Week Beginning 24th February 2020

It was another strike week, and this time I only worked on Thursday and Friday.  I spent a lot of Thursday catching up with emails and thinking about the technical implications of potential projects that people had contacted me about.  I responded to a PhD student who had asked me for advice about a Wellcome Trust application and I spent quite a bit of time going through the existing Anglo-Norman Dictionary website to get a better understanding of how it works, the features it offers and how it could be improved.  I’d also been contacted by two members of Critical Studies staff who wanted some technical work doing.  The first was Paul Malgrati, who is wanting to put together an interactive map of Burns Suppers across the world.  He’d sent me a spreadsheet containing the data he’s so far compiled and I spent some time going through this and replying to his email with some suggestions.  The second was Sourit Bhattacharya, who is submitting a Carnegie application to develop an online bibliography.  I considered his requirements and replied to him with some ideas.

I spent most of Friday working on the interactive map that plots important locations in a novel for Gerry McKeever’s Regional Romanticism project.  I created an initial version of this back in January and since then Gerry has been working on his data, extending it to cover all three volumes of the novel and locations across the globe.  He’d also made some changes to the structure of the data (e.g. page numbers had been separated out from the extracts to a new column in the spreadsheet) and had greatly enhanced the annotations made for each item.  He had also written some new introductory text.  The new data consisted of 120 entries across 88 distinct locations, and I needed to convert this from an Excel spreadsheet into a JSON file, with locations separated out and linked to multiple entries to enable map markers to be associated with multiple items.  It took several hours to do this.  I did consider writing a script to handle to conversion but that would have taken some time in itself and this is the last time the entire dataset will be migrated so the script would never be needed again.  Plus undertaking the task manually gave me the opportunity to check the data and to ensure that the same locations mentioned in different entries all matched up.

I also created a new version of the interactive map that used the new data and incorporated some other updates too.  This version has the new intro slide and hopefully has all of the updates to the existing data plus all of the new data for all three volumes.  I changed the display slightly to include page numbers as a separate field (the information now appears in the ‘volume’ section) and also to include the notes.  To differentiate these from the extracts I’ve enclosed the extracts in large speech marks.

One issue I encountered is that with all of the new data in place the loading of new items and panning to them slowed to a crawl.  The map unfortunately became absolutely unusable.  After some investigation I realised that the plugin that makes the nice curved lines between locations was to blame.  It appears to not be at all scalable and I had to disable the grey dotted lines on the map as with all of the markers visible the map was unusable.  I may be able to fix this, or I may have to switch to an alternative plugin for the lines  as the one that’s currently used appears to be horribly inefficient and unscalable.  However, the yellow line connecting the current marker with the previous one is still visible as you scroll around the locations and I think this is the most important thing.  Below is a screenshot of the map as it currently stands.  Next week I will be continuing with the UCU strike action and will therefore only be working on the Friday.