Open source at CCeH in 2017

Welcome to the 2017 report on CCeH’s contributions to the open source world!

At the Cologne Center for eHumanities, we love to use, improve and publish open source software. It is only thanks to free and libre software that we can develop and support so many DH projects. Since 2014 we tried our best to be good open source citizens by participating and contributing in various communities, as we recounted in our 2015 and 2016 open source reports. Let’s have a look at what the CCeH has done in 2017.

Our own DH and technical projects

The open source highlight of 2017 is the publication of the source code and XML files of the Papyri Wörterlisten, released under the CC-BY license and available in multiple formats. The Papyri Wörterlisten contain more than 33.000 Greek and Latin lemmas transcribed from papyri, with each lemma linked to all the relevant publications where it has been discovered or discussed.

CCeH’s open source projects in 2017: Papyri Wörterlisten, Shadow Thing, Soledades

Two collaborators of the CCeH have also published the source code that is behind their academic works. Enes Türkoglu has published his master’s thesis: a interactive Shadow Theater, where the beautiful but fragile cut-out figures of the Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung Köln can come alive again. Antonio Rojas Castro has published a thoroughly curated digital scholary edition in TEI of Soledades by the Spanish poet Luis de Góngora, part of his PhD dissertation.

In addition, the CCeH published some new more technically-oriented projects, for example WordPress monitoring plugins for Icinga[1] and a work-in-progress RTI controller[2].

Obviously, we also kept updating our existing DH projects on GitHub at Software needs perennial maintenance, let’s not forget it.

But something is missing here. Where is the usual bunch of new DH projects? The CCeH has worked on many new DH projects in 2017, where is their code? The answer is: the new DH projects are hosted and developed in our own GitLab installation. We are ironing out the last kinks before making our GitLab publicly accessible. The report for 2018 will be quite long. 😉

Improvements to other projects: patches and bug reports

No program is perfect. Every software has a bug or lacks a feature. The great thing of open source is that you can go and fix that bug that nags you, or add that feature that your project needs. And once that work is done, you can share it with the community, making that software better for everybody else.

In 2017 we fixed bugs and contributed quite a bit of features to the XML database eXist-DB: New query and indexing functions [3,4,5,6] and speed improvements to the full-text search[7], as well as tests and documentation[8,9,10].

We also contributed to various XML-based publishing tools like XProc-Z[11] and KCL’s DDH Kiln[12].

For the cases where we could not fix the problems ourselves, we went to great lengths to document the bugs we have found and how to reproduce them.

For example, we all know that in TEI there is always a missing attribute somewhere. 😉 Fortunately the wonderful TEI community is always open to fixes and suggestions[13,14].

Reporting bugs is often not as easy as making a well reasoned request. In many cases, finding and understanding bugs requires quite a bit of analysis, like when eXist returned wrong results[15,16,] or BaseX stopped playing nicely with websites spread across multiple domains [17].

There are even cases where one has to go though the whole history of the project to pinpoint the exact moment when a bug has been introduced, like it happened while debugging the eXide XML online editor[18].

But our efforts are not limited to the XML world. All the open source programs that we use for our internal infrastructure are also important to us. And this reflects in our bug reports to GitHub Desktop[19], GitLab[20, 21] and NextCloud[22].

Bye 2017, welcome 2018!

It is a lot of work to produce proper open source software and participate meaningfully in so many communities. But it is work that we at the CCeH are happy and proud to have done and we promise we will continue doing for the years to come.

I hope you enjoyed this small overview of CCeH’s big and small contributions to the open source world in 2017. See you in 2018!