So yesterday (Monday 23rd) saw the Enroller team travel down to Newcastle upon Tyne to meet with the NECTE/DECTE team for the day. A very early start in a rather dreich Glasgow should have warned us of the weather-related drama that would unfold later on (note to self: waves of water gushing uphill are not a good sign…) but undeterred by the Glaswegian downpour, we were duly on the train to Edinburgh at 8.30am, coffee in hand!
We’ve been very fortunate during the past two years of Enroller to host two events in Glasgow where our collaborators and data providers have been able to join us, hear of our developments, hear from other data owners, present their own research, and test our portal; equally, we have been lucky enough to travel to many of our collaborators in person to discuss the issues surrounding Enroller and the digital humanities which affect all involved.
(NB – in the spirit of making these discussions as widely available as possible, you can now view the presentations from our last two colloquiums here for 2010 and here for 2011).
So needless to say, we were looking forward to catching up with the NECTE/DECTE team. After a great group discussion of using NECTE/DECTE within Enroller, and ideas for the future (and lunch…!), we were ready to have their team see our latest developments. Since our 2011 colloquium we’d been working to use the feedback given on the portal by our Network of Scholars to update the portal interface and improve its layout and usability. Our trip to Newcastle afforded us the opportunity to have a group of researchers, postgrads and undergrads test the latest stage of the interface, and this time, try our Advanced Search using the Grid. For Enroller, this is probably one of the most important meetings we can have — it allows us to see where we can refine and improve our portal and it lets us test our design to the limit (will it work? is it intuitive? does it display the results in a way that our NoS can interact with them and begin further searches/research? can the system cope with repeated and concurrent searches?).
One of the most difficult jobs, it turns out, in bringing data together within Enroller, is not in handling the data itself, but is how we decide to present and allow the end-user to interact with those results together. Our project has been extended until the end of September, so updates, new data and new tools will be coming shortly – to have a look at our current version of the portal, click here now and email us your comments (details on our website) – we’d *love* to hear from you!
So Enroller had a successful and fruitful day in Newcastle gaining even more feedback on our portal from those who will be actively using it for their own research.
However, let it not be said that Enroller doesn’t work hard for this feedback… Little did we know, as we sat in the blustery but sunny Toon, that Glasgow was unleashing its worst weather upon the city. Lashing rain and winds of up to 100mph in places soon made itself apparent when the team tried to make it home: trains heading north were delayed (we managed to get seats on two of the last trains to venture towards Edinburgh); trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow were rumoured to be cancelled for the rest of the day, and there were further rumours of road closures, which swiftly swept their way through the carriages as we headed north. Luckily, our train conductor, Alan, (hurrah for Cross Country Trains!!) was an absolute legend, keeping all us nervy passengers updated as we trundled along, bringing us news of onward transport and potential delays with a wicked sense of humour. Grabbing internet access where we could, Twitter and Facebook (coupled with a worried email from the NECTE team!) told us the weather in the west could possibly leave us stranded in Edinburgh for the night. Facebook duly created a page ’23rd May 2011 – the day it was windy’ where locals shared tales of woe and garden furniture lost to the gales. Our mood darkened a smidge…
Thankfully, although by the time we arrived at Edinburgh it looked as though all onward transport was cancelled, ScotRail tentatively put on one service to Glasgow, and by 10.30pm (a mere 14 hours after we had originally left Glasgow) we returned safe, if tired, into Queen Street. (OK, I admit I’m milking this slightly, but the weather really was atrocious!)
The moral(s) or lesson(s) of this story?
1) Enroller works hard for its collaborators, and has proven it will battle apocalyptic weather to promote shared data!
2) Social media once again was our first port of call for information…proving that blogging, tweeting, and facebooking are the ultimate way to share info, fast!
and 3) Always get travel insurance, even if you’re only venturing an few hours down the road – you never know when you might need it!
So here’s to all social media, and all who updated us on the weather as we fought our way back to Scotland. We live to blog another day!