Week Beginning 21st July 2014

Monday was the Glasgow Fair holiday so it was a four day week for me this week.  I spent a fair amount of time this week on AHRC duties once again.  I seem to be receiving an endless stream of things to do from them at the moment – just as I finish one task and I think that will be the last for a while they send me something else to do.  Other than AHRC stuff, I spent a little time this week fixing an error with the Historical Thesaurus.  It wasn’t a major issue, but some words were being displayed with speech marks around them.  This was because the words (or phrases) contained commas, and such data when presented in a CSV file gets automatically wrapped in speech marks to differentiate the comma in the data from the commas used to delineate fields in the CSV file.  Usually such speech marks get stripped out when using PHP’s CSV functions, but in this case this hadn’t happened, leading to a couple of hundred words with erroneous speech marks.  I wrote a little script to identify the rows and make the necessary changes and that was that.  I also spent some time this week in an email conversation with Katie Lowe about the bid she is putting together.  She needed advice on costings and workflows and I managed to help her out a bit.

Other than these tasks I continued to work on the redevelopment of the DSL for most of the rest of week.  I overhauled the bibliography search results and bibliography display to bring this into line with the results and display for entries.  Search results are now split into two paginated columns for DOST and SND and the bibliography page itself now displays the search results down the left hand side of the screen.  I also fixed most of the other outstanding issues with the site, such as the use of apostrophes in search terms.  I also added the ancillary page text that was awaiting upload.  I think we’re just about there with the site now.  There’s not much else to report about this week.

Week Beginning 14th July 2014

A rather late report this week due to running out of time on the Friday and then being on holiday on the following Monday.  I spent the majority of this week working on DSL redevelopment tasks, going through the various lists of things to do that have built up over the past few weeks.  This included overhauling the advanced search page for both entries and bibliographies, updating the site footer content, adding in some further ancillary page content and updating the layout of numerous parts of the site based on feedback from Ann.

Also this week I updated the interface for the Burns website, applying the theme that I’d worked on a couple of weeks ago to the whole of the website.  I think it looks a lot better now, plus it is now ‘responsive’, meaning it works at all screen widths and displays much better on tablets and smartphones now.  I also spent a little time working with the tour map images that Pauline had given me, running them through the Zoomify tile creator and then using the OpenLayers Javascript library to provide a Google Maps style zoomable, pannable interface to them.  They look pretty good, but as of yet there is no way to ‘pin’ labels on them, which is what we eventually require.

I met with Alice Jenkins this week to discuss a couple of projects she would like to develop in the coming months.  I can’t say too much about them yet, but they definitely have a lot of potential.  I also created all the necessary documentation for this year’s PDR and had thought I would be going through this with Jeremy on the Friday, but it turns out that Jeremy isn’t overseeing my PDR any more so the process has been postponed for a little while.

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.