One of the things that’s still on my to-do list is to get round to playing more with Google Apps script, particularly the ability to create web-hookable services around spreadsheets and generate custom user interfaces to Apps Script powered applications.
Here’s something I think I’ll need to add to the list, as brilliantly spotted by @mhawksey: an experimental visual editor for creating forms in Google Apps Script:
Here’s a preview of it in action:
And again from Martin, here’s a link to the developer forum group discussion about how to use it in its current experimental state…
I have to pop out now, so know time to play, but I thought it worth a mention… (Martin will probably have a post up about it before long;-)
PS also of note, another step on how the route to open peer appraisal and peer-supported CPD might work out, check out Martin’s draft application for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2011.
PPS in passing, via @schmerg, an HTML5 visual editor for browser based UIs: Maqetta
One of the things that I think tends towards being a bit of an elephant in the Linked Data room is the practically difficulty of running a query that links together results from two different datastores, even if they share common identifiers. The solution – at the moment at least – seems to require grabbing a dump of both datastores, uploading them to a common datastore and then querying that…
…which means you need to run your own triple store…
This quick post links out the the work of two others, as much as a placeholder for myself as for anything, describing how to get started doing exactly that…
First up, John Goodwin, aka @gothwin, (a go to person if you ever have dealings with the Ordnance Survey Linked Data) on How can I use the Ordnance Survey Linked Data: a python rdflib example. As John describes it:
[T]his post shows how you just need rdflib and Python to build a simple linked data mashup – no separate triplestore is required! RDF is loaded into a Graph. Triples in this Graph reference postcode URIs. These URIs are de-referenced and the RDF behind them is loaded into the Graph. We have now enhanced the data in the Graph with local authority area information. So as well as knowing the postcode of the organisations taking part in certain projects we now also know which local authority area they are in. Job done! We can now analyse funding data at the level of postcode, local authority area and (as an exercise for the ready) European region.
Secondly, if you want to run a fully blown triple store on your own localhost, check out this post from Jeni Tennison, aka @jenit, (a go to person if you’re using the data.gov.uk Linked Datastores, or have an interest in the Linked Data JSON API): Getting Started with RDF and SPARQL Using 4store and RDF.rb, which documents how to get started on the following challenges (via Richard Pope’s Linked Data/RDF/SPARQL Documentation Challenge):
Install an RDF store from a package management system on a computer running either Apple’s OSX or Ubuntu Desktop.
Install a code library (again from a package management system) for talking to the RDF store in either PHP, Ruby or Python.
Programatically load some real-world data into the RDF datastore using either PHP, Ruby or Python.
Programatically retrieve data from the datastore with SPARQL using using either PHP, Ruby or Python.
Convert retrieved data into an object or datatype that can be used by the chosen programming language (e.g. a Python dictionary).
PS it may also be worth checking out these posts from Kingsley Idehen:
– SPARQL Guide for the PHP Developer
– SPARQL Guide for Python Developer
– SPARQL for the Ruby Developer
As we come up to a week in on GetTheData.org, there’s already an interesting collection of questions – and answers – starting to appear on the site, along with a fledgling community (thanks for chipping in, folks:-), so how can we maintain – and hopefully grow – interest in the site?
A couple of things strike me as the most likely things to make the site attractive to folk:
– the ability to find an appropriate – and useful – answer to your question without having to ask it, for example because someone has already asked the same, or a similar, question;
– timely responses to questions once asked (which leads to a sense of community, as well as utility).
I think it’s also worth bearing in mind the context that GetTheData sits in. Many of the questions result in answers that point to data resources that are listed in other directories. (The links may go to either the data home page or its directory page on a data directory site.)
One thing I think is worth exploring is the extent to which GetTheData can both receive and offer recommendations to other websites. Within a couple of days of releasing the site, Rufus had added a recommendation widget that could recommend datasets hosted on CKAN that seem to be related to a particular question.
What this means is that even before you get a reply, a recommendation might be made to you of a dataset that meets your requirements.
(As with many other Q&A sites, GetTheData also tries to suggest related questions to you when you enter you question, to prompt you to consider whether or not your question has already been asked – and answered.)
I think the recommendation context is something we might be able to explore further, both in terms of linking to recommendations of related data on other websites, but also in the sense of reverse links from GetTheData to those sites.
– would it be possible to have a recommendation widget on GetTheData that links to related datasets from the Guardian datastore, or National Statistics?
– are there other data directory sites that can take one or more search terms and return a list of related datasets?
– could a getTheData widget be located on CKAN data package pages to alert package owners/maintainers that a question possibly related to the dataset had been posted on GetTheData? This might encourage the data package maintainer to answer the question on the getTheData site with a link back to the CKAN data package page.
As well as recommendations, would it be useful for GetTheData to syndicate new questions asked on the site? For example, I wonder if the Guardian Datastore blog would be willing to add the new questions feed to the other datablogs they syndicate?;-) (Disclosure: data tagged posts from OUseful.info get syndicated in that way.)
Although I don’t have any good examples of this to hand from GetTheData, it strikes me that we might start to see questions that relate to obtaining data which is actually a view over a particular data set. This view might be best obtained via a particular query onto a particular data set. such as a specific SPARQL query on a Linked Data set, or a particular Google query language request to the visualisation API against a particular Google spreadsheet.
If we do start to see such queries, then it would be useful to aggregate these around the datastores they relate to, though I’m not sure how we could best do this at the moment other than by tagging?
There are a wide variety of sites publishing data independently, and a fractured networked of data directories and data catalogues. Would it make sense for GetTheData to aggregate news announcements relating to the release of new data sets, and somehow use these to provide additional recommendations around data sets?
Hackdays and Data Fridays
As suggested in Bootstrapping GetTheData.org for All Your Public Open Data Questions and Answers:
If you’re running a hackday, why not use GetTheData.org to post questions arising in the scoping the hacks, tweet a link to the question to your event backchannel and give the remote participants a chance to contribute back, at the same time adding to the online legacy of your event.
Alternatively, how about “Data Fridays”, on the first Friday in the month, where folk agree to check GetTheData two or three times that day and engage in something of a distributed data related Question and Answer sprint, helping answer unanswered questions, and maybe pitching in a few new ones?
It would be easy enough to put together a Google custom search engine that searches over the domains of data aggregation sites, and possibly also offer filetype search limits?
So What Next?
Err, that’s it for now…;-) Unless you fancy seeing if there’s a question you can help out on right now at GetTheData.org
The way I read the call was that the fellowship provides an opportunity for an advocate of open ed on the web to do their thing with the backing of a programme that sees value in that approach…
…and so, I’ve popped an (un)application in (though not helped with having spent the weekend in a sick bed… bleurrrgh… man flu ;-) It’s not as polished as it should be, and it could be argued that it’s unfinished, but that is, erm, part of the point… After all, my take on the Fellowship is that the funders are seeking to act as a patron to a person and helping them achieve as much as they can, howsoever they can, as much as it is supporting a very specific project? (And if I’m wrong, then it’s right that my application is wrong, right?!;-)
The proposal – Uncourse Edu – is just an extension of what it is I spend much of my time doing anyway, as well as an attempt to advocate the approach through living it: trying to see what some of the future consequences of emerging tech might be, and demonstrating them (albeit often in way that feels too technical to most) in a loosely educational context. As well as being my personal notebook, an intended spin-off of this blog is to try help drive down barriers to use of web technologies, or demonstrate how technologies that are currently only available to skilled developers are becoming more widely usable, and access to them as building blocks is being “democratised”. As to what the barriers to adoption are, I see them as being at least two-fold: one is ease of use (how easy the technology is to actually use); the second is attitude: many people just aren’t, or don’t feel they’re allowed to be, playful. This stops them innovating in the workplace, as well as learning for themselves. (So for example, I’m not an auto-didact, I’m a free player…;-)
The Fellowship applications are templated (loosely) and submitted via the Drumbeat project pitching platform. This platform allows folk to pitch projects and hopefully gather support around a project idea, as well as soliciting (small amounts of) funding to help run a project. (It’d be interesting if in any future rounds of JISC Rapid Innovation Funding, projects were solicited this way and one of the marking criterion was the amount of support a pitched proposal received?)
I’m not sure if my application is allowed to change, but if it doesn’t get locked by the Drumbeat platform it may well do so… (Hopefully I’ll get to do at least another iteration of the text today…) In particular, I really need to post my own video about the project (that was my undone weekend task:-(
Of course, if you want to help out producing the video, and maybe even helping shape the project description, then why not join the project? Here’s the link again: Uncourse Edu.
PS I think there’s a package on this week’s OU co-produced episode of Digital Planet on BBC World Service (see also: Digital Planet on open2) that includes an interview with Mark Shuttleworth and a discussion about some of the work the Shuttleworth Foundation gets up to… (first broadcast is tomorrow, with repeats throughout the week).
DISCLAIMER: I’m the OU academic contact for the Digital Planet.
Prompted by a DevCSI Developer Focus Group conference call just now, I had a quick look through the list of Bounty competition entries (and the winners to see whether there was any code that that might be fun to play with.
One app that’s quite fun is a simple app by Chris Gutteridge (Wayback/Memento Animation) that animates the history of a website using archived copies of the site from the Wayback Machine. So for example, here’s the animated history of the OU home page
And here are links to the history of the current Labour Party and Conservative Party domains: The animated history of: http://www.labour.org.uk/ and The animated history of: http://www.conservatives.com/.
The app will also animate changes from a MediaWiki wiki as this link demonstrates: Dev8D wiki changes over time.
(I can’t help thinking it needs: a) a pause button, so at least you can scroll up and down a page, if not explore the site; and b) a bookmarklet, to make it easier to get a site into the replayer;-)
The Dev8D pages also suggest a “Web Diff” app was entered in one of the challenges, but I couldn’t see a link to the app anywhere?
Diffs have been on my mind lately in a slightly different context, in particular relating to the changes made to the Digital Economy Bill on the various stages it went through as it passed through the Lords, but here again a developer challenge event turned up the goods, in this case the Rewired State: dotgovlabs held last Saturday and @1jh’s Parliamentary Bill analyser:
So for example, if we compare the Digital Economy Bill as introduced to the Lords:
and the version that was passed to the Commons:
here’s what we get:
Luvverly stuff :-)
PS @cogdog beats me to it again in a comment to Reversible, Reverse History and Side-by-Side Storytelling, specifically: “maybe this is like watching Memento backwards?” Which is to say, maybe the Wayback/Memento Animation should have a “play backwards” switch? And of course, this being a Chris Gutteridge production, it has. So for example, going back in time with the JISC home page
(Sob, I have no original ideas any more, and can’t even think of them before other people do, let alone implement them…;-(
With Dev8D coming up, here’s a quick round-up/reminder of some tools/techniques for hacking around with code via a browser, or running interactive coding presentations in a browser…
- Obsessing – an interactive version of Processing that runs in the browser;
- Hacking with PHP – if you’re looking for ideas about how to present code demos, here’s a good example;
- Codepad – “an online compiler/interpreter, and a simple collaboration tool. Paste your code, and codepad will run it and give you a short URL you can use to share it in chat or email.”
- Yahoo Pipes – online tool for hacking around with RSS feeds, CSV, simple screenscraping;
- Google spreadsheets – 2D programming canvas (honestly!;-)
- Google Code Playground – an interactive playspace for tinkering with Google APIs;
- KML Interactive Sampler – mess around with KML code and see how Google Earth treats it. (NB The Google Earth API is also available in the Google Code Playground… so this sampler may be deprecated?)
- Wonderfl – edit Actionsript and run it live in a browser;
- Codecademy – in-browser, exectuable programming tutorials (with free play support)
- d3.js live code editor
- CodeBook – JS live code editor
- Khan Academy – live code editor (eg processing) with programme output previewer
- Brackets.io – open source web design editor, maintained by Adobe
PS if you know of any other apps in a similar vein, or links to videos showing really effective ways of presenting code, please add a comment below.
PPS On the notion of live docs/literate programming, see also:
– Wolfram computable document format (?)
PPPS seems someone is “monetising” interactive coding tutorials… Codecademy