Week Beginning March 24th 2014

This week began with Chris informing me that someone had managed to upload a rogue script to the Burns server that had been sending out spam messages.  Not the best of starts to the week!  I helped Chris clean the server on Monday morning and we managed to strengthen the security somewhat.  It was also interesting to view the rogue script itself – a small but deadly script that enabled the hacker to run any code they wanted on the server.  Hopefully that’s the hole successfully plugged now though.

I managed to spend a bit of time this week working on the redevelopment of the DSL site, something I’ve not had as much time to work on as I would have hoped recently.  I managed to tick off quite a few items on my ‘to do’ list including providing a ‘fixed’ entry heading so that when a user scrolls down the entry page the heading remains visible.  I also added the ‘About this entry’ box to the entry page, which will contain information about when the entry was originally published.  I then implemented the facilities to show / hide quotations and the etymology, using HTML5 local storage to record the user’s choice so that this is remembered whenever they go to the ‘entry’ page.  The ‘Cite this entry’ option was also added – a popup the will work in a similar manner to the HT ‘cite’ options (I still need to know what citation options need to go in this box, though).  I also added in a ‘share’ box, including options to email, tweet, link to facebook etc for each entry and added a ‘browse’ box that will eventually feature the dictionary browse facility.  I also changed the site font to a sans-serif one purely to try this approach out as I was getting a bit fed up with the serif font, and I updated the layout of the quotations to make them appear in a smaller font with less padding to cut down on the amount of vertical space that was being used.

There was another DROG meeting this week, the first one this year.  It was another good opportunity to let people know about the projects and bids I’ve been involved with and also to hear what other developments have been taking place across the School and beyond.

The majority of the rest of the week was spent preparing for and attending the Mapping Metaphor colloquium, which took place on the Friday and also the Saturday morning.  I wrote my presentation and prepared the walkthrough of the website, and also made some last minute tweaks to the website, for example adding in facilities to view a category’s keywords from the search results page and also the category page itself.  I attended the full day of the colloquium on the Friday, which was very interesting.  The Saturday morning was when the focus was on the visualisations and the website, though.  Thankfully this all went very smoothly.  The presentation and walkthrough both went well, there were no issues with the server and the 20 or so people who attended for the ‘hands on’ session managed to access the website and visualisations without any major issues.  The participants filled in some feedback forms (which I have not looked at yet) and the overall impression I got was that people were pretty pleased with how things were developing.


Week beginning 14th October 2013

I continued with the redevelopment of the SCOTS website for most of this week.  I completed work on the ‘Document’ page, adding in the facilities to view video clips, listen to sound clips and synchronise the speech with the transcriptions.  The multimedia clips still rely on the Quicktime plugin at this stage, and eventually I will migrate these to native HTML5 formats (MP3 and OGG Vorbis for audio, MP4 and OGG Theora for video), but that migration will happen some time down the line.  I also want to alter how the player controls and video window operate.  Currently they open in a separate browser window, but it would be better to keep the controls in a fixed portion of the main browser window to make it easier to operate on touchscreen displays and multi-browser window confusion.

After completing work on the document page I then began to tackle the Advanced Search page, which was rather tricky and time consuming to update, given that there are so many different parts to it – the search criteria selection, the overview, the map, the document list, the concordance and the ‘download multiple documents as a zip’ facility.  By Friday lunchtime I had managed to get all the functionality working with the new design.  The map will still need some major work in a future phase of redevelopment, however.  It still uses the Google Maps API 2 and Google has officially deprecated this now.  I’ll need to update everything to version 3 of the API, but this isn’t something to be tackled at the moment.

On Friday afternoon Wendy sent me the updated text for the website and I began to make the necessary changes.  I didn’t quite manage to get it all updated but will complete this next week.  After that I’ll tackle the redevelopment of CMSW which shouldn’t take as long as it is a simpler site (at least it appears to be – perhaps once I dig into it I’ll find that it has its own complications).

Other than SCOTS related stuff, I attended a couple of meetings this week.  The first was with Rhian Williams in English Literature to discuss a research project she will be embarking on after Christmas.  I gave her some advice about the sort of tools she could use to record her research and we will be meeting again some time closer to the start date of her project so I can help her establish some data structures.

The other meeting was another DROG meeting, the first one since June.  As always, it was a good opportunity to hear about other projects in the School that have a digital component and also to report back about the work I have been doing over the past few months.

Week Beginning 10th June 2013

It was a busy old week this week, starting on Monday with the Digital Humanities Network launch event.  The day-long event was a huge success and everything went very smoothly.  There were two half-hour talks in the morning, given by Marilyn Deegan and Bill Kretzschmar, each of which was very interesting and very different; the first being a general talk about Digital Humanities while the second looked in more detail at a specific digital humanities project.  The demo of the Digital Humanities Network website (http://www.digital-humanities.glasgow.ac.uk/) went well, and I think it’s looking pretty impressive now.  In the afternoon there were a series of 5 minute talks about a wide range of Digital Humanities projects within the University and the format of these talks worked very well indeed – each speaker kept within their allotted time and it was a great way to learn more about the projects without getting too bogged down in detailed information about them.  I did a five minute talk about the redevelopment of the STELLA learning and teaching applications, which went fine too.

On Tuesday there was a DROG meeting – the first in fact since February!  As with previous meetings it was a good opportunity to discuss the work I have been undertaking, plus upcoming projects and priorities.  It looks very much like it will be possible for me to redevelop the SCOTS corpus website at some point, which will be a nice big project to sink my teeth into.  Dave Beavan, who was responsible for developing the SCOTS website, was at the DHN event on Monday and I had a brief chat about it and the possibility of it being redeveloped, which was useful.

On Thursday I had arranged to meet the Scottish Language Dictionaries people in Edinburgh to discuss the redevelopment of the Dictionary of the Scots Language website.  Ann Ferguson had previously sent me through some requirements documents and Word-based mock-ups of the desired user interface elements, plus access to two test versions of the website, so I spent a good deal of the remainder of Tuesday and also the Wednesday going through all of these and preparing a document of discussion points for the meeting.  The meeting itself went very well.  All of my questions were answered and it was great to meet Peter Bell, the developer of the test versions and the guy who is going to develop the API for the new version of the website.  The meeting lasted almost 3 hours but I think we all had a clearer idea of what would be happening with the redevelopment of the website afterwards.  It was agreed that I would design the front end and Peter would develop the API.  I will get some server space set up in Glasgow and will then develop some static HTML mock-ups of possible interfaces for discussion and further refinement.

On Friday I wrote up my notes from the meeting and did some investigation about server possibilities.  I spent the rest of the day further tweaking the HT website, and next week I will settle down to the big task of re-importing all of the data from Access to MySQL.  It’s going to take quite a while and possibly be quite tricky to get everything working as it should do.

Week Beginning 28th January 2013

I ran out of time on Friday so for the first time I’m having to write my update on the following Monday.  This week I began working on the ‘English Grammar: An Introduction’ app, which is going to be a fairly sizable undertaking due to the quantity of text in the Grammar book and the number and complexity of the exercises.  I started this week with the book text itself, giving it a similar design to the ARIES app (e.g. examples in dotted, grey boxes).  By the end of the week I had managed to complete the reformatting for over half of the book, so progress is being made.  You can see the ‘work in progress’ version of the app here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/grammar/

Also this week I received some very useful feedback from Christian Kay regarding the ARIES app and I spent a bit of time on Friday morning implementing her suggestions and fixing a few bugs that she had encountered.  For example, in the two ‘Test yourself’ exercises in ‘Further Punctuation’ there was a bit of a glitch that only occurred if you tried to check the results of stages 2 or 3 of exercise 2 when exercise one was displaying the same stage.  It was really very handy that Christian encountered this and I was able to sort it.

I had a number of meetings this week, the first was with the Burns project on Tuesday.  The meeting went well and we had some good discussions about the website and possible future developments, specifically concerning the timeline of historical events and the map interface for the travel journals.  We have arranged some follow-on meetings to discuss these areas.  I also met with Jeffrey Robinson to discuss the Wordsworth project he is wanting to put together involving a developer and a digital artist.  It sounds like a really exciting project and it was great to speak to him about his ideas.

On Friday I attended the DROG meeting, which was another great opportunity to catch up with developments on the projects.  After the meeting I had arranged to meet Alison Wiggins to discuss a follow-on project for Bess of Hardwick.  We spend a very useful hour discussing the bid and working out a few of the details such as the phases of the project and the amount of developer effort that would be required.

Week Beginning 8th October 2012

I spent a lot of time this week on corpus related matters.  I managed to get a test corpus (well, in reality just one sentence) uploaded successfully through the CQPweb interface to our test instance of the Open Corpus Workbench, which felt like a real achievement.  The corpus appears to work successfully through the front end, including word frequency lists, searches and KWIC displays.  There is currently no access to the full text though and this still needs to be investigated.  I had a meeting this week with Stephen Barrett and Marc regarding corpus matters, which proved to be very useful.  We went through a few of the existing online corpora that utilise CWB / CQBweb which gave us some good ideas and we also discovered that I’d somehow managed to check out an older version of CQBweb from the Subversion repository.  After the meeting I rectified this and reinstalled the front end.  I also managed to get a couple of Stephen’s Celtic texts which he’d been having trouble with installed, and by the end of the week Stephen had managed to get his complete corpus uploaded, which really is progress.

I still haven’t got access to the SCOTS corpus server and I’ve chased up IT support about this.  Marc suggested that I might be able to get the necessary details from Flora and I’ll ask her next week if I’ve not heard anything further back from Chris.

Also this week I continued working on the mock-ups of the redevelopment of the STELLA applications.  This week I completed mock-ups for the ‘Essentials of Old English’ and I began looking into ‘Readings in Early English’.  The exercises for the Old English application threw up a number of conundrums for implementation, most notably how to deal with Old English characters ‘æ’ and ‘þ’ when users are required to input these.  For the app version we will be reliant on a mobile device’s built-in touchscreen keyboard that will overlay and obscure the web page.  These characters will not be available through this keyboard.  I’m still pondering how best to deal with this but it might be better for the sake of simplicity if we could just let users input ‘ae’ and ‘th’ instead of these characters and have the app transform these into ‘æ’ and ‘þ’ for display.

I had a couple of further meetings this week, one with Jeremy and then the general DROOG meeting.  Both were very fruitful.  I managed to speak to Jeremy about the ‘Essentials of Old English’ application as he created the content for this.  He would like to rewrite a lot of the content, although as he’s a very busy man I’m not sure when this might be completed.  He suggested prioritising ‘Readings in Early English’ initially.  At the DROOG meeting Marc suggested that ‘ARIES’ might be the best app to develop first as the online version of this tool continues to be used widely.  I think this is a good idea.

I demonstrated the mock-ups as they currently stand at the DROOG meeting and everyone seemed quite enthusiastic about them, which is encouraging.  I also had further contact with Alison Wiggins about a mobile / tablet version of the Bess of Hardwick site and it looks like we are going to take this forward.  We are hoping initially to make a mobile-friendly interface for the existing website (which shouldn’t take long) and we are hoping to put in a bid to develop a stand-alone app version of the letters after this.

Also this week I completed the migration of the Disability Studies Network from WordPress to Glasgow and that all seems to have worked out very smoothly.  I also had my first contact with the Burns people, providing some help on the addition of sound files to the Burns blog.  I’m meeting with the Burns project next week so I’ll find out more about my involvement then.

I’m still ensconced in the HATII attic this week, although I did peek once again into my new office.  It’s all pretty much finished now, but there is still no furniture and I’ve been told it might take a week or two to get furniture delivered even after I’ve been to the stores to select suitable pieces.  I emailed the estates people this week to see if there is any further news on a possible date of entry but I haven’t heard anything back yet.  I did think I might have flown the HATII nest by now.