Virginia Tech Demystifying the Summon 2.0 Interface

Earlier today, Proquest hosted a webinar with Godmar Back and Annette Bailey on the work they’ve been doing at Virginia Tech to customize some aspects of the Summon interface.  See their Code4Lib paper for the technical details.  Much of the webinar consisted of watching Godmar Back think aloud, navigating the code, to show how they “reverse-engineered” Summon code to identify components of the AngularJS framework they could augment.  They used a utility for deobfuscating the source code (Code Rascals W0rd of the Day: Grep) so that they could identify Summon developers’ custom directives that they could modify with their own JavaScript.  At least, I think that’s what they said they did.

According to a recent interview with Proquest, the original motivation for all of this was to be able to capture user click-throughs in Summon results for Virgina Tech’s libFX project.  Check out the “discipline ticker” for an example of what they were trying to do.  But, of course, it opened up the possibility for other customizations.

image of expanded facet in summon results
Example of a default expanded facet.

Examples included being able to improve labeling of links, or to have certain facets default to an open state on search results pages, and to retain that choice after page reloads.  Another example, demoed at the end of the webinar, was the insertion of local notices, such as simultaneous user limits, into certain result displays.

They acknowledged that considerable technical skills were necessary for sleuthing the Summon code.  They also acknowledged what they felt were the “moderate” risks associated with “writing code that directly interfaces with vendor code,” and expressed confidence that the risks were manageable.  A big takeaway from the webinar is that much is possible, even when dealing with seemingly inscrutable vendor interfaces.  It would seem that what it takes is a culture that supports experimentation, and a willingness to invest the necessary resources into creating the best possible user experience regardless of whether a system was developed in-house or purchased from a vendor.

Collaborative Code Editors

Though we have each chosen our desktop text editor of choice, we are currently exploring online environments in which we can collaborate in our code editing practices. Below are a few of the online editing spaces that we have explored thus far:


Collabedit offers free online editing in a variety of languages, along with a chat bar on the side so that editing partners can communicate. It is very minimal and does not feature color coding or autofill.

Stypi (formerly Stypi became defunct in 2015)

Stypi is another free online collaboration space. Like Collabedit, it is very minimal, with one common coding area and a side bar for collaborator chat. However, Stypi also features auto complete and color coding for the various languages that it supports.


While it does not support the same variety of languages as other editing spaces, JSFiddle does offer three simultaneous windows for editing the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript of a page, plus a fourth window to view the result in realtime. And, like the other editors, it is free and has a chat bar on the side.

Since our current focus is on front-end web design, we will be experimenting further with JSFiddle in the coming weeks and months. Keep your eyes peeled for more in depth exploration of this and other online collaboration tools.

Summer Comes to Close with Badges Galore for the Rascals

As the Rascals prepared for the impending return of Temple University students, contemplating a brief hiatus from code tutorials, we delighted in seeing that we had already earned a combined 217 badges (covering 90 unique topics) during the few months of our existence. And we did wonder a bit at this delight, as none of us had expected to get any special pleasure from being rewarded with a PNG file. Still, as our Treehouse walls filled with badges, we paused and appreciated all that we had accomplished during the summer.

What Rascals Think of Code Editors

One of our first challenges as Code Rascals was finding a free, usable code-editing platform. While there is no shortage of editors available on the web, trying to test or choose from such a plethora is an imposing task. Further, we had already been spoiled by Workspaces, the online editing environment (unfortunately) confined within the walls of Treehouse. With reliable auto-complete, balanced color-coding, and automatic indentation, Workspaces creates a high set of expectations for what a free editor can do. So, we set out to find something comparable: A free text editor with similar usability features, portable across multiple platforms.

One of the first editors that we experimented with, TextWrangler is a free text editor that supports a large variety of programming languages and uses AppleScript to generate a real time preview via web browser. While this is quite useful, TextWrangler is plain text only, with none of the visual cues that we had come to appreciate via Workspaces. Also, it is currently only available for Mac OSX.

We also tried the very-usable Komodo, with a clean interface, autocomplete, and almost everything that you could possibly want from a text editor (sans color coding). While the free preview supposedly only lasts for 21 days, Komodo is certainly worth looking into.

Xcode, Apple’s development suite for Mac OSX and IOS, was another useful editor. A standard package that most of us had access to via our status as Mac users, Xcode offers a clean and usable interface to anyone wanting to run all kinds of code (so long as they are Apple users).

Perhaps the most popular editor that we explored was Sublime. Operational across multiple platforms with color-coding, indentation, and auto complete, sublime is incredibly usable with an intuitive, bare-bones interface. While it occasionally asks users to upgrade, it is also free to download and use. Perhaps the closest editor to Workspaces, Sublime is actually the editor featured in many of Treehouse’s video tutorials.

For more information about Sublime (as well as a few editors not covered here), head on over to the Treehouse blog to view web design guru Nick Petit post “Which Text Editor Should I Use?”

Code Rascals

In April 2014, Jenifer Baldwin, Brian Boling, John Pyle, Caitlin Shanley, and Jackie Sipes formed a small work group with the aim of providing mutual support and encouragement in the development of code skills.  Spurred by calls for liaison librarians to “up-skill” in new areas, but honoring the practical reality of heavy workloads in our current areas of expertise and responsibility, the aim of the group was, initially, to keep each other motivated while completing a series of online tutorials over the course of the summer.

image from Our Gang:  "Robot Wrecks"
Our Gang: “Robot Wrecks”

Since our choice of online-learning platform was, we took inspiration from TV’s Little Rascals, who often met in their own treehouse, and named ourselves Code Rascals.  We committed to set aside a single hour each week on our calendars, to meet whenever possible, or otherwise use the hour for work time.  We proceeded in a spirit of friendly experimentation, information sharing, and non-judgmental collaborative learning.  We launched ourselves with no specific charge, agenda, or deadline, trusting instead that our goals, direction, and priorities would emerge and evolve with time.

Here on this blog you will see brief updates from our evolution as individuals and a group.  To start out these posts are pre-dated, reflecting our meeting notes from the last six months.  Going forward you’ll see more about the interesting things we learn and even challenges we encounter.  Cool stuff, reflections on our experience, and news of what’s to come.