Week Beginning April 21st 2014

Monday was Easter Monday, which I spent eating chocolate rather than working. However, on Tuesday I was back at work and getting stuck into the redevelopment of the DSL once more.  My new iPad is already proving itself very useful, as I’ve spotted a few problems with the DSL interface when viewed on its pretty little touchscreen.  For example, the dropdown menus weren’t pulling themselves back up again when you tap elsewhere on the page and were instead stuck open until you reloaded the page.  I’ve got around this by adding subtle little arrows to the bottom of the drop-downs now, allowing users to tap to close the menus.  There were a few other UI issues as well, for example, iOS devices override the styling of your buttons unless you explicitly add ‘-webkit-appearance: none;’ to your input / button CSS.  Text input boxes also have iOS’s own pesky predictive text dropdowns too unless you manually state ‘autocomplete=”off”’ in the HTML.  We needed to turn off the iOS predictive text because we have our own predictive dropdowns and the two were getting all confused.  All in all the iPad is proving to be rather invaluable for web development.

For most of Tuesday and Wednesday I continued to work through my DSL to do list, tweaking layout and content and fixing some issues that Ann had noted in her feedback document, such as reordering the search results so that ‘variant’ forms appear after main forms and only if the main form is not already in the results.  I also created some new styling for the results as people weren’t too keen on the blue boxes.  On Thursday I headed over to the SLD offices in Edinburgh for a meeting with Ann and Peter.  This was a hugely useful three hour meeting during which we went through all of the outstanding tasks and discussed how we hoped to take them forward.  We even managed to fix a few issues during the meeting, which was great.  I now have yet another updated to do list with thirty odd items to keep me busy.  On returning to Glasgow in the afternoon I picked up my shiny new laptop that had been delivered and which will be used for publishing apps on Apple’s App store.  It’s a very pleasing little machine, although I intend to dual boot it with Windows and primarily use it as a Windows machine when not developing apps.

On Friday I continued with DSL redevelopment, thinking how best to incorporate supplemental entries in the entry XML files based on my XSLT files, fixing a number of bugs that I’d noticed during Thursday’s meeting and updating the way quotes are displayed (making author names bold, moving dates and geo information outside of the bibliographical links, switching the order of the DOST quotes so that author / title comes before the text, thus making it the same as SND).

Other than DSL matters I had a chat with Susan Rennie about the domain and blog for her Scots thesaurus project and put in a request to get these set up.  I also fixed a problem with the Historical Thesaurus advanced search that Fraser Dallachy had contacted me about – apparently the options to search for multiple verb forms wasn’t working – only the last form you selected was being queried.  I managed to implement a fix for this, thankfully.  I also signed up for the next Digital Humanities event in Edinburgh and added a new track to the Burns Choral website.

Week Beginning April 14th 2014

I only worked Monday and Tuesday this week as I took some additional time off over the Easter weekend, so there’s not a massive amount to report.  Other than providing some technical help to a postgrad student in English Language I spent all of my available time working on DSL related matters.  The biggest thing I achieved was to get a first version of the advanced search working.  This doesn’t include all options, only those that are currently available through the API, so for example users can’t select a part of speech to refine their search with.  But you can search for a word / phrase with wildcards, specify the search type (headwords, quotations or full text), specify the match type if it’s a headword search (whole / word / partial) and select a source (snd / dost / both).  There are pop-ups for help text for each of these options, currently containing placeholder text.

A quotation or full text search displays results using the ‘highlights’ field from the API, displaying every snippet for each headword (there can be multiple snippets) with the search word highlighted in yellow. If a specific source is selected then the results take up the full width of the page rather than half the width. Advanced search options are ‘remembered’, allowing the user to return to the search form to refine their search.  There is also an option to start a new advanced search.

I made a number of other smaller tweaks too, e.g. removing the ‘search results’ box from an entry when it is the only search result, and adding in pop-ups for DOST and SND in the results page (click on the links in the headings above each set of results to see these).  I’ve also added in placeholder pages for the bibliography pages linked to from entries, with facilities to return to the entry from the bibliography page.

Also this week I received the shiny new iPad that I had ordered and I spent a little time getting to grips with how it works.  I think it’s going to be very useful for testing websites!

Week Beginning April 7th 2014

I spent the majority of this week working on the Dictionary of the Scots Language website redevelopment and have managed to tick off quite a number of items from my ‘to do’ list.  I updated the entry heading that appears fixed at the top of the entry page when the user scrolls down.  I encountered a bit of a glitch with this because it was grabbing as its content the first paragraph of the entry.  Unfortunately due to the original XML markup some entries only have one very long paragraph, which made the fixed heading rather messed up.  Initially I tried cutting the content down to just the first ‘span’ (containing the headword) but then I noticed that many entries have multiple headwords.  Rather than continuing to mess about with the large number of possible first paragraph structures I decided to use the ‘html_label’ field taking from the API instead, which gives a consistent and compact amount of content for the fixed header.

Further tweaks to the DWL website involved making search results block level elements to give a nice hover-over effect and adding search results to a session variable.  The latter enables the user to traverse the results directly from the entry page and I’ve made a new ‘Search Results’ box down the right-hand side that provides ‘next’ and ‘previous’ options.  It’s much easier to navigate the results using this method rather than having to return to the search results page every time.  I also updated the right-hand options so that they appear below the main entry on narrow screens.  Previously the options were appearing above the entry which made it a bit difficult to access the important content of each entry page.

Based on further feedback from Ann I also updated the user interface in a number of ways, for example repositioning the ‘add yogh’ box and ensuing the yogh info box only appears when you click on the ‘i’ icon rather than on hover-over.  I also added a scroll bar to the predictive drop-down list and updated its functionality slightly so that the predictive search is triggered when the user adds a yogh.  Drop-down navigation menus now have a delay built into them too, so the drop-down only appears if you leave the cursor over them for a little while.  This means the drop-downs aren’t triggered when the user moves the cursor over them to get to other parts of the page.

I also created the print CSS file so that pages now print nicely.  Page elements that would be pointless to print such as navigation bars, search boxes etc are now hidden when the user chooses to print a page.  Ann sent me the content for the ‘contact us’ page so I’ve created this as well now, and I’ve updated the navigation menu structure to accommodate the page headings that Ann sent me too.  This has included removing the ‘Search’ tab, which I’m still not sure is a very good idea as it means the majority of pages in the site no longer have an ‘active’ tab, which I personally think sort of breaks the navigation structure of the site.  I also updated the styling of the drop-down navigation menus to make them look better now we have some real page headings in there.

Also this week I did a little bit of additional work for the Choral Burns website, converting a video file and embedding the clip in a page.  I also put in an order for a couple of tablets for STELLA app development and testing (a full size ipad and a Nexus 7) and updated all of the WordPress blogs that are under my control as a new version of WordPress had been made available.  I also had a brief meeting with Jeremy to discuss my current and future tasks.  All went well at the meeting and it turns out that Jeremy is continuing to be my line manager, even though he is now head of School.  I think this is a good idea as I work at School level anyway.

I also fixed a Historical Thesaurus bug that Christian had alerted me to – words within a category were not being ordered correctly – sometimes appearing chronologically (which is correct), sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes in any old order.  I managed to update things so that words within a category are always ordered chronologically.

Week Beginning March 31st 2014

I was ill for most of this week and was off work from Tuesday to Thursday, meaning I don’t have a massive amount to report about.  I spent a little time on Monday following up on a few issues that cropped up at the Mapping Metaphor event last week, and also looking into what sort of Mac I should purchase in order to be able to develop iOS versions of the STELLA Apps.  It will be good to finally get these all wrapped up and available as proper apps some time soon.  I spent the remainder of time working week continuing with the redevelopment of the DSL.  I updated the way the ‘show / hide’ options for quotations and the etymology work, replacing the text link with ‘on / off’ buttons instead, which I think make it clearer to see what option is selected and how you change your settings.  I also updated the ‘about this entry’ box so that it will pull its information from the API.  Currently the API doesn’t supply this data but when it does the information will now automatically appear.  I also made some further tweaks to the site based on further feedback from Ann, specifically adding in the correct text about ‘yogh’ on the homepage, including a ‘sticky’ popup that opens when you hover over an ‘info’ icon.  The popup is ‘sticky’ (i.e. after it opens it stays open until you click the close button) because Ann wanted a link to appear in the popup, and with a more straightforward tooltip style popup this would not be possible as the popup disappears as soon as you move the cursor away from the item that the popup is attached to.  I also switched the ordering of DOST and SND panes in the search results and fixed some of the site text.  Much more to come next week now I’m back to full health again.