On the Juxta Beta release, and taking collation online

In September of 2008, when I first became acquainted with Juxta as a collation tool, I wrote a blog post as a basic demonstration of the software. I hunted down transcriptions of two versions of one of my favorite poems, Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” and collated them alongside the abbreviated lyrics to the song adapted from work by Loreena McKennitt. Screenshots were all I had to illustrate the process and its results, however – anyone interested in exploring the dynamic collation in full would need to first download Juxta, then get the set of files from me. We had a great tool that encouraged discovery and scholarly play, but it didn’t facilitate collaboration and communication. Now, in 2012, I can finally show you that set in its entirety.

The dream of Juxta for the web has been a long time coming, and we couldn’t have done it without generous funding from the Google Digital Humanities Award and support from European scholars in the COST Action 32 group, TextGrid and the whole team behind CollateX. As Project Manager, I’m thrilled to be a part of the open beta release of the Juxta web service, accessed through version 1.6.5 of the desktop application.

I imagine at this point you’re wondering:  if I want to try out the web service, do I still have to download the desktop application? Why would I do that?

Over the past year, our development team’s efforts have been directed to breaking down the methods by which Juxta handles texts into ‘microservices’ following the Gothenberg Model for collation. We designed the web service to enable other tools and methods to make use of its output: in Bamboo CorporaSpace, for example, a text-mining   algorithm could benefit from the tokenization performed by Juxta. We imagined Juxta not just as a standalone tool, but as one that could interact with a suite of other potential tools.

That part of our development is ready for testing, and the API documentation is available at GitHub.

However, the user workflow for Juxta as a destination site for collations on the web, is still being implemented. Hence this new, hybrid beta, which leverages the desktop application’s interface for adding, subtracting and editing documents while also inviting users to share their curated comparison sets online.

This is where you come in, beta testers – we need you to tell us more about how you’d like to user Juxta online. We know that collation isn’t just for scholarly documents: we’ve seen how visualizing versions of Wikipedia pages can tell us something about evolving conversations in Digital Humanities, and we’ve thought about Juxta’s potential as a method for authenticating online texts. But as we design a fully online environment for Juxta, we want to get a better sense of what the larger community wants.

I want to thank everyone who has set up and account and tried out the  newest version. We’ve seen some really exciting possibilities, and we’re taking in a lot of valuable feedback. If you’ve held off so far, I ask that you consider trying it out.

But I don’t have any texts to collate!

No worries! We’re slowly populating a Collation Gallery of comparison sets shared by other beta testers. You might just find something there that gets your creative juices flowing.

Explore Juxta Beta today!

** cross-posted on the NINES site **

Beta-release of Juxta includes online sharing

Calling all beta testers!

Over the past few months, NINES and the developers of Juxta have been busy adapting the application for use on the web. In order to expand our testing capabilities, we’re releasing a version of the desktop client that offers users the ability to share comparison sets online.

If you have any sets of witnesses to a particular work that you would like to collate and share, we invite you to sign up and download the beta version  to try out some of our online features. Please keep in mind that this is a trial version of the web-service, and may be subject to changes and updates over the next few months. Joining us now ensures that your feedback will make the full release of the software better than we could manage in-house.

 Please help us make Juxta better!

Juxta and excess: The case of Aimé Césaire

(Guest post by Alex Gil – read full entry at NINES)

I’m a PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of Virginia currently working on a digital edition of Aimé Césaire’s early works under the sponsorship of  l’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and ITEM. Some of this work also moonlights as my rather schizoid dissertation (read French poet/English Department) and I consider it part of my long-term goal of generating and sustaining enthusiasm for reliable digital editions of neo-canonical Caribbean literary texts. I am rather new to this blog, but not to Juxta. I started working with Juxta around the time when I started working with Aimé Césaire’s signature poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, roughly 2 years ago. At the time, Juxta saved me enormous amounts of time proofreading my retooled OCRs and generating an apparatus. It was later, when I started working with Et les chiens se taisaient, a longer text with substantially more variants and transpositions, that Juxta revealed to me both its current shortcomings and its ultimate promise.

We could say that Aimé Césaire was a migratory poet in the fullest sense: He had perfect pitch for context and used it to quickly adapt his voice to new audiences as his work traveled around three continents. As a student of literature he was as much a product of his Paris education as he was of the journey that brought him there and back to his home base in Martinique. His major works, and the many revisions they were subjected to during his lifetime, provide the final testimony to his restless poetic trajectory.

To the textual critic who approaches this corpus for the first time, one feature stands out above all others: The sheer number of transpositions from one version to another. In past conversations, I have likened his stanzas and lines to Lego blocks in order to quickly explain how he seems to have an utter disregard (or is it exactly the opposite?) for sequence. In the case of Et les chiens se taisaient the text begins its life as a three-act play on the Haitian Revolution, has an adolescence as a poetic oratorio with heavy Christian overtones and grows up to be a heavily abstract play about the struggle between universal Slave and Master figures. Throughout this transformation, stanzas and lines are bandied about without care for consistency, sometimes going from one speaker to his or her antagonist in a later version.

When I began using Juxta for Et les chiens se taisaient, I only expected the same functionality that was perfect to the T for Cahier d’ un retour au pays natal, but as soon as I started working with the first two instantiations of the text, the manuscript and the oratorio, obstacles and yearnings started cropping up. In its current build (1.3.1), Juxta struggles with long texts with many transpositions. After several meetings with NINES and Nick Laiacona, it became clear that a memory issue combined with the graphic rendering of connectors was the culprit. Apparently, Juxta has a built-in limit to the amount of internal memory it uses from the machine, and rendering the graphic connectors puts substantial pressure on these resources.  To account for transpositions, Juxta allows you to mark “moves” manually from one text to the next, creating a list of these moves as you go along in one of the bottom panels. This system is intuitive and easy to use, and complements the automated functions nicely, but it becomes unwieldy in a collection with heavy traffic. While Cahier d’ un retour au pays natal had a total of four, albeit significant, moves in its four major versions, Et les chiens se taisaient has an overwhelming 64 moves just between the manuscript and the first published version!

Click here to read the full entry at NINES.

Working with non-Roman alphabets in Juxta

Now that Juxta 1.3 has been refined and released, the development team at NINES has been discussing new directions for the software. First and foremost is the adaptation of Juxta’s collating power for texts in languages other than English. Comparisons of texts in French and Italian work pretty well, but we’re still investigating the necessary diacritics to make such operations more exact. However, it seems that scholars working with non-Roman alphabets have been left out of the conversation.

Do any Juxta users out there have any experiences with foreign language collation to share with us?

Searching Tennyson

Below is a representative page from Christopher Ricks’s critical edition of the poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

This excerpt from “The Lady of Shalott” illustrates traditional methods of textual collation: the base text is prominently displayed, with variants and annotations included in notes at the foot of the page. It provides a useful comparison to this screenshot of the same poem, collated in Juxta.

Two versions of the poem can be displayed in Juxta side-by-side, with a heat map of the differences (highlighted in green) making variants instantly recognizable. But in addition to these basic visualizations, the new Juxta 1.3 adds another useful feature: search.

Continue reading

Juxta 1.3 Released

Juxta 1.3 is now available for download here. It has the following new features:

1) Search over all documents.

Juxta Search
A search box has been added to the toolbar, making it possible to find instances of a word or phrase within all documents in the comparison set. Those results are listed in the Search pane at the bottom of the screen (see image above). Clicking on a line in that pane will display the document and the search results. Note that Juxta will remember the last searches that were performed and show them in the search drop down list.

2) Line numbers appear for the witness and base texts.

Line Numbers

Now, when the “toggle line numbers” menu item is selected, the line numbers appear alongside the witness text, in addition to the those coresponding to the base text.

3) “Moves”: the ability to correlate similar passages that are differently located in two documents.

Juxta Moves

The Passages feature from the last version has been reworked into the new, “Moves” feature. In the side-by-side collation view, the user may select text in both the base and the witness documents representing a passage identified as having moved (1). The move button (2) will become enabled at that point.

Juxta Move Completed
Click here to create the move. You will see an outline of the passages (3) and a line connecting them, with an entry made in the Moves pane (4). Clicking the entry brings the move into view.

Altogether, these features represent a significant improvement to Juxta as a textual collation tool. Download it and give it a try today!