Posts Tagged ‘ XSLT ’

Parallactic Drift beta is now live!

About time! I’ve been working on this project and finally, I have something posted online to show for it.

Right now Parallactic Drift stands more as a proof of concept of a scalable AJAX framework that can fit into any CMS that can automate its compiling XSLT scripts (through either Cron or Cron-like functions) and a better search function.

The framework is entirely client-side, using jQuery to hide and present search query-matching stories in individual modal windows that float above a fixed map with location points. As a result, it’s a pretty big page with a slow search function and other limitation (i.e. the page does not contain my favored fade others function for emphasis because of the sheer number of news items). The news items come from a few weeks of gathering all of the RSS feeds from the BBC.co.uk, Economist.com, English.Aljazeera.com and CNN.com. So individually, the news items number in the thousands. Continue reading

Finding the best way to query news items

The XSLT code for the site is done! Now I am focusing more on different ways the user can search for different news items. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been looking at using a multi-level JavaScript drop-down menu, a search box or a combination of the two.

An attempt to present all the countries and cities that appear in the scraped RSS XML makes for a drop-down or scroll-down menu that is way too long to be practical. Also, instead of using a menu for sorting stories by format (text, video, audio, et. al.) I’d rather use the simple icon key explained in that same post. Thus, menus for my project are a no go for now.

Another minor issue I’d like to work out is how to present overlapping file types. For example, I want to be able to present the link to a story that has text with an embedded video as having video and text. So far I’m thinking of using another so-called “code scraper” such as HtmlCleaner, which turns HTML code into plain text. Continue reading

Making it work

Each format may contain one or more of these iconsI’ve been plugging away at the XSL loop for a solid week now. I think I’ve nearly exhausted all that XSLT can do for this project, which I am mainly using to call information from a massive database when certain conditions are met. For example, I was able to make it so that when “Israel” is selected as the location, all of the stories involving Israel will show up with the news item’s headline (wrapped in the story’s permalink), over the publication date, the lede and icons corresponding to the news item’s format (text, audio, video and commentary).

Although I include the publication date as part of each item’s presentation, it will not bear any impact the site’s organizing principle. Each item’s story location(s) will also show up as a dot on a world map. Hovering over either a dot or its corresponding news item’s box brings focus to both the news item and the dot (i.e. by fading out all other story items and dots). Continue reading

Useful site for automated semantic tagging

My professor Vin Crosbie, who runs the site Digital Deliverance, turned me onto this open-source semantic solutions by the good people at OpenCalais. OpenCalais’s collaborators have created several tools, from a simple standalone API to tagging applications for Drupal and WordPress. This service reads textual and structural information from three different types of files (txt, HTML, and XML), renders meta-information on those files and offers possible topics based on keyword matches from OpenCalais’s massive database.

I’m considering OpenCalais as a sorting tool for Parallactic Drift. Believe me, hard coding keywords and conditionals to match specific topics is difficult, but it allows me to create a script that sorts news items down to specific events. While I would lose this level of specificity with OpenCalais, the API seems to have evolved from its initial functions to include more advanced vector calculations for reading word placement within text. The API even diagrams sentences’ grammatical structure to figure out what a sentence says! Just type a word into their demo viewer. Continue reading

Establishing a more usable online news archive

I apologize for getting too technical in my previous posts. I mainly went on about XML, XSLT and other coding languages to outline for myself what I intend to do for the back-end of this project. In my last post, I spoke about the limitations of my method of gathering RSS feeds, sorting them into descriptively named folders and displaying the information in a more organized and aesthetically pleasing way. The limitations are basically that I have no starting point for sorting this information. There is no data bank that I know of where I can draw a bunch of key words from an article’s headline and lede (such as “Nigeria” or “China”) and use those to put in individual folders with those particular names.

My professors assure me that this mechanism is sort of innate to the coding languages I will be using, and that I can create a robust archive with simple conditional (if this, then that) commands. My limitations lie in my programming capabilities. I know I can’t create an automated system simply because I can’t pick up a complex programming language like Python and learn it within a week or even a month. This same principle goes for making a heuristic, or self-teaching, semantic aggregator that makes associations between words such as “West Bank” and “Palestinians.” This kind of programming is for the trained professionals and enthusiasts, not for code newbies like me. Continue reading

Operational difficulties of querying semantic information

Folder Structure and Workflow for Parallactic DriftIn order to implement an efficient system of organizing news items, content providers must label information in a common way within each platform, be it RSS, blogs or web sites. Standards in fact do exist for XML tagging for news sites. Several web consortia exist (including W3C and NewsML) to ensure that a single format is followed, and that information flows freely between publications and reaches more users.

Perhaps it’s because this principle of “free-flowing information” seems in itself counter-intuitive to how traditional publications share news items, but an inconsistent style stifles any RDF standard across different publications. Even if designs remain idiosyncratic, as they should, the semantic tagging of information, in HTML and XML should not deviate too much from an agreed-upon standard. Continue reading