Interview Jessica Lord on sheetsee.js
A Code for America fellow breaks down her data visualization mashup
Source: Tell us about sheetsee. What does it let us do that we couldn’t do before?
Source: Why did you need to make sheetsee? (What was the gap that you needed to fill, that wasn’t being filled by existing tools?)
I wanted to create a website for a city department that could be managed by those in the department themselves and not become yet another thing on the IT department’s to-do list. City IT departments are usually spread pretty thin which makes maintaining a department’s site difficult for both IT and the department. Tabletop, a crucial part of the project, is a library that takes a Google Spreadsheet’s data and makes it ready to use for websites but it kind of leaves you hanging after it hands you the data—I wanted to explore the, “Ok, so now I’ve got this data, what can I do with it?”
Source: How did you make it? (Technologies, but also the shape of your process.)
Source: Did you hit any interesting snags in the development process?
Source: I love this, from the readme: “Think of it as a super simple CMS.” What kind of projects would be able to run on just Google Spreadsheets + sheetsee?
JL: So many things! I’m excited every time I think of another situation and am eager to get some time to flesh some of them out. It’s useful in a city-budget-department-maintainable way like I’m using it in my CfA project, but it’s also useful in any situation where you want to, for lack of a better phrase, “set it and forget it.” Once you have a website designed and sheetsee plugged in you can essentially just manage the content through the spreadsheet. You can share the link to that spreadsheet and easily add collaborators, edits are made at every auto-save.
Imagine a neighborhood or block keeping a spreadsheet of tools residents owned and if it was being borrowed. Neighbors could add items or add their name to a checked-out-to-column if they’re borrowing. Then when you went to the website you’d see an up-to-date inventory of what’s available and where. Another interesting use is to pair it with iftt.com which will fill up spreadsheets with all kinds of data. Anything you can get iftt.com to send to a spreadsheet you can hook into a website and not even have to enter in new information yourself because iftt.com is doing it for you. I’m playing around with that now with my Instagram and Pocket feeds. Oh, and since you can get Google Forms to feed into a spreadsheet, you could imagine journalists polling residents and having those results directly tied to maps or charts in an online news story. I’ve never been so excited about spreadsheets before!
Source: You developed sheetsee as part of your CfA fellowship…and I know you’re wrapping up documentation and setup information by November 16th. Where do you imagine sheetsee going after mid-November?
JL: Right now it was developed alongside of my project for Macon, Georgia and tailored for that instance. After the fellowship ends in November I would love to spend more time cleaning it up, making it more generic, giving it better charts and graphs out of the box and making it easier to set up for non-developers.
Source: What kind of help could you use from the news development community?
JL: I’d love see it used and see the ways in which it was used. It would also be great to get contributions of functions or other libraries that people have found useful. For instance, right now I’m using Raphael.js for the charts because in my CfA project for the City of Macon it was important to consider IE6+, but I’d love to see some easy-to-dump-data-into D3 charts.
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