For our first edition of Meet the Developer Team, we would like to introduce Chad Nelson who works at Temple University and is a part of PA Digital. The Developer Team has worked tirelessly on PA Digital’s aggregator so that our hub can harvest over 214,000 records from 38 institutions throughout Pennsylvania and contribute them to the DPLA.
Michael Carroll, Interviewer (MC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Temple University and the work you do there?
Chad Nelson, Developer Team Member (CN): I’m Lead Technology Developer at Temple University Libraries. I’m part of the team that builds applications and services that help users get access to our resources and make staff lives easier. I’m responsible for keeping the team of developers interested and focused, thinking strategically about our infrastructure and the maintainability of our applications.
MC: How did you first get involved with PA Digital and the DPLA?
CN: Before I started at Temple, which is when I started working with PA Digital, I was already involved with DPLA as a Community Rep. As a rep, I used data from the DPLA and the DPLA API to build applications I thought explored the data in new ways. As part of that process, I wrote a small software library making it easy to use the DPLA API in the Python programming language. I also built a few apps – Color Browse (http://colorbrowse.club/) allowing a small selection of DPLA data to be searchable by Color, and DPLA by State and County (http://chads.space/dpla/), that shows DPLA item distribution at the State and County level.
MC: Can you elaborate about your role in and contributions to PA Digital?
CN: I maintain the servers that power the PA Digital Aggregator, and contribute to the software we use to pull in data in from contributors, normalize it, and feed it through to the DPLA. This includes updating the application to perform new functions, reviewing code submissions from other developers on the PA Digital project, working with the metadata team on designing future requirements, or analyzing problems with data from new contributors.
MC: What is your favorite app for engaging with DPLA materials? How did you go about the initial stages of developing your apps for the DPLA?
CN: The Color Browse app is my favorite app that I worked on because I learned so much from building it, and it has really helped me discover items in collections I would never have otherwise found.
I started off that project by wondering how searching and classifying by color could even happen. I had never done that kind for work before so I started off small, trying to understand how I would get a list of all the colors in an image. Once I had a good sense of how that worked, looked around for a dataset with lots of images I knew how to get a hold of easily – and DPLA was the obvious choice.
MC: Are there any apps that you are currently working on or would like to see developed for the DPLA?
CN: I’m very irregularly working on the Color Browse application to add more items, allow searching for multiple colors within an image, and syncing with DPLA.
MC: How would you rate your experience working on PA Digital and how does it relate to the work you do at Temple University?
CN: Working on PA Digital has been challenging. Trying to find the right balance between writing applications that are general enough to handle the many different systems our contributors is not easy. It is something the DPLA itself has struggled with, and it is pretty obvious why.
It has really made me appreciate just how diverse and varied the structure of cultural heritage data is, and what a huge undertaking by the DPLA it is to have aggregated as much as they have.