Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows News

DSSF Week 3: Mobile Sites, Webscraping, Python, Metadata, & Design

If you haven’t noticed from the title, a lot has been going on. While some of our projects this week were frustrating, they were all rewarding and exciting.

The first item that we set out to complete on Monday was to add the finishing touches to our portfolio website, as well as the formidable task of creating a mobile site to combine it with. Although this appeared to be very easy, it was actually an extremely difficult job since it is necessary to run two CSS pages which must be compatible with one another. I personally suffered some difficulties as the pixel length of each screen would overwrite the other on the CSS pages making the content appear jumbled. It wasn’t until I applied a media screen in my HTML page that I was able to set up the CSS pages differently and without needing to worry about them overwriting each other.

Following the challenges of designing our mobile sites, we began working with the program Beautiful Soup. Beautiful Soup is a Python library for pulling data out of HTML and XML files. On Wednesday we finally began to transfer all the HTML files into a single metadata spreadsheet.  Then we could begin cleaning the data from the College Women website. My partner, Natalia Santos, and I had difficulty transferring our HTML files because the Python library wouldn’t allow us to do so without adding extra files. Once we successfully finished uploading and transferring the files, we began utilizing OpenRefine to clean up repetitive formats, grammatical errors, and locations with the goal of further condensing our data. Despite some technical difficulties, by the end of the day we had managed to successfully download all 920 HTML files from College Women and to clean up some of the errors in our data set.

On Thursday it was finally time for us to begin planning the design, audience, and purpose for our own project. The first part of this brainstorming process was to choose who this project would be directed towards. After an hour of debate and general indecisiveness we decided that our project should be catered to college students researching the lives of women in higher education, particularly in fields such as Women and Gender Studies, History, Sociology, Politics, and Art. Having arrived at this decision, we did an activity with sticky notes where we each had fifteen minutes to sketch visual representations of our project all while considering creativity, accessibility, and legibility. For each of these aspects we drew every idea that came into our heads and then stuck our sketches on the wall for everyone to see. As I began drawing for each category, I really began to doubt the activity. Once we had all put our sticky notes on the wall and began to present our ideas to one another, however, something beautiful was revealed. Each sticky note contained a lot of potential for the direction of our project. After joining them all together, we began to form more clear ideas about what we wanted our project to look like. Over the course of a single morning we were able to formulate a basic design template and means for accessing our data.

Thursday afternoon culminated in another field-trip!  Interactive Mechanics is a digital design firm that partners with cultural and educational organizations on design, development, user experience, and digital strategy. Our visit to this company was especially exciting since Interactive Mechanics designed the layout of the College Women website and the structure of the archival collection. As we set out on our journey to design our own project, talking with Interactive Mechanics was definitely an enlightening experience and a great way to wrap up our third week.  We discussed their emphasis on user research and audience, organizational techniques, and various programming strategies which will help us as we get into the nitty-gritty details of project management.