Further adventures in XML

With the help of at least (!) one tech-savvy friend and the samples that come with eXisit-db, I’ve cobbled together a basic prototype of the Novels in Context project!  Here’s what I’ve done and learned so far, in addition to some things that don’t work, and which I plan to fix:

  • I was able to add the materials to the database in the right way, after several failed attempts, and this taught me how to hook the db up to oxygen. It took me a while to figure out that uploading the files makes db copies which aren’t accessible through the regular file structure–but, they can be edited in oxygen, whic his awesome. So, I have my originals intact, and I can play away with the db copies!
  • I created a work-types file, which updated the templates and search options accordingly–I want to consider using this as a way to add more search refinements, but I also want to use the critical markup for that. We’ll see what else I learn about how the work-types declarations function.
  • The materials themselves don’t display fully in either of the two formats (PDF or ePub) in the sample, or in the styled HTML–but, this taught me both that the code that transforms the XML into those formats needs hacking, and either that the existing code for the HTML display can be updated or  that the XML tags could be altered to match the samples. So far, I’ve matched some of my  XML tags to those already in use, which allowed me to…
  • display the header information when you click on the title of the piece! This was very exciting for me, because I had to write a little code to get multiple imprints to render appropriately. Though it also taught me that…
  • simpler is better, within reason. I’ve already realized that I’m going to have to rethink my markup, and thus to the delight of building layers of structural and critical markup, “I [am] condemned to add the vexation of expunging.”  
  • This adventure also showed me how the CSS is working, which should make styling my documents easier.
  • The search functionality doesn’t work with my data plugged in and some of the app tweaked for that, so I want to hack some kind of solution there, though the front-end options have updated–this is a result of the work types file updates I made, so I know those pieces are talking as they should.
  • I also have not yet been able to get rid of the existing title in the original app sample, the one that appears on the front page–though the side bar and the status bar are good to go.  I’ve searched throughout the app files, but no luck. Grrrr…
  • Incidentally, here’s the logo! nic1

Today, some of the styling things I want to do include replacing the eXist-db logo with mine, altering the footer, and continuing my quest to change the front page title.  I also want to have a look at the PDF transform app, and see if I can’t hack that to display mine. But I have a suspicion that it’s dependent on getting a clean HTML display, so I also want to compare my XML structure to that of the samples and figure out where other app code is drawing on those XML tags.

Overall, one of the things that strikes me  in a new way is how what we see is completely dependent on the invisible code, which might act as a set of conditions of possibility–this sounds obvious, I know, but it we translate it to a more familiar context, like a printed book, it opens up all sorts of questions. What material things do we not see when we pick up a book? What ideological things? How different is creating a structure for what exists from creating that which exists? I am reminded of another moment in Johnson’s preface to the Dictionary:

Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a dictionary, which, by degrees, I reduced to method, establishing to myself, in the progress of the work, such rules as experience and analogy suggested to me; experience, which practice and observation were continually increasing; and analogy, which, though in some words obscure, was evident in others.

How do the rules by which a thing is made visible come to be, when one is forced to craft them? And, I would add, especially when one is very far from being a Sam Johnson….

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