Mining the Old Bailey

This week on DITA we learnt about data mining and used the API Demonstrator to test data mining out as well as do some text analysis. I was excited to use the Old Bailey API to look at transcripts of some of my favourite cases. That is until I realise all my favourite cases occurred after 1913. Nevertheless, I decided to search crimes involving secondary participation.

pic1First, I used the general search bar on the website. Since secondary participation is a more recent term, I used key words such as ‘aiding’ and ‘abetting’. I was also interested in murder cases in particular and decided to search under these terms and it returned with 172 results.

I then decided to use the API demonstrator, using it to find out about the number of killings that are committed by women and that are found guilty. It’s pretty interesting because it allows you to break it down by subcategories and other aspects of the trial. It’s interesting to see how its format is similar to that of text analysis tools such as voyant.

pic 2 I later drilled it down to the fours trials concerning highway robbery and tried to export the four results but it doesn’t work immediately. I tried again when I got home when I thought there would be less traffic and it worked!

pic 4

Overall , the site worked fairly well despite the troubles with exporting the data to Voyant. I feel like this would be a particularly helpful tool for people taking cases for reference, if people wanted to go through the old law they could take old cases, run it through Voyant and analyse how often certain details of a case crop up such as who heard as well as how relevant legal concepts such as defences were relevant. Part of me wish I knew things such as distant reading, text analysis and coding while I was still doing law… It might have been easier for me to sift through and find cases relevant to my research.

While I was waiting for the API Demonstrator to export my data to Voyant, I decided to move on to the Utrecht University Digital Humanities Lab and read about the ABO (Annotated Books Online) Project which aims to understand how users in the past use their books by what they annotate in them and holds about 60 copies of annotated books.

pic5The search function allows you to search by specific terms such as language.


It searches the text by annotations and will give translations and additional annotations to them. I searched an earlier annotation that had the word ‘deer’ to test how it worked at first. Unlike Old Bailey, it highlights the annotation on the actual scanned document possibly because it is important to understand the context in which the annotation is made. It offers less search conditions compared to Old Bailey but again this could be because of the type of data both of them are collecting, for the Old Bailey it may be more useful for them to be able to sift through the data through categories such as verdict, offence, defendant’s details, etc. It may be harder to find any other way to categorise the annotations other than by language and such.


For some reason transcriptions are not on all the pages, either it is not something they aim to do or that they haven’t transcribed the annotations. You can view several books at the same time which is a nice touch however quite frustrating that it doesn’t point out where the annotations are. I wish there is an option to read through texts that have already been transcribed/annotated but hopefully in the future when there is more done on the project! It’s both interesting in context and I look forward to testing out data mining where more of its information has been digitised!

Cloud Watching

This week on DITA we learnt about distant reading and text analysis and used various online tools to analyse ext.

Distant reading is a form of reading where instead of focusing on an in-depth analysis of one text, many texts are analysed together as a dataset to understand them all. Text analysis as a form of distant reading by analysing large amounts of text for frequency of words appearing, patterns within the text and how often they are used in a particular context. There are various tools that can be used in text analysis and in our lab we tried out just a few to generate text clouds and I did it with an Altmetric report on how often articles about Gender were tweeted in Library and Information Science..

The first one is Wordle which a simple word cloud generator. It gives people the option of changing visuals such as font and colour as well as the number of words used in the cloud. At the most it is only capable of generating a visual of the words


The next one was Many-Eyes, which offers people a few more ways to visualise data besides word clouds including pie charts and graphs. However as much as I wanted to have a word cloud of of this again, it took a long time to get it to visualise one without it crashing. In terms of abilities I find it pretty similar to wordle however with the added choice when it comes to forms of visualisation. It still searches through text by frequency of appearance or alphabetically.


The final one and my personal favourite is Voyant. Voyant not only generates a word cloud but also offers many tools such as editing stop words so you can exclude words that you feel are irrelevant as well as see the number of times each word appears in the text..


Not only that, the user is able to pick and observe specific words. For example if I wanted to know how often science is a subject in the tweets then it can highlight and show where they occurred in the text as well as the context of those words. It could also compare them with different words on a chart and I compared it with the Internet as a way to see how often they appear together and where. Overall it is an effective tool for more detailed text analysis compared to the other two.



This week on DITA we covered altmetrics, which measures the impact of articles and other scolarly documents. There are a few tools available to help understand and observe this impact and the one we used during lab was Almetric, which measures the amount of online attention an article and dataset (with a DOI) gets on social media platforms, literary review, news outlets and reference managers. This does this by using APIs and will track down the number of times it’s been referenced or linked by particular websites.

How Altmetrics work is that a person can view the number of times the blog had been linked in other sites, and would show which sites and readers it had been viewed from.

ALTMETRICAAltmetric compiles all the information on the attention received and gives a score based on the attention received. Each type of website that links the article is given a different weighting, Facebook being the lowest with 0.25 and news being the highest with a score of 8. Altmetric also will attempt to look into each mention when possible to gauge the importance of the source and how many people may reach it as well as any bias that they may have.

ALTMETRICAIt also shows the demographic of the readers viewing the article, both by geography and by type of reader (member of the public, scientist, science communicators, practitioners). Type of readers is discovered by looking at keywords in their profile description and geographic location is found using geolocators.

From this I understand how altmetrics can benefit people who want to know more about the quality of the article or the reception it receives from the public. Unlike citations which only show which journals cite the article, altmetrics can show a greater view of the impact including page views, downloads and more.

However I feel that Altmetric doesn’t give enough information to determine the quality of the article at times. It doesn’t show whether the attention towards the article is positive or negative nor can it tell us anything about he actual validity of the article. Geolocation can only be used when people allow their geolocation to be known and on twitter that makes up only 1% of the users on it. It also doesn’t show us anything about the quality of the researchers using it and comparing it to older articles is difficult when older articles are more likely to receive attention due to time.

I believe altmetrics is useful in finding out more about the impact of the article however there is still so much that it cannot tell us and there is few tools available to help find out such information at this moment.

Of Birds and Butterflies

All my life I’ve loved all kinds of animals but the creatures that hold the biggest space in my heart are insects.

This may be a bit unusual seeing as most people are quite deterred from them, but I personally find them fascinating and beautiful creatures, small yet complex compared to vertebrates. Which is why when Ernesto mentioned that tweets were like butterflies in this week’s DITA lesson I found myself resonating so strongly with the concept. It opened my eyes to view tweets in a completely different and almost natural way than before.

This week we created an app used to collect and archive tweets using keywords and hashtags, we’ve used TAGS, an application created by Martin Hawsey, Twitter Search API to compile all the tweets including the tag #citylis. The exercise taught me how data could be visualised and I’ve learnt several things such as top tweeters and subjects related to them. It’s interesting to see how data could be generated using apps and I wonder how it could be used to aid further research.

When I read Ernesto’s articles on Twitter being used for public evidence and archiving and storing data sets, I started to understand the importance of twitter data being used in research especially in understand today’s trends. Tweets are already recognised to contain significant information about today’s culture and even the Library of Congress now holds an archive of tweets from 2006-2010. In regards to the ethics behind how to use twitter data, I find that scientists should have the right to use data made available to the public as they would in any public situation where data would be gathered. I think Caitlin M. Rivers’s report on ethical standards when using big data does outline how we should treat datasets while respecting privacy and it works just as most ethical standards for scientific research would.

Tweets are like butterflies in more ways than one: they’re small, numerous and contain huge amounts of data important for study, and unless scientists are able to collect samples you can not be expected to learn more about the subject that’s been studies. It has proven its use in past studies such as the one made by JISC relating to the London riots which I find this a particularly interesting example as it does dismiss original ideas relating to the use of social media using data collected from them. It’s important that we study social network data when understanding today’s culture as it plays such an integral part of people’s lives today that it would be irrational not to take it into account.

To conclude, I’ve decided to rename this blog title to lepidoterans, the taxonomic order of butterflies and moths, to respect this metaphor which joins together two things that I love dearly. I  think  that if tweets are butterflies than we are the information entomologists that study them!

APIs and JavaScript

(I’m trying a new way to organise my thoughts into words since I’ve been dissatisfied with my previous blog posts.)

This week in DITA, we’ve learnt about web services, the dynamic content you see and use on a web page, and APIs which is the interface which allows different software to interact. In this post I intend to explain the things we’ve learnt and my opinions on them.


APIs, which stand for Application Programming Interface, allows you to access date from the web server which you can later you to develop and modify programmes with. Originally this was something I struggled to understand, partially because while I was reading about it something about it felt so…incorporeal. I understood the coding languages and such because I could see the codes that create the outcome but with APIs I could not see the process of software interacting with one other or how the data was accessed. However, it is an important tool used with the creation and development of web applications. Applications can use the data collected to manipulate websites and personalise them for each individual user and this enhances web services even further!

It’s also thanks to APIs that we are able to allow different websites to interact with each other and put that data on different websites through embedding shortcodes. I feel this is a very important development because re-posting content is a huge issue in website and by embedding content such as videos and music, you are able to share them on your preferred platform and still allow views and response to the original creator which I think is very important.


I was super excited to learn about JavaScript because I’ve always had a slight interest in coding languages. JavaScript is a dynamic computer programming language  which defines the behaviour of web pages and allows scripts within it to interact with the user. Recently I’ve started to learn JavaScript and besides the fact that getting the syntax wrong is an absolute nightmare I find it a complex and exciting coding language to learn. There’s a certain thrill in seeing your script work after working on it for ages to get it to run the way you want it to! Compared to CSS and HTML, you’re able to do more things, or at least dynamic tasks which is very satisfying to see. Getting the right syntax is important however in order to get computers to understand you but hopefully I’ll be able to work it out!

how do we fi[x this mess]

This week in DITA we talked about relational databases and information retrieval and did several exercises in information retrieval. My title is just me quoting a result I had after having a bit of fun with Google’s autocorrect. I like questions, I like the sense of innocent curiosity you get from the ones searched. You really can’t find fault with even the most ridiculous of questions because in the end it is a genuine concern or curiosity a person has about the world. The main issue is how to find or provide the answers to them.

It’s interesting to see how far we’ve developed the search techniques used to search through databases despite the growing amount of information there is on the Web daily. From using structured queries to being able to input natural language in searches to find items. I think it makes its simpler and easier for most people to use unstructured queries without having to remember the specific search operators needed to find relevant answers.

However reflecting to a lab exercise we did previously where we evaluate websites what I found dissatisfying about many of the websites was how they relied on Google search to find particular pages or information on the website. In my opinion the problem with that is that without advanced search tools or even a basic understanding of search operators, it makes it difficult to filter through search results to find the exact page you need, and I feel that most people, regardless of how often they use Google, are unware of the latter.

I started wondering if there is a way to integrate search operators into people’s normal practices when entering queries, it’s something that I think most students now study when they’re young but never really continued to practice for some reason. I think it could be partially the fact that search operators, well, doesn’t come as naturally as simply inputting unstructured queries into a search.  Furthermore, as much as I enjoyed using search operators, when I did the exercise I find that Google’s information retrieval has adapted so well to natural language that you can find pretty relevant answers for many general questions.

Which brings to question how far could search engines improve the quality of information retrieval? Is it up to technology to advance at this point or for people to improve their own technical knowledge to be able to use the full potential of these information retrieval tools?

Just for my own amusement, I’ve decided to end this page with the rest of my results in google:

c4f7f868621d3817cfd1d740c08d8705(Is it charming enough to go on Google Poetics??)