Simon Willison’s Weblog

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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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JSK Journalism Fellowships names Class of 2019-2020 (and I’m in it!) (via) In personal news... I’ve been accepted for a ten month journalism fellowship at Stanford (starting September)! My work there will involve “Improving the impact of investigative stories by expanding the open-source ecosystem of tools that allows journalists to share the underlying data”. # 1st May 2019, 4:43 pm

Dockerfile for creating a Datasette of NHS dentist information (via) Really neat Dockerfile example by Alf Eaton that uses multi-stage builds to pull dentist information from the NHS, compile to SQLite using csvs-to-sqlite and serve the results with Datasette. TIL the NHS like to use ¬ as their CSV separator! # 26th April 2019, 2:09 pm

Running Datasette on Glitch

The worst part of any software project is setting up a development environment. It’s by far the biggest barrier for anyone trying to get started learning to code. I’ve been a developer for more than twenty years and I still feel the pain any time I want to do something new.

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Datasette: ?_where=sql-fragment parameter for table views. I just shipped a tiny but really useful new feature to Datasette master: you can now add ?_where=sql-fragment on to the URL of any table view to inject additional SQL directly into the underlying WHERE clause. This tiny feature actually has some really interesting applications: I created this because I wanted to be able to run more complex custom SQL queries without losing access to the conveniences of Datasette’s table view, in particular the built-in faceting support. The feature actually fits in well with Datasette’s philosophy of allowing arbitrary SQL to be executed against a read-only database: you can turn this ability off using the allow_sql config flag. # 13th April 2019, 2 am

Ministry of Silly Runtimes: Vintage Python on Cloud Run (via) Cloud Run is an exciting new hosting service from Google that lets you define a container using a Dockerfile and then run that container in a “scale to zero” environment, so you only pay for time spent serving traffic. It’s similar to the now-deprecated Zeit Now 1.0 which inspired me to create Datasette. Here Dustin Ingram demonstrates how powerful Docker can be as the underlying abstraction by deploying a web app using a 25 year old version of Python 1.x. # 9th April 2019, 5:33 pm

datasette-jellyfish. I learned about a handy Python library called Jellyfish which implements approximate and phonetic matching of strings—soundex, metaphone, porter stemming, levenshtein distance and more. I’ve built a simple Datasette plugin which wraps the library and makes each of those algorithms available as a SQL function. # 9th March 2019, 6:29 pm

Publish the data behind your stories with SQLite and Datasette. I presented a workshop on Datasette at the IRE and NICAR CAR 2019 data journalism conference yesterday. Here’s the worksheet I prepared for the tutorial. # 9th March 2019, 6:27 pm

sqlite-utils: a Python library and CLI tool for building SQLite databases

sqlite-utils is a combination Python library and command-line tool I’ve been building over the past six months which aims to make creating new SQLite databases as quick and easy as possible.

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socrata2sql (via) Phenomenal new open source tool released by Andrew Chavez at the Dallas Morning News. Socrata is the open data portal software used by huge numbers of local governments worldwide. socrata2sql is a tool that interacts with the standard Socrata API and can use it to suck down a dataset and save it as a SQLite, PostgreSQL, MySQL or other SQLAlchemy-supported database. I just tried this and it took a single command to create a SQLite database of every police arrest in Dallas in the past five years. # 8th February 2019, 3:27 pm

The Datasette Ecosystem. I’ve written a page of documentation that introduces the wider Datasette Ecosystem: csvs-to-sqlite, sqlite-utils, db-to-sqlite, dbf-to-sqlite, markdown-to-sqlite and a full collection of Datasette plugins. # 1st February 2019, 4:41 am

Datasette 0.27 (via) The latest release of Datasette introduces an option to output tables and SQL query results as newline-delimited JSON—plus a new “datasette plugins” command for listing available plugins. # 1st February 2019, 4:39 am

SQLite in 2018: A state of the art SQL dialect (via) In 2018 SQLite gained boolean literals, window functions, filter clauses, upserts and the ability to rename a column. If you want to try it out the latest official datasetteproject/datasette Docker image now bundles SQLite 3.26. # 15th January 2019, 4:21 pm

Usable Data (via) A Paul Ford essay from February 2016 in which he advocates for SQLite as the ideal format for sharing interesting data. I don’t know how I missed this one—it predates Datasette, but it perfectly captures the benefits that I’m trying to expose with the project. “In my dream universe, there would be a massive searchable torrent site filled with open, explorable data sets, in SQLite format, some with full text search indexes already in place.” # 11th January 2019, 6:33 pm

Exploring search relevance algorithms with SQLite

SQLite isn’t just a fast, high quality embedded database: it also incorporates a powerful full-text search engine in the form of the FTS4 and FTS5 extensions. You’ve probably used these a bunch of times already: many iOS, Android and desktop applications use SQLite under-the-hood and use it to implement their built-in search.

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Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website

Every website deserves a great search engine—but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive.

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Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website (via) I wrote a tutorial for the 24 ways advent calendar on building fast autocomplete search for a website on top of Datasette and SQLite. I built the demo against 24 ways itself—I used wget to recursively fetch all 330 articles as HTML, then wrote code in a Jupyter notebook to extract the raw data from them (with BeautifulSoup) and load them into SQLite using my sqlite-utils Python library. I deployed the resulting database using Datasette, then wrote some vanilla JavaScript to implement autocomplete using fast SQL queries against the Datasette JSON API. # 19th December 2018, 12:26 am

Zeit 2.0, and building smaller Python Docker images

Changes are afoot at Zeit Now, my preferred hosting provider for the past year (see previous posts). They have announced Now 2.0, an intriguing new approach to providing auto-scaling immutable deployments. It’s built on top of lambdas, and comes with a whole host of new constraints: code needs to fit into a 5MB bundle for example (though it looks like this restriction will soon be relaxed a littleupdate November 19th you can now bump this up to 50MB).

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How to Instantly Publish Data to the Internet with Datasette

I spoke about my Datasette project at PyBay in August and they’ve just posted the video of my talk.

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The interesting ideas in Datasette

Datasette (previously) is my open source tool for exploring and publishing structured data. There are a lot of ideas embedded in Datasette. I realized that I haven’t put many of them into writing.

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Slides, notes and links from my Datasette talk at PyBay (via) I presented a session about Datasette at the PyBay conference in San Francisco this morning. I talked about the project itself and demonstrated ways of creating and publishing databases using csvs-to-sqlite, Datasette Publish and my new sqlite-utils library. # 19th August 2018, 11:23 pm

Analyzing US Election Russian Facebook Ads

Two interesting data sources have emerged in the past few weeks concerning the Russian impact on the 2016 US elections.

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Analyzing US Election troll tweets with Datasette

FiveThirtyEight published nearly 3 million tweets from accounts associated with the Russian “Internet Research Agency”, based on research by Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren at at Clemson University.

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Datasette unit tests: monkeytype_call_traces (via) Faceted browse against every function call that occurs during the execution of Datasette’s test suite. I used Instagram’s MonkeyType tool to generate this, which can run Python code and generates a SQLite database of all of the traced calls. It’s intended to be used to automatically add mypy annotations to your code, but since it produces a SQLite database as a by-product I’ve started exploring the intermediary format using Datasette. Generating this was as easy as running “monkeytype run `which pytest`” in the Datasette root directory. # 2nd August 2018, 9:03 pm

Documentation unit tests

Keeping documentation synchronized with an evolving codebase is difficult. Without extreme discipline, it’s easy for documentation to get out-of-date as new features are added.

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Datasette: publish_subcommand hook + default plugins mechanism, used for publish heroku/now (via) I just landed a new plugin hook to Datasette master: publish_subcommand, which lets you define new publisher subcommands for the “datasette publish” CLI tool in addition to Heroku and Zeit Now. As part of this I’ve refactored the heroku/now publisher implementations into two default plugins that ship as part of Datasette—I hope to use this pattern for other core functionality in the future. # 26th July 2018, 5:27 am

XARs: An efficient system for self-contained executables (via) Really interesting new open source project from Facebook: a XAR is a new way of packaging up a Python executable complete with its dependencies and resources such that it can be distributed and executed elsewhere as a single file. It’s kind of like a Docker container without Docker—it uses the SquashFS compressed read-only filesystem. I can’t wait to try this out with Datasette. # 13th July 2018, 7 pm

The Now CDN (via) Huge announcement from Zeit Now today: all .now.sh deployments are now served through the Cloudflare CDN, which means they benefit from 150 worldwide CDN locations that obey HTTP caching headers. This is particularly relevant for Datasette, since it serves far-future cache headers by default and uses Cloudflare-compatible HTTP/2 push hints to accelerate 302 redirects. This means that both the “datasette publish now” CLI command and the Datasette Publish web app will now result in Cloudflare-accelerated deployments. # 12th July 2018, 3:34 am

datasette-vega (via) I wrote a visualization plugin for Datasette that uses the excellent Vega “visualization grammar” library to provide bar, line and scatter charts configurable against any Datasette table or SQL query. # 29th June 2018, 3 pm

Query Parquet files in SQLite. Colin Dellow built a SQLite virtual table extension that lets you query Parquet files directly using SQL. Parquet is interesting because it’s a columnar format that dramatically reduces the space needed to store tables with lots of duplicate column data—most CSV files, for example. Colin reports being able to shrink a 1291 MB CSV file from the Canadian census to an equivalent Parquet file weighing just 42MB (3% of the original)—then running a complex query against the data in just 60ms. I’d love to see someone get this extension working with Datasette. # 24th June 2018, 7:44 pm