I’m Steven Gray, a Research Associate at UCL Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis and also UCL Digital Humanities, Computing Scientist, Software developer and all round nice guy. I’ve build lots of software for various platforms and devices in not only academia but out there in the scary world of commercial software development.
I remember when Melissa came to me and asked me if I’d like to come on board and create Textal. I had just finished creating QRator, a platform and iPad application for Museum visitors to talk about objects. QRator had been quite successful and I was looking for another exciting project to get my teeth sunk into. I’d worked with Digital Humanties before with Claire Ross, a student of Melissa’s, and heard lots of stories (all good) about Mel but never met. An email later and I found myself sitting in an office with Melissa.
My first thought – another Scot!, but not just any Scottish person, someone who not only had the same sense of humour as me but someone who had studied at the same university and department as me. After a long conversation about Glasgow University and DCS we got down to talking about Textal. When I heard the idea, I was hooked! I’d seen and used word clouds before but when she explained there never been an interactive word cloud before I was shocked. It’s such a simple but important idea. If you make something interactive then people get a better understanding about what it all means and word clouds were such a fantastic visualisation. This was a project which was not only fun to code, but actually could be used and understood by anyone. I got quite excited but also quite scared at the same time. How am I going to create this? I’ve never made a word cloud before, nor have I done any Text Analysis. This project was going to involve a steep learning curve.
A few months have passed and we now have a beta application. I’m ironing out the bugs at the moment getting ready to launch the application in June. My next few blog posts will take you through how I created the application, the thought processes and also the failures – trust me there were a few.
Creating Textal was really fun, and I really hope when you all get a chance to play with you’ll find it fun as well. Watch this space!