bid is reconsidered.  I also met with Marc Alexander to discuss a further AHRC bid, this time one relating to the ‘Big Data’ call.  The project sounds perfectly suited to the call and will probably involve me in its second phase, if it gets funded.  I’ve offered to help with the Technical Plan for this project if needs be, but I think there are already a number of technical people involved in the project.

A new task I began this week was to begin work on the ‘web’ version of the Grammar app.  I’ve spent about a day on this so far, but I’m still getting things set up – working with the template files and defining the site structure and navigation paths.  It’s slightly tedious work but once it’s done the actual conversion of the pages from ‘app’ to ‘web’ shouldn’t take too long.  I also made a few tweaks to the Burns website this week, just simple stuff such as changing names and content.

On Friday I began looking into the SCOTS website and started to create a scoping study for its redevelopment.  Wendy would like the site to be brought up to date visually before the REF deadline and I’ve been working out what needs to be updated and how long everything will take.  In addition to reworking the site’s design and navigation, there are some bits of functionality that need to be updated and some new functionality that people would like to see included, so there is a substantial amount of work to do.  But the visual redesign is the priority for now.