Week Beginning 29th February 2016

I continued to split my time between three major projects this week – REELS, The People’s Voice and the Mapping Metaphor follow-on project. For REELS I continued to work on the content management system. Last week I had separated out the ‘core’ place-name data from associated data (such as place-name elements) as I had realised that the data entry form was just getting too big and cumbersome to easily use. I had just about managed to get the altitude of a place-name automatically from Google maps and this week I managed to fully implement this. Now when a user enters a grid reference the system automatically generates the latitude and longitude then queries Google Maps to retrieve the altitude of the point. This is then automatically stored in the database along with the other place-name data. It’s all working rather well. I also completed the scripts to allow a user to edit place-name data and I began to work on the scripts to allow place-name elements to be associated with a record. Currently a user can select to manage the element associations, then add any number of elements to the record. These include the ‘autocomplete’ feature limited by language that I was previously working on and all of the other place-name element fields that need to be recorded. I will continue with this next week.

On Tuesday we had a project meeting where we went through the website and the content management system and discussed how things should work and what might need to be updated. These were mostly minor issues. The only larger issue related to parish associations. I had split these into ‘current’ and ‘historical’ parishes and had provided one box where multiple could be selected. This wasn’t exactly what the project wanted though, so I changed it to have two separate boxes, one where the current parish (or parishes) can be selected and another where former parishes could be selected. The project website is pretty much live now and can be found here: http://berwickshire-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/

For The People’s Voice project I began working on the database and content management system, having finalised their structure last week. I set up a bare-bones WordPress site for the project) not live yet) and created the database structure as outlined in my database specification document. I also managed to complete a lot of the functionality of the CMS as well. So far the facilities that are in place are those for adding / browsing / editing / deleting people, publications and archives/libraries. I also completed the facilities for adding and browsing poem records, including associating one or more authors, featured individuals, publications, archives and franchises. It’s all coming along pretty well and I hope to have a completed first draft of the system in place before the project has a meeting next Friday.

For Mapping Metaphor I focussed on the search facilities of the app this week. I created the search forms for both the quick and the advanced search and went on to complete all of the processing for the quick search. This is currently running rather slowly as it has to process a lot of data and I need to find a way to speed this up a bit. I also started to worry that the advanced search would be too complicated for our target audience to use. The form I’d created looked horribly intimidating and I just wasn’t sure that the app was the right pace for such a serious looking search form. I raised this concern with Wendy and Ellen and they both agreed that we should just have a simple search in the app, which I think will work out much better. I also spent a bit of time this week updating the visualisation interface to bring it into line with the look of the rest of the app, such as changing the colours and updating the ‘infobox’ so it didn’t take up so much space. There is still a lot of visual tweaking left to do, though, and I’ll continue with this next week.

I also heard this week that the Mapping Metaphor website won the ‘Best DH data visualisation of 2015’ award at the Digital Humanities Awards (see http://dhawards.org/dhawards2015/results/), which is great news for the project.

Also this week I attended a meeting with Michael Pidd from Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute where we heard a bit about how the HRI operates and how Glasgow might be able to set up a similar structure. It was a great opportunity to hear how developers or Arts and Humanities projects operate in another organisation and to discuss some of the issues the developers at Glasgow have faced over the years. We’ll just need to see how the outcomes from this meeting and others Mike had whilst he was up might be acted upon.