Week Beginning 12th December 2022

There was a problem with the server on which a lot of our major sites such as the Historical Thesaurus and Seeing Speech are hosted that started on Friday and left all of the sites offline until Monday.  This was a really embarrassing and frustrating situation and I had to deal with lots of emails from users of the sites who were unable to access them.  As I don’t have command-line access to the servers all I could do was report the issue via our IT Helpdesk system.  Thankfully by mid-morning on Monday the sites were all back up again, but the incident raised serious issues about the state of Arts IT Support, who are massively understaffed at the moment.  Arts IT also refused to set up hosting for a project that we’re collaborating with Strathclyde University on, and in fact stated that they would not set up hosting for any further websites, which will have a massive negative impact on several projects that are still in the pipeline and ultimately means I will not be able to work on any new projects until this is resolved.  The PI for the new project with Strathclyde is Jane Stuart-Smith, and thankfully she was also not very happy with the situation.  We arranged a meeting with Liz Broe, who oversees Arts IT Support, to discuss the issues and had a good discussion about how we ended up in this state and how things will be resolved.  In the short-term some additional support is being drafted in from other colleges while new staff will be recruited in the medium term, and Liz has stated that hosting for new websites (including the Strathclyde one) will continue to be offered, which is quite a relief.

I also discovered this week that there has been a leak in 13 University Gardens and water has been pouring through my office.  I was already scheduled to be moved out of the building due to the dry rot that they’ve found all the way up the back wall (which my office is on) but this has made things a little more urgent.  I’m still generally working from home every day except Tuesday and apparently all my stuff has been moved to a different building, so I’ll just need to see how the process has gone when I’m back in the University next week.

In terms of actual work this week, I spent a bit more time writing my paper about the Historical Thesaurus and Semantic Web technologies for the workshop in January.  This is coming together now, although I still need to shape it into a presentation, which will take time.  I also spent some time working on the Speech Star project, updating the speech error database to fix a number of issues with the data that Eleanor had spotted and then adding in new error type descriptions for new error types that had been included.  I also added in some ancillary page content and had a chat with Eleanor about the database system the website uses.

I also spent some time working for the DSL this week.  Rhona had noted that when you perform a full text or quotation search (i.e. a search using Solr) with wildcards (e.g. chr*mas) the search results display entries with snippets that highlight the whole word where the search string occurred (e.g. ‘Christmas’).  However, when clicking through to the entry page such highlighting was not appearing, even though highlighting in the entry page does work when performing a search without wildcards.

Highlighting in the entry page was handled by a jQuery plugin, but this was not written to take wildcards into consideration and only works on full words.  I spent some time trying to figure out how to get wildcard highlighting working myself using regular expressions, but I find regular expressions to be pretty awful to work with – an ancient relic left over from computing in the 1980s and although I managed to get something working it wasn’t ideal.  Thankfully I found an existing JavaScript library called https://markjs.io/ that can handle wildcard highlighting and I was able to replace the existing plugin with this script and update the code to work with it.  I tested this out on our test DSL site and all seems to work well.  I haven’t updated the live site yet, though, as the DSL team need to test the new approach out more fully in case they encounter any problems with it.  I also noticed that there was an issue with the quotation search whereby if you returned to the search results from an entry by clicking on the ‘return to results’ button you got an empty page.  I fixed this in both our live and test sites.

I also spent some time working for the Anglo-Norman Dictionary this week.  I updated the citation search on the public website.  Previously the citation text was only added into the search results if you also search for a specific form within a siglum, for example https://anglo-norman.net/search/citation/%22tout%22/null/A-N_Falconry and ther citation searches (e.g. just selecting a siglum and / or a siglum date) would only return the entries the siglum appeared in without the individual citations.  Now the citations appear in these searches too.  For example, all citations from A-N Falconry: https://anglo-norman.net/search/citation/null/null/A-N_Falconry and all citations where the citation date is 1400: https://anglo-norman.net/search/citation/null/1400.  This also means when you view the citations by pressing on the ‘Search AND Citations’ button for a siglum in the bibliography you now see each citation for the listed entries.

I then spent most of a day thinking through all of the issues relating to the new ‘DMS citation search and edit’ feature that the editor wants me to implement and wrote an initial document detailing how the feature will work.  There has been quite a lot to think through and I thought it wise to document the feature rather than just launching into its creation without a clear plan.  I might have some time to start work on this next week as I’m working up to and including Thursday, but it depends how I get on with some other tasks I need to do for other projects.

Also this week I attended the Christmas lunch for the Books and Borrowing project in Edinburgh.  Unfortunately there was a train strike this day and I decided to get the bus through to Edinburgh.  The journey there was fine, talking about an hour and a half, but I got the 4pm bus on the way back and it was a nightmare, taking 2 hours forty minutes.  I would never get the bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh anywhere near rush hour ever again.