DIGGS Developers Workshop

A DIGGS (Data Interchange for Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists) Developer Workshop was held September 25-26, 2017, in Atlanta, GA. The Workshop provided an opportunity for those intimately involved with the schema development and registered DIGGS supporting organizations to work together on schema implementation.

The meeting started with a brief overview of the schema structure and quickly dove into details of ongoing development that is leading to DIGGS version 2.5. Dan Ponti, retired USGS and one of the core developers of the schema, helped attendees understand some of the finer details of the structure and enhancements to the schema.

At the next few meeting sessions, participants reviewed tools being developed to use DIGGS, including the feedback tool, which has come a long way and now allows conversion of significant portions of AGS, gINT, and HoleBASE SI files to DIGGS files using MS Excel macros and snippets. Moving forward, these snippets will be available on our GitHub site (see below) to allow further community enhancements and development of new snippets for everyone's use. I’d like to thank Roger Chandler (Keynetix) and Scott Deaton (Dataforensics) for their leadership in developing this fundamental tool that helps all of us understand and develop DIGGS files. Deaton took this one step further by demonstrating the round trip for CPT data from gINT to DIGGS to HoleBase, as well as a round trip of data from Ohio DOT’s gINT format to DIGGS and back to Ohio DOT’s gINT format that includes all borehole data and some of the lab testing data. This led to a more detailed discussion about which values, measurements, and interpretation fields should be included within the DIGGS schema itself or as maintained codelist dictionaries, since most CPT manufacturers deliver not only measurements in engineering units, but also interpreted values.

Tom Cadden (Temple University) and Nick Machairas (NYU) have been developing tools for Java and Python to read and plot simple gradation curves contained in DIGGS files. Participants were able to see these tools demonstrated, and they are now available in a repository on GitHub. Admittedly far from professional, the tools serve as fundamental examples of ways to read and present DIGGS data files. Further suggestions for community advancement are posted as “issues” in this repository for all to support.

Bob Bachus demonstrated tools that Geosyntec has been developing over the past year or so that demonstrate creation of the DIGGS file from an Excel file, using SQL to import this into MS Access and then extracting the data with Excel to create final plots. Yes, the process seems a little convoluted, but there’s significant value in demonstrating tools to create and convert  DIGGS files into and out of database structures because this is ultimately how most users will store the data. Again, GitHub will serve as a repository for this demonstration and a vehicle for others to offer their suggestions and enhancements.

So, what is GitHub? It’s an online community where open-source developers can share code, ideas, and discussions. DIGGS has joined this community and hosts a DIGGSML community. The core schema files (both released and in development) are located here, as well as the tools already mentioned. Nick Machairas (NYU) manages this site. He explained its functionality, tools to make working in GitHib easier, and, most importantly, how to sign up and get to work.

A key part of the DIGGS Advisory team’s efforts is to continue the development and enhancement of the schema. At the GeoFrontiers 2017 meeting in Orlando, we identified the next steps in soil laboratory testing schema reviews, especially triaxial testing. Professor Tom Brandon (Virginia Tech) assisted us with a review of published procedures for testing and offered his significant insight and understanding to identify all of the data items that need to have a home within the DIGGS schema. Based on the table provided by Professor Brandon, we spent a good bit of time with Dan Ponti going through the schema to understand where each of these elements would be located or, if there was not a place, to work with him to create fields in the correct part of the schema. Not only was this an efficient way to get the triaxial test vetted for DIGGS, but it served as a significant benefit for the attendees to better understand DIGGS. Gaining a clearer insight to samples vs. trials and values vs. measurements helped us all.

That was about all we could handle in Day 1, but on Day 2 we started right back at it with vigor. The key to Day 2 was resolving questions developers found as they worked with DIGGS V2.0b and 2.1a over the past year. Some of these questions were addressed throughout the year to keep progress advancing. Some questions posed larger issues that were discussed and resolved by consensus at the Workshop. These will lead to the next significant advancement of the DIGGS schema that will be designated V2.5. We expect to complete the basic changes to V2.5 in late 2017 and post this version to GitHub, where developers can work with it to update tools as needed and vet the schema structure. Our goal will be to release this as a stable version by the end of the 2017.

Preliminary future plans for the DIGGS community include:

  • TRB Annual Meeting (January, 2018) - A business and implementation session on Monday. As well as presentation to technical committees.
  • IFCEE 2018 (March, 2018) – A session on using DIGGS and other data within the geotechnical community. In addition, a second Developers Workshop will be held to build on the release of DIGGS V2.5.
  • ASCE Pipeline 2018 Conference, Toronto (July, 2018) 

By: Allen Cadden, Schnabel Engineering