We don't, however, have the same kind of tool for data. I'm talking both about tables of information - phone number lists, customer data, etc. - and the relationships between them. There's masses of data like this around, and most of it is in CSV files, HTML tables and occasionally in some database or other. There are interchange formats around and systems like ODBC for communicating between one database engine and another, but this still involves the database administrators to come forth from their temples and bless the queries and connections.
We need tools that can allow a web site to:
And while I'm finding Django to be a great framework to work with, I still seem to end up doing all the work of manually importing CSV files, KML lists, HTML tables and former SQL databases. This should be a simple process of no more than half a dozen steps. Every table in Wikipedia should be a data reference that can be sorted, keyed against, and used in someone else's pages. Google has put a lot of effort into understanding everything from movie times to stock prices, but for the rest of us it's a matter of asking a programmer. There's all sorts of interesting data mash-ups going on but they still seem to require APIs, server software and lots of code.
It's hard to stand on the shoulders if giants if you can't climb up...
The title of this page comes from the Wagiman language from the Northern Territory. It roughly means fast-find - given that I know of the language only what the dictionary gave me I don't know if I've formed the words correctly. But it's that key property that I think makes this such a compelling idea. The ability to throw a CSV table into a website and it become searchable, sortable and accessible to others instantly is compelling. While I think hand-crafted data relationships will always be faster or more accurate than automatic imports, the latter is still better than locking the data away for want of a system to access it.
All posts licensed under the CC-BY-NC license. Author Paul Wayper.