Dabble DB

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Archives: February 2007

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Dabble Commons: Call For Contributors

Up to now we’ve always presented Dabble as a way to manage private applications, and the consensus seems to be that this is working great. However, there are some types of data that just want to be free. For example:

Community-oriented data: Event schedules, niche job boards, public knowledge bases.

Visualizations of already-public data: Census statistics, weather and other measurements.

To support this kind of thing, we’re announcing our first version of the Dabble Commons. Here’s how Commons databases work:

  • They are 100% free.
  • All content is released under a Creative Commons license.
  • All data is made publicly available: A front page will be available for each application in a public database. These provide access to all saved views, and to default views displaying all data. As well, we’ll make sure Commons data is indexed by search engines, and once we’ve given people a chance to build up a good set of cool Commons databases, we’ll provide some more custom ways to search and browse through them ourselves.

To get people thinking, we’ve quickly put together a couple of example public databases:

State-by-state housing statistics with data from the US Census website.

A schedule for the upcoming Etech conference put on by O’Reilly.

Also, Ismael Ghalimi has agreed to have his now famous Office 2.0 Database be converted to a Dabble Commons database to allow further exploration.

It’s of course funny that on the same day Google announces a paid version of their free service, we announce a free version of our paid service. What can I say, we’re contrarians. :)

Hello Folks

With charts and maps out the door there’s time for me to take a breather and introduce myself as the newest Dabble developer. My name is Ben Matasar, and I come to Vancouver and Dabble by way of Portland, OR. When I started work in December I had only written a few lines of Smalltalk, and it’s been a crazy first three months. I’m thrilled to be a part of the team — working with Luke, Avi, Colin, and Andrew is just as great as you’d think.

Deep Data: Locations, Maps, and Charts

I’ve always found it strange that databases are so unimaginative when it comes to data types: text, numbers, dates, times, and not much more — basically the same low-level options that have been around for decades. At the same time, people working with data think in much richer terms: an event happens from 2 to 4 next thursday, a company is based in Vancouver, BC, and so on.

Since the beginning, we’ve wanted Dabble users to be able to work with data at the same level they think about it, for the data to be deep data. We’ve already started down this path with our approach to date/time intervals and our basic support for URLs and email addresses.

Our latest step in this direction is the addition of first-class Location types.

Keeping with Dabble’s generally forgiving nature when it comes to data and formatting, all this ends up meaning is that you can enter address/location information as a blob of text, and if you’ve told Dabble that the field is of type Location, it will attempt to interpret the text as a location. Here Dabble lets you know it understands the address by adding a little UK flag:

Location flag

Of course, the whole point of deep data is that it allows you to get more out of the raw data you’ve already been managing. The first new feature we’re supporting for our Location data types is the ability to browse your data in our new Map views. Whenever you have a Location column in a table view, you will have the option to see the same data in a heatmap. For example, total customers in a given continent:

Location map

While we’ve had support for numeric, money and date/time types in Dabble for a long time, we haven’t really fulfilled our deep data potential when it comes to presenting the data in useful ways. In fact, the other new feature announcement today is long overdue (and some people haven’t waited around for us). Yep, you got it, charts!

Those of you who’ve followed Dabble closely enough can probably guess at our general approach to charts: simple, very little configuration UI, and intelligent guesses at possible charts for a given table view. For example, if you have sales grouped by date in a table, Dabble offers you a line chart with the same information:

Line chart with dates

If you have a doubly-grouped table, Dabble suggests a grouped bar chart:

Grouped bar chart

As always with Dabble, it’s best to see it in action: Avi has created a new screencast to highlight these new features. Check it out!

Yahoo! Pipes

I’ve been talking about “pipes and filters for the web” since leading a session with that title at FOO Camp last summer, and Yahoo has just released the most direct riff on that meme yet: Pipes. Although they’re coming at things from a very different angle (shades of Prograph or Max/MSP as well as Automator), Pipes seems to me very much in the spirit of what we’re doing with our data import and plugin features, and it makes me very happy to see something so polished come out in this space. It’s also nice of Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny to acknowledge us in his post on Pipes, as well as Dapper - I’d also, incidentally, put openkapow on the same list.

Congratulations to the Pipes team, I’m looking forward to tinkering with plumbing.

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