Week Beginning 22nd January 2018

I spent much of this week working on the REELS project.  My first task was to implement a cross-reference system for place-names in the content management system.  When a researcher edits a place they now see a new ‘X-Refs’ field between ‘Research Notes’ and ‘Pronunciation’.  If they start typing the name of a place an autocomplete list appears featuring matching place-names and their current parishes.  Clicking on a name and then pressing the ‘edit’ button below the form then saves the new cross reference.  Multiple cross references can be added by pressing the ‘add another’ button to the right of the field.  When a cross reference has been added it is listed in this section as a link, allowing the researcher to jump to the referenced place-name and it’s also possible to delete a cross reference by pressing on the ‘delete’ button next to the place-name.  Cross references are set up to work both ways.  If the researcher adds a reference from ‘Abbey Park’ to ‘Abbey Burn’ then whenever s/he views the ‘Abbey Burn’ record the cross reference to ‘Abbey Park’ will also display, and deleting a reference from one place-name deletes it from the other too – i.e. one-way references can’t exist.

I also fixed an issue with the CMS that Eila had alerted me to: historical forms that have no start dates but do feature end dates weren’t being listed with any dates at all.  It turned out I’d set things up so that dates were only processed if a start date was present, which was pretty easy to rectify.  For the rest of my time on the project I wrote a specification document for the front end features I will be developing for the project.  This took up a lot of the week, as I had to spend time thinking about the features the front end will include and how things like the search, browse and map will interoperate and function.  This has also involved trying out the various existing place-name resources and thinking about which aspects of these sites work or don’t work so well.

My initial specification document is just over 3000 words long and describes the features that the front end will include, the sorts of search and browse options that will be available, which fields will be displayed, how the map interface will work and such things. I emailed it to the rest of the team on Friday for feedback, which I will hopefully get during next week.  It is just an initial idea of how things work and once I actually get down to developing the site things might change, but it’s useful to get things down in writing at this stage just in case there’s anything I’ve missed or people would prefer features to work differently.  I hope to begin development of the features next week.

Also this week I spent a bit of time on the RNSN project.  I switched a few things around on the website and I also began working with some slides that Brianna had sent me.  We are going to make ‘stories’ about particular songs, and we’d decided to investigate a couple of existing tools in order to do this.  The first is a timeline library (https://timeline.knightlab.com/) while the second is similar to a timeline only works with maps instead (https://storymap.knightlab.com/).  Initially I created a timeline based on the slides, but I quickly realised that there weren’t really enough different dates across the slides for this to work very well.  There weren’t any specific places mentioned in the slides either, so it seemed like the storymap library wouldn’t be a good fit either.  However, I then remembered that storymap can be set up to work with images rather than a map as a base layer, allowing you to ‘pin’ slides onto specific parts of the image (see https://storymap.knightlab.com/gigapixel/).  Brianna sent me an image of a musical score that she wanted to use as a background image and I followed the steps required to create a tileset from this and set it up for use with the library.  The image wasn’t really of high enough quality to be used for this purpose, but as a test it worked just fine.  I then created the required slides, attached them to the image, added in images and sound files and we then had a test version of a story up and running.  It’d going to need some further work before it can be published, but it’s good to know that this approach is going to work.

I also had some Burns related duties to attend to this week, what with Burns’ Night being on Thursday.  We added some new songs to the Burns website (http://burnsc21.glasgow.ac.uk/) and I dealt with a request to use our tour maps on another blog (see https://blog.historicenvironment.scot/2018/01/burns-nicht/).

I met with Luca this week to discuss how he’s using Exist DB, XQuery and other XML technologies in order to create the Curious Travellers website.  I hadn’t realised that it was possible to use these technologies without any other server-side scripting language, but apparently it is possible for Exist to handle all of the page requests and output date in the required format for users (e.g. HTML or even JSON formatted data).  It was very interesting to learn a bit about how these technologies work.  We also had a chat about Joanna’s project, and I had an email conversation with her about how I might be involved in the project.

I made some further tweaks to the NRECT website for Stuart Gillespie, responded to a query from Megan Coyer about the management of the Medical Humanities Network website and met with Anna McFarlane to discuss putting together a blog for her new project.  I also updated all of the WordPress sites to the latest version as a new security release was made available this week.