Week Beginning 21st May 2018

I spent most of this week working on the new timeline features for the Historical Thesaurus.  Marc, Fraser and I had a useful meeting on Wednesday where we discussed some final tweaks to the mini-timelines and the category page in general, and also discussed some future updates to the sparklines.

I made the mini-timelines slightly smaller than they were previously, and Marc changed the colours used for them.  I also updated the script that generates the category page content via an AJAX call so that an additional ‘sort by’ option could be passed to it.  I then implemented sorting options that matched up with those available through the full Timeline feature, namely sorting by first attested date, alphabetically, and length of use.  I also updated this script to allow users to control whether the mini-timelines appear on the page or not.  With these options available via the back-end script I then set up the choices to be stored as a session variable, meaning the user’s choices are ‘remembered’ as they navigate throughout the site and can be applied automatically to the data.

While working on the sorting options I noticed that the alphabetical ordering of the main timeline didn’t properly order ashes and thorns – e.g. words beginning with these were appearing at the end of the list when ordered alphabetically.  I fixed this so that for ordering purposes an ash is considered ‘ae’ and a thorn ‘th’.  This doesn’t affect how words are displayed, just how they are ordered.

We also decided at the meeting that we would move the thesaurus sites that were on a dedicated (but old) server (namely HT, Mapping Metaphor, Thesaurus of Old English and a few others) to a more centrally hosted server that is more up to date.  This switch would allow these sites to be made available via HTTPS as opposed to HTTP and will free up the old server for us to use for other things, such as some potential corpus based resources.  Chris migrated the content over and after we’d sorted a couple of initial issues with the databases all of the sites appear to be working well.  It is also a really good thing to have the sites available via HTTPS.  We are also now considering setting up a top-level ‘.ac.uk’ address for the HT and spent some time making a case for this.

A fairly major feature I added to the HT this week was a ‘menu’ section for main categories, which contains some additional options, such as the options to change the sorting of the category pages and turn the mini-timelines on and off.  For the button to open the section I decided to use the ‘hamburger’ icon, which Marc favoured, rather than a cog, which I was initially thinking of using, because a cog suggests managing options whereas this section contains both options and additional features.  I initially tried adding the drop-down section as near to the icon as possible, but I didn’t like the way it split up the category information, so instead I set it to appear beneath the part of speech selection.  I think this will be ok as it’s not hugely far away from the icon.  I did wonder whether instead I should have a section that ‘slides up’ above the category heading, but decided this was a bad idea as if the user has the heading at the very top of the screen it might not be obvious that anything has happened.

The new section contains buttons to open the ‘timeline’ and ‘cite’ options.  I’ve expanded the text to read ‘Timeline visualization’ and ‘Cite this category’ respectively.  Below these buttons there are the options to sort the words.  Selecting a sort option reloads the content of the category pane (maincat and subcats), while keeping the drop-down area open.  Your choice is ‘remembered’ for the duration of your session, so you don’t have to keep changing the ordering as you navigate about.  Changing to another part of speech or to a different category closes the drop-down section.  I also updated the ‘There are xx words’ text to make it clearer how the words are ordered if the drop-down section is not open.

Below the sorting option is a further option that allows you to turn on or off the mini-timelines.  As with the sorting option, your choice is ‘remembered’.  I also added some tooltip text to the ‘hamburger’ icon, as I thought it was useful to have some detail about what the button does.

I then updated the main timeline so that the default sorting option aligns itself with the choice you made on the category page.  E.g. If you’ve ordered the category by ‘length of use’ then the main timeline will be ordered this way too when you open it.  I also set things up so that if you change the ordering via the main timeline pop-up then the ordering of the category will be updated to reflect your choice when you close the popup, although Fraser didn’t like this so I’ll probably remove this feature next week.  Here’s how the new category page looks with the options menu opened:

I spent some more time on the REELS project this week, as Eila had got back to me with some feedback about the front-end.  This included changing the ‘Other’ icon, which Eila didn’t like.  I wasn’t too keen on it either, was I was happy to change it.  I now use a sort of archway instead of the tall, thin monument, which I think works better.  I also removed non-Berwickshire parishes from the Advanced Search page, tweaked some of the site text and also fixed the search for element language, which I had inadvertently broken when changing the way date searches worked last week.

Also this week I fixed an issue with the SCOTS corpus, which was giving 403 errors instead of playing the audio and video files, and was giving no results on the Advanced Search page.  It turned out that this was being caused by a security patch that had been installed on the server recently, which was blocking legitimate requests for data.  I was also in touch with Scot Spurlock about his crowdsourcing project, that looks to be going ahead in some capacity, although not with the funding that was initially hoped for.

Finally, I had received some feedback from Faye Hammill and her project partners about the data management plan I’d written for her project.  I responded to some queries and finalised some other parts of the plan, sending off a rather extensive list of comments to her on Friday.