Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Timeline Tutorial is Finished!

File this one under "foot in mouth." Back on 28 February, I wrote that my tutorial on building your own timeline should be done within two weeks. Given my weekly readership numbers here on the blog, I don't have any reason to think that I have greatly disappointed anyone.

In any case, I'm pleased to report that I have finally finished writing my tutorial for building your own timeline using Exhibit and Google Docs. You can see it (and my semi-awesome screencast) here. My goal was to take things in a very step-by-step basis for faculty and grad students who are interested in using a timeline within their courses but don't have much (or any) knowledge of HTML. On the other hand, I wanted to give people the opportunity to build every part of the timeline themselves and understand the choices they were making.

I haven't yet finished the Advance Timeline Customization page, but hopefully everything else is there. I'd appreciate any feedback you may have.

I'm excited about this as it's one of the biggest projects I have tackled this year at ECIT. While there are some other tools out there for timelines, I continue to think that the flexibility of the Exhibit-powered timeline has advantages over the others. I'm excited to have the possibility of trying out timelines in some classes next year.


Robert said...

I tried it, and when all is said and done, what comes up for me on the web is simply all the html code...It looks like everything is in place...is there something I'm missing? Maybe it's a simple fix.


Brian said...

Hi Robert, can you point me to where you're working on this?

Robert said...

I can't put in my code, but here is a link to what I am trying to do....


Maybe you can tell from that?

Robert said...

You can see my code, by viewing the source code at:


Brian said...

Hi Robert, I'm sorry that it's taken me a while to look at what's happening. I wonder if the reason you're only getting the HTML displaying on the page because you need to rename the file to end in ".html"?

Even once you get that fixed, the spreadsheet isn't going to function right because your dates are in the MM/DD/YYYY format. The timeline only reads things in DD-MM-YYYY format. Google's spreadsheets will reformat dates automatically, however, so you need to tell it to stop autoformating by choosing "plain text" from the "123" column on the tool bar.

Kate said...

Hi Brian! Thank you for your very thorough, ultra-simplified tutorial. It's been very helpful to me in understanding how to manipulate SIMILE, for the most part.

I have a question which may be hopeless, but one can't know without asking! Do you have any ideas for how I could set up a timeline to operate off a fictional dating system, one that does not follow the yyyy-mm-dd pattern at all? Years are formatted differently in this system, with a "leap" year occurring every 100 in which there is a 13th month. Year dates resemble 1'20 or 4'15, with the first number increasing every 100 years and the numbers after the apostrophe only going as high as 100.

This sounds ludicrous, I know, but it would be immensely useful to a project I'm on if it were possible to get away with this. I realize it means that somehow SIMILE would have to be "taught" how to follow this bizarre dating code, though, and that is WELL beyond my comprehension thus far.

Any ideas for workarounds or cheats?

Brian said...
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Brian said...

Hi Kate,

I'm glad that the tutorial has proved useful thus far. Unfortunately, I don't think that there is any way to make the SIMILE timeline function with a fictional dating system at the moment since it depends on Coordinated Universal Time in the date field. Given my own work in fiction, where the time periods are not always as fixed as in the real world, I can certainly see the value in having a way to represent different scales of time. Something like the Temporal Modeling Project at UVa is perhaps what you are looking for. It's a pity that the project was never completed.

For more practical solutions, you should think about contacting the SIMILE Widget folks directly on the Google Group that is the center for discussion and development of Timeline and Exhibit.

Sorry I can't be of more assistance at the moment.