The CAHSS Web Team is now the Digital Innovation Team

It is official – the Web Team is now the Digital Innovation Team.

Firstly, colleagues from the Digital Scholarship Team have joined our office – so a big welcome to Helen Bradley and Emma Cockburn who are the Digital Scholarship Assistants.

More information about their work in the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences can be found on the Digital Scholarship website.

I think we can justify why “digital” rather than “web” easily.  For the past few years, we have refined our process of designing for mobiles and tablets as well as desktops. Services provided by the team include multimedia design, digital publications and infographics, intranet applications, online chat, social media and email marketing. Quite a diverse remit for a relatively small team.

Now, how about “innovation”?  I agree that this is an ambitious title. It is also aspirational. Not every single aspect of our work is necessary innovative, and we are not setting ourselves apart from other digital teams claiming that our processes or products are somehow more cutting-edge. This would be a tall order. We do however get the opportunity of working on a very diverse set of projects across the College and the opportunity to grow and develop our skills.

What is required of us is the understanding of how the latest technologies can support research. By listening to and supporting our academic colleagues in CAHSS we are hoping to collectively find (and share) novel approaches and novel solutions. Funding bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council place a high value in innovation: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/innovation/.

We will also need to be more aware of the interesting work created by Information Services and other digital teams in house and in a wider context.

The next months will see further communications about this change with more details to follow.

Nursing Studies Highlights

The Summer edition of Nursing Studies Highlights is now available.

Created using Adobe InDesign the Nursing Highlights newsletter contains current news and articles from the Nursing Studies department at the School of Health and Social Science. These will be of importance to current nursing studies students, alumni and staff but there are also stories of wider public interest such as the feature on “Ebola nursing in Sierra Leone” by Magda James and latest research in dementia care in an article by Professor Charlotte Clarke.

ECA Advent Calendar 2014

A fun Drupal site we’ve built recently was the ECA Advent Calendar 2014 for Edinburgh College of Art.

What’s in the ECA Advent Calendar 2014?

Behind each randomised door is a short video. All videos are the creative work of students on the BA (Honours) Animation programme.

The calendar grid is responsive. In other words, it adapts to different widths of device by resizing and re-stacking (24 is a handy number, being divisible by 4, 3 and 2).

There’s a lot of variety to the animations: some are very funny, some a little melancholy, and all are very creative. It’s great fun to check each morning.

ECA Animation Advent Calendar

http://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/advent-calendar (external link)

P.S. If you don’t feel like clicking through all the doors, you can get the elves to do it for you.
http://www.advent-calendar.eca.ed.ac.uk/?magic-elves=awake (external link)
(note: videos won’t autoplay on iPad)

After the success of the ECA Advent Calendar 2014, Edinburgh College of Art commissioned a new edition in 2015!

Discover the ECA Advent Calendar 2015

Adobe Edge Animate (part 2)

As promised, I have tried out extending Adobe Edge Animate with jQuery libraries in order to implement a “drag and drop” functionality. It is meant to be a fairly straightforward task of importing the scripts or including the relevant url paths, through Edge script interface.

Adobe Edge panels

It turned out to be quite fiddly, as including the url path didn’t work for me and importing scripts into edge also turned out to be a bit problematic. There is a separate script for touch devices – jQuery UI Touch Punch, and this seems to be sensitive about the order in which it is included. It has worked after a fashion and an example can be found here: http://www.ed.ac.uk/staff-students/students/new-students/student-support/preparing-for-study/school-and-college-leavers/looking-back/time-management/looking-back

Since Adobe Edge export includes a bundle of files (edgePreload.js, edgeActions.js, main.js as well as HTML files and images folder) the easiest way of including all these in our CMS Poloply was to host these packages separately to be called in via iframes.

Not the most elegant solution.

The new section  http://www.ed.ac.uk/staff-students/students/new-students/student-support/preparing-for-study/school-and-college-leavers/looking-back is a bit of an experiment. It is an attempt to make the activities more interesting than reading PDF files.

Whether the new JavaScript  elements provide an added value is up for debate…keen to hear your views.

 

“Landscapes of Hope”

Recently I have uploaded podcasts from the “Landscape of Hope” symposium held by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Experts in fields ranging from History of Art and English Literature through to Linguistics, Anthropology, Human Geography and other subjects discuss the issues around the broad topics of “hope”, “landscape” and “identity” in the context of deciding what the future may bring for Scotland. They don’t make any explicit political statements but rather draw on their own expertise to see if any relevant parallels can be made.

Detail from 'Vignettes of Cairnsbruck' by Sam Caldwell

Detail from ‘Vignettes of Cairnsbruck’ by Sam Caldwell

The opening address by Doctor Maxim Shadurski begins with an assumption that we all know how hope can change our individual lives, and how hope guides and informs aspirations for our societies.

Continue reading

Pure Profiles WordPress plugin – version 1.7

A new version (1.7) of the WordPress plugin for displaying Pure Profiles is now available to download at https://bitbucket.org/gmaxwell/pure-wordpress-plugin/downloads

The WordPress pseudo-cron has been removed, meaning that it now updates the cache using a traditional cron job only. This helps prevent any confusion about when the update will take place. In addition, an authentication key (editable on your Settings page) must be sent with the call. This ensures that the API is not being called maliciously.

There are also some other improvements, such as the use of preferred names, and publications linking to DOIs.

 

WordPress plugin for Pure profiles

The University is using the Pure software to keep track of research activity. The front end for this is the Edinburgh Research Explorer, which allows you to browse the data.

Pure provides an API to the data, and several people in the University have been investigating how to extract and make use of the information. It’s been interesting to see the variety of approaches taken, and it seems that different solutions may be suitable depending on the application. We plan to make use of some of these solutions in our sites. In the HSS Web Team, we’ve been particularly keen to make the information available in WordPress. We use WordPress for several sites and wanted a plugin to give users a nice profile page, automatically generated from the golden copy.

I’ve been working on a WordPress plugin to do this, which is now at a release stage: https://bitbucket.org/gmaxwell/pure-wordpress-plugin

Development decisions

There was a consensus in the University that REST was the best way forward (Pure also provides a SOAP API). I’ve written a couple of REST APIs in the past, and used the PHP cURL library to consume them. However, we recently discovered Guzzle, a library which makes things nice and easy, and abstracts things a little from the PHP cURL library. Guzzle is going to be part of Drupal 8 core, so well worth checking out.

It’s important that the data is cached locally, both to reduce the load on the server, and to ensure fast page load times. Therefore, when the plugin is enabled, it creates several custom WordPress tables. The API is then called periodically and the data stored in these tables until the next time we want to refresh the database.

The source code is available to browse or clone on Bitbucket.

Installation

To use the plugin, you should first download the latest version (currently 1.5) from the downloads page.

You can then go into your WordPress admin area, and Plugins->Add New->Upload to upload the zip file. After installing, click to enable the plugin.

Once the plugin is enabled, you have an additional option under Settings for Pure Profiles.

settings

The first section in the Settings page is Connection Details. This is where the hostname, username and password go. It’s sensible to connect to the beta server to begin with.

connection-details

You can currently specify which people to pull out by specifying the Pure UUID, Employee ID, or a combination of both. You can also specify an organisation’s UUID, to pull out all the people associated with it (to reduce server load, it’s best to do it this way only when you actually need all of the people in that organisation). All of these should be provided as comma separated lists. The system ignores line breaks, which means you can have the UUIDs on separate lines for readability.

parameters

I’ve found the easiest way is to search the Edinburgh Research Explorer for the person you want, and then retrieve their UUID from the URL (between the brackets). It’s also a way of checking that they are actually in Pure!

The next section allows you to specify the time of the cron job to update the database. Note that this is a WordPress pseudo-cron, and is actually triggered the next time the site is accessed. For this reason, it makes sense to set up an actual cron job to call the site shortly after the scheduled WordPress cron. This ensures that the update takes place overnight, rather than being triggered in the morning when someone visits the site.

cron-appearance

There’s also an option to enable Development Mode. This calls the API on every page load. Enabling Development Mode slows the site down significantly and puts an unnecessary load on the Pure server, so it should be avoided, particularly with the live server. However, enabling it after you install the plugin and then disabling it immediately afterwards allows you to populate the database right away, rather than waiting overnight.

Under Appearance, there’s the option of whether or not to use the default stylesheet. The default stylesheet provided with the plugin gives some basic formatting, but these styles can be overridden in your theme’s stylesheet. The generated HTML has lots of classes provided, so there’s a fair amount of flexibility in how you can style the output.

Displaying the data using Shortcodes

Once the plugin has been configured in Settings, and the database has been populated, the next step is to add the shortcode to a page. The plugin adds an extra icon to TinyMCE, which brings up a dialog.

tinymce-dialog

You can then select the person to include from a dropdown list, and optionally hide sections.

tinymce-dialog2

Clicking Create Shortcode inserts the shortcode into the page.

shortcode

Then it’s just a case of saving the page, and the profile appears.

profile profile2

Note that you could have your publications or projects on separate pages, by using multiple shortcodes and hiding the appropriate sections.

Future Development

The plugin is still very much in development. There may be some fields missing, and there’s no paging of publications, for example.

Please feel free to add issues in Bitbucket, make suggestions, etc., and to use it!