Friday, February 29, 2008

Clean URLs, Sebastian Heath and feed aggregation

PDQ SubmissionI see that Sebastian has submitted his post on URLs to PDQ. That seems to me to be a good thing, and not just because I'm a clean URL fettishist. Sebastian helped me explain our Pleiades URLs and the thinking behind them -- their sanity is Sean's brainchild -- in a series of posts and comments last fall.

I've been thinking more about URLs lately (which partly prompted yesterday's mouthing off about the TEI website) ... and here's why:

This morning, I gave a talk to a group at the British School in Rome (remotely, alas). The topic was "Atom+GeoRSS for interoperability". I imagined a feed-of-feeds that might aggregate glosses/citations/summaries of content on multiple websites related to the archaeology and epigraphy of Cyrene (this, an example of what we'd like to do for every place cited in Pleiades).

Most feed aggregators now bring feed content together thematically as a consequence of selection and filtering criteria established by the aggregator's editor (consider my Planet Atlantides, or Planet OSGeo or Planet Code4Lib). But we could also bring feed entries together by virtue of the values contained in the href attribute on <link rel="related"> tags (think: "all entries related to Cyrene, if the href value is the Pleiades URL for Cyrene"). Spatial correlation (containment, proximity) could also be a great way to aggregate feed content (see Sean Gillies' Mush demo) if your feeds have coordinates in them (by way of GeoRSS) or if you can geocode on the basis of an asserted link relationship with a reference that has coordinates.

I hacked up a fake, hypothetical result feed:
And a fantasy of one way the content could be exploited in the Pleiades website:
The latter was generated from the former using an xslt stylesheet (atom2nearby.xsl).

In these mockups, I re-imagined the URLs of the resources glossed/described in the various entries (in some cases, I imagined their web resources structure pretty much from scratch!). The consequences for various otherwise innocent websites are as follows:

Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica: Cyrene
Base URL (now):
Real URL for collection/search of resources (now):
n/a (in development)
Fantasy URL for collection/search of resources:
Real URL for basic resource (inscription) now:
Fantasy URL for basic resource:

Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg
Base URL (now): base URL:
Real URL for collection/search of resources (now): (hidden by frames and a form)
Fantasy URL for collection/search of resources:
Real URL for basic resource (inscription) now: (hidden by frames and a form)
Fantasy URL for basic resource (inscription) now:

Cyrenaica Archaeological Project
Base URL (now):
Real URL for collection/search of resources (now):
n/a (in development)
Fantasy URL for collection/search of resources (in this case, an index to a reference of features and monuments on the site, as indexed in an earlier publication, Bonacasa 2000):
Real URL for basic resource (monument/feature) now:
Fantasy URL for basic resource:

American Numismatic Society
Base URL (now):
Real URL for collection/search of resources (now): (hidden by a form)
Fantasy URL for collection/search of resources:
Real URL for basic resource (coin) now:
Fantasy URL for basic resource (coin) -- I left Sebastian's DNIDs, but I was tempted to replace them with:

So, what principles do I think I've embodied in these fantasy URLs? Simplicity. Intuition. Implementation-hiding. Elimination of redundancy. Linkability and browseability for collections and likely searches (and therefore visibility of database content that would otherwise be hidden from 3rd party search engines).

Your thoughts?

Atom+GeoRSS for interoperability: Cyrenaican archaeology, epigraphy, geography

The influenza kept me off the plane to Rome, but happily I was at least able to give my talk (via Skype) this morning. The occasion is a meeting at the British School in Rome, organized by the Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica project, to bring together scholars working in Cyrenaica to explore the potential for cross-project collaboration and data sharing. I used our work so far on Pleiades (and a bunch of Sean's ideas exchanged on IRC) as a spring-board for a methodological proposal: using Atom+GeoRSS feeds to facilitate cross-project data discovery and citation.

There will be more about this in future posts, but for now, the slides (mostly screen shots) are available:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What do URLs "mean":

Does anybody besides me find this bizarre:

gets you:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">

gets you:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<?oxygen RNGSchema="" type="compact"?>
<TEI xmlns="" rend="home">

gets you:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">

Why not:

or some such (in which filename extensions actually bear some relationship to what the user gets, rather than the hidden underlying format or application/file hierarchy on the server) -- and thus throughout the whole website.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thraces and Moesi update

Nikolay Sharankov has just posted a thorough and helpful response to my recent query about a Roman boundary inscription from Bulgaria.

He includes revised readings -- not only of the inscription for which I have the photo -- but for all four originally published by Hristov in Minalo.

Linking to records in EDH

The Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg (part of the growing EAGLE federation) is a tremendous resource. It was designed as a searchable database, beginning in the 1980s and adding a web interface in 1997. Work on both the content and the database itself continues; in fact we're discussing ways to hook up EDH to Pleiades.

But, given its origin as a search-oriented database, the EDH is not set up for easy browsing (i.e., "stumbling upon" by clicking links) or with obvious, stable URLs that point to individual inscriptions. Happily, epigraphers have long preferred to assign stable ID numbers to inscriptions in specific publications. This practice maps well onto database IDs and -- fortunately for us -- EDH makes use of its ID numbers in its web-facing search interface. We'll have to peer under the hood of the main search page, but once we know what to look for, building links into the database is relatively straightforward.

The most obvious type of link a blogger might want is a link to a particular inscription. We need to find two things:
  1. The URL to which the search query is POSTed
  2. The proper field name to use for the ID number
The HTML <form> element carries an attribute (action) whose value provides the search target:


Then we have to look at the "name" attribute on the appropriate "input" element to figure out what variable we need to use. A bit of inspection turns up:

<INPUT TYPE="text" NAME="hdnr" SIZE="7" MAXLENGTH="6">

from which we need only the string "hdnr".

Now we're ready to construct our query string:

For web use, I like to construct these in a more human readable form, like: EDH HD000838.

You can use other variables to create URLs that point to other types of searches. For example, we can search for inscriptions attributed to the ancient city of Cyrene in Libya:

Now we can cite EDH as we need to on the web.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Atlantis Suppression Policy

This applies to all aggregators available at

Henceforth, I'll be suppressing any and all feeds with futuristic datestamps that cause future-dated entries to hover at the top of the aggregator results ahead of truly new content on other blogs. I'll revisit such suppression decisions on a more-or-less monthly basis.

So, if your posts are not getting dated right in your feeds, or if you have an event feed that stamps entries with dates for the event (rather than when the notice is published), you will likely see your feed content dropped from the aggregators. If you fix your blog feeds to take care of such a problem, please drop me an email and I'll reinstate the feed.

I may apply a similar policy to feeds that frequently redate-to-present multiple past posts in which there's no obvious update of content.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Demarcation Between the T(h)races and Moesi

In working up our OpenLayers + SVG image tracing demo today, Sean and I selected a picture of a Roman boundary marker as our example image. Charlotte Roueché had taken this picture in the garden of the Bulgarian National Museum in 2006. She sent it to me because of the work I'd done on my Chapel Hill dissertation about Roman boundary markers. This particular inscription proved to belong to an instance of demarcation that I'd treated in the dissertation, but this text was not specifically in my catalog. I assumed it was either unpublished, or had been so at the time I was finishing the dissertation.

It appears now that this inscription is either unpublished, or I've failed to spot the publication. I provide the account and background below in the hopes that readers can provide a citation for this particular text, or information about other evidence related to this particular event that I have so far missed. Corrections to what follows are also welcome.


In 2003 or so I wrote (for the dissertation) about this group of inscriptions as follows:

Six boundary markers from various sites in Bulgaria attest to a demarcation between the provinces of Thracia and Moesia Inferior [in AD 135]. These are the only markers in the published epigraphic record that explicitly marked a provincial boundary without making reference to any of the cities or communities in either province. The word provincia is not used. The ethnics corresponding to the provincial names are: Moesi and Thraces. The markers were placed, on Hadrian’s authority, by an otherwise unknown individual named [M(arcus)] Antius Rufus, who is thought to have been acting as a special legate of the emperor. It is most unlikely that he was a governor of either of the provinces in question, since neither governor can have possessed a sufficient span of jurisdiction to affect both provinces. The context and motivation for this demarcation are completely obscure.
Here's a transcription and translation of this particular text, made from the image:

ex auctoritate
Imp(eratoris) Cae(saris) divi
Tra(iani) Parth(ici) f(i)l(i) di-
vi Nerv(ae) nep(otis) Tra(iani)
Had(riani) Aug(usti) p(atris) p(atriae) poṇ[t?]-5
if(icis) maxi(mi) trib(unicia) poṭ(estate)
XX co(n)s(ulis) III M(arcus) An[ti?]-
us Rufinus inter
T(h)racas (!) et Moe-
sos fines posụ[it?]10

By the authority of the emperor Caesar, son of the god Trajan Parthicus, grandson of the god Nerva, Trajan Hadrian Augustus, father of the country, pontifex maximus, (holding the) tribunician power 20 (times), consul 3 (times), M(arcus) Antius Rufinus placed boundaries between the Thraces and the Moesi.


The rectangular stone was prepared with a deep rectangular campus that left a heavy external border (I do not have measurements). This frame (and an uninscribed portion of the campus) is broken away at the top right corner. Beginning at the level of line 7, the border has been snapped away at a depth just below that of the campus. The bottom of the stone is missing, but it is clear that the main text terminates above a large empty space before the break.
  • 5, end: Part of an N on the upward-sloping portion of the border (i.e., just outside the prepared campus). This may have included a ligature with T that has been worn away(?).
  • 6, end: What appears to be a small, irregular T cut across the transition from prepared campus to border.
  • 7, end: if TI were inscribed on the border, this has been lost; there is no room for the characters in the prepared campus.
  • 7-8: Rufinus: PIR2 A784 + addenda; Thomasson 1984 20:78 + 22:16; Aichinger 1982, 198-199.


Now, in looking at this image more closely (and starting to hunt for a corresponding publication), I see that I missed at least one of these inscriptions, and yet another has subsequently appeared. But I still haven't been able to identify a published text of this particular inscription. It clearly shares a source text with [EDH HD045725] = [AE 2004.1306] = I. Christov, Minalo 11, 2004, 6-7, no. 4 (citations from EDH), but the text is laid out differently on the stone. It would be interesting to have access to an image of this doppelgänger, but I can't immediately put my hands on a copy of the journal Минало. These are the only two of the inscriptions I know of that put the Thraces before the Moesi; the majority of the texts have the inverse order.

Concordance of Editions

Here's my list of texts and corresponding publications as it stands now:
  • Elliott 2004.95.1; EDH HD042659; IGLNovae 73; ILBulg 357; ILS 5956; CIL 3.749
  • Elliott 2004.95.2; EDH HD042812; ILBulg 429; CIL 3.12407
  • Elliott 2004.95.3; EDH HD006328; ILBulg 390; AE 1985.729; Banev 1981, no. 1
  • Elliott 2004.95.4; EDH HD006340; ILBulg 386; AE 1985.730; Banev 1981; CIL 3 p. 992 n. 749
  • Elliott 2004.95.5; EDH HD006322; AE 1985.733; Božilova 1985; ILNovae 51; IGLNovae 72
  • Elliott 2004.95.6; EDH HD031971; ILBulg 358; CIL 3.14422/1; AE 1902.106
  • EDH HD042658; ILBulg 184; AE 1912, 16 n. 56; Filow BullSocArchBulg 2 (1911), 271 (not checked, bibliography per EDH)
  • EDH HD045725; AE 2004.1306; . Christov, Minalo 11 (2004), 6-7, no. 4 (not checked, bibliography per EDH)
  • [ Horothesia, "Demarcation Between the T(h)races and Moesi" (22 February 2007) ]


Short titles used here are glossed in the PDF versions of my abbreviations list and works cited list. Eventually, all these works will be folded into the Pleiades bibliography.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

EpiDoc meets dissertation: epigraphic bibliography

This is the first in a highly irregular series exploring aspects of my attempt to turn my dissertation (or parts thereof) into a digital publication using the EpiDoc customization of the Text Encoding Initiative tagset (in XML). I'm starting using a batch of boundary inscriptions from Roman Cyrenaica, partly because I'm working with a team in London and Cambridge that is working on the definitive publication of the Roman Inscriptions of Cyrenaica (IRCyr) as collected and analyzed by Joyce Reynolds. This collection will include a number of previously unpublished boundary inscriptions.

Today's topic: epigraphic bibliography

There are various examples of code below, but you can also download a fully encoded example.

A proper epigraphic edition includes a complete history of previous published editions, published derivative texts, corrections and, often, commentary on same. There are various common mechanisms for presenting these citations in print, usually in a compact form that makes liberal use of abbreviations and short titles. Thus, text 62.2 in my dissertation (of Claudian date), presented the following bibliography:
EDH HD011697 (Latin); SEG 26.1819; AE 1974.682; *Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1.
Here, order signifies date and the asterisk indicates the edition I follow in my own catalog. So, we can read this as:
Originally published in Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1, whence derivative editions in AE 1974.682, SEG 26.1819 and EDH HD011697 (the latter only providing the Latin portion of this bilingual Greek/Latin text).
Often, such bibliographies include other notation to indicate the "genetic lemma" (derivative relationships) between publications. So, one could have produced something like:
[EDH HD011697 (Latin)] = [SEG 26.1819] = [AE 1974.682] = Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1
where the square brackets indicate derivative editions, i.e., those that derive from another published edition rather than autopsy of the stone and/or reference to a squeeze, rubbing or photograph. This particular lemma is a little misleading, since the provisional EDH edition actually derives from the edition in AE, which is itself derivative of the Reynolds edition.

How to do this in EpiDoc?

Let's start with something like the more prose-ish of the above examples, since this is the approach IRCyr is using (demonstrated in ALA2004 and IAph2007). First, EpiDoc calls for the bibliography to be wrapped in an appropriately typed <div> element, as follows:

<div type="bibliography">
<p>Original publication was Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1,
whence derivative editions in AE 1974.682, SEG 26.1819
and Elliott 2004, 167.62.2. The Latin portion of the
text is reproduced in EDH HD011697 (1997, provisional)
on the basis of AE.</p>

Part of the reason to do our bibliography in XML is to be able to encode relationships, assertions and semantic distinctions in a way that is machine actionable. On the bibliographic front, we might want to be able to search, sort and index by these other editions, or link to them if digitally available. That means we need to mark each citation as a discrete bibliographic citation, and TEI provides the <bibl> element for this purpose:

<div type="bibliography">
<p>Original publication was
<bibl>Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1</bibl>,
whence derivative editions in
<bibl>AE 1974.682</bibl>,
<bibl>SEG 26.1819</bibl>
<bibl>Elliott 2004, 167.62.2</bibl>.
The Latin portion of the text is reproduced in
<bibl>EDH HD011697 (1997, provisional)</bibl>
on the basis of AE.</p>

We may want to have a search function distinguish between original editions and those that are derivative, so we need to encode that distinction too. We don't want to have to parse text strings and try to infer the meaning of phrases like "original publication" or "derviative". Rather, we'll use the standard TEI "type" and "subtype" attributes on the <bibl> element to make this distinction clear for our little silicon friends. The values we're using for this attribute are specific to the EpiDoc customization of TEI.

<div type="bibliography">
<p>Original publication was
<bibl type="edition" subtype="primary">
Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1
whence derivative editions in
<bibl type="edition" subtype="derivative">
AE 1974.682
<bibl type="edition" subtype="derivative">
SEG 26.1819
<bibl type="edition" subtype="derivative">
Elliott 2004, 167.62.2
The Latin portion of the text is reproduced in
<bibl type="edition" subtype="derivative">
EDH HD011697 (1997, provisional)
on the basis of AE.</p>

There's additional tagging internal to each <bibl> element that we can/should do to facilitate sorting, searching and linking to digital/digitized works, but we'll skip over that here (check out the example file for the full encoding).

The only thing our example doesn't do that we might like is encode the derivative relationships between the various editions. We know that one is "primary" and the others "derivative", but it's not clear what the path of derivation is for each one. EpiDoc doesn't currently have guidance for this, and I'm not sure what the broader TEI community thinks (I'm posting a link to this entry on TEI-L to find out), but it occurs to me that this would be pretty easy to do with the TEI <link> element. We'll need unique identifiers on each <bibl> element to make use of this approach.

<div type="bibliography">
<p>Original publication was
<bibl xml:id="reynolds-1971-1" type="edition" subtype="primary">
Reynolds 1971, 47-49.1
whence derivative editions in
<bibl xml:id="ae-1974-682" type="edition" subtype="derivative">
AE 1974.682
<bibl xml:id="seg-26-1819" type="edition" subtype="derivative">
SEG 26.1819
<bibl xml:id="elliott-2004-62-1" type="edition" subtype="derivative">
Elliott 2004, 167.62.2
The Latin portion of the text is reproduced in
<bibl xml:id="edh-hd011697" type="edition" subtype="derivative">
EDH HD011697 (1997, provisional)
on the basis of AE.</p>
<link targets="#reynolds-1971-1 #ae-1974-682 #seg-26-1819 #elliott-2004-62-1"/>
<link targets="#ae-1974-682 #edh-hd011697"/>

Stay tuned for further adventures, in which we exploit some of this bibliographic tagging, and then move on to encoding the epigraphic text itself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Update on Roman Ports in Libia (Images)

Jeff Becker wrote in regard to yesterday's post on Roman ports in Libya. He notes that Archeoblog's coverage of the story includes some images. These look to me to be a subset of the images included in the original press release from the Soprintendenza del Mare, Regione Siciliana. Thanks Jeff!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Transcripts: Using New Technologies to Explore Cultural Heritage

Members of my multitudinous audience may remember that, back in October, Sean Gillies and Richard Talbert made a presentation about Pleiades at an event entitled "Using New Technologies to Explore Cultural Heritage" (co-sponsored by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the Italian Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche).

Transcripts of that event have now been published on the NEH website. These are available in PDF format, along with PDF versions of the speakers' presentation slides.

Roman port "discoveries" in Libya

By way of rogueclassicism I found out about a brief notice from ANSA entitled "Scoperti due antichi porti romani in Libia". A slightly longer piece in La Repubblica repeats the "hitherto unknown" assertion. Sicilia Informazioni provides a longer and clearer report on the same information under the title "Ritrovato un porto romano sulle coste della Libia".

I found the piece a bit odd, since it claimed the "discovery" of a Roman port at Hamama in Libya (kml) that "might be" the Phykous (Greek: Φυκοῦς) mentioned by Strabo (17.3.20) and Ptolemy (4.4.5; Latin: Phycus) ... and yet the Barrington Atlas (and after it, Pleiades) have no hesitation in placing Phykous at that very spot. If there were some significant doubt about the siting of a named, attested place, we would have expected the Atlas to indicate such.

A little digging reveals that this inconsistency is probably an accident of editing in the media reports of recent archaeological work. The press release that seems to be behind these stories is posted on the website of the Soprintendenza del Mare, Regione Siciliana (one of the partners in the expedition). This report acknowledges that the site of Phykous (mod. Hamama) has been well-known for some decades, but notes that it have never previously been subjected to systematic survey. Indeed, BAtlas cites G.D.B. Jones and J.H. Little, “Coastal settlement in Cyrenaica,” JRS 61 (1971) 64‑79 for Phykous (via JSTOR, for those with access), where the identification with Hamama is represented as secure.

The press release goes on to communicate some interesting and hitherto unknown things (with illustrations):
  • The expedition team (just returned) conducted a surface walk of the site, 3D laser mapping and total station survey; the site walk recovered 500 artifacts, which have been cataloged for subsequent analysis.
  • Major structures identified include: a possible lighthouse foundation [previously noted by Jones and Little, p. 74], a large rectangular building, a possible theater, numerous rock-cut tombs and quarry sites, as well as a large "control structure" on the summit and two rock-cut caves in the hillside (one possibly used as a church, the other as a synagogue). [Jones and Little had noted "the remains of low walls extend[ing] over an area of c. 24 hectares" (p. 74).]
  • Surf and wind limited the team's ability to conduct an underwater survey, but they did tentatively identify the remains of a long harbor mole, faced with rectangular blocks and filled with rubble.
  • Analysis of pottery and masonry may indicate a foundation date as early as the 4th century BC (attic pottery), with the most frequent and intensive use occurring in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. [Jones and Little had noted "pottery ranging from black-glazed ware to Byzantine coarse wares, indicating an occupation from the fourth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D." (p. 74).]
  • Further west, toward Benghazi (ancient Berenice), the team conducted a limited search at modern El-Ougla (I can't locate this place). Although wind and surf inhibited their work, they identified the heavy foundation of a probable tower as well as two circular tanks possibly used for producing garum. Surface materials are reported to be consistent with occupation and activity during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.
In addition to David Meadows at RC, thanks are due to my employer (NYU) for purchasing a JSTOR subscription that includes JRS, to for posting the text of the press release (a link to the original would have been helpful) and to Brian Turner (UNC-CH) for the Strabo and Ptolemy references (part of his work on enhancing BAtlas content for forthcoming addition to Pleiades). And then of course there's Google's search, without which I wouldn't have been able to hunt down the original.

CFP: Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage

By way of maphist:
Third International Workshop
Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage
Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain 26 – 27 June 2008

Organized by the ICA Commission on Digital Technologies in Cartographic Heritage and the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya

Announcement - Call for papers

Venue: The Workshop will take place in Barcelona, the capital city of Catalunya, Spain, at the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya, Parc de Montjuïc (see map).

Participants and focus: This Workshop is addressed to scholars, researchers, map curators, map collectors, administrators, digital industry / market operators, and students coming from different cultural and educational backgrounds (humanistic, scientific and engineering) whose work is either focused on or affined to cartographic heritage. The Work­shop will offer a common ground to colleagues from various disciplines and practice where they can meet, interact and exchange knowledge, experience, plans and ideas on how the digital revolution and modern information and communication technologies in general can or could be used and contribute to cartographic heritage in terms of acquisition, processing visualization and communication of relevant digital data.

Sessions: The sessions will basically follow the ICA Commission’s terms of reference:
  • Introduce and establish the concept of "cartographic heritage". The multidisciplinary dimension of cartographic heritage.
  • Transformation into digital form of old maps, globes and other cartographic documents. Comparison of digitization methods and technologies and development of relevant standards.
  • Applications of digital techniques to the cartographic study (analysis and interpretation) of old maps and their geometric and thematic content. Tests of various analytic processes and visualization.
  • Development and management of digital map libraries accessible to the general public. Digital tools to assist map curators, to aid the networking of map libraries and to allow in-situ and remote virtual access to cartographic heritage.
  • Digital support for the preservation and restoration of old maps, atlases and globes.
  • The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the web for the teaching and for the diffusion of the heritage of cartography and maps to the general public.
  • The ‘digital needs’ of individual map collectors.
Papers: The papers, not exceeding 5.000 words, should be e-mailed by April 10 for inclusion in the Workshop’s CD-ROM, which will be available to all participants.

Proceedings: The presented papers will be published in the proceedings of the Workshop. Some of the papers in a shorter version will be also published in the international web journal on sciences and technologies affined to history of cartography and maps e-Perimetron [ISSN 1790-3769] following the journal’s editorial policy.

Language: The presentations will be given in English as well as the papers sent for inclusion in the Workshop’s CD-ROM and in the Proceedings. Papers to be published in e-Perimetron can be also written in French according to the journal’s editorial policy.

Registration: Free.

Accommodation: Barcelona offers easy accessibility for own booking (travel + hotel packages) in great variety of alternatives. The organizers suggest the participants to plan by their own as early as possible their travel and staying.

Participation form: Please fill the participation form [MSWord DOC] and send it asap to the contact e-mail addresses. Those who intend to present a paper please note a provisional title on the participation form.

Contact: [ Subject: ICA Workshop ]
The Commission Chair:
The Workshop’s Desk: and

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Digital Geography in a Web 2.0 World

Late-breaking news from London about an interesting conference (notice by way of Digital Arts and Humanities):
The Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in association with the National Centre for E-Social Science proudly presents "Digital Geography in a Web 2.0 World", a one-day conference at the Barbican Centre, London ... on 20th February.

It will disseminate the work of the GeoVUE (UCL) and MoSeS (Leeds) nodes as well as covering work undertaken on NCeSS's ESRC-funded Business Engagement project (UCL and Manchester) and the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) SPLINT project (Leceister, Nottingham and UCL).

Participants must register at where the program is available. As this event has several lecture sessions it is quite possible to choose which you would like to attend.
Please note: the "programme" link is to a web page with an embedded GIF showing the conference schedule and details. This will prove completely inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired. I have been unable to find a textual version of the programme online. I suggest that, if you need one, you contact CASA, the organizing institution.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

HGIS 2008 submission deadline extended

Ian Gregory writes to say that the deadline for session and paper proposals for Historical GIS 2008 (Essex, August 2008) has been extended to 29 February 2008. More details at the HGIS 2008 website.

Seeing the Green for the Green

It looks like Lee was just as surprised as I was about this whole Green Huntsville thing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Was bedeutet das "Green"?

I'm really unclear on exactly how it is that "regular mowing along Memorial Parkway" makes Huntsville more "green". Are we talking about neatness, or environmental responsibility? The latest newspaper reporting seems to confuse the two (or maybe it's the self-congratulatory civic leaders they're interviewing).

Now, planting trees, land preservation, picking up litter, preserves/parks, and curbside recycling are all reasonable indicia of green-ness. The work of Forever Wild, the Nature Conservancy and the Huntsville Land Trust is truly laudable. And we shouldn't forget the city's trail/greenway efforts.

But someone needs to tell the mayor that mowing has a big carbon-and-air-quality footprint. Moreover, many would dispute the assertion that we have "good public transportation". There's no bus or train feeders from rapidly-growing suburbia. The core shuttle-bus service is underused and under-promoted. No HOV lanes. Bad traffic snarl on almost every in-and-out-bound route during peak times (so lots of idling). No significant promotion of car pooling that I can see.

And let's not even talk about the monster sprawl out in the county (e.g., drive Maysville Road between Maysville and Buckhorn sometime and tell me where those cotton fields and pastures are going, and where the inhabitants of those new houses are going to have to drive their SUVs in order to work, to eat, to shop). We can't call Huntsville "green" and ignore the massive changes going on in the hinterland just because it's a different jurisdiction -- it's all one big environmental system.

And there still has been no responsible grappling with water issues, despite the drought and good reporting in the Huntsville Times and on Alabama Public Television, as well as Lee Roop's wakeup calls ... not to mention the widely publicized specter of electrical shortfalls this summer if the TVA can't cool all its reactors.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Planet Atlantides: Feed Aggregators for Ancient Studies

I've put together two feed aggregators for the benefit of anyone who would like to make use of them.

Escape from PGeo, part deux

Last week, I posted a short bit on using ogrinfo and ogr2ogr to convert a layer in an ESRI personal geodatabase to a shapefile. Today we'll automate the process with some python programming to extract all layers (regardless of geometry) from an arbitrary pgeo file.

The following examples assume you're running python within an FWTools shell.

Get a list of layers

The first challenge is capturing the output from ogrinfo (the list of layers) into a form we can parse. Python gives us a number of methods for issuing commands to the hosting system environment. The one to use here is popen3 from the os module since it will let us invoke ogrinfo and then work with its output (specifically stdout) as a file-like object in code. We'll read the output lines into a python list for subsequent processing.
>>> import os
>>> infilename = "ItAntMapping.mdb"
>>> child_stdin, child_stdout, child_stderr = os.popen3("ogrinfo %s" % infilenam
>>> output = child_stdout.readlines()
>>> output
["INFO: Open of `ItAntMapping.mdb'\n", " using driver `PGeo' successful.\n"
, '1: whollyimprecise\n', '2: placesAdded\n', '3: placesEstimated\n', '4: places
Solid\n', '5: stretchesDangling\n', '6: stretchesFloating\n', '7: stretchesSolid
\n', '8: tpPoints\n', '9: stretchesUnlocated\n']
Now we want to cleanup this list of lines so we're left with a list of layer names (no prefixed numbers, no newline characters, no strings other than layer names). We'll iterate through each line in the output and, if a python regular expression designed to differentiate between layer names and ogrinfo's other outputs finds a match, we'll copy the relevant portion of the matched line into a new list of "layers". We'll need the python regular expression module (re) for this step.

In pseudocode:
  • set up a regular expression to match a line that begins with a string of digits, a colon, and a space, followed by a string of arbitrary length and a newline (group the string that is the layer name)
  • create a new list to hold the layer names
  • for each line in the output list:
    • attempt a regular expression match
    • if matched: append the contents of the group (the layer name) to the layers list
In python:
import re
>>> regex = re.compile('^\d+: (.*)\n')
>>> layers = []
>>> for line in output:
... m = regex.match(line)
... if m:
... layers.append(m.groups()[0])
>>> layers
['whollyimprecise', 'placesAdded', 'placesEstimated', 'placesSolid', 'stretchesD
angling', 'stretchesFloating', 'stretchesSolid', 'tpPoints', 'stretchesUnlocated
Extract each named layer

Now the easy part. Iterate through the list of layers, invoking ogr2ogr for each layer. We don't need to capture any i/o streams this time, so we'll just use the plain-vanilla system method.
>>> for layer in layers:
... os.system('ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" %s.shp ItAntMapping.mdb %s' % (la
yer, layer))
>>> ^Z
C:\Users\Tom\Documents\itins>dir *.shp
Volume in drive C has no label.
Volume Serial Number is 2C47-654D

Directory of C:\Users\Tom\Documents\itins

02/04/2008 01:03 PM 156 placesAdded.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 7,464 placesEstimated.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 85,780 placesSolid.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 100 stretchesDangling.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 100 stretchesFloating.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 62,420 stretchesSolid.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 1,684 stretchesUnlocated.shp
02/04/2008 01:03 PM 100 whollyimprecise.shp
8 File(s) 157,804 bytes
0 Dir(s) 172,207,665,152 bytes free
Package up the code

I've incorporated these steps into a python script, along with some error handling and usage methods. It's a bit more generalized than what's shown above. Enjoy, and let me know about mistakes or suggestions for improvement.

right-to-left in blogger

Last week, I griped about blogger's announcement of right-to-left text support because the post seemed to say that a point-and-click mechanism for mixing right-to-left and left-to-right text was only available in blogs set to the newly available Arabic, Hebrew or Persian languages.

I got a comment to the effect that I was wrong and that the settings are available in the dashboard. After an inspection of the dashboard for this blog, and of every single customization tab, I conclude that I was not wrong.

You can only get compose-gui support for mixing RTL and LTR in posts if your blog language is set to Arabic, Hebrew or Persian. The relevant blogger help entry confirms this view (emphasis mine):
If you're not seeing the directionality buttons in the post editor, it's likely because right-to-left support is only available in the Hebrew, Arabic and Persian interfaces.
I stand by my original complaints.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Short-notice CFP: Contributory GIS for Historical Research

This, by way of H-HISTGEOG:

From: Mary B. Ruvane []
Date sent: 29 Jan 2008

Apologies for the late notice and cross posting. The deadline for formal abstracts may be extended, but a statement of interest should be submitted as soon as possible.

Call for Papers: 2008 Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association (
Location/Date: Miami, Florida, USA , 23-26 OCTOBER 2008
Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2008 -- extension requests considered
  • Ian Gregory, Lancaster University, UK
  • Mary Ruvane, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Contact: Mary Ruvane (

Real time contributory Web applications are fast becoming the de facto tool of choice for facilitating timely information exchange between various social groups. Established examples include wikipedia, facebook, and flickr. More recently applications for sharing geographic information have emerged, such as GoogleEarth and its companion Wikimapia, providing an unprecedented opportunity for historical researchers to collaborate on reconstructing past geographies. But how trustworthy are these burgeoning websites? Is the shared information accurate, in standard formats, well documented, or peer reviewed? To be a viable tool in support of academic research these concerns must be addressed.

This session seeks speakers who have successfully adopted contributory GIS tools in support of their historical research or teaching. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
  1. Projects utilizing contributory Historical GIS
  2. Accuracy of geographic representations
  3. Trustworthiness of shared data
  4. Data standards solutions
  5. Authenticating archival source material
  6. Peer review/moderator solutions
  7. Dealing with inferences
  8. Privacy & security issues
  9. Data contributor diparities (e.g., amateurs, geographers, historians, etc.)
NOTE: Applications for Graduate Student travel awards are due February 1, 2008 (

Mary B. Ruvane
PhD Student
School of Information & Library Science
University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill