As I wrote about in the introductory post of this set of OLITA Appetizers, Google Drive (once called Google Docs) is a collection of tools that allow people to co-write and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. All you need is an account with Google and you have free access to these programs.
What is sometimes forgotten is that you don’t need an account with Google to view works that have been designated as public in Google Drive.
Tah-dah! And with that I have made my chart available using a cloud-served platform for distributed data-driven analysis, engagement, and yaddayaddayadda. And you can too!
After you create a document or spreadsheet in Google Drive, you can set the document’s visibility to public by clicking on the large blue “Share” button in the top right of the screen. [Google provides this help guide to the visibility features in Drive.] You can also designate a trustworthy individual the ability to edit and maintain your spreadsheet on your behalf:
While this set up technically gets the job done, it’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing nor is it generally desirable to send your readers to another site just to look at a graph. And the good news is that you don’t have to that; you can publish your chart separately from your data and embed it into a document or web page of your own:
Do you what this means? YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE BRAND NEW CHARTS EVERY TIME YOU NEED TO AN ANNUAL REPORT. Just add to your table of data and all of your related embedded graphs will refresh with the new info. Huzzah!
The Leddy Library website runs on Drupal and we were able to embed interactive charts in our pages using the “PHP code” text format option.
But for those of us who don’t have access to a web server, there is another option from Google that you might want to explore. Google Sites is a service that allows Google users to create their own websites and wikis from scratch or from templates. The Google Sites promotional video is below:
We can use Google Sites to embed our charts. And in this example, we are going to be a little bit more private and only want to publish our chart in a limited way.
First, we are going to set the visibility of our chart to “Anyone with link”
Then we can insert the chart into a Google Site for publicly sharing your chart but not your raw data.
Now, while you can separate your data from your charts, I would urge you to not to. Whenever possible, please make your data sets readily available for re-use.
Why? Well, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has asked us to. He makes a compelling case why we need raw data now [video, 16 minutes] and has shown us already just a small sample of what open, linked data may bring to the world [video, 5 minutes].
In order to encourage all of us to create a World Wide Web of not just texts, documents and videos, but of data as well, Tim Berners-Lee has suggested of thinking of the work as a continuum of effort that should be recognized and rewarded. And so, he developed a five-star scale for Open Data efforts which I have I’ve included but modified slightly below:
★ make your data available on the web (whatever format)
★★ make it available as structured data (e.g. Excel instead of an image or PDF)
★★★ non-proprietary format (e.g. .csv aka comma delimited instead of Excel)
★★★★ use URLs to identify things, so that people can point at your stuff
★★★★★ link your data to other people’s data to provide context
When you make your spreadsheets public in Google Drive, you allow your readers the ability to copy the data in a variety of formats including .csv, Excel, and PDF as they may choose. By doing so you get three gold stars!
If you have been inspired to make some of your library data available in an open format or if your library like the Edmonton Public Library has already done so please let us know in the comments! You deserve kudos! And we give them to you!
Next time: we’ll see what can happen when you add Google App Scripts to Google Drive. See you then
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