Week Beginning 15th December 2014

This week was my last week before my Christmas holidays and it was rather hectic.  It was mostly split between Mapping Metaphor and Burns.  For Burns, Pauline had sent me the content for two of the three timeline streams that the timeline will feature.  The timeline is something that has been bubbling away for a long time now and it was great to finally get some real content to play with.  I’m using the freely available timeglider library (http://timeglider.com/widget/?p=intro) and have set it up to have three individual streams (‘Life’, ‘Publications’ and ‘Prose’), each of which can be turned on and off.  The default timeglider functionality allows you to do this from a settings menu in the footer but this is rather hidden and I wanted some nice big buttons above the timeline too.  This required rather a lot of furtling about with the timeglider source code to extend the default functionality.  The public methods of the widget didn’t allow timelines to be turned on and off by a call from beyond the timeglider code, but I extended the methods to allow for such behaviour.  I now have three nice buttons that you can use to toggle the timelines (because having all three on at once is rather cluttered).  The timeline should launch early next month and I’ll post a link once it’s available.  Also for Burns I was asked to create a new section of the site and set up the necessary files to enable a new song to be played.  I also set up the basics of a new website for a project Pauline has recently started work on (Bawdry in Scottish Chapbooks) and gave feedback on the content of the map pop-ups that Pauline is working on.  The new maps of the tours should also go live early next week.

For Mapping Metaphor I provided some further input to the PI response for the follow-on funding project and then spent the rest of the week working on three rather major tasks:

1.  Implementing the renumbering of the MM Categories.  As there are now more than 26 level 2 categories we can’t use letters to represent them.  We previously decided to add the level 1 category as a number at the start – so A01 becomes 1A01.  This has meant changing the structure of the database and implementing some fairly major changes to the front-end as well.  It took quite a long time to get this sorted but the new category numbers should now be in place throughout the site and all would appear to be working fine.

2.  I created scripts for Ellen and Flora that have stripped out the duplicate rows from Flora’s database and have automatically applied consolidated metaphor strength codes to a lot of the data.  The ‘remove duplicates’ script has whittled the rows down from 36,741 to 18,975.  The ‘consolidated strength’ script has identified 12,090 rows that didn’t already have a consolidated strength and has supplied such data for 9418 rows, leaving 2672 for manual inspection.

3.  I’ve begun the process of replacing connections from the front-end to the database.  The front end was previously using dedicated mysql functions to connect to and query the database but these functions are deprecated in the most recent version of PHP, meaning that in few years the functions will likely not be supported.  The alternative approach is to use PHP Data Objects (PDO), which should be future proof and also means switching to a different database (if ever required) would involve simply changing one line of code rather than the entire system.  Unfortunately to implement PDO I do need to change the entire system at the moment – every single database query needs to be replaced and tested.  I had hoped to complete the migration today but it’s taken longer than I expected and there are currently some parts of the site that are broken (e.g. the table view).

Once I’ve completed the migration to PDO we’ll need to do some pretty extensive testing of the site.  Changing the data query method combined with the category number update is basically ripping out and rebuilding the heart of the system and it’s likely that some bugs will have crept in.  However, fixing any that are identified shouldn’t be too tricky and I think the website is still very much on schedule.

Also this week I completed the online training courses for recruitment and selection, meaning I should be able to attend the workshop in January and then be able to be on the panel for interviews.  I also gave Carole some feedback for her Leverhulme bid.

That’s all for this week, and indeed this year.  If anyone is reading this I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!