Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Timelines redux

Yes, it's been far, far too long since you've had any news about what's turning out to be my favorite thing to do this year in ECIT. And that means, of course, another post about timelines!!

While at MLA, I had a chance to meet up with JBJ (and A and the little man) and talk some about my experiments with timelines. JBJ was the person who initially noticed the work being done at SIMILE. Based on my experiments during the just passed semester, we discussed building a timeline and an assignment for one of the courses he is teaching this semester. And lo and behold, that's what's come to pass. You can see the Victorian Age Timeline here.

Like the Hemingway Timeline that I began earlier, JBJ's is running his spreadsheet from a Google Spreadsheet. His students will be populating the spreadsheet in the coming weeks. Each student will be assigned one year between 1832 and 1901 and will eventually create 4 events for each year on the timeline. You can read the details of the assignment on his class wiki. Not only might this assignment give you an idea of how to design your own timeline assignments, but JBJ's also provided concise instructions on how one interacts with the fields of the spreadsheet.

While JBJ had the hard job of deciding how the timeline would actually integrate into his class, I got to do all the fun stuff: coding the timeline. While you'll note similarities between the Victorian Age Timeline and the Hemingway Timeline, there is a significant difference. The Hemingway Timeline was a cut-and-paste job from one designed by one of SIMILE's head programmers. With the Victorian Age Timeline, I decided to take the time to learn what each line of code does and how to build an Exhibit-based timeline from the ground up. If you feel like learning more about the process, feel free to peruse the source. What I'm most proud of in this iteration of timelines is that I now know how to control the colors of the events within the timeline. This means I no longer have to use the default Exhibit colors, many of which are similar to each other and likely to be confused.

One of my projects for this semester involves creating documentation that will hopefully allow anyone with interest in creating a timeline from scratch to do so. SIMILE has provided documentation already for doing this, but my goal is to make the instructions comprehensible to those who are not frequently writing their own HTML.

Look for more updates here.

No comments: