• Week 103

    5 October 2014

    Week 103 was, I think, a rather good week.

    Swarmize/Abberley is moving into its final month before hitting Alpha. The last piece of the puzzle is some kind of API to extract data from the system. We can already put data in, and we’ve got the tools to download and explore it, but what we really need now is a way for developers to extract data programatically: a retrieval API. One we’ve got that, the whole end-to-end process is sketched out.

    To that end, I started sketching out an API as a tiny Sinatra application, that Graham will hopefully port to Scala shortly. Within a day or so of work, I had a simple API that allowed exploring of results, overviews of field counts, as well as outputting GeoJSON FeatureCollections given an appropriate location field to pivot around. I’ve started calling this type of code spelunking: diving into a thing to see how it feels, to learn by doing, and trip over myself soon enough that I understand the real demands of the system.

    I also sketched out several example applications in flat HTML and node.js-backed client-server apps to illustrate how the API could be used. It’s not enough to just write that code, though: it also needs to be documented. A lot of the week was spent writing clear, concise API documentation, and I’m going to be tidying up all the documentation over the coming weeks. We’re really focusing on everything that will help The Guardian use Swarmize in anger once the alpha is complete.

    Pitches for funding for Burton have gone in. I sat down with Richard, who was passing through London on Monday, and talked over various ideas, which were all exciting and productive, and so we hammered some things out in Google Docs – or, at least, Richard hammered most of it out and I offered input where appropriate. Crossing fingers there, but I think we’ll find a way to do something.

    And on Friday morning, I brought the film producers I’m mentoring into the studio to sit down and do some drawing. Not a lot, I’ll admit, but it was good to just start showing the process of using your hands to think with and to slow yourself down – forcing you to reason with how much you can fit on a screen, and precisely what needs to be present for a user to interact with. It was useful, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s shaped their thinking next week.