Charting Change Atlas: the technical details

by Peter Tyrrell Wednesday, February 17, 2010 11:14 AM

The City of Burnaby just launched their Charting Change Atlas, a series of interactive maps showing historical points of interest for the past 100 years. See the news post here. Since I was responsible for its development, I thought I’d talk about some of the technical aspects.

Over 350 points of interest, held as records in an Inmagic database, are associated with four map images. Making those images look and act like current web-based map applications was a bit of a challenge, and it was critical to keep page size down and performance snappy.

Map images

Each map image originated as a 2700 x 3500 TIFF, and each point of interest was located as an X/Y coordinate in pixels relative to the image. These images were not maps, but pictures that looked like maps. That meant we couldn't place points of interest on them via address or latitude/longitude.

The large images were then sliced into PNG tiles by excitable chefs wielding ginsu knives. The tiles are loaded dynamically when they are pulled into the visible viewport to cut down on initial load time. A modified version of the jQuery plugin Lazy Load is used to determine when an unloaded tile has appeared within the viewport.

A map framework

The viewport resizes to fit the browser resolution, whatever it is, regardless of the size of the map within, and reveals only a portion of the map at a time. It contains a very large outer div tag that marks the boundaries of the drag area, and an inner div that contains the map tiles.

The map can be dragged or scrolled in any direction, but the majority of it is hidden outside the viewport bounds. jQuery UI Draggable powers the drag mechanism. The snap-back feature, which pops the map back to the viewport boundary when the edges are pulled in too far, was inspired by my iPhone.

The rest of the map UI is a nod to current web-based map applications - i.e. Google Maps and Bing Maps - in an effort to create an intuitive and comfortable experience for a visitor. We found the more the application looked and acted like these map applications, the less we had to explain to a first-time user. On the other hand, it perhaps worked too well, because users keep expecting the map to zoom! It doesn't zoom because it consists of just the one layer, while Google, Bing and Co. boast multiple vertical layers. Something to work on in future...

Points of interest

The point data are recursively loaded sector by sector upon page load via jQuery AJAX to a .NET web service, which performs the database query and returns the results as a JSON object. This load sequence considerably improves the perception of performance: large amounts of data are pushed over the wire, but they are spread over the first few seconds following page load.

Pins are cloned from a pin template, stuffed with point of interest data and positioned relative to the map container. The dialog that appears when a pin is hovered over or clicked is built from a dialog template bound to pin data on demand. A modified version of John Resig's Micro-Templating function is used for client-side templating and databinding.

All points of interest are held inside a Heritage Landmarks Inmagic CS/Textworks database, already in use at http://heritageburnaby.com/research/Landmarks/, which was extended to hold information specific to the Charting Change Atlas project: query URLs out to other databases, a blurb and primary image, coordinates, and a Google Street View URL.

Conclusion

It was a blast designing and building the Charting Change Atlas, and a privilege to work together with the far-seeing heritage team at the City of Burnaby. Kudos to them for leveraging their existing toolset and informational treasure trove to make history so alive and accessible.

 

City of Burnaby launches Charting Change: An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby's Heritage

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, February 16, 2010 4:20 PM

Andornot has been working with the City of Burnaby for the last three years, first on the development of the Heritage Burnaby website and then on adding the ability to comment on images in their photo collection. Now this exciting Charting Change Atlas Screenshotnew Charting Change atlas allows users to see how historical events, ranging from First Nations settlement to the founding of Fort Langley in 1825, through to the Depression and post-war housing boom have shaped the community of Burnaby. In 2001, Burnaby’s Community Heritage Commission initiated a project to create an atlas mapping all protected heritage resources and other historic sites in Burnaby, illustrating the evolution of the city.  Last year the City approached Andornot to design a new, interactive version of the atlas and funding was obtained through the Canadian Culture Online Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Behind the scenes, the information shown on each map point is pulled from the existing Inmagic  databases currently searchable from the Heritage Burnaby website.   Heritage landmarks, historic buildings, and neighbourhoods are plotted and linked to the records for photographs, artifacts, textual records and bylaws. Tools and resources from all of Burnaby's Heritage partners - the City Archives, the Burnaby Village Museum, the Burnaby Planning Department and the Burnaby Historical Society - are combined to provide a unique perspective of Burnaby. 

Coincidentally, Google Street Views became available in the lower mainland, the day of the kick off meeting for this project.  We were able to include this new capability so that users can zoom into many of the heritage sites and historic buildings to view them in their present context - a truly unique feature that offers a rare glimpse of how the landscape of Burnaby has evolved. 

"We have worked with Andornot for the past three years, developing our website and our collections management systems.  Some of the most novel features of our site - particularly the use of Google Street Views in this latest project - have been a direct result of Andornot's creativity and innovation and we are once again thrilled with the final product."  [Arilea Sill, Municipal Archivist, City of Burnaby Archives.]

Please contact Andornot for further information.

RSS Feed from a Genie Catalog

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, February 03, 2010 10:12 PM

Andornot’s popular WebPublisher RSS Control has long allowed our clients to generate an RSS feed of any content from any textbase. Just recently, we configured our RSS control to work with a Genie Catalog. Since Inmagic WebPublisher PRO underlies Genie, it was relatively easy to make the RSS control play nicely with Genie. Generating the RSS feed via a query into WebPublisher is done in the same way, but the tricky part was having the link in the RSS feed take the user into the Genie OPAC, as though the user had searched there.

We’ve configured an example RSS feed here from our Genie demo (best viewed in an RSS reader or as an RSS feed in Outlook).

RSS is an effective way of sharing information with broad audience. Some great ideas for feeds include:

  • a feed of the latest items added to the catalog;
  • a feed of items on particular subjects or by favourite (or in-house) authors; and
  • a feed of the latest serials checked-in.

Please contact us to use the Andornot RSS control with your Genie system.

Metro Vancouver Selects Andornot and Inmagic Library Suite

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:23 PM

Andornot is pleased to announce completion of a contract with Metro Vancouver to replace the integrated library system used by its Harry Lash Library.

Metro Vancouver provides water, sewerage, parks, housing, and planning services to member municipalities in the Greater Vancouver region of British Columbia. The Harry Lash Library, located in Metro Vancouver's headquarters, was established in 1971 and provides services for staff, member municipal staff, elected officials, students, consultants and the general public.

Metro Vancouver selected the Inmagic Library Suite, comprising TextWorks, WebPublisher PRO and Genie, to replace a Horizon system as its primary ILS, with implementation and consulting services from Andornot.

Andornot conducted an extensive configuration of Genie to reflect the particular needs and workflow of library staff and Metro Vancouver's complex infrastructure. This major project required rigorous testing before transitioning to production, with separate environments and databases for internal and external users. Knowledge transfer to Metro Vancouver's IT department was an important component to allow them to handle ongoing maintenance and modifications to the system.Metro_Vancouver's_Harry_Lash_Library_Catalog_screenshot

Metro Vancouver uses MS SharePoint for both its internet and Intranet sites. For the intranet, the Genie OPAC was adjusted to fit within a SharePoint page  viewer web part. Single sign on to MyGenie has been enabled for staff to easily view any active loans or order requests. For the public internet site, Andornot built a web interface based on our Andornot Starter Kit, which is also embedded in a SharePoint page viewer web part. Previously unavailable except to Metro Vancouver staff, the public catalogue is now available for searching by staff at member municipalities and other core library users.

An automatic data extraction utility, coupled with the Inmagic PowerPack Importer, automates the process of keeping Genie's Borrowers and login databases synchronized with Metro Vancouver's Active Directory system. More information on this process is available in this blog post. This utility is also used to extract selected records for the external OPAC.

"Throughout our project I was consistently impressed by Andornot's expertise, patience, and perseverance as they worked their way through a complex data migration and implementation process. They were painstaking in their information-gathering process and achieved a near-flawless data conversion despite having to convert data from both a MARC and Access environment. They provided thoughtful solutions to our localized requirements and were always ready to answer our many questions. We are very happy with the new features such as enhanced searching, canned searches, "My Genie" features, and our brand new external Web catalogue."   [Thora Gislason, Librarian, Harry Lash Library]

Please contact Andornot for more information on the Inmagic Library Suite or our consulting services.

 

"Sharing, Sharing, Sharing"

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:09 PM

In my kindergarten, we sang a song most days about sharing (probably when one of us brought in a special toy, or a bag of cookies). I no longer remember all the words, nor the melody (which as a 5 year old I probably couldn't manage anyhow), but I sure had it drilled into me that Sharing is Good.

To that end, and following hot on the heels of our recent addition of Google Book Covers and Previews to the Andornot Starter Kit (ASK), today we added a Share button to ASK.

share_button

Look familiar? Yes, you've seen this button before. Just about every website has one now. What is it? A very quick way of letting others know about something you've found. Imagine you've been searching and searching in one online database after another for a very particular resource and... You Found It! And you're excited, and impatient, and you want to share the news, either by email or Twitter or on your Facebook page, or through any other social networking site. With just a couple clicks, you can do that.

This particular button is provided by AddThis.com. This site aggregates hooks into every known social networking site, from Facebook to Twitter to Delicious, as well as providing the ability to simply bookmark the page or email the link to a friend.

When you get your own button from AddThis.com, you can customize its appearance and the social bookmarking services offered, and sign up to have AddThis track usage, so you know how often your resources are being shared.

These buttons are available from other sites as well, such as ShareThis.com. You could also construct your own that provides all the same services: emailing, bookmarking, sharing... but it's far simpler to take one of these pre-built buttons, available at no cost.

Why should you have a Share button in your online database? These have become ubiquitous on the web. More and more users are expecting a site to have these and the ability to quickly click a button to grab the identifying information. As links are shared, more users will become aware of your resources. Search engines rarely index deep into databases, but they do index social networking sites, providing a whole new way for users to find and re-share your resources. This in turn may help increase your website's standing in search engine rankings, especially if you have unique or very specialized content.

A small but major caution: By default, the AddThis button shares the URL that appears in your browser's address bar. After searching an Inmagic WebPublisher PRO textbase, this URL contains a temporary variable. While the URL will continue to link to a record for a while, depending on the volume of searches on your site, the link may no longer work after just a few days. However, Andornot has developed a Permanent URL http handler that can be easily added to a textbase so that the URL that is bookmarked remains valid indefinitely.

What next? See the button in action here (search, click through to the full record detail page, and test the button by emailing yourself details of a book), then contact us to help you add a Share button to your site.

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