Thursday, September 27, 2007

Feeds for Pleiades data

Shawn Graham has tried pumping Pleiades data through Yahoo Pipes. That's exactly the sort of thing we want people to be able to do. In looking at his post, however, it's clear that we could be doing a better job of revealing our data interfaces to users. We've got a big rev coming up in October (we're moving to Plone 3), and we'll address this UI issue then. Meanwhile, maybe this post will help.

Shawn wanted to grab a feed and map its content. He did the obvious thing and navigated to our places section. Then he chose one of our pre-packaged subgroups: archaic places. Then he looked for a feed. Out of the box, Plone gives us a <link rel="alternate"> as well as an "RSS" button on the interface. Transiting the corresponding URL gets you an RSS feed listing titles, descriptions and other Dublin Core metadata for whatever Plone content is surfaced at that location.

As Shawn observed, pumping that list of ancient names through a presentist geocoder (like Yahoo!'s) gives you suboptimal results.

Pleiades in fact stores locations for every feature (at least when we can determine their locations). In our customization work on Plone for Pleiades, we've tacked on a couple of other interfaces that aren't as obvious to users as they should be. Anywhere Pleiades displays or lists spatial content, we also provide an Atom feed that's extended with GeoRSS tags, as well as a KML feed.

So, for those archaic places, Shawn could choose to use either of:
Both provide the coordinates, and therefore get you around the geocoding problem.

Pleiades needs to add <link rel="alternative"> tags for both our Atom and KML serializations, as well as clear UI hooks everywhere the feeds are surfaced. We do the latter in some places already, just not everywhere. See, for example:
Shawn: thanks so much for taking a hack at this! It's great to know that folks out there are interested in our data, and interested in using it in some of the same ways we've been thinking about. We'll try to meet you closer to half-way next time.

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