Docs on Docs on Docs

Developers and programmers are creating tools that use Google Docs, not databases such as MySQL or Postgresql, to power visualization.

Inspired by the open source culture of the internet, code writing reporters and hackers for hire are using easy to understand javascript to fuel simple applications with Excel-like spreadsheets.

These journalists are fueled by the opportunity to bring visualizations to newsrooms that are devoid of news app developers.

The latest example is Tabletop — created by Balance Media, which has already produced news apps for WNYC, The New York Times and Propublica, among others.

Tabletop was originally built to work with ProPublica’s TimelineSetter, a JS+Ruby library that creates timelines. You need some specifically-formatted JSON which is created by a Ruby script from a CSV, which means your workflow is usually spreadsheet -> CSV -> Ruby -> JSON -> JS.

With Tabletop, though, you get to hook right into a Google Spreadsheet for all of your info! You just need to massage your data a little bit, thanks to Google’s API messing with column names and you needing a timestamp.”

I am by no means a programmer. But show me an example that I can open up in a text editor and upload to a website using FileZilla, even I can figure that out.

Shout Out: A big thanks to Andy Boyle of The Boston Globe for pointing me in the direction of this tool via Twitter. I’ll be sure to use it. 

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2 thoughts on “Docs on Docs on Docs

  1. When you use tabletop.js plus handlebars, it almost becomes a Django-esque method of making a basic template. Instead of having to hit a database backend, you point it to a spreadsheet.

    This is certainly an easier way to get data up on your website without needing to know the ins and outs of server setup. For many newsrooms, this should be seen as a plus, as you can do everything in the browser. Me gusta.

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