Phew! These two weeks have been busy. After the difficulties getting the current codebase running on my machine, the last weeks have been much more productive! Here’s a little look at what I’ve been up to.
Science Museum Lates
On the 31st August, I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to be a collaborator in the Science Museum Lates with the rest of the OneZoom team. Our stall was called ‘Big Data and the Family’, and showed how using fractal trees can improve viewing big data. We had two different trees to demonstrate, ranging from a genealogy viewer called ZoomPast (our close family, other humans) to OneZoom’s full evolutionary tree of life (our distant family, the one I’ve been working on). The opportunity to get excited about science to people who were genuinely interested was a wonderful experience, and I’m very much looking forward to participating in further outreach of this kind.
Web development in Oxford
Last Monday, I caught the train down to Oxford to work with James and Yan (two of the OneZoom developers) in person for a few days. Before this, I had only been working on the codebase alone, and, although I had met both James and Yan before, working with them closely and getting to know them better was great. I was also able to vastly increase my familiarity with the codebase, and troubleshooting problems that required a detailed knowledge of the architecture of the application became much simpler. I also enjoyed the chance to explore Oxford a little, and experience the bustle and clamour of St. Giles’ Fair. Despite the heat, my knowledge and skills benefited hugely from the group programming environment, and it was sad to be heading back to London after only three days.
Working on a major mobile improvement
After returning from Oxford with new vigour and confidence, I felt prepared to really get stuck into the main project of my placement. Currently, although the tree is certainly usable on mobile devices, some older phones and tablets suffer from lagging problems that make the tree frustrating to use. I am now working on an improvement for mobile devices that will allow users to pan and zoom the tree more easily, only redrawing the full canvas when they take their finger off the screen. This should hopefully provide a large performance improvement, and really make OneZoom a truly mobile app. So far, I have made progress that allows the improvement to be used for panning (albeit with a few bugs that affect usability) and will be moving onto making it work for zooming too; once the bugs are fixed!