Week Beginning 22nd April 2019

As Monday was Easter Monday this was a four-day week for me.  I spent almost the entire time working on Gavin Miller’s new Glasgow Medical Humanities project.  This is a Wellcome Trust funded project that is going to take the existing University of Glasgow Medical Humanities Network resource (https://medical-humanities.glasgow.ac.uk/) that I helped set up for Megan Coyer a number of years ago and broaden it out to cover all institutions in Glasgow.  The project will have a new website and interface, with facilities to enable an administrator to manage all of the existing data, plus add new data from both UoG and other institutions.  I met with Gavin a few weeks ago to discuss how the new resource should function.  He had said he wanted the functionality of a blog with additional facilities to manage the data about Medical Humanities projects, people, teaching materials, collections and keywords.  The old site enabled any UoG based person to register and then log in to add data, but this feature was never really used – in reality all of the content was managed by the project administrators.  As the new site would no longer be restricted to UoG staff we decided that to keep things simple and less prone to spamming we would not allow people to register with the site, and that all content would be directly managed by the project team.  Anyone who wants to add or edit content would have to contact the project team and ask them to do so.

I wasn’t sure how best to implement the management of data.  The old site had a different view of certain pages when an admin user was signed in, enabling them to manage the data, but as we’re no longer going to let regular users sign in I’d rather keep the admin interface completely separate.  As a blog is required the main site will be WordPress powered, and there were two possible ways of implementing the admin interface for managing the project’s data.  The first approach would be to write a plug-in for WordPress that would enable the data to be managed directly through the WordPress Admin interface.  I took this approach with Gavin’s earlier SciFiMedHums project (https://scifimedhums.glasgow.ac.uk/).  However, this does mean the admin interface is completely tied in to WordPress and if we ever wanted to keep the database going but drop the WordPress parts the process would be complicated.  Also, embedding the data management pages within the WordPress Admin interface limits the layout options and can make the user interface more difficult to navigate.  This brings me to the second option, which is to develop a separate content management system for the data, that connects to WordPress to supply user authentication, but is not connected to WordPress in any other way.  I’ve taken this approach with several other projects, such as The People’s Voice (https://thepeoplesvoice.glasgow.ac.uk/).  This approach allows greater flexibility in the creation of the interface, allows the Admin user to log in with their WordPress details, but as the system and WordPress are very loosely coupled any future separation will be straightforward to manage.  The second option is the one I decided to adopt for the new project.

I spent the week installing WordPress, setting up a theme and some default pages, designing an initial banner image based on images from the old site, migrating the database to the new domain and tweaking it to make it applicable for data beyond the University of Glasgow and then developing the CMS for the project.  This allows an Admin user to add, edit and delete information about Medical Humanities projects, people, teaching materials, collections and keywords.  Thankfully I could adapt most of the code from the old site, although a number of tweaks had to be made along the way.

With the CMS in place I then began to create the front-end pages to access the data.  As with projects such as The People’s Voice, these page connect to WordPress in order to pull in theme information, and are embedded within WordPress by means of menu items, but are otherwise separate entities with no connection to WordPress.  In in future the pages need to function independently of WordPress the only updates required will be to delete a couple of lines of code that reference WordPress from the scripts, and everything else will continue to function.  I created new pages to allow projects and people to be browsed, results to be displayed and individual records to be presented.  Again, much of the code was adapted from the old website, and some new stuff was adapted from other projects I’ve worked on.  I didn’t quite manage to get all of the front-end functionality working by the end of the week, and I still have the pages for teaching materials, collections and keywords to complete next week.  The site is mostly all in place, though.  Here’s a screenshot of one of the pages, but note that the interface, banner and colour scheme might change before the site goes live:

In addition to working on this project I also got the DSL website working via HTTPS (https://dsl.ac.uk/), which took a bit of sorting out with Arts IT Support but is fully working now.  I also engaged in a pretty long email conversation about a new job role relating to the REF, and provided feedback on a new job description.  Next week I hope to complete the work on the Glasgow Medical Humanities site, do some work for the DSL, maybe find some time to get back into Historical Thesaurus issues and also begin work on the front-end features for the SCOSYA project.  Quite a lot to do, then.