One of the three tools I used from Bamboo DiRT was Northwestern University’s TimelineJS, made in their fantastic KnightLab. I made a short sample to explain my creative process.
As you can see, it took me a while to figure out how to work with the spreadsheet and fix my data so that it would smoothly integrate with their specifications. However, while it was time consuming it wasn’t overly complicated, and it was in large part a lesson in planning and reading the directions ahead of time *cough* we well as setting my own expectations appropriately.
Timeline JS is a tool that allows you to enter time-measured data into a Google spreadsheet, publish it to the web, and with a clever use of the Google Docs API, it is parsed and presented as an embedded timeline which can be placed in WordPress or a straight-up HTML document. For those who really care, you can go into the code and do some customization, but the options supplied on the project page were more than enough for this project.
Getting my data around was by far the hardest part of this tool, as it meant that I had to identify what information was required and appropriate. Hawthorne doesn’t really care for trivial details such as the date or time, or really anything that I needed for a timeline. Largely I extrapolated periods of time using my mad logic skillz and my browser’s ‘find’ function to dig through the source material on Gutenberg. Yay, public domain!
The tool itself is scholarly in creation but can (as exhibited in the link above) be used for silliness. It’s very useful to lay out linear stories or to show a progression of events, either on a small scale (one day) or a large scale (ten years). Timeline is open source, so you can indeed download it and tweak it to your heart’s desire as well as create your own plugins using JS/JSON to make it do flips and tricks. If you’re interested in doing so, you can find it on GitHub. As my JSON skills are at their most basic and I felt no need to change the tool, I did not mess around in the code, but would be lying if I did not admit to being curious.
In the end, I was very happy with my results and quite content to spend time readjusting the media and the text to get it closer to my goal. The timeline is clear and the transitions smooth, and the data is able to be tweaked without republishing the tool. Overall, the result is that the story, which relies so strongly on the feelings of the intertwined friends, is made more understandable by the passage of time and comprehending how long or short the distance was between events. Hawthorne tends to skip around without much context, and the timeline certainly put the story into perspective for me. It also taught me the importance of removing all commas from the timestamp field and that I should check this first before falling apart over a cup of tea at 1am.