Week Beginning 14th March 2016

I spent most of this week working on the Mapping Metaphor follow-on project, working on the development of the App. This included updating the search facility to allow wildcard searches (an asterisk at the beginning and / or end of a word for partial matches). After further testing I also updated the search so that it matches whole words by default – so for example a search for ‘weather’ would find the category ‘atmosphere and weather’ while a search for ‘car’ would not find ‘exemplification and specificity’. I implemented these searches using regular expressions in the JavaScript code, which I’ve never really used very often before as they are rather daunting. I feel that I’m getting the hang of them now, though.

I also split up the category descriptors so that these could be searched individually. Previously (and still on the main Mapping Metaphor site) the category descriptors were treated as one single block of text with each descriptor split with a semi-colon. This meant that it was not possible to do an exact match search on any one of the descriptors. But having split the descriptors up (based on that handy semi-colon character) we can now do exact matches, plus partial beginning and ending matches, in addition to the ‘partial in the middle’ matches that were previously only possible. It seems to be working rather well.

We had a bit of a discussion in the project this week about what to do about ‘rude’ words in the app. We do cover all of the English Language in the data and this includes a lot of metaphorical senses that would be considered ‘rude’ in polite society. As the app is primarily aimed at schoolchildren we wondered what we should do about this – i.e. whether we should censor the app. Discussions as to what to do about this are still ongoing.

I began the process of ‘wrapping’ the app this week – that is turning it from an HTML5 / CSS3 / JavaScript powered website that opens in a web browser to something that can be installed on a tablet or smartphone as a standalone app. I use Apache Cordova to achieve this, which is a really handy command-line tool that does much of the hard work for you. I managed to deploy a test version of the app to my iPad, my Android powered phone and an Android powered tablet I have and thankfully all of the main parts of the site are working properly on these devices (although some aspects of the visualisation are very difficult to use on small screens). I did some serious testing of the app on these three devices and created a rather long ‘to do’ list of things that needed tweaked or fixed. I managed to address a lot of these this week, for example adding in a ‘back’ button to return to the search results or quiz answer screen when you follow a link to a category and updating the search to ensure that when the back button is pressed it returns to the search results page rather than the search form. I also updated the quizzes so when you navigate to a different question the top of the question is at the top of the screen rather than requiring the user to scroll down to it.

I also noticed things such as the icon images I was using were too low a resolution for the iPad screen so I updated these. Also with the iPad the pesky iOS status bar was visible and getting in the way of my ‘home’ icon so I created a static bar at the top of the page for the status info to stay in. Cordova provides facilities to allow the code to be tweaked for different platforms so this static bar only appears in the iOS version as it’s not needed in Android. I also installed the ‘inappbrowser’ plugin that Cordova offers so that external links (e.g. to the Historical Thesaurus) open properly within the app.

There are still lots more little tweaky things that I still need to do, but on the whole the app is looking pretty good. The biggest thing still left to address is how to make certain parts of the visualisation (e.g. the timeline) work better on a touchscreen. I’ve managed to allow the visualisation to be zoomed in on via iOS but this isn’t working on Android yet. I also need to figure out a way of resetting the zoom level when a link is pressed on so that the metaphor cards display properly. I’ll need to get all of this sorted next week as the app will need to be submitted at the beginning of April if we want it ready for the launch.

In addition to Metaphor duties I spent about a day on AHRC duties and I also attended a meeting about the University’s proposed data centre. There were some discussions about how the College of Arts may use the facilities that may be developed and it was interesting to hear how the plans are progressing. Gareth Roy, who had previously helped me use the Grid infrastructure to extract the Hansard data was also at the meeting and afterwards we talked about the difficulties I was facing in getting the space to house the data that was generated. It’s possible that Gareth may be able to help with this too, and we’re going to meet next month to discuss this further.

On Friday I attended a project meeting for the REELS project and I went through the content management system that I’d created for the project and we discussed some aspects that might need to be changed. Thankfully there weren’t many of these and the team seem very happy with the system that has been created. I also made a couple of tweaks to the content management system I had created for the People’s Voice project and had an email conversation with Carolyn Jess-Cooke about a project website she would like to set up. I also chatted with Craig Lamont about his ‘Enlightenment’ map that I’d help him set up last year. He’s wanting to add images to the map pop-ups and I’m going to help him with this next week.