Week Beginning 21st August 2017

I worked on quite a number of different projects this week, mostly lots of little bits of work rather than major things.  I set up an initial website for Kirsteen McCue’s Romantic National Song Network project, which involved trying out different themes, preparing background images and the like.  I also upgraded all of the WordPress instances I manage to the latest release and spoke to Chris McGlashan about the possibility of moving all our sites from HTTP to HTTPS.  This would be great from a security point of view and as the majority of our sites are just subdomains of the main University domain I’m hoping we can just use the existing certificate with our sites.

I replied to Gavin Miller, who wanted my input into a new Wellcome Trust bid he is putting together and I continued an email discussion with Alison Wiggins about her new project.  I also updated the Digital Humanities at Glasgow website to add several new projects to the resource and to update the records of some existing projects, such as ‘Basics of English Metre’, which now contains information about the app rather than the ancient web resource.  See all of the projects here: http://digital-humanities.glasgow.ac.uk/projects/.

On Thursday I attended the ‘SICSA Digital Humanities meets Computer Science Workshop’ at the University of Strathclyde.  It was a very interesting event with lots of opportunities to talk to other digital humanities and computing specialists and to learn more about other projects.  Unfortunately I had to leave early due to childcare obligations, but I found the parts I was able to attend to be very useful.

The biggest chunk of work I did this week was to develop a map of reform societies for Rhona Brown’s Edinburgh Gazetteer project.  Rhona had prepared a Word document that listed about 90 reform societies that were mentioned across all of the pages of the Gazetteer and I had to convert this into data that could then be plugged into a map interface.  We had previously arranged with the NLS to use on of their geocoded historical maps as a base map – John Thomson’s map of Scotland from 1815, which is the same base map I’d previously used for the Robert Burns walking tours feature (see http://burnsc21.glasgow.ac.uk/highland-tour-interactive/) so I got to work setting this up.  I decided to structure the data using JSON, as this could very easily be plugged into the map but also then reused for a textual list of the societies.  I had to manually grab the latitude and longitude values for each location using Google Maps, which was a bit of a pain, but thankfully although there were about 90 records many of these were at the same location, which cut down on the required work slightly.  For example, there are 13 reform societies in Edinburgh and 9 in Glasgow.  In the end I had a JSON structure for each record as follows:

{“id”:61, “latLng”: [55.941855, -3.054019], “toolTip”: “Musselburgh”, “title”: “Friends of Reform, Musselburgh “,”people”:”Preses: Colen Clerk<br />Secretary: William Wilson”,”pageID”:92,”linkText”:”19 February 1793, p.4″}

This provided the information for the location on the map, the tooltip that appears when you hover over a point and the contents of the popup, including a link through to the actual page of the Gazetteer where the society is mentioned.  I spent a bit of time thinking about the best way to represent there being multiple records at a single point.  I considered using circles of different sizes to let people see at a glance where the largest number of societies were, but realised this actually made it look like a larger geographical area was being covered instead.  I then decided to have a number in the marker to show how many societies were there.  I was using Leaflet circlemarkers rather than pins, as I didn’t want to give the impression that the societies were associated with an exact point on the map, but unfortunately adding text to Leaflet circlemarkers isn’t possible.  Instead I switched to using Leaflet’s divicon (see http://leafletjs.com/reference-1.2.0.html#divicon).  This marker type allows you to specify HTML to appear on the map and to then style the marker with regular CSS styling.  It took a bit of experimentation to get the style looking as I wanted – positioning the text was especially tricky – but in the end I had a map featuring circles with numbers in the middle, which I think works rather well.  Another issue is the old map is not completely accurate, meaning the real latitude and longitude values for a place may actually result in a marker some way off on the historical map.  However, I spoke to Rhona about this and she said it didn’t really matter too much.  I also added in a ‘full screen’ option for the map, and for good measure I added the same feature to the Gazetteer page too, for browsing round the large Gazetteer page images.  It all seems to be working pretty well.  The site isn’t live yet so I can’t include the URL, but here’s an image of the map:

Also this week I helped Michael Shaw of The People’s Voice project with a file upload issue he was experiencing.  I created a CSV upload facility for adding data to the project’s database but his file just wouldn’t upload.  It turned out to be an issue with CSVs created on a Mac, but we implemented a workaround for this.  I also had an email conversation with Joanna Kopaczyk, who will be starting in English Language next month.  She has an idea for a project and wanted to ask for my advice on some technical matters.

Finally this week I started working on the Technical Plan for a project Thomas Clancy is putting together.  It’s another place-name project and it will use a lot of the same technologies as the REELS project so I’m helping out with this.  I should hopefully get a first draft of the Technical Plan together during next week, although this depends on when some of the questions I’ve asked can be answered.