Week Beginning 3rd October 2022

The Speak For Yersel project launched this week and is now available to use here: https://speakforyersel.ac.uk/.  It’s been a pretty intense project to work on and has required much more work than I’d expected, but I’m very happy with the end result.  We didn’t get as much media attention as we were hoping for, but social media worked out very well for the project and in the space of a week we’d had more than 5,000 registered users completing thousands of survey questions.  I spent some time this week tweaking things after the launch.  For example, I hadn’t added the metadata tags required by Twitter and Facebook / WhatsApp to nicely format links to the website (for example the information detailed here https://developers.facebook.com/docs/sharing/webmasters/) and it took a bit of time to add these in with the correct content.

I also gave some advice to Anja Kuschmann at Strathclyde about applying for a domain for the new VARICS project I’m involved with and investigated a replacement batch of videos that Eleanor had created for the Seeing Speech website.  I’ll need to wait until she gets back to me with files that match the filenames used on the existing site before I can take this further, though.  I also fixed an issue with the Berwickshire place-names website which has lost its additional CSS and investigated a problem with the domain for the Uist Saints website that has still unfortunately not been resolved.

Other than these tasks I spent the rest of the week continuing to develop the front-end for the Books and Borrowing project.  I completed an initial version of the ‘page’ view, including all three views (image, text and image and text).  I added in a ‘jump to page’ feature, allowing you (as you might expect) to jump directly to any page in the register when viewing a page.  I also completed the ‘text’ view of the page, which now features all of the publicly accessible data relating to the records – borrowing records, borrowers, book holding and item records and any associated book editions and book works, plus associated authors.  There’s an awful lot of data and it took quite a lot of time to think about how best to lay it all out (especially taking into consideration screens of different sizes), but I’m pretty happy with how this first version looks.

Currently the first thing you see for a record is the transcribed text, which is big and green.  Then all fields relating to the borrowing appear under this.  The record number as it appears on the page plus the record’s unique ID are displayed in the top right for reference (and citation).  Then follows a section about the borrower, with the borrower’s name in green (I’ve used this green to make all of the most important bits of text stand out from the rest of the record but the colour may be changed in future).  Then follows the information about the book holding and any specific volumes that were borrowed.  If there is an associated site-wide book edition record (or records) these appear in a dark grey box, together with any associated book work record (although there aren’t many of these associations yet).  If there is a link to a library record this appears as a button on the right of the record.  Similarly, if there’s an ESTC and / or other authority link for the edition these appear to the right of the edition section.

Authors now cascade down through the data as we initially planned.  If there’s an author associated with a work it is automatically associated with and displayed alongside the edition and holding.  If there’s an author associated with an editon but not a work it is then associated with the holding.  If a book at a specific level has an author specified then this replaces any cascading author from this point downwards in the sequence.  Something that isn’t in place yet are the links from information to search results, as I haven’t developed the search yet.  But eventually things like borrower name, author, book title etc will be links allowing you to search directly for the items.

One other thing I’ve added in is the option to highlight a record.  Press anywhere in a record and it is highlighted in yellow.  Press again to reset it.  This can be quite useful as you’re scrolling through a page with lots of records on if there are certain records you’re interested in.  You can highlight as many records as you want.  It’s possible that we may add other functionality to this, e.g. the option to download the data for selected records.  Here’s a screenshot of the text view of the page:

I also completed the ‘image and text’ view.  This works best on a large screen (i.e. not a mobile phone, although it is just about possible to use it on one, as I did test this out).  The image takes up about 60% of the screen width and the text takes up the remaining 40%.   The height of the records section is fixed to the height of the image area and is scrollable, so you can scroll down the records whilst still viewing the image (rather than the whole page scrolling and the image disappearing off the screen).  I think this view works really well and the records are still perfectly usable in the more confined area and it’s great to be able to compare the image and the text side by side.  Here’s a screenshot of the same page when viewing both text and image:

I tested the new interface out with registers from all of our available libraries and everything is looking good to me.  Some registers don’t have images yet, so I added in a check for this to ensure that the image views and page thumbnails don’t appear for such registers.  After that I moved onto developing the interface to browse book holdings when viewing a library.  I created an API endpoint for returning all of the data associated with holding records for a specified library.  This includes all of the book holding data, information about each of the book items associated with the holding record (including the number of borrowing records for each), the total number of borrowing records for the holding, any associated book edition and book work records (and there may be multiple editions associated with each holding) plus any authors associated with the book.  Authors cascade down through the record as they do when viewing borrowing records in the page.  This is a gigantic amount of information, especially as libraries may have many thousands of book holding records.  The API call loads pretty rapidly for smaller libraries (e.g. Chambers Library with 961 book holding records) but for larger ones (e.g. St Andrews with over 8,500 book holding records) the API call takes too long to return the data (in the latter case it takes about a minute and returns a JSON file that’s over 6Mb in size).  The problem is the data needs to be returned in full in order to do things like order it by largest number of borrowings.  Clearly dynamically generating the data each time is going to be too slow so instead I am going to investigate caching the data.  For example, that 6Mb JSON file can just site there as an actual file rather than being generated each time.  Instead I will write a script to regenerate the cached files and I can run this whenever data gets updated (or maybe once a week whilst the project is still active).  I’ll continue to work on this next week.

Week Beginning 12th September 2022

I spent a bit of time this week going through my notes from the Digital Humanities Congress last week and writing last week’s lengthy post.  I also had my PDR session on Friday and I needed to spend some time preparing for this, writing all of the necessary text and then attending the session.  It was all very positive and it was a good opportunity to talk to my line manager about my role.  I’ve been in this job for ten years this month and have been writing these blog posts every working week for those ten years, which I think is quite an achievement.

In terms of actual work on projects, it was rather a bitty week, with my time spread across lots of different projects.  On Monday I had a Zoom call for the VariCS project, a phonetics project in collaboration with Strathclyde that I’m involved with.  The project is just starting up and this was the first time the team had all met.  We mainly discussed setting up a web presence for the project and I gave some advice on how we could set up the website, the URL and such things.  In the coming weeks I’ll probably get something set up for the project.

I then moved onto another Burns-related mini-project that I worked on with Kirsteen McCue many months ago – a digital edition of Koželuch’s settings of Robert Burns’s Songs for George Thomson.  We’re almost ready to launch this now and this week I created a page for an introductory essay, migrated a Word document to WordPress to fill the page, including adding in links and tweaking the layout to ensure things like quotes displayed properly.  There are still some further tweaks that I’ll need to implement next week, but we’re almost there.

I also spent some time tweaking the Speak For Yersel website, which is now publicly accessible (https://speakforyersel.ac.uk/) but still not quite finished.  I created a page for a video tour of the resource and made a few tweaks to the layout, such as checking the consistency of font sizes used throughout the site.  I also made some updates to the site text and added in some lengthy static content to the site in the form or a teachers’ FAQ and a ‘more information’ page.  I also changed the order of some of the buttons shown after a survey is completed to hopefully make it clearer that other surveys are available.

I also did a bit of work for the Speech Star project.  There had been some issues with the Central Scottish Phonetic Features MP4s playing audio only on some operating systems and the replacements that Eleanor had generated worked for her but not for me.  I therefore tried uploading them to and re-downloading them from YouTube, which thankfully seemed to fix the issue for everyone.  I then made some tweaks to the interfaces to the two project websites.  For the public site I made some updates to ensure the interface looked better on narrow screens, ensuring changing the appearance of the ‘menu’ button and making the logo and site header font smaller to they take up less space.  I also added an introductory video to the homepage too.

For the Books and Borrowing project I processed the images for another library register.  This didn’t go entirely smoothly.  I had been sent 73 images and these were all upside down so needed rotating.  It then transpired that I should have been sent 273 images so needed to chase up the missing ones.  Once I’d been sent the full set I was then able to generate the page images for the register, upload the images and associate them with the records.

I then moved on to setting up the front-end for the Ayr Place-names website.  In the process of doing so I became aware that one of the NLS map layers that all of our place-name projects use had stopped working.  It turned out that the NLS had migrated this map layer to a third party map tile service (https://www.maptiler.com/nls/) and the old URLs these sites were still using no longer worked.  I had a very helpful chat with Chris Fleet at NLS Maps about this and he explained the situation.  I was able to set up a free account with the maptiler service and update the URLS in four place-names websites that referenced the layer (https://berwickshire-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/, https://kcb-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/, https://ayr-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk and https://comparative-kingship.glasgow.ac.uk/scotland/).  I’ll need to ensure this is also done for the two further place-names projects that are still in development (https://mull-ulva-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk and https://iona-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/).

I managed to complete the work on the front-end for the Ayr project, which was mostly straightforward as it was just adapting what I’d previously developed for other projects.  The thing that took the longest was getting the parish data and the locations where the parish three-letter acronyms should appear, but I was able to get this working thanks to the notes I’d made the last time I needed to deal with parish boundaries (as documented here: https://digital-humanities.glasgow.ac.uk/2021-07-05/.  After discussions with Thomas Clancy about the front-end I decided that it would be a good idea to redevelop the map-based interface to display al of the data on the map by default and to incorporate all of the search and browse options within the map itself.  This would be a big change, and it’s one I had been thinking of implementing anyway for the Iona project, but I’ll try and find some time to work on this for all of the place-name sites over the coming months.

Finally, I had a chat with Kirsteen McCue and Luca Guariento about the BOSLIT project.  This project is taking the existing data for the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (available on the NLS website here: https://data.nls.uk/data/metadata-collections/boslit/) and creating a new resource from it, including visualisations.  I offered to help out with this and will be meeting with Luca to discuss things further, probably next week.