Toolbox/PR1

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Progress reports, produced roughly every two months, about the toolbox interactive wiki diagrams code.
See: PR1, PR2 and PR3



Progress Report 1

For start of Feb 2020

Diagram Types

I aimed to create families of diagram rather than single special cases. I'm having some success in that:

  • Annotated diagrams: My image-maps have rich (large) tootlips. They allow a lot of annotation without overcrowding. Screen-reader users, users who want to cut and paste text, and people who want to know what there is to find on the image can now toggle the zone list, which lists all zones and their tips. The annotation system works with all diagrams, including moving diagrams, not just images (i.e. it's not just for pngs and jpegs).
  • Bar charts and pie charts: The current implementation has just enough for some bug tracking and some code metrics for Audacity. The charts are a long way short of <chart> or GnuPlot. The annotations and the opportunity to customise these charts already make them preferable for Audacity's own uses.
  • Choosers: This is a style for shapes that turns them into clickable boxes to choose between one of several displays. This may be used for different ways of displaying the same data as in the spectrograms, or for overviews and detail, as in 'The Ear' demo.
  • Flow charts: These are laid out in terms of logical substructures, with the intention that boxes can be introduced and removed without manually re-laying out the entire diagram. Biochemical pathways will use the layout system.
  • Path-plots: aka snake-diagrams (early stage). Designed for in future showing the workings of large programs, biochemical pathways and metro maps. The current path-plot demo provides a zig-zag index of Audacity classes, organising them into 'snakes' of related classes. This is en-route to supporting a more metro-map layout, and especially cycles like The Citric Acid cycle.
  • Spherical distortion of map data: 'Eye-candy', these make constructing a whole-planet infographic from a map easy.


MediaWiki Integration

The diagrams can be made and used in wiki. For deployment on wiki I am currently piggy-backing on mediwiki extension 'Widgets' https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:Widgets. Later I'll work up an extension of my own.


Extension:Widgets is potentially dangerous as it gives privileged users the rights to add any javascript code at all to a mediawiki installation. The widgets extension is safe for regular users. Regular users get to use the javascript in a controlled way, via a template {{#widgets:wikidiagram|}}. Regular users can only make diagrams, not add new javascript.


A custom extension will be needed for security reasons and as work on a visual diagram editor unfolds. It isn't essential to have a custom editor at this early stage. Right now diagrams can be created and edited in the existing mediwiki demo just fine, as text.


I've chosen that each diagram has a page of its own, complete with history and discussion page. This is in line with using images from wiki commons, where each image has its own page.


Demos

I have some demos:


Documentation

I've begun writing user documentation. The commands and syntax are changing all the time as I work out what is good and what isn't, so this isn't a fixed locked down API in any sense. I currently use JSON syntax to specify the scene graph. That is built in to Javascript, so it is trivial to parse and is also what Vega does. I've found though that JSON isn't a good format for users. It is too verbose and too fussy about punctuation. I'm planning to use YAML which has less punctuation clutter. YAML also gives better diffs. I'm writing up the user documentation as if I were already using YAML.