Writing & Deadlines

deadlineWithout necessarily thinking about it, in January and in the last few days I’ve spent a good chunk of my time writing and writing and trying to meet certain deadlines.   Of course, most of us don’t like deadlines, although I think we all need deadlines because they can certainly help and keep us on track.  Somebody at EdTech put it this way “Deadlines can be both a blessing and a curse, deadlines force productivity, a timeline and a game plan that might otherwise go undefined.”  Anyway, part of my writings included a mid-year report for our NEH/FS project, an IMLS/Sparks proposal, a book chapter, and a couple of lines of PHP code -maybe I should have done more of this type of writing!

As for my new deadlines, we’re looking at March 30 for our FS 2.0 app beta test; I think Ann Elizabeth and I have managed to understand most of the new functionalities in the ARIS beta editor, the way it handles conversations is definitely 100% better than the previous version.  Perhaps my only complain so far, why cannot we duplicate our games?  Another set deadline is on April 27, when Marcus and I will give a talk at the 2015 Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington DC –my section will be on the ‘captioning pilot’ project we’re currently working on.  Other spring semester activities will include some on-going faculty projects, meetings and work on the MiamIdeas initiative, a couple of lectures for IMS201 on eBooks including one for Kate’s class, and some DSpace/WordPress/Omeka coding!

Lastly … sometimes I also wish there was a deadline for the PERM review process :-(

Fall semester: first half is now over!

At the beginning of this semester, I told a couple of people that I might not survive the first half … and the main two reasons for that early thought were two projects that required some special/unknown tests/research/coding … trying to come up with a realistic deadline when the learning curve is kind of uncertain is a bit of a challenge.  However, here we’re already fully emerged into the second half and I’m pretty sure the next 5-6 weeks will go just fine!

FS game instructionsFirst of all, the Freedom Summer Game was probably my top priority in September and even though we saw all the new features in ARIS 2.0 … because of the amount of work we had in the “old” editor, it was clear that we were better off in sticking to the older version and in the end, it allowed us to develop a good understanding of how the “characters scripts” work … or how to add some HTML code for text formatting.  Anyway, this first version of the project seems to be almost done, we’ve collected some good feedback including a new/short “storyboard” version by David Gagnon, the ARIS inventor.  On my end, some of the lessons learned include: WiFi can be very tricky, therefore devices with no GPS should be excluded; eliminating extra text/buttons on the screen is a MUST; the lack of a “back” button seems to a shared/common concern among playtesters  … perhaps the good news is that some of these issues will be fixed in ARIS 2.0 … which is another reason we want to migrate to that new version -as soon as we can.  During the conference, we kind of made it official that we’ll be working on a version 2 and it should be released sometime in the spring semester … so stay tune!

In early September, we also learned that there was an opportunity to demo the Middle East Media project at an international conference in Qatar … well, something like this was definitely a good reason/excuse to finalize the “beta” version of this site.  One of the major changes was modifying the header.php file as we added a few PHP lines to check if the page being displayed is one of the new “custom taxonomy” pages or not.  Overall, this project has allowed us to test some of the functionalities that WordPress and its plugins can offer to this type of scholarly websites.

closed captioningLast, we finally have some good news for the Miami Video Captioning PILOT project, this week we’re getting ready to hire 2-3 students who will be helping us transcribe selected videos.   We’re still hoping to launch a site for this pilot project sometime around the 2015 Access For ALL Symposium.  Finally, with all the TO-DOs I had for the first half of October, it was easy to completely forget about an IFLA book chapter proposal … however, the editors were kind enough to extend the deadline for a week and now my proposal is in review :-)

Esto es todo por ahora, hasta la próxima!

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Web stuff, accessibility and games!

I believe the words in the title of this post are good terms/tags to describe what my summer was “all” about -at least when I was on campus :-)

web developmentIn the world of websites, I spent a couple of weeks finalizing our new responsive Scholarly Commons site, which is one of the latest contributions by @mire.  On top of the required CSS edits for the look-and-feel, two tweak examples included: adding a submit option in the drop-down menu for logged in users and re-embedding a video player from Kaltura.  As a new member of the library’s web team, I also welcomed the opportunity to start doing some work in Drupal, my main contribution was with a new content type for items (hardware) that we check out.  And in July, I devoted most of my time to the WordPress’ MEM project, it was a bit confusing but we believe we now have the “taxonomy” requirement under control.  The “aha moment” was I learned that new URLs for browsing taxonomies require a re-save of the “permalinks” even if you don’t change anything on the permalinks settings … wish I knew this before :-(

In July, we also learned that our 5K Tech Fee proposal for a Miami Video Captioning PILOT project was awarded and soon we’ll hire 2-3 students to help us transcribe some videos.  The ultimate goal is to evaluate a model that can allow us create more accessible videos and make them available in existing systems (e.g. Kaltura and Niihka) in an affordable and efficient way.  One of our student assistants has been a big help over the summer and we look forward to getting started with this.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that now there is an institutional agreement with 3PlayMedia -we definitely plan to use their service for the text and video sync process.  Our current example is available at http://vimeo.com/99351098

ARISLast but not least, the NEH grant project -AKA as the An Interactive Quest for Social Justice- has also taken a good chunk of time.  It’s been a great experience and we’re lucky to have a group of students who have been extraordinarily helpful in producing a design document … and in implementing/testing the game in ARIS.  It’s also good to have the ARIS experts in the consulting team, the two hangouts we’ve had with them have been productive and we look forward into getting some extra help in early September.  Perhaps my only complain is with time and Google, why couldn’t we/they wait for the new ARIS 2.0 editor? Why did Google have to discontinue their Maps Flash API exactly now? Oh well, I guess that’s part of the excitement in late 2014.

Finally, this week also seemed as a good start for my new IMS 201 class, and apparently teaching at 9am can actually help me have more productive days … just hope it continues like that … hasta pronto!

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CONTENTdm, Mirage 2 Theme and e-book project

In late April, we officially launched a redesigned and upgraded website for the Library’s Digital Collections; the new system is running on CONTENTdm 6.6 and three of the many new features include: a) a better image viewer for jpg, jp2 and tiff files; b) a page-by-page viewer/download for PDF files; and c) a more friendly web interface for customizing the site’s look-and-feel.  Also, our colleagues in Special Collections have added a couple of new collections including my favorite one: Studio 14.

MUL Digital Collections

In May, we also began to evaluate/test the new Mirage 2 Theme for the Scholarly Commons repository and  the new responsive theme seems to work nicely with DSpace 3.0 … as much as we liked our own Mobile Theme, it was very hard to resist the temptation of using a fully responsive website … of course, there is still some changes we need to implement … but overall, this is a great improvement for the DSpace community –thanks a lot @mire! … now we just need to have a friendly Author’s Profile module and many of us will be more than happy.

ePUBAnd on the very last working day of May, Jason Michel and I had the opportunity to present at the 2014 OVGTSL Conference in Athens, OH and talk about the ebook project we’ve been working on in the last year or so.  BTW: the revised version of the DWAE book is currently in its final review and very soon people will be able to download the ePUB or MOBI versions on the book’s website.  In case someone is interested, check this file with our slides.

As for the next two months, my to-do list includes at least six projects:

  • NEH/FS grant, assist in prototyping/designing version 1.0 of the FS game
  • DLP, update browse functions and add content from Spring 2014
  • MEM, dynamically generate browse pages for categories
  • Book companion website, develop a first prototype
  • FS documentary, develop a first web design and start testing templates
  • Book chapter, coordination final submission before 6/30

… y hacer tiempo para el “mundial de fút” :-)

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Spring time and some good news!

As the spring weather has finally arrived … this is probably also a good time to share some project updates and good news that have happened in the last few weeks.  First of all, in late March we learned that our NEH grant proposal was awarded … this project will prototype a location-based game that interprets the Mississippi Summer Project on the site of the 1964 orientation at Western College for Women -now part of Miami University.  For me, it’s also good to be part of some other Freedom Summer initiatives such as the FS Conference website and a companion site for a FS Documentary led by Kathy Conkwright.
FS-2014-conference

Another project that is coming well along is our “long-waited” launch of the CONTENTdm 6.x website … some of the latest updates include: updating the URL pointers for video files and adding a few PHP lines in the “showLink” file as we’re now using the Kaltura hosted/streaming server for the mp4 files; modifying the header div was also necessary for adding a permanent logo/link to our main site and at the same time maintain the ability to add custom headers to individual collections using the web interface.  It’s also nice that now we have Marcus Ladd actively helping us with the web customization.  So in the next few days, check for this new header at http://digital.lib.miamioh.edu/
MUL-DC

Another interesting and recent event was the Access for All Symposium that took place here in King Library just last Friday.  To me the highlight was the session on Video Captioning … the presenter showed us how to add captions to YouTube videos either by using the YouTube interface or the Amara website.  I’m personally partial to this topic and I’m happy to know that one of our students here in the lab is actually helping us prototype our first captioned videos … and if we get that small grant mmmm we may be able to do a bit more.  And speaking of accessibility and user friendly interfaces, for the MEM project, we’re also making some good progress, today was a good day for setting up the new theme … it looks like the next big challenge would be to implement a simple/accessible html toolbar in the submission form, potential plugins are listed on this page: 10 Best WYSIWYG Text and HTML Editors.

Last but not least, in mid march I had the pleasure to send some thank you notes to people, who helped me and played an important role in my first 5-6 years here at Miami.  In one of those emails, I came across DeEtta Jone’s updated website and I had a good time browsing the site and was reminded of the type of person and speaker that she is.  Finally, on April 1st I also managed to complete and submit my manuscript on IR platforms at US undergraduate institutions :-)

nos vemos!

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