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.

Week Beginning 14th August 2017

I was on holiday last week but was back to work on Monday this week.  I’d kept tabs on my emails whilst I was away but as usual there were a number of issues that had cropped up in my absence that I needed to sort out.  I spent some time on Monday going through emails and updating my ‘to do’ list and generally getting back up to speed again after a lazy week off.

I had rather a lot of meetings and other such things to prepare for and attend this week.  On Monday I met with Bryony Randall for a final ‘sign off’ meeting for the New Modernist Editing project.  I’ve really enjoyed working on this project, both the creation of the digital edition and taking part in the project workshop.  We have now moved the digital edition of Virginia Woolf’s short story ‘Ode written partly in prose on seeing the name of Cutbush above a butcher’s shop in Pentonville’ to what will hopefully be its final and official URL and you can now access it here: http://nme-digital-ode.glasgow.ac.uk

On Tuesday I was on the interview panel for Jane Stuart-Smith’s SPADE project, which I’m also working on for a small percentage of my time.  After the interviews I also had a further meeting with Jane to discuss some of the technical aspects of her project.  On Wednesday I met with Alison Wiggins to discuss her ‘Archives and Writing Lives’ project, which is due to begin next month.  This project will involve creating digital editions of several account books from the 16th century.  When we were putting the bid together I did quite a bit of work creating a possible TEI schema for the account books and working out how best to represent all of the various data contained within the account entries.  Although this approach would work perfectly well, now that Alison has started transcribing some entries herself we’ve realised that managing complex relational structures via taxonomies in TEI via the Oxygen editor is a bit of a cumbersome process.  Instead Alison herself investigated using a relational database structure and had created her own Access database.  We went through the structure when we met and everything seems to be pretty nicely organised.  It should be possible to record all of the types of data and the relationships between these types using the Access database and so we’ve decided that Alison should just continue to use this for her project.  I did suggest making a MySQL database and creating a PHP based content management system for the project, but as there’s only one member of staff doing the work and Alison is very happy using Access it seemed to make sense to just stick with this approach.  Later on in the project I will then extract the data from Access, create a MySQL database out of it and develop a nice website for searching, browsing and visualising the data.  I will also write a script to migrate the data to our original TEI XML structure as this might prove useful in other projects.

It’s Performance and Development Review time again, and I have my meeting with my line manager coming up, so I spent about a day this week reviewing last year’s objectives and writing all of the required sections for this year.  Thankfully having my weekly blog posts makes it easier to figure out exactly what I’ve been up to in the review period.

Other than these tasks I helped Jane Roberts out with an issue with the Thesaurus of Old English, I fixed an issue with the STARN website that Jean Anderson had alerted me to, I had an email conversation with Rhona Brown about her Edinburgh Gazetteer project and I discussed data management issues with Stuart Gillespie.  I also uploaded the final set of metaphor data to the Mapping Metaphor database.  That’s all of the data processing for this project now completed, which is absolutely brilliant.  All categories are now complete and the number of metaphors has gone down from 12938 to 11883, while the number of sample lexemes (including first lexemes) has gone up from 25129 to a whopping 45108.

Other than the above I attended the ‘Future proof IT’ event on Friday.  This was an all-day event organised by the University’s IT services and included speakers from JISC, Microsoft, Cisco and various IT related people across the University.  It was an interesting day with some excellent speakers, although the talks weren’t as relevant to my role as I’d hoped they would be.  I did get to see Microsoft’s HoloLens technology in action, which was great, although I didn’t personally get a chance to try the headset on, which was a little disappointing.


Week Beginning 31st July 2017

This week was another four-day week for me as I was on holiday on Friday.  I will also be on holiday all next week.  As I am currently between any pressing deadlines and I didn’t want to start anything major before my holiday, I decided to return to the migration of one of the old STELLA resources to the University’s T4 website this week.  The resource in question is STARN (the Scots Teaching and Resource Network).  It’s a collection of Scottish literary and non-literary materials that was mainly compiled in the 90s.  Although the old site mostly still worked it looked very old fashioned and contained many broken links.  I had started to migrate the site across to T4 before Christmas last year during a bit of slack time I had, but as things got busier I had to leave the migration half done and focus on current research projects instead.  When I returned to it this week I discovered I was right in the middle of migrating Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, which was something of a mammoth task.  There were countless chapters that each needed their own pages, then I needed to add ‘next’ and ‘previous’ links to all of these after I’d created the pages, then I needed to create contents pages and a variety of ancillary pages.  It was a tedious, time-consuming and pretty brainless task, but there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from getting it all done.    You can now access the STARN resource here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/critical/aboutus/resources/stella/projects/starn/

I also spent a bit of time this week speaking to Alison Wiggins about her upcoming AHRC project that starts in September and I will be involved with for a small amount of my time.  I also set up a subdomain for Stuart Gillespie’s project.  I’m going to be helping out on an interview panel for a post in another School within the College in September and I spent a bit of time going through the applications for this too.  There’s not really much else to say about the work I did this week.  Once I’m back after my holiday I’ll need to focus on the new version of the ARIES app that is due to launch in September (all being well) and I need to get back into developing the atlas for the SCOSYA project.