Week Beginning 21st October 2019

After a wonderful three weeks’ holiday I returned to work on Monday this week.  I’d been keeping track of my emails whilst I’d been away so although I had a number of things waiting for me to tackle on my return at least I knew what they were, so returning to work wasn’t as much of a shock as it might otherwise have been.  The biggest item waiting for me to get started on was a request from Gerry Carruthers to write a Data Management Plan for an AHRC proposal he’s putting together.  He’d sent me all of the bid documentation so I read through that and began to think about the technical aspects of the project, which would mainly revolve around the creation of TEI-XML digital editions.  I had an email conversation with Gerry over the course of the week where I asked him questions and he got back to me with answers.  I’d also arranged to meet with my fellow developer Luca Guariento on Wednesday as he has been tasked with writing a DMP and wanted some advice.  This was a good opportunity for me to ask him some details about the technology behind the digital editions that had been created for the Curious Travellers project, as it seemed like a good idea to reuse a lot of this for Gerry’s project.  I finished a first version of the plan on Wednesday and sent it to Gerry, and after a few further tweaks based on feedback a final version was submitted on Thursday.

Also this week I met with Head of School Alice Jenkins to discuss my role in the School, a couple of projects that have cropped up that need my input and the state of my office.  It was a really useful meeting, and it was good to discuss the work I’ve done for staff in the School and to think about how my role might be developed in future.  I spent a bit of time after the meeting investigating some technology that Alice was hoping might exist, and I also compiled a list of all of the current Critical Studies Research and Teaching staff that I’ve worked with over the years.  Out of 104 members of staff I have worked with 50 of them, which I think is pretty good going, considering not every member of staff is engaged in research, or if they are may not be involved with anything digital.

I spent some more time this week working on the pilot website for 18th Century Borrowers for Matthew Sangster.  We met on Wednesday morning and had a useful meeting, discussing the new version of the data that Matt is working on, how my import script might be updated to incorporate some changes and investigating why some of the error rows that were outputted during my last data import were generated and how these could be addressed.  We also went through the website I’d created, as Matt had uncovered a couple of bugs, such as the order of the records in the tabular view of the page not matching up with the order on the scanned image.  This turned out to have been caused by the tabular order depending on an imported column that was set to hold general character data rather than numbers, meaning the database arranged all of the ones (1,10,11 etc) then all of the twos (2, 21,22 etc) rather than arranging things in proper numerical order.  I also realised that I hadn’t created indexes for a lot of the columns in the database that were used in the queries, which was making the queries rather slow and inefficient.  After generating these indexes the various browses are now much speedier.

I also added authors under book titles in the various browse lists, which helps to identify specific books and created a new section of the website for frequency lists.  There are now three ‘top 20’ lists, which show the most frequently borrowed books and authors, and the student borrowers who borrowed the most books.  Finally, I created the search facility for the site, allowing any combination of book title, author, student, professor and date of lending to be combined and for the results of the search to be displayed.  This took a fair amount of time to implement, but I managed to get the URL for the page to Matt before the end of the week.

Also this week I investigated and fixed a bug that the Glasgow Medical Humanities Network RA Cris Sarg was encountering when creating new people records and adding these to the site, I responded to a query from Bryony Randall about the digital edition we had made for the New Modernist Editing project, spoke to Corey Gibson about a new project he’s set up that will be starting soon and I’ll be creating the website for, had a chat with Eleanor Capaldi about a project website I’ll be setting up for her, responded to a query from Fraser about access to data from the Thesaurus of Old English and attended the Historical Thesaurus birthday drinks.  I also read through the REF digital guidelines that Jennifer Smith had sent on to me and spoke to her about the implications for the SCOYA project, helped the SCOSYA RA Frankie MacLeod with some issues she was encountering with map stories and read through some feedback on the SCOSYA interfaces that had been sent back from the wider project team.  Next week I intend to focus on the SCOSYA project, acting on the feedback and possibly creating some non-map based ways of accessing the data.