Monday, November 5, 2018

HGSA 2018

On Saturday I had the chance to show SOTU-db as a poster at LUC's 15th Annual History Graduate Student Conference: "Building Bridges" (link to program here). This was a great opportunity for me to gather feedback on my work, but also a good deadline to meet in terms of motivation - the spikes in commits on my GitHub repos the past week is noticeable, and I feel great about the progress I've made!

It was a good exercise to figure out what to include on the poster. First, this was a history conference; the audience would probably be more interested in the "so what" of my project than in the technical details. Second, since my project scope has changed over the summer, it was a good exercise to reconsider what my project really was about. Ultimately, I decided on a summary blurb of text, then four boxes (mainly because four 8.5x11 inch pages fit neatly in the space on the posterboard) highlighting these four aspects of SOTU-db:
  • The text corpus of SOTUs,
  • the SOTU-db.com website and user-facing experience,
  • the LAMP stack that makes up SOTU-db's "digital infrastructure,"
  • text mining and analytics (R, NLTK).
This was my first time presenting at any kind of conference like this, poster or otherwise, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I expected. I felt like most people were finding the poster useful, but I really wish my live demo on the laptop would have worked. It wasn't fully functional because I never could get the scroll bar on my fake "results" page to work, so the visualizations were not even on the screen. I do think people appreciated when I could show them the RStudio visualizations, but even those should have been better organized so I could find the ones I wanted with people waiting and looking over my shoulder! 

I was really hoping that I could provide a username and password to people and have them visit the site on their own devices, but even if the search demo had been working properly, I don't seem to be able to access the site from Loyola's campus for whatever reason.

a man speaking and gesturing toward a poster with "SOTU-db" and other detailed text printed on it
credit: Rebecca Parker @RJP43
A huge congratulations is due to the folks in Loyola's History Graduate Student Association for putting together such a great conference! Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for the whole day but I'm looking forward to catching up with some of the people who were there to learn what I missed!

The next big deadline for SOTU-db is my presentation at the CTSDH in about four weeks. Until then I'll be working hard to get my corpora and index database squared away, get the PHP on the site working with my server, and creating a working search interface!