New developments

As part of the library side development of MyReading, we’ll begin alerting you when the library is unable to source books that you have added to your reading list.

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Typically this is due to the book being out-of-print and no longer available to buy.

Further details are available here.

A quick update, including APA 6th news…

I’m conscious it’s been a while since we blogged anything, so here is a brief update!

Retiring the old interface

The “new” MyReading interface has been live for a full year now, so we’ll be switching off the old/original interface in late August/early September. The old interface has only been available to staff over the last 12 months, so this will have no impact on students.

Update: 20/Nov/2013 — the old interface has now been retired

APA 6th

MyReading now has experimental support for APA 6th, the new referencing standard for the university. At present, these can be found by expanding an item and selecting the “options” tab, e.g.

apa6th

The intention is to display them more prominently once we’ve finished development.

The main impact is that there’ll be a requirement to adhere to a fixed standard for entering author/editor names to ensure that the automated references are generated correctly.

Guide to the new interface

If everything goes to plan, the new staff interface will launch next weekend (22nd September) and you’ll have the option to start using it before then if you’d like.

Overview

Since launching MyReading last year, we’ve mostly been concentrating on adding extra functionality and, invariably, this has led to the interface becoming more cluttered. Earlier on this year, we began working on a redesign to tidy things up, improve the look & feel and to provide better support for mobile devices.

The changes are primarily to the way the reading list is displayed and, although we’ve not removed any of the existing functionality, you might find a few things have been moved to new places…

Toolbar

The top of the page now has a drop-down toolbar, which gives access to the following options (some of which will depend upon if you have editing rights to the list you are viewing):

  • edit list options – lets you change the list status (under review, published, etc), add header and footer text to the list, and toggle various others options
  • manage sections – add new sections, rename sections, move sections around, etc
  • add new item to list – I think you can probably guess what this does 😉
  • view activity summary – view a report showing which references have been clicked on and which books were borrowed from the library during the current and previous academic years
  • view list history – an activity log, showing you who did what and when to the list
  • flush list cache – allows you empty the temporary cache, so that all the references are regenerated from scratch (see the “Cache” section at the foot of this blog post for more info)

Inline Editing

We’ve introduced “inline editing” to some parts of the page, which makes editing things even easier. For example, to edit a section title, simply left-click on it…


…and then you can edit the content…

…finally, click the “update” button to save your changes…

Tabs

To make better use of the screen space, we’ve introduced tabs as part of the reference display. The tabs that appear will depend on who you are and if you have editing rights to the list.

The default tab is details and it should look familiar, as it contains the access links and details of the reference:

If there’s a preview of the book available on Google Books, you’ll find it in the preview tab:

more like this is a new feature and many thanks to Cath Ellis and Merrick Burrow for providing invaluable suggestions! This tab acts as a jumping off point to find similar things, such as articles and books by the same author, books with the same Dewey classification, books borrowed by other students, and relevant journal titles.

The next tab, edit, brings together all of the editing functionality into one place. As well as correcting any mistakes in the reference, you can also add notes and alter the relevancy (recommended, background, essential, etc):

Finally, the options tab brings together a selection of various other options relating to the reference, including permanent links, adding extra web links, copying the reference to another list, and exporting to bibliographic reference software:

Cache

Another one of the key drivers for the redesign was to improve the speed of the software, especially with some of the larger lists that have 700+ items. MyReading does a lot of caching of data to ensure that the web page can rendered as quickly as possible. Under the previous version of the software, it took about 1 second per reference to create a list from scratch, so a list of 60 items would take a minute to load! The new version of the software drops that down to about 1/10 of a second per reference (assuming that the cache is empty). However, if the cache is doing its job, then even the longest list should load completely in under 3 seconds.

If you ever find that the list is behaving oddly — perhaps you edited a reference, but the changes didn’t appear — you can use the flush list cache to clear the cached items and regenerate the list from scratch.

MyReading running slow

We’ve been experiencing a couple of glitches with the caching part of the MyReading software that has been causing lists to load slowly. We think these have now been resolved, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation.

For those who like their explanations to contain the gory details, there are two functions that create bottlenecks when generating the readings lists:

1) Fetching in external data

For books and journal articles, data is retrieved from external sources (primarily the library catalogue and the journal article link resolver) to augment the reference and provide the access links. Typically, this takes on average a second per reference.

2) Generating the reference

To render the reference, MyReading extracts information from its database and formats it for display in the web page. This is a relatively quick process — taking about 1/20 of a second — but creates a noticeable delay when generating long reading lists (e.g. a list with 200 items takes about 10 seconds to process).

To try and ensure MyReading responds as quickly as possible, both of the above processes make use of aggressive caching techniques so that the data is only refreshed when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately a glitch with the caching was causing both of the processes to misbehave.

interface improvements (update)

Just a quick follow up to the previous post about the improvements we’re making to the interface…

As with the original interface, you initially see a list of the items on the reading list:

When you click on a reference, just as before, it expands to show you more details. The difference now is that we’re using a tabs to expose some new functionality. By default, you get the “details” tab:

If it’s available on Google Books as either a preview or an entire book, you’ll get a “preview” tab:

The “discussion” tab is still under development and will be an optional feature. The idea is to provide a social space where you and your students can discuss the item. For example, you might set a task of reading a journal article and then ask your students to critique it within MyReading. If you are keen to beta test this feature during the autumn term of 2012/13, please get in touch!

Another optional feature is to make use of the library’s analytical data to show other items that students looked at (e.g. books and journals) within a “more like this” tab:

Finally, if you have editing rights, you’ll see a couple of extra tabs. Firstly, you can now edit the reference “inline” within the web page via the “edit” tab:

And, secondly, there’ll be a number of extra “admin” style options for the reference. In the old interface, these were displayed underneath the reference, but we’ve decided to tidy up the interface and give them their own tab:

Timescales

If all goes to plan, we’ll be rolling out the new interface to students at the end of July. As we still need to retrofit some of the existing admin options into the new interface, we’re anticipating that the new interface will be rolled out to staff during August or September.

If you have any comments or question, please get in touch!

Improvements to the interface

We’re planning to roll out some improvements to the interface this summer, which will include converting the reading lists to HTML5 and improving support for mobile devices via progressive enhancement.

On a desktop browser or large screen mobile device (e.g. an iPad), a reading list might look like this:

…whilst the same list on a smaller device (e.g. an iPhone) will optimise itself for a narrow screen width by hiding icons and book cover images:

As well as the improvements to the interface, we’ve also been optimising the back-end MyReading code to improve performance, particularly for larger lists (200+ items).

If all goes well, we’re aiming to roll out the new interface in early July.

Annual Review of Digitised Extracts

Under the current terms of the CLA Licence, we’re required to review all digitised extracts on reading lists on an annual basis. These are typically PDF scans of book chapters and journal articles that we don’t otherwise have online access to.

We’ll shortly be sending out an automated email to all academics who have a reading list with digitised extracts and you’ll need to declare which items are going to be reused in the next academic year (2012/13). As we’re anticipating that most of you will want to reuse all the extracts on your reading lists, we’ve set up a simple process to allow you to do that. You can also easily select which items will no longer be required and these will be automatically removed on July 31st.

The important thing to note is that if you don’t carry out the review process, the extracts on your reading lists will be automatically removed on July 31st and they won’t be available to the 2012/13 students.

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch!

Updating books to the latest edition

In general, we’d recommend that you use the latest edition of a book on your reading list. Where newer editions are listed in the library catalogue, you should start to see a “newer edition available” message (in green) below the book references…

If you expand the reference, you’ll see the newer edition(s) listed in the “Library Catalogue – all editions and related works” section, along with an option to update the reference…

Before updating to the latest edition, we’d recommend that you review the library stock (you can do this by clicking on the title of the newer edition) — in this particular case, we have 3 copies of the 1993 edition in stock. If you do decide to update to a newer edition, your Subject Librarian will be automatically alerted and, if necessary, extra stock will be purchased.

Occasionally you might find a “false positive”, where the newer edition is a related work (such as a different volume) rather than a newer edition. Feel free to report those to myreading@hud.ac.uk and we’ll investigate.

When you click on the “update to this edition” option, you’ll see the usual “check the reference for accuracy” screen…

Once you’re happy with the new reference, click on the “Submit” button to update the reading list…

The older edition of the book will still be listed in the “Library Catalogue – all editions and related works” section.

If you run into any problems using this new feature, please leave a comment or send an email to myreading@hud.ac.uk