TAPoR: Five views through a text analysis portal (COCH/COSH Allied Association Session)

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Geoffrey Rockwell

    McMaster University

  2. 2. Stéfan Sinclair

    McMaster University

  3. 3. James Chartrand

    Open Sky Solutions

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A. Session Introduction
The TAPoR project started as a project to create a portal
where users could manage texts, tools and then run tools
on text. The Alpha version of the TAPoR portal nicely
demonstrated the potential of this simple workbench paradigm.
TAPoR.2 builds on the individual project paradigm to make
the portal useful for research communities. It does this in a
number of ways:
1. We have developed a Try It first encounter interface for use
by new users, casual users, and just-in-time users. This
interface has been developed in close coordination with
usability researchers, though it is now going into extensive
2. TAPoR.2 allows user information to be saved for groups or
made public in a fashion similar to community information
portals like del.icio.us ( <http://del.icio.us> ) and
CiteULike ( <http://www.citeulike.org> ). Some
types of information have always been intended for public
viewing like the News built into TAPoR from the beginning.
We have not only extended the sharing model to all types
of information managed, but we have added communal
editing to selected types of information, especially
documentation, with a wiki editing-like interface.
3. We have extended the project paradigm to allow interfaces
to be created that can be integrated into other projects and
web sites. Thus advanced users can create projects that are
styled to look like part of a different project.
4. We have developed a tool developers interface so that tools
as web services can be added and documentation quickly
entered. We have also used the community building features
of the portal to develop TA!DA! or the TAPoR Developers
Association – a site for the developer community.
5. We have developed TEA, the TAPoR Engine of Association,
which is designed to help the serendipitous exploration of
texts, references, links, people, projects and tools. TEA
combs and visualizes topic maps which associate items
across users.
In this session we are going to present the portal from five
views that move from a conventional first encounter view of a
tool portal to an inverted view of the portal as a research
community association engine. These five views will be
presented as three coordinated papers.
B1. TAPoR: First Encounters
Geoffrey Rockwell
The first paper will demonstrate the first encounter interface,
Try It. Woven into this presentation will be a discussion of the
usability research and testing that led to this interface
hypothesis. It is our hope that this encounter interface will be
of use to novices and advanced, but casual, users. It is an
interface that doesn’t require a portal account so it can be used
occasionally and it is optimized for ease of use and successful
Rockwell will then demonstrate the basic user account paradigm
for people who want to use the portal for sustained text analysis
projects. He will demonstrate how from a first encounter once
can get a myTAPoR account with which to organize links to
texts, organize tools, and manage projects.
B2. TAPoR: Developing Encounters
Stéfan Sinclair
The second paper will demonstrate and discuss the Tool
Developers interface and the community tools designed to assist
developers. In this context Sinclair will discuss the first TAPoR
“hackers ball” funded by the Social Science and Humanities
Research Council of Canada through a grant led by Stéfan
Sinclair. He will also discuss the technical design of the
underlying tool broker and the data interfaces that allow results
to be saved to a Data Bench for use as an input text for a
different tool. This component of the presentation will end with
a blatant attempt to enlist attendees in TA!DA! so we can enrich
the tools collection.
The portal must bring together the text analysis community. In
particular, the portal must make it as easy as possible for
researchers who have existing tools, or want to write new tools
— in their preferred programming language — to make the
tools available through the portal. Web services provide a
standard language and protocol to enable communication
between different programming languages, and therefore are a very appropriate vehicle for connecting text analysis tools
together through the portal. Further, most programming
languages provide tools to publish existing program code as
web services with little or no modification, and little extra setup.
In some cases the tools will take an existing program function
and create the entire infrastructure needed to make the function
available over the internet: the web server, the code to listen
for remote requests and translate them into calls to the local
program code, and code to package the results up and return
them to the original caller.
Text analysis tools provided as web services are easier to
combine in simple ('piped') combinations, but can also be
combined in very sophisticated arrangements (using scripting)
— without requiring that the user learn new programming
languages or run through elaborate setup procedures.
B3. TAPoR: Community Encounters
James Chartrand
The third paper will discuss the underlying technologies
deployed in the portal so as to show how the portal can be
rethought as a community association engine. We chose Apache
Cocoon as our web development framework for the portal.
Cocoon satisfies several of our objectives. Cocoon provides a
basic portal implementation geared towards custom
development. Cocoon is open source. Much of Cocoon is made
up of code donated from large scale software projects; code
that has gone through numerous development cycles on large
systems. Cocoon is actively maintained and supported by
hundreds of developers. Cocoon is therefore stable, secure, and
scalable. In addition, Cocoon runs on Java and therefore, can
run without modification on Linux, Windows and the Mac,
allowing new projects to install the portal with ease.
The portal must provide a uniform and single point of access
for text analysis tools, but must also engender an online
community of knowledge. We chose Topic Maps for knowledge
management because they are adaptable, simple, and standards
based. Topic Maps can be thought of as a very rich index. An
index that doesn't just point into texts, but can describe
relationships between almost any object or idea. In our case,
the relationships are between texts, between tools, between
texts and tools, between projects, between projects and tools,
between projects and users, between users and texts, and so on.
Topic Maps also make the portal more adaptable to the needs
of other projects outside the text analysis community.
In the context of underlying technologies James Chartrand will
demonstrate the portal again, but now from the view-point of
how it can be used to develop a research group or project taking
advantage of the incorporated technologies. He will demonstrate
the deep skinning features that allow users to create views that
suit their research, their groups, or their projects. In this context
he will illustrate how the TAPoR portal, is, from one
perspective, just a web of associations between links, notes,
tools, and topics.
C. Issues
There are a number of key issues that underlie all three
i. Peer review of tools and academic credit. In a panel
organized for the ACH/ALLC 2003 in Athens Georgia by
Stéfan Sinclair on "Peer Review of Humanities Computing
Software" we presented some models for how review of
tools could be supported. TAPoR as a public portal that
gives access to tools elsewhere that run as web services can
be site for the review and documentation of software tools.
We will present a documentation interface that allows public
comments and reviews of tools that could serve some of
the need for a peer review system.
ii. Open source. A popular paradigm for the creation and
maintenance of community tools is to release them as open
source under one of the various licenses available. We will
discuss the way in which the portal as software is open
source and the ways individual tools can be made available
or protected. Likewise we will discuss the need for
authentication for selected texts which cannot be made
available openly.
iii. Humanities software development. The portal must,
fundamentally, meet the needs of a research community.
Needs which aren't, by definition, yet completely defined
as research evolves. To that end, we have adopted an "agile"
development process that involves regular meetings and
storytelling. This approach has proven extremely effective.
We have avoided getting bogged down in over-analysis and
excessive documentation, and at same time have been able
to adapt development cycles to meet the evolving needs of
the project. Adaptability is particularly important for a
research project like this where midstream research
outcomes can lead to new paths, or close others.
iv. Stories. The 'story' is the fundamental unit of work in our
process. Stories are informal descriptions of how the
end-user would like to use the portal. Stories can be written
in whatever style makes sense for the user. Stories and other
documentation is kept in the TAPoRWiki which is a shared
development space. The stories are then broken down by
the Open Sky Solutions team into 'tasks' that are assigned
time estimates.
v. Adaptability. An important objective of the project is to
enable other projects to adapt the portal and to contribute
to its development. We have, therefore, organized the
development process around standards that make it
straightforward to not only download and install the portal, but to setup the development environment. Our goal is to
ensure continued development of the portal.
D. Conclusions
The TAPoR Portal is fundamentally conceived of and
designed to be an extensible, network-based research
environment. As such, it has been crucial to devise mechanisms
for enriching the portal by allowing developers and users to
encounter the portal, use it, and adapt it for others. It is worth
emphasizing how this approach differs from the development
of text analysis tools of the past, such as OCP and TACT, that
are essentially pre-defined workstation-based programs. TAPoR,
by contrast, seeks to accommodate unknown and unanticipated
resources. Such flexibility requires considerable engineering
to ensure compatibility between disparate texts and tools. We
will present a model for such flexibility, but recognize that it
will need testing and scrutiny to become genuinely useful.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

June 15, 2005 - June 18, 2005

139 works by 236 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double checked.

Conference website: http://web.archive.org/web/20071215042001/http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/achallc2005/

Series: ACH/ICCH (25), ALLC/EADH (32), ACH/ALLC (17)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None