Week Beginning 17th February 2014

Another fairly hectic week this week, with my time divided across many different projects.  I spent the best part of a couple of days this week working on a Technical Plan for an AHRC bid that Jennifer Smith and Gary Thomas are putting together.  This involved a meeting with Gary, quite a bit of time researching previous projects and the technical possibilities that may be a good fit for their current project’s needs, many Q&A email exchanges between Gary and me and the creation of a first draft of the technical plan, which I managed to email to Gary on Wednesday.  Jennifer is back in the university next week and no doubt there will be comments and further refinements of the plan in the coming week.  I spent a little more time this week going through the bid materials for Carole’s place-name AHRC bid and providing feedback on this too.

I also gave advice to Pauline Mackay about a Chancellor’s Fund bid she’s putting together and made contact with George Pattison in Theology who is putting together an AHRC bid with a relatively small but important technical component.  I also had a meeting with Emma Osborne, who will be managing Carole’s new Cognitive Toponymy website initially.  I’ve got the bare bones of the site set up now and Emma and I met to discuss the next steps.  Emma is going to work with Carole to get some content, images and an idea of the site structure together and we’ll take it from there.

I had a meeting with Fraser Rowan on Thursday to discuss visualisation techniques and how these may be applied to Fraser’s Knowledge Exchange information.  We came up with a few possible solutions and I might be involved in developing some visualisations in future, with the understanding that my time would have to be bought out from the School of Critical Studies in order to do this college level work.  It shouldn’t take too long to develop the visualisations though, and it will be good experience that will undoubtedly help with future SCS work.

On Thursday Flora gave me access to some further Mapping Metaphor data that I will be able to plug into the visualisations, which will be really useful.  I didn’t have time to work with the data this week but I hope to be able to get stuck into it next week.  The reason I didn’t have time to do anything Mapping Metaphor related this week is because I spent the remainder of the week working on the new Dictionary of the Scots Language website.  I managed to get my PHP code to connect to Peter’s API, which is currently housed on a server in Edinburgh.  There was a bit of an issue involved in getting the PHP extension cURL working on the Glasgow server.  This extension is needed in order for PHP to connect to content stored on a server beyond Glasgow’s proxy but even though the extension was installed it just wasn’t working, even though the exact same code running on my own PC worked fine.  Thankfully after Chris restarted Apache on the server cURL started to work.

By the end of the week I had managed to get the bare bones of the new DSL site set up.  The site looks like the ‘final’ mockup that we decided on a few months ago and placeholder pages have been created for all of the major pages of the site.  There are no sub-menu pages yet as I’m not sure what these should be.  I’ve implemented the quick search feature (accessible from the homepage or using the quick search box on all other pages).  This connects to Peter’s API and currently searches the headword forms for whole matches in both snd and dost.  The search results page is laid out as in Ann’s user interface mockup, with the results split into two columns for dost and snd results.  There’s no snippet for each entry available through the API yet but once available these will appear too.  You can click on a result to view the entry (currently limited to just the headword).  I’ve password protected the development site for now, so I can’t include the URL here.  I’ll continue to expand the functionality of the new DSL next week.

Week Beginning 10th February 2014

I spent a lot of time this week working with the Mapping Metaphor interface in preparation for Friday’s demonstration at the Digital Humanities event in Edinburgh.  I added in the facility to download the visualisation as an SVG image.  I had previously been hoping to provide facilities to export the visualisation in a variety of formats including vector (SVG) and raster (PNG) but as documented in an earlier post, I had encountered some major difficulties in converting the exported SVG image to a different format, either through the client’s browser using a Javascript library or at the server side.   So I’ve decided to leave it as ‘download SVG’ – users can then convert the file to a different format themselves if they want!  It actually took longer than I had expected to get the ‘download SVG’ option working because the SVG is generated purely on the client side by Javascript.  It turns out getting a browser to generate and save a file on the user’s file system is trickier than it looks at first glance, and instead I made a script that would post the SVG data back to the server to then be made available for download as a file.  It’s a bit of a clunky approach, but it works fine and the resulting SVG looks very nice.

I also made some further browse options for the ‘drilldown’ view of the data, which are now accessible from the ‘metaphor card’.  When viewing the connections between two major categories if you click on a line joining up two categories the card now gives you the option of viewing all the other categories that are connected to either one or both of the categories in question.  It’s a nice little feature that allows visualisations comparable to Ellen’s previous ‘Beauty and Light’ diagrams to be viewed.  I have also implemented the option to select the type of metaphor to view, which now appears as an option in the left-hand box.  You can select whether to view strong, weak or both types of metaphor and the visualisation updates immediately to reflect your choice, both through the aggregated diagram and the drill-down one.  I also moved the colour-code ‘key’ information to its own little box as the left-hand box was starting to get a bit cluttered.

The final update I made was to begin working on the timeline view of the data.  I decided to use the timeglider API for this, and created a PHP script that would automatically spit out data in the correct JSON format depending on user selections.  At the moment the script only spits out data for three ‘streams’ (Society-World, Mind-Society, World-Mind) and you can’t provide different options, but this is just a start.  The metaphor data gets displayed on the timeline as an exact point in time (i.e. not rounded to 50 year chunks) with different coloured icons for the three streams and different sizes of icon depending on whether the metaphor is strong, weak or unclassified.  Even with the test data it is obvious that there is too much data to be properly displayed.  If you zoom out so you can view 100 years on screen at one time the screen is swamped in different coloured dots.  I’m going to have to think about how this data could be displayed a little more effectively.

As previously mentioned, I attended a Digital Humanities event in Edinburgh on Friday.  It was an all-day event and on the whole it was very useful.  Andrew Prescott gave a hugely interesting talk about the current state of digitisation and digital editions and there was a great session where attendees could discuss their project in 5 minutes.  I gave a talk about the Mapping Metaphor visualisations, and it was great to hear the other speakers too, especially the other projects there were also dealing with visualisations.  The organisers are hoping to launch a Scotland-wide Digital Humanities Network soon, which I think has a lot of potential.

Other than the above I did a few other tasks this week, including a little work on the Choral Burns project website, a little work on the Cognitive Toponymy website and I also was in contact with Peter at SLD about the API he has been working on.  He has now reached a point where he is ready to give me access to the API.  I’ve had a quick look at it and it seems pretty straightforward to follow, which is very good.  I aim to start working on connecting the front-end to the API next week, all being well.

Week Beginning 3rd February 2014

I was on holiday last week – I forgot to mention that in my previous post.  On returning after a week off there was quite a mountain of things to get through, for example fixing the ICOS2014 website, which had managed to lose a lot of its formatting and layout during a server migration and site upgrade.  I also began setting up the website for another project for Carole (although there is still a lot to do for this).

I prepared for and attended a few meetings this week, including a Mapping Metaphor project meeting, a SAMUELS meeting and the first meeting of the ‘Local Advisory Group’ for the newly started ‘Historical Thesaurus of Scots’ project.  I also provided some help and advice for Vivien Williams regarding sound files and website matters for the new ‘Robert Burns Choral Settings’ project.

Thursday was another Strike day, but most of the week was spent researching and writing the Technical Plan for a new place-names survey project involving Carole, Thomas Clancy and Simon Taylor.  I attended a further meeting with the people involved in putting the bid together on Tuesday, where lots of my questions were answered and most of the outstanding matters related to technical issues were cleared up.  I had a very useful e-mail conversation with Chris Fleet of the NLS about using their historical maps for this project, and I also had a detailed and very worthwhile phonecall with Shaun Hare, the technical developer of the ‘Digital Exposure of English Place-names’ (DEEP) project about the technical underpinnings of their online resource, which is in many ways similar to the resource that our project wants to make available.  I spent the bulk of Friday writing the Technical Plan and managed to email it to the other project people before the end of the day.  There’s not much more I can report about the contents of the bid or the Technical Plan at this stage, but here’s hoping it’s successful.