Week Beginning 7th July 2014

Back to work again this week after spending a lovely, relaxing week visiting friends and family down in Yorkshire.  I wasn’t exactly back to work as usual this week, however, as I was attending the DH2014 conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.  I was in the office on Monday, but that was mostly spent preparing for the conference – printing out boarding passes and registration information, checking travel arrangements, going through the conference’s rather extensive programme and refreshing my memory about the workings of the Mapping Metaphor visualisations so I’d actually be able to answer any questions that might be directed my way during the poster session.  I did spend a little time on the Monday doing other tasks, such as catching up with emails that had built up whilst I’d been away and looking into a couple of issues relating to the Burns tour maps.  And the update version of the Grammar app went live on the App Store too.

Tuesday was mostly spent travelling to Lausanne, before attending the opening ceremony and plenary lecture of the conference.  The conference ran from Tuesday evening to Friday evening and more than 700 delegates attended.  It was a really well organised event with lots of interesting papers, but with up to 9 parallel sessions taking place it was often tricky to decide which session to go to!  Some of the highlights for me include a paper about the ‘Swiss Voice App’, which is crowdsourcing linguistic data via an app.  Users can record themselves saying words and phrases via the app and then submit this data.  The modern data can be compared to historical data and plotted on maps showing variation in accent and dialect.  Users can also view statistics about their accent too – for example their speaking speed and pitch.  Another paper increased my knowledge of geoparsing – automatically extracting place names from texts and applying coordinates to them.   There are a few pieces of software that can do this, for example the Edinburgh Geoparser and the Edina ‘Unlock Text’ tool.  These might prove to be useful in future projects.  There is also the Stanford Names Entity Recognizer tool as well.  A further paper introduced me to D2RQ – a platform for accessing relational databases via RDF techniques such as SPARQL.  The same paper also included a reference to a piece of timeline software that I’d previously managed to overlook called timeline.js.  This also might prove useful for future projects.  A further paper introduced me to the Tessaract OCR engine, which is an open source OCR engine hosted by Google and another paper presented a really nice image viewer for digitised images called diva.js.  Rather than dealing with individual page images in isolation it can connect all the pages together, allowing swift and smooth transitions between digitised pages in combination with the sort of zooming and panning functionality that you can get from OpenLayers or Zoomify.  I’ll definitely be looking into this for future projects.

We had our poster session for Mapping Metaphor on the Thursday afternoon and it went really well.  Although there was only an hour allocated this was really more like two due to the coffee break before and the free time before the plenary after our session.  There was quite a lot of interest in our poster, and I’d brought my laptop on which I was able to give live demos of the visualisations as well.  Wendy, Rachael and I (together with Marc for some of the time too) were engaged in discussions and explanations with delegates pretty much without stop for the whole session, and Wendy’s supply of printouts and bookmarks was fully depleted during this time.  It was all very encouraging.

So the conference was a great success and I’m really glad I attended it.  The city of Lausanne was really lovely too, despite the weather being rather rainy for the duration of the event.  Despite this we managed to have a little time to explore the city and we even managed to try a fondue whilst we were there.  Saturday was spent travelling back to Glasgow, which all went very smoothly too.  Next week should see a return to normality again.