Project Reflection

Summary of my project and its aims

My original project intended to add extra dimension to a website that I designed and continue to maintain to promote Jane Austen Festival Australia, an annual event that I organise to foster the learning of dance, sewing, theatre, writing, fencing, period games, and more during the life of Jane Austen. In this project I wanted to take my love of learning across to the website and turn it into an educational resource. The original intention was to feature a collection of antique objects that is going on display in 2017 and that I’ve been cataloguing on an Omeka.net collection website. Each item in this collection was going to be used as a conservation resource with 3D and zoomable pictures showing areas in need of conserving and how to conserve them, patterns to make a copy of the object, links to suppliers and recommended reading, and so on. I owned all the items, so there was no issue of copyright to worry about.

What I learnt, what went well and what difficulties did I have?

Suffice to say, I realised the project was just too ambitious to fit in amongst a full-time 5-unit semester load, and it has been put on hold. I found out early on that my IT skills are lacking in the 3D department and I have a lot more to do before I share my attempts on a public forum.

I still retained my interest in developing the festival website and had a sudden last-minute brainwave that Tim didn’t think was too crazy. I started this annual event from scratch in 2008 and have been the sole administrator and still have all my attendance records and ticket sale data. Why not play with this data and get a better picture of how the festival was going? It was easier said than done though, as after getting all the data into lots of pretty charts and tables I realised the most important issue of all – privacy. My .csv files contained personal names, addresses and telephone numbers and even though I applied filters when preparing the tables and pie charts, in some formats the end results showed up information that I had filtered out. It was not safe to have any unknowns with private data so I had to start it all again and clean up my data.

Playing with the data was fun, though I found the examples I produced in RAW very pretty but not suitable for what I had in mind.

An example of RAW data
An example of RAW data produced at http://raw.densitydesign.org . Gardiner-Garden, 2016.

Google Fusion Tables ended up satisfying most of my needs, however not everything went smoothly. The first sign of trouble came when I tried to geocode my data so I could place all the attendees on a map. In order to produce mailing labels for attendees I had set up my original spreadsheet with city, state and postcode in separate columns. For geocoding to work all this information had to be combined in one column. Off I went to get the Merge Values add-on for Google Sheets. Without this add-on a merge of three cells would result in a merge with only the left cell’s contents remaining.

One adventure was not enough for me. I spent a while getting an API key and installing the Powerhouse Museum Plugin only to find out it wasn’t displaying the objects how I’d anticipated, even though I put in the correct html.
[phm-grid cols=4 rows=4 v_space=1 h_space=1 thumb_width=240 thumb_height=240 random=true parameters=”title:chair|description:New South Wales”]
I will have to see if I can get API to work instead, but that is another large project to go on my to-do list. My html problems with the WordPress plugin may have been because the plugin is two years old and no longer supported or it could be because I had an incompatible wordpress site. I think its a bit of both. My Powerhouse Museum test page that is not on obvious display to the public can be seen at http://janeaustenfestival.com/costume/. Please note, the page contains written information that is not supposed to be there.

And on to an even bigger adventure that has halted work for now. I installed the Moove plugin to track user activity on the website to see if the new additions brought in a larger audience. Moove looks very useful as it tracks date/time, user name, activity (visited/updated), client IP, client location (by IP Address) and referrer url of visitors to the website. Sadly this installation has resulted in a white screen of death on the admin side, and I will now have to log in with an ftp server to find the offending plugin and delete it. I’m still keen to see if this plugin will work, as it also works with a membership plugin.

How successful the project was in meeting your original aims

I’m pretty happy with most of what I have done so far at http://janeaustenfestival.com/about/history/ but do note it is not finished because I am currently locked out of the website admin and have more charts and tables waiting to be added. By analysing this data I’m getting a better picture of how my event is growing. The audience is increasing every year, and for a Jane Austen event it was nice to see that each year we seem to get more men. Its early days yet, but maybe with the publication of data that shows our most popular age group is 25 we might get a few more men along?

Some thoughts on how the project might be extended. Did you have ideas you weren’t able to pursue?

This project will be ongoing. I’m keen to get the Powerhouse Museum Application Programming Interface (API) working so that people can view items of this period from the Powerhouse Museum collection. And once I’ve recovered from my first semester of study for over 23 years I’m going to get the original collection idea moving! I’ve already had people volunteer their interest from around the world in helping so it might be quite soon. Crowdsourcing for help gives you a great sense of well-being as you find there are so many others out in the world interested in what you do and keen to help you get it done.

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