Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries in May

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Weeknotes: Spinning back up on Datasette

I’ve been somewhat distracted from Datasette for the past couple of months, thanks to my work on VIAL and the accompanying open source project django-sql-dashboard. This week I scraped back some time to work on Datasette.

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Weeknotes: Velma, more Django SQL Dashboard

Matching locations for Vaccinate The States, fun with GeoJSON and more improvements to Django SQL Dashboard.

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Django SQL Dashboard

I’ve released the first non-alpha version of Django SQL Dashboard, which provides an interface for running arbitrary read-only SQL queries directly against a PostgreSQL database, protected by the Django authentication scheme. It can also be used to create saved dashboards that can be published or shared internally.

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Adding GeoDjango to an existing Django project

Work on VIAL for Vaccinate The States continues.

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One year of TILs

Just over a year ago I started tracking TILs, inspired by Josh Branchaud’s collection. I’ve since published 148 TILs across 43 different topics. It’s a great format!

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Weeknotes: Datasette 0.43

My main achievement this week was shipping Datasette 0.43, with a collection of smaller improvements and one big one: a redesign of the register_output_renderer plugin hook.

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Using SQL to find my best photo of a pelican according to Apple Photos

According to the Apple Photos internal SQLite database, this is the most aesthetically pleasing photograph I have ever taken of a pelican:

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Weeknotes: Working on my screenplay

I’m taking an Introduction to Screenwriting course with Adam Tobin at Stanford, and my partial screenplay is due this week. I’m pulling together some scenes that tell the story of the Russian 1917 February Revolution and the fall of the Tsar through the lens of the craftsmen working on the Tsar’s last Fabergé egg. So I’ve not been spending much time on anything else.

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Weeknotes: Datasette 0.41, photos breakthroughs

Shorter weeknotes this week, because my main project for the week warrants a detailed write-up on its own (coming soon... update 21st May here it is).

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Datasette 0.28—and why master should always be releasable

It’s been quite a while since the last substantial release of Datasette. Datasette 0.27 came out all the way back in January.

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Datasette Facets

Datasette 0.22 is out with the most significant new feature I’ve added since the initial release: faceted browse.

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Notes from my appearance on the Changelog podcast

After I spoke at Zeit Day SF last weekend I sat down with Adam Stacoviak to record a 25 minute segment for episode 296 of the Changelog podcast, talking about Datasette. We covered a lot of ground!

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Podcasts for commuting to

The BBC world service Documentary podcast features “the best of BBC World Service documentaries and other factual programmes” and is absolutely spectacular. The quality is uniformly high.

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I’m in Polanco (Mexico City) and I hate it. Where to go?

You said you want to avoid expensive taxis.. are you morally opposed to Uber? If not you should know that it works in Mexico City (with your regular Uber account registered in another country), it’s fast and not very espensive. It may give you a lot more flexibility for exploring the city.

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Why is slow? Is it because it uses Django?

No, it’s not slow because it uses Django.

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How can I negotiate a free conference venue in London?

The two top options in my experience are universities (including student unions) and private companies with good meeting facilities.

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Are traditional web frameworks and languages like RubyOnRail, Spring Boot and PHP dying now when new fast reactive pure JavaScript frameworks and services like Meteor, Node, Angular 2.0 and Firebase are breaking ground?


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Which London Underground line is the deepest?

The Northern line has both the deepest point below ground (220 feet, at Hampstead) and the deepest below sea level (70 feet, south of Waterloo)

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What are some great Big Data conferences around Dallas Texas?

We have a list of Big Data conferences and events in Texas on Lanyrd—there’s a DFW Big Data meetup which might be a good place to start (they have an event happening on May 15th).

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Why is site search so bad on most websites?

It’s not so much that site search is bad, it’s that your expectations have been raised enormously high by the incredible quality of search provided by search engines like Google.

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What are the best web design and web development conferences/ meetups in Central & Eastern Europe (2013)?

We have a list of Web Design conferences and events in Central and Eastern Europe on Lanyrd—you might find our full list of Conferences in Central and Eastern Europe useful as well.

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What are the best web solutions available for coordinating people you send out for events?

We recently released a product that solves exactly this problem. Lanyrd Pro is designed to help companies that promote themselves through attending, speaking at and sponsoring events co-ordinate their event strategy internally and promote it externally.

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What are some cool and cost-effective things to do for and at a wedding reception?

Lawn games! Croquet, pétanque, coits and the like. Cheap, fun, easy for people to pick up, won’t ruin any suits and (at least for a UK wedding) traditional without being overly cheesey.

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What is the most efficient way to lookup an object (e.g. a user) by only a string?

Yes—an index on a varchar column is exactly how you would implement this.

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Is there an API that returns metadata for a given URL?

I suggest taking a look at—it can take a huge range of URLs and turn them in to JSON metadata. Here’s what it can do with a Wikipedia page:—and here’s Google Maps URL (not as useful, but still some interesting metadata extracted)

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How did get a “.sy” url?

Here’s a generally useful tip: if you’re interested in learning more about ANY top level domain, visit the Wikipedia page for it—which will be in this case (just add the domain, complete with its dot prefix, directly after ).

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Which sites have the best URL design?

GitHub’s URL design is fantastic—it’s a virtually flawless mapping of Git semantics to URL space. Their basic URL structure is excellent, but they also have a bunch of neat URL hacks going on. Here are a few of my favourites:

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When referring to our web site in publications (or Twitter or Facebook), when is it important to provide the full URL— and when should you provide just the

You have no control over how other publications refer to your site—if you’re lucky, they might spell it correctly and check the link works before publishing (but I wouldn’t bet on it). What you DO have control over is making sure you compensate for any mistakes they make.

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How to maximize the conference experience as an attendee?

Talk to people.

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Is there a site which aggregates CFPs (calls for papers/speakers) for tech conferences?

We have a crowdsourced collection of CFPs on Lanyrd:

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