hursday afternoons are geek-out time for the CEISMIC team. That’s when we have what we call our “Wizard Club” (because programming seems very much like magic when you’re learning it) – a combination of staff training and R&D time, which we use for things like building handy apps and tools to improve our workflow, sharing helpful websites and software we’ve stumbled across, or improving our skills by working through tutorials from Code Academy and the like (or just by playing around with code to try putting the stuff from the tutorials into practice) – things that aren’t really core business, but in the long term contribute to the overall team efficiency. Plus it’s just lots of fun 🙂
For the last few weeks, Lucy-Jane and I have been using the time to work on a tool that will make it easier for our Friends of CEISMIC volunteers to write photo descriptions. Normally when we’re preparing material to go into the archive, we use what’s called a manifest – basically a huge spreadsheet which has a row for each item (such as a photograph), then up to about 30 columns which hold all the metadata for that item (things like its filename, title, description, what collection it belongs in, copyright and license details, file size, who the photographer is, the location where the photo was taken, the date it was taken, etc etc etc). We’re used to reading manifests, but for someone coming in as a volunteer, they’re very confusing documents (as I’m sure Lytteltonwitch can attest), and figuring out which photograph you’re up to and where you write the description isn’t easy.
So we had the idea of creating a tool that would read the manifest and show you just one photograph at a time and a box where you could write the description. Then you’d click a button to go to the next photo, and the description you’d written would be saved back into right place in the manifest. That way our volunteers wouldn’t have to deal with all the confusion and distractions of a manifest, they’d just have a nice clean user interface to work with.