Week Beginning 16th March 2015

I was on holiday on Monday this week but returned to spend most of the rest of the week putting the finishing touches to the Mapping Metaphor website in advance of next week’s launch. I had managed to fix all the previously identified bugs last week so this week I worked on the final remaining addition to the website, was to be some sort of ‘breadcrumb’ or ‘history’ feature that would allow people to easily navigate back to visualisations that had previously looked at. I quickly ruled out having a ‘breadcrumb’ trail at the top of the page as this sort of hierarchically structured set of links would provide a quite limited trail, plus it’s already represented to a certain extent in the left-hand info box. Instead I decided a ‘history’ feature would be more useful. This would log each data view a user opens, including visualisations, timelines, cards and tables, plus each time a category is clicked on or a section expanded.

I implemented this as an HTML5 sessionStorage variable within the user’s browser. No history information is stored on the MM server and the information is deleted as soon as the user closes their browser. The variable stores a chunk of HTML, consisting of table rows of links to data views plus the time when the view was loaded. Each time a view is loaded (e.g. by clicking to highlight a category) the code adds a link to this view (plus the timestamp) to the top of the chunk. I then added a new ‘history’ button to the left-hand info box and pressing on this opens a dialog box where the history variable is loaded and displayed. I also added a ‘clear’ button so people can empty their history if required. I think the feature works rather well and I’m finding it to be surprisingly useful. It’s nice to know you can browse ‘off piste’ and still get back to the things you were really supposed to be looking at.

Ellen had also sent me a list of other questions and requests, such as tooltip help text and revised text for the homepage so I spent a bit of time adding these. I also noticed a bug with the modal dialog boxes as used for the metaphor card and other pop-ups. A grey overlay is supposed to appear on top of all other page elements when such dialog boxes are shown so no other page elements can be clicked on. However, Ellen had wanted the ‘Key’ box to appear behind the left-hand info box and never on top of it and I’d updated the z-index of the info-box so it was on top. Unfortunately this applied to all other dialog boxes too, which was a mistake. I’ve therefore reverted to the earlier layout, meaning the key box once again appears on top of the left-hand box. However, I don’t think this is such an issue now because the key is now fixed in position on screen and no longer scrolls with the page. Plus the key is now in the bottom right rather than the left. So really the key only ever appears on top of the left-hand box if the user manually drags it over there.

Next week I’ll need to replace the existing data with the updated data and also remove all of the random data that I’d created for test purposes (dates, lexemes, directionality). I should hopefully be doing this on Monday, which will give me a day or so to deal with any problems that this might introduce before the launch on Wednesday.

Other than Mapping Metaphor stuff I had a few meetings with people. The first was with Jane Stuart-Smith to discuss the ESRC bid she is putting together. I can’t really go into too much detail here at the moment, but it was a useful meeting and we sorted out a few issues relating to the Data Management Plan and also how the various web-based components of the project will fit together. There’s probably more that needs to be discussed on the technical side of things but Jane didn’t have time to talk further this week. I also met with Johanna Green to discuss a Chancellor’s Fund bid she’s hoping to submit in collaboration with Special Collections. Again, I can’t go into details here but it was a useful meeting and I hope I can be a part of the project in some capacity. My final meeting of the week was with Marc Alexander to discuss some new potential arrangements for the roles of developers within the School. I can’t say more than that for the time being but we had a good discussion and hopefully some good things will emerge from it.

There were a few server issues that cropped up this week, which seemed to have been caused by some electrical work that was going on over the weekend. This affected a number of project websites, including the Scots Corpus and the DSL website. The latter took a little while to get fixed as the site had come back online perfectly except for the aspects of the Advanced Search that used the Solr functionality. Solr on the server was working, but for some reason the API couldn’t connect to it. Thankfully Chris McGlashan got to the bottom of the problem, which had been caused by the order in which services had come back online after the power outage.

I spent a few hours this week on AHRC reviewer duties and I also spent a little bit of time this week on SAMUELS duties, liaising with Steven Wattam at Lancaster about the Hansard data that he has been compiling for the project. This was completed this week and he made the data available to me – a tar.gz file that is almost 10Gb in size. I didn’t have time to look at the data this week but I’ll hopefully be able to look into it next week.