May 23rd, 2013
I was recently listening to the On The Media podcast and they mentioned the Truth Teller. This is clever web application created by the Washington Post. Its goal is to fact-check speeches in real time. Think Shazam for speeches. Somehow connect this to Google Glass and we may have found the killer app of Data journalism. Jeremy Paxman on every desk and in every home!
May 19th, 2013
Rendering on the web is a strong trend of the past couple of years, showing no sign of slowing down.
Remarkably, an interesting subplot has been emerging in the recent months. Some examples:
Mark Boas interactively edits a video as simply as a text document, inserting effects right into its transcript. Check the compelling demo here (video)
Bret Victor‘s tools to author diagrams and simulations get noticed. Check the demos here and here.
Eric Gundersen at MapBox shows an early preview of TileMill 2, with gorgeous map customizations using stylesheets.
All three are adventurous pioneers of the Web of tomorrow. Their work gives more and more power to the designers out of the hands of the engineers.
This has a reminiscent flavor. We’ve already been here before.
The Web was born to be writable as well as readable – HTTP PUT, POST and GET – but it took some time to move away from its static web teenage years. Only with the rise of wikis, lightweight markup and blogs, could anyone edit web pages like a simple document. To quote Dan Gilmor in his essay about the Read/Write Web in We The Media:
He showed me a web page. I don’t remember what the page contained except for one button. It said, “Edit This Page”—and, for me, nothing was ever the same again.
However, until now, video and diagrams were still very much boxed elements. Today, this wall is being torn down again. Edit This Video. Edit This Diagram. This is an exciting step towards a true Data web.
April 8th, 2013
I was looking for a simple way to keep track of a financial portfolio. There would be stocks and funds, as well as currency exchange rates. Surprisingly, I found very few uncluttered web pages that would do the job. I thought it would be a nice coding exercise.
You can check out the final result here.
The options to get historical prices for any financial assets for free are rather limited. Google retired the Google Finance API in 2011. Fortunately, one exception is the GoogleFinance function in Google Drive.
Creating a spreadsheet listing stocks, funds and currency rates with their 7-day history is quick and easy. We can now use it as our data source by making it available on the web using a private link.
The web page is generated by App Engine using the Python binding of the Spreadsheets API. Each row is regularly retrieved using jQuery and displayed with inline jQuery sparklines. This is how it looks:
Google Spreadsheet makes for an easy yet efficient back end. Give the spreadsheet ID to the front end and you’re all set.
This is a first step. There is much room for improvement:
- Authentication. Being able to have your own individual profile would be nice.
- Caching. The application does not cache anything yet. It pulls the stock feed on a regular basis. At the very least, it needs to memcache the query results.
- There could be different kinds of feeds. Weather feeds. Sports results. Flights and incoming trips.
If anyone is interested, the code is available at GitHub.
appengine, finance, google, jquery, spreadsheet