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System Improvements: March 2022

Creators: Tom Elliott Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Mar 30, 2022 12:37 PM
A report on results from our just-completed spring maintenance week. Most of the effort concentrated on improving our export data formats and enhancing the performance of the user interface used by our contributors and editors to create, curate, and publish Pleiades content; however, we did make one modification to the user interface that all our users will see.

Financial support from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University has made it possible to engage our long-time technical partner Jazkarta, Inc. in a recent, week-long effort to improve key aspects of the software that brings the Pleiades gazetteer of ancient places to our global audience. The Pleiades community thanks the Jazkarta development team (Sally Kleinfeldt, Alec Mitchell, Jesse Snyder, and Silvio Tomatis) for their hard and thoughtful work. Some of that work built on prior efforts started by former Jazkarta team members Carlos de la Guardia, and Matthew Wilkes. We also wish to thank members of the Pleiades user community whose suggestions, comments, and reports facilitated this work: Ryan Baumann, Jeffrey Becker, Wouter Beek, Ryan M. Horne, and Ryan Shaw. Subsections below detail the outcomes.

If you or your organization would be interested in financially sponsoring future work on the Pleiades gazetteer, please contact Tom Elliott or Iris Fernandez at ISAW.

User Interface Change: Location Types

Each Pleiades Place can have multiple associated Locations. This flexibility in our data model allows us to hold different coordinate representations (e.g., both a central point and a detailed polygon for an area or structure). It also allows us to hold differing geometries deriving from different sources. Sometimes, modern publications do not provide sufficient information to map a place or structure precisely. In these cases, we can hold one or more "associated modern" Locations: nearby, modern towns or  administrative districts that are used in the scholarly literature as toponymic proxies for the ancient site. For monuments that have been relocated from their original position, we can hold both an original and a "relocated modern" Location.

Previously, a Pleiades user visiting one of our Place pages could only determine the "type" of the Location(s) shown there by clicking through to the individual Location pages. Now, thanks to Jazkarta's work, the Locations listing on a Place page groups Locations by their type. This modification mirrors earlier changes made to the Names listings on Place pages in order to group them by type as well.

Here are some interesting examples:

Associated GitHub issues:

Data Improvements

We've made some changes to the portable-format data we provide for download and via the "alternate serializations" links we provide on each Place page.

The polygon geometries in Pleiades JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) serializations have been brought up-to-date from the now-deprecated 2008 GeoJSON schema: they now follow the "right-hand rule" laid down in the formal 2016 IETF GeoJSON RFC 7946. This change ensures that Pleiades JSON data can be used in the widest possible variety of web and desktop computer applications that support the GeoJSON format.

Associated GitHub issues:

Two significant improvements have been made to Pleiades Resource Description Format (RDF) serializations, which are used for Linked Data and Semantic Web applications. Firstly, we have corrected the spelling of a term drawn from the Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF) ontology (isPrimaryTopicOf). Pleiades uses this term to encode relationships between real-world places and the Pleiades information resources (e.g. Place pages) that describe them. We have also put in place more rigorous testing of the Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) that Pleiades includes in its RDF files to identify and provide links to information about cited bibliographic works. This testing prevents "unsafe characters" from appearing in those URIs, a deficiency that was preventing use of our RDF data in some third-party applications. Fixing these issues ensures that cross-project linking and computational reasoning/inferencing can make use of all the information and nuance embedded in our data.

Associated GitHub issues:

Contributor Interface Performance Improvements

People who contribute new content and updates to the Pleiades gazetteer do so using a series of web forms that are only accessible to logged-in members of the community. Last week we addressed a number of process bottlenecks and broken edge cases with these forms so that it is easier and quicker to suggest changes to the gazetteer. As a result, maps and generated representative point coordinates now update reliably and quickly as contributors add or change spatial information for a Place. Importing spatial data from OpenStreetMap and bibliographic data from Zotero now goes more smoothly. Deprecated terms from Pleiades controlled vocabularies like "place type" or "language and script" no longer appear in the combo boxes and radio button lists on the add/edit forms.

Associated GitHub issues: