Example OUseful mashup for Online Journalism students

I co-teach Online Journalism for level three students with Bernie Russell and this week, Tony Hirst from the OU came to Lincoln to give his, now annual, data-driven journalism class. Bernie and I prep the students a few weeks beforehand and then Tony rolls in and packs as much into the class as he can, leaving me and Bernie to pick up the pieces 😉
We’re grateful for it.

Here are Tony’s slides from this week

If you’re a student struggling with the Wikipedia/Pipes/Google Maps exercise, here’s a working example that you can clone and work backwards through to understand how it works. It’s basically slide 6 of the presentation above.

UPDATE: What follows is broken because of changes to the Wikipedia source page structure, changes to Yahoo Pipes and changes to Google Docs. Trying to keep it working is a pain, so it will have to stay broken for now.

Start by looking at this Yahoo Pipe:


When you’re signed into Yahoo Pipes, clone the pipe and then click on view source of that example above. You’ll see this:

Source of pipe

The CSV source is https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Arh4BnSV2XSIdG1aUmd2dlFkTjdwRjlnazdKTk5mckE&single=true&gid=0&range=A1%3AG138&output=csv

You can look at the spreadsheet that is pulling data in from Wikipedia here:


Note how I’ve fetched the CSV into Yahoo Pipes, defined the data I’m interested in, renamed two key attributes, renamed the title attribute to be ‘population’ and then used the location builder in a loop block to determine the geo-locations. Once that’s done, it runs in the Pipe like this:

Is this displaying correctly? I’ve found that embeds directly from Yahoo Pipes can be a bit flaky.

However, if you right click on the KML link and paste the KML link into the search box of Google maps, then you should see something like this:

View Larger Map

You can see that both Yahoo Pipes and Google Maps allow you to embed the map into any web page.

Give it a try and get in touch if you’re having trouble. Of course, we can talk about it in class, too.

Encryption and Google docs

We’ve recently started providing staff training on using Google apps and one of the questions that always comes up is around privacy and security. Following one of our sessions, one member of staff is using Google docs to manage a large number of sensitive documents, with several other colleagues. The sharing of folders and documents with different people is proving very useful. Recently, that member of staff asked me about whether it was possible to encrypt files stored on Google docs so I had a look around to see what the situation is. I knew that transport encryption is available (i.e. https) and that there was no feature in Google docs to encrypt a file, but wanted to provide a thorough response to my colleague.

As I said, Google doesn’t provide the facility to encrypt data held in Google docs. You can however, encrypt a file and upload it to Google docs for online storage only. To read the file, it has to be downloaded and decrypted. I tested this with a .pgp file.

I searched around on the web for a few more clues and there’s the suggestion (last comment) that the data is ‘sharded’ across multiple servers and when you click on the name of a file, the data is brought together into the file for you to work on. I haven’t found any official confirmation of this technique being used.

There’s a Google docs employee on Get Satisfaction that has responded a few times to people’s questions around this area. These replies offer some clarity:

In summary, there is no encryption of data on Google’s servers, but Google are using the same systems to manage their private corporate data and they comply with international (including the UK) data privacy policies. Introducing encryption is technically feasible but would introduce many negative consequences to the features they provide (slower, no collaboration, etc.)

If you’ve got any other, officially confirmed, information on the security of Google docs, please do leave a comment. Thanks.

Wikipedia : Google Docs : Yahoo Pipes Mashup

First of all, this is not my work. All credit should go to Tony Hirst from the Open University for posting an explanation of this to his blog. Brilliant stuff.

Tony is doing what we’ve been meaning to look at for some time, which is create ‘Learning Objects’ out of mashups. In Tony’s example, data is 1) taken from Wikipedia, 2) imported to a Google Spreadsheet, 3) output as a CSV file and 4) mashed up in Yahoo! Pipes.

The process of creating an object like the map below is so transparent that both teachers and students, with a specific outcome in mind, could achieve something like this and the results are very satisfying, as you can see.