Spring 201001 Feb 2010 10:34 am

Today’s notes have been posted: Mixing and Remixing Information » s10-Day 04 Tagging and Data Feed

Spring 201027 Jan 2010 09:49 am

I’ve decided to post some slides to guide our work today:

Spring 201025 Jan 2010 10:04 am

I’ve posted the notes to Day 2.

Spring 201022 Jan 2010 10:14 am

We’re very fortunate to have Laurel Ruma as a guest speaker (for the course Mixing and Remixing Information: Open Government and the Web) to lead us on “An Overview of Gov 2.0”  on Monday, Jan 25 (12:30-1:15pm, 110 South Hall, UC Berkeley).

Laurel is Gov 2.0/open government evangelist at O’Reilly Media and Co-chair of Gov 2.0 Expo 2010.  She is also co-editor of the forthcoming book Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. 1st ed. O’Reilly Media, 2010.   Laurel knows a lot about open government and many of the key players in the field and has done a tremendous amount to raise awareness and understanding of this field.

Everyone is invited.

Spring 201020 Jan 2010 10:36 am

I’ve posted the class notes for Day 01 — Course Introduction.

Spring 201012 Jan 2010 10:28 am

I’ve just posted a draft of the syllabus and schedule for Mixing and Remixing Information 2010, whose theme is “Open Government and the Web”.  Here’s an abstract of the course

Spring 2010 / CCN: 42629
M,W 12:30-2:00 110 South Hall
Office Hours: TBD
Course website (tbd): bSpace site, (http://blog.mixingandremixing.info)
Instructor: Raymond Yee, Ph.D.
email: yee@berkeley.edu

This project-driven course focuses on combining information from disparate sources to create applications that solve specific problems. Students will learn practical tools and techniques to recombine information through hands-on explorations and projects. The course will provide a systematic framework so that students can learn a particular example of remix in depth so they can understand remixing in a broader context.

Although techniques you will learn are applicable across many disciplines, industries, and endeavors, the 2010 edition of the course will be focused around an overarching theme (open government) and one specific problem: making sense of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and its impact on the country. Deciphering the Recovery (aka the Stimulus) is a large enough playing field to encompass many techniques and perspectives while narrow enough for us to wrap our collective minds around and make substantial progress in studying.

The first day of class is Wednesday, January 20 at 12:30pm in 110 South Hall.

Spring 201011 Nov 2009 11:19 am

I’m excited to be teaching my course Mixing and Remixing Information (MRI) for the fifth time from January-May 2010.   I would like to retain the spirit of earlier iterations while making some fundamental improvements.  As in previous years, MRI 2010 will be a project-driven course focused on combining information from disparate sources to create applications that solve specific problems.

However, I’d to provide a deeper support for students to work together, not only in their own project group, but also course-wide and even with people working with us outside of the class.  By working together and pooling our efforts, we will be be able to tackle a set of projects that are more ambitious than in previous years.

In previous years, I’ve asked students to design their own project, which could take on almost any subject matter as long as the project  involved mashing up two or more APIs or data sources.  Although that arrangement resulted in a fun and eclectic mix of projects, the diversity of topics made it difficult for students to follow all the projects in the class.  It’s enough for most of us to be learning the techniques and technologies of APIs in the context of a single subject area, let alone in many divergent subject areas.

For MRI 2010, I’ve decided to unify the course around an overarching theme (open government) and one specific problem for us to tackle:  making sense of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and its impact on the country.  Deciphering the Recovery (aka the Stimulus) is a large enough playing field to encompass many techniques and perspectives while narrow enough for us to  wrap our collective minds around and make substantial progress in studying:

  • By many accounts, much of the 2010 mid-term American elections will be fought on whether the Stimulus worked.  Is ARRA creating jobs as promised or is a big waste of money?  Should the US be spending even more money for further economic stimulus?  Did the spending accomplish what was intended?
  • Since the Stimulus touches a broad cross-section of the US, studying it is a good introduction to understanding government in the US as a whole.
  • Not surprisingly, there’s already been tons of interpretation/narrative/spin around ARRA — and we can count on a lot more!  How do we enable and encourage people to back those narratives with data in a transparent and easy way?
  • As Jon Udell wrote, “The knowledge [of what’s actually being done with the money] is held collectively by the many people who are involved in the projects funded by these awards.” Can we then “materialize a view of that collective knowledge” by using the data coming from recovery.gov — and the techniques of using APIs, visualization, social networking, crowd-sourcing, and large scale computation?
  • Even with the hype, the transparency of ARRA is unprecedented.  Does ARRA represent the future of government openness or will it prove to be an aberration?  What happens with ARRA will have a lot to say about the future of open government/government transparency/open data/gov 2.0 in the US.
  • How have parallel economic stimulus packages worked in Canada?  in Australia?  What type of transparency is involved internationally?

A detailed syllabus is in the works, but here are some aspects I envision for the course:

  • The technical content of the course will remain largely the same as in previous installments of MRI.  I’ll be covering how to program APIs to create mashups, create APIs of our own,  and understand, use and promote good data standards.  In fact, I plan to boost the support I provide for programming efforts in the course.
  • Participants will work on tangible projects related to the overall theme.  They can select from a list of projects I design or they can propose other projects of comparable scope and intent.   However, we will find ways for the projects to combine together into a larger super-project.
  • Participants will be heavily involved in learning from and teaching each other, depending on each other for the course’s collective success.
  • We will open source our software and data and work towards long term sustainability for our projects.
  • To ensure that our projects remain grounded in the “real world,” we’ll be working to engage outside users for our projects from the outset.
  • The course will be  designed to enable the larger community to participate.
Uncategorized11 May 2009 08:57 am
On behalf of my students in the Mixing and Remixing Information Spring 2009 class, I’d like to invite you to our Open House:

Monday, May 11 12:45-2pm
110 South Hall, UC Berkeley

Bring your friends along and forward this email to others you think will be interested.  All are welcome.

At the Open House, students will be presenting their semester-long projects, which all reuse or recombine information to create something new.  We will be setting up the room for poster-style presentations.  Light refreshments will be served. Please feel free to drop by anytime during the hour to see some demos and talk to the students.  I think that you’ll be impressed by the imagination and hard work of the projects.

For more information, please contact feel contact me (Raymond Yee  — yee@berkeley.edu)

Six projects will be presented.  See http://blog.mixingandremixing.info/s09/class-projects/ for an updated listing:

Becky Hurwitz

Wattzon creates tools for people to understand the energy they use in the various activities of their lives. The company believes that if we know more about the embodied energy consumption of the things and activities in our lives, that we will begin to look for alternative things and activities to reduce our personal energy consumption. I believe that we might use even less energy if we know more about other people’s energy uses. This mashup is a Facebook application that takes advantage of the Wattzon API to allow Facebook users to share their Wattzon energy consumption data with one another.

Personal Online Activity Aggregator
Stephanie Pakrul

Going a step beyond lifestreaming, this mashup collects data using a local desktop application and Drupal-based web app. Focused on data collected via the RescueTime service, it aggregates desktop and web browser activity, along with email and other communication logs, with publicly available RSS feeds. This provides a more complete picture of one’s computer and online activity in one central location, which can be shared online.

India Votes
Gopal Vaswani

Indian General Election is the largest election held in the world and an average Indian is very much involved with the election process. There are discussions and debates in all quarters of the country about the effectiveness of the current government and predictions for the next government. I am motivated to help in this discussion and debate through the use of mixing-remixing course project. It is practically impossible to cover all aspects of the election for the purpose of this project so I have decided to focus on providing a small set of information which can help people conduct debates and discussion and know more about their constituency. Currently there is limited tool and information available online where a user can view the election history of any particular Indian constituency. People interested in politics would very much like to growth or decline of political parties over the years in a specific constituency. This data will satisfy the curious, prompt debate and might provide a prediction for the next election.

Ben Cohen, Michael Lissner, and Nat Wharton

As more and more personal information moves online, a need for digital curation develops that needs to be addressed. Sempervitae.org aims to help people manage their digital assets while they are alive so that after their death, a friend or family member can take specific actions on their behalf.

Sempervitae.org is a django-based mashup between facebook, google, and twitter. It allows you to import your google contacts for use throughout the site, post a status update on facebook, send one last tweet after your death, and to close your twitter account, should you desire.

Andy Brooks and Donna Leo

You’re hungry. You want to try a new restaurant in your area, but don’t want to surf multiple restaurant review sites. And you want to know what the restaurant or its food looks like. Does it look hip? Is the food presented as a work of art?

FoodieMash takes user-contributed restaurant ratings from popular sites and presents them in a simple interface. Users enter the type of food they’d like to eat and we gather together the ratings for the matching restaurants that are in close proximity. Rather than having to separately navigate to Yelp, Yahoo Local, and other review sites to find a good restaurant, you can simply go to FoodieMash. And to help you better gauge if it’s your type of place, we show you a matching photograph from Flickr.

Isaac Salier-Hellendag


Dora is a mashup of Pandora streaming internet radio and Twitter, the fast-growing “micoblogging” service. The goal is to streamline tweets about what Pandora’s playing for Twitter users, so that it’s easier to communicate and share your thoughts about the music you’re hearing, and maybe explore some new music while you’re at it. Sure, Gtalk and AIM provide a way for you to broadcast info about your iTunes music through your status/away message. But if we’re talking music and status updates in ‘09, Pandora and Twitter are where it’s at.

Users can add @replies, RT’s, or any other message to their tweet to add their thoughts on their music or whatever else comes to mind. They can also include a dora.fm link that will lead their followers to a Dora page with information about the song they tweeted, plus a brief sample of the song and an option to quickly create a new Pandora station based on the song. Dora users can also access a “profile” page for their Dora tweets (ex. http://dora.fm/u/dorafm), where they can see how many visitors have clicked their dora.fm links and how many users have created stations based on the songs they’ve tweeted.

Uncategorized04 May 2009 09:47 am

A few points I want to relay to my class before the semester ends:

  • the importance of learning how to learn.  I highly recommend Hunt, Andrew. Pragmatic thinking and learning : refactor your “wetware”. Raleigh: Pragmatic, 2008.
  • there will be more and more APIs every day
  • there will be more and more  programming platforms in which to integrate these APIs
  • scraping, alas, will remain a necessary technique
  • I think that a project-driven approach to a powerful way to learn — though it is a trade off of breadth for depth
  • think about how things must work
  • tracking what you do know and what you don’t know
  • articulating exactly where are stuck is a good skill and necessary to the debugging process
  • proposing, refining, and implementing ideas will be things you’ll do a lot of in your careers
  • I’d definitely like to hear what my students thought of the semester — I’d like to stay in touch
Uncategorized27 Apr 2009 03:17 pm

Thanks to Ben for leading us through a demo of Sinatra (“a DSL [domain specific language] for quickly creating web-applications in Ruby with minimal effort”) and Heroku, which is described in the docs as follows:

Heroku is a completely novel approach to deploying web applications. Forget about servers; the fundamental unit is the app. Use the Heroku client gem to create and manage apps from the command line. Then deploy your code with Git, and control the running app with the remote Ruby console and rake commands.

We’re also in the home stretch for this course — that means that students will present their projects to the rest of the class next week and to the general public at the class open house on May 11. The details for what I’m looking for are found at Final Presentations, Report, and Open House.

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