Week Beginning 9th February 2015

I continued with Mapping Metaphor duties this week, as well as starting with the Dictionary of the Scots Language post-launch tasks and also getting back into Scots Thesaurus work too. For Mapping Metaphor I updated the way in which sample lexemes work. Ellen had sent me some data for a couple of categories, featuring real sample lexemes and directionality (with start dates being inferred from the sample lexemes). I uploaded this data and updated the system to ensure that real start dates and sample lexemes are used if these have been specified, while the existing random ones will continue to be used where no real data exists. I also updated the way in which the sample lexemes link through to the Historical Thesaurus. Previously a link from a word simple performed a search for that word in the HT, which was not very accurate as a user may then have ended up looking at a category that was completely different to the metaphorical one they were looking at. Now the link takes the user to the specific usage of the word, loading the relevant HT category and highlighting the word in question. It links the two resources together very nicely.

I’ve also updated the top-level timeline slightly – it is now possible to view it without having a category selected (previously it was giving an error) and I’ve updated the counts in each column so they show the total number of L3 to L3 connections found rather than the number of squares in each column. I’ve updated the ‘drill down’ timeline so that if you’re looking at the connections to / from a specific L3 category then none of the dots are highlighted, unless you’ve selected one of the other categories linked to this category in the round visualisation, which results in only those dots involving this category being highlighted in the timeline. I also tweaked the top level timeline further so that highlighted squares are highlighted in yellow with a thinner line, which means it is easier to see the colour in the middle. The timeline now looks a bit like a series of skyscrapers with lights on. My final Metaphor task of the week was to create a list of known bugs that I aim to squash before the end of March. There are 25 items on it at the moment. Ellen was running two user testing sessions with some students this week so it may be that further bugs and issues are identified as a result of these.

For DSL I set about tackling issue 2 on our ‘to do’ list, which was to completely overhaul how the search results were displayed and how the entry page links back to the search results page. In the live site the search results are displayed as two columns – one for SND and the other for DOST. Users can scroll through these results lists independently, with 20 items being shown at any one time. When a user navigates to an entry the search results are displayed to the left of the entry, and the idea originally was that people would not need to return to the main search results page. Returning to the page places the user back at the start of the list of results.

It turns out that this arrangement isn’t really all that useful for people, who want an easier mechanism for jumping between sections of the results rather than scrolling through 20 at a time. People were also really wanting a way to jump back to the section of the results they were looking at when returning from an entry page to the results.

I’ve addressed all of these issues in the ‘development version’ of the site now, and once the changes have been approved I’ll add them to the main site. I updated the results page so that the SND and DOST sections are now separate tabs, with the inactive tab not visible and the active one taking up the full width of the page. This is much less cluttered than the previous layout. It also gives me more room to add in a new navigation bar. This appears both above and below the search results and presents users with ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons plus ‘jump to page’ buttons for pages in between. If there are more than 10 pages some are hidden and are replaced with ellipsis but clicking on these expands so show all pages. It’s now much easier for a user to jump to the last page of the results and work back (for example). I also updated the entry page so that returning to the search results from it automatically loads the page where the entry that was being viewed is found. I think it works a lot better.

My work on the Scots Thesaurus project this week let on from my meeting at SND last week. Previously for the Thesaurus project I had created a tool that allows a researcher to search the HTE for words and then search the XML of DSL for all occurrences of these words. I was working directly with the DSL XML files through a BaseX native XML database but the data I had didn’t have any sort of unique identifiers for entries, so it wasn’t possible for the system to log which entry the researcher thought was of interest. After speaking to Peter Bell last week I realised that it made a lot more sense to connect to the DSL API to query the data rather than using my own XML database. This means the Thesaurus project is using the most up to date dictionary data and more importantly the data actually has unique identifiers.

It took some time to get access to the API from my test scripts, but I managed to update the tool I had created to connect to the API in order to display DSL results. This allows the tool to ‘know’ which entry it is displaying (so I will be able to update it in future to automatically log the IDs in the Thesaurus database) and it also enables the researcher to follow links to the entries on the DSL website.

I also began to work on a mechanism to allow researchers to manage thesaurus categories, which is the first step in expanding the tool to enable words to automatically be associated with categories. I’ll continue with this next week.

Also this week I had a few meetings with people. I met with Mark Herraghty to discuss the Pennant project which he has recently started working on. It was great to catch up with this project again and it seems like the technical side of things is being well managed by Mark. I also met with Bryony Randall in English Literature to discuss a project she is putting together and I had a meeting with Ellen to discuss Old English data in Mapping Metaphor. We will need to create a dedicated Old English version of the site once the data is available and we agreed that I would get this up and running in June.