The DH Press development team has been hard at work since our recent rebrand. We had hoped to release the initial beta version of the plugin around Valentine’s Day, but we decided to alter course to incorporate additional functionality. We hope the release will now take place sometime in April.
For starters, Chien-Yi has been working hard to bring robust mapping capabilities online. While we want to think of DH Press as something more than a geo-spatial data visualization and presentation tool, we certainly couldn’t release Beta 1.0 without the capability to load and markup maps. We currently have the ability to customize base maps (the maps underlying our data layers), and can pull in a few types of map overlays (including KMLs and CDLA historic maps). We’re working now to expand these possibilities for the first plugin release. I’ll be posting more details about our progress with maps shortly.
Foreign Key Relationships
While WordPress runs on a MySQL relational database (RDB), WordPress somewhat obscures the traditional structure of a RDB. That is, we don’t normally see the individual entities (tables) or attributes (data fields). As we originally envisioned it, after datasets are uploaded into DH Press via CSV Import, they can be structured and customized. For instance, you can create parent-child relationships between custom fields (attributes in a traditional RDB). This approach makes it easy for users who don’t know much about databases to create and work with their data. But for users who are experienced with RDBs, this approach can feel a bit limiting at times. So we plan to add a little more relational power.
Put simply, users will be able to load separate csv files (where each file corresponds to a particular entity, or table). Each csv file will have a custom field for primary keys (a unique identifier for a given piece of data) and another for the foreign keys (relationships to existing PKs; creates joins across entities). Once all files have been loaded into DH Press, admin users will have the ability to define their PKs and FKs to create links between their various data points, in much the way that a more traditional RDB works.
The beauty of this, of course, is that uses will not be required to create their data in this structured way for DH Press to work. Put another way, flat data files can still be imported and manipulated in DH Press, so the data creation piece remains straightforward for non-technical users. But this added functionality affords us the flexibility to accommodate both non-technical and technical admin users. This will all be explained in the admin user documentation about data creation.
Added Page Customization
Right now, we’re focusing much of our energy on improving customization options for admin users, not just to enable them to structure their data but also to generate interesting and engaging views and page layouts for site visitors. This is less about visual entry points (maps, timelines, network graphs), and more about customizing the type of content that will appear on the page for a given data point. Each data point is imported as a customized WordPress post. Every data point—whether a marker, an event on a timeline, or a network node—has a unique URL.
We envision providing a menu of choices for admin users to turn different content on/off for a given page, display or hide custom fields, and determine where fields appear on the page in relation to the rest of the content (e.g. the post content). Ideally, we’ll offer easy drag and drop layout design, and possibly some suggested templates (similar to Omeka’s Exhibit Builder), but we’re not yet sure how much of this customization will be included in the initial Beta release.
Finally, Jade and I are beginning to work on admin user documentation. We have been delayed in this process until the plugin was stable enough to document. That is, we didn’t want to create documentation that could quickly become outdated as new functionalities were added to the tool. But now that we’re close to Beta release, we’ll begin creating short, modular videos and documents to walk users through the process of creating a project in DH Press. We plan to create the documentation in the same order as the project creation workflow (create a project in the tool > format your data > import it > structure and customize it, and so forth). We’ll be testing the documentation as we go along, but always welcome feedback.
Look for more details about map functionality, our new DH Press Sandbox, and the four beta projects we’re working on. And, as always, stay tuned for news of the release of DH Press Beta 1.0 and the launch of Mapping the Long Women’s Movement.