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DigitalHUAC Project Update

We’re presenting this week, so we don’t want to give away too much in this post. In short, however, this week was taxing, productive, gratifying, and exciting—in that order.

After deciding strong encouragement to use Document Cloud (DC) as our database and corpus warehouse, we spent the last few weeks working out how our site would talk to the DC API. No easy thing. What language would be used? How would the syntax work? Wrappers? Formatters? JSON? Above all, what are the relationships between the project’s front- and back-ends, and how does each programming decision/requirement bear these out? This involved much due diligence and scaling of learning curves. No matter: our team is made up of furious warriors, eager to storm the scene. We eat learning curves for breakfast and then throw the dishes out the damn window.

After being advised to lean on PHP (or, as we call it on conference calls, “Playas Hatin’ Python”) for our scripting needs, Daria spent the week shifting her programming language focus. This meant tying together guides and help from a number of sources—our professors, online learning hubs, GC Digital Fellows, outside gurus—drafting code, and testing it out with the rest of the group weighing in and helping troubleshoot. Our main focus this week was on connecting the search form that Juliana and Sarah put together earlier with our DC documents. We needed to be able to run a simple search—at the very least, to have a search form lead to a URL that would display the action that had just been carried out. This, we are happy to report, we have done.

Going back to the point about how the front- and back-ends interact, we also thought this week about what our search results pages would look like. This is of course important from a user experience aspect in terms of display and site navigability: indeed, part of the mission of the project is to organize scattered materials and make transparent an episode from American History shrouded in misinformation and melodrama. But there are just as many meaningful development calls as there are design decisions, and the further we get into the project, the better sense we’re getting for how these two are inextricably linked. We’ll talk more about this on Tuesday, but it’s nice to be at a point where we can think holistically about development and design. In a sense, this is where we started the project; the difference is that now we’re zeroing in on functionality, whereas at the beginning, we thought in terms of concepts.

Also, we received our Reclaim Hosting server space from Tim Owens and are now live on digitalhuac.com. We have yet to install Git on this server, so we are left to update our site like geezers: GitHub > Local Download > Filezilla. We hope to fix this soon and step up our command line game.