Friday, March 30, 2007

Trying to Gulp Through A Coffee Stirrer

I'm not a big coffee drinker -- indeed I come from a long line of not big coffee drinkers -- but I do often raid various coffee establishments for other goodies, and in the cold weather (perhaps behind us for a while) that includes hot cocoa.

Of course, greedily drinking a hot beverage can be the route to a host of unpleasant effects. Sometimes a straw makes sense, but many such places just have the little hollow plastic coffee stirrers. They might faintly resemble straws, but the exercise of trying to use one in that way is mostly an exercise in frustration, as the throughput just isn't sufficient.

I had a similar feeling today at work. It had occurred to me that the some data I wanted to explore was probably out there on the internet somewhere -- and indeed it is in a dozen or so 'boutique' databases. One I found had a nice prominent download link, and in short order the whole dataset was on my machine & parsed into the form I needed.

However, no such luck with any other database. They all have decent web front ends, but the last thing I want to do is browse the data one record at a time. I'm not even sure the precise data I want is in the database -- how many records should I browse before giving up? And since what I want is an atypical small subset of the data, it isn't surprising the web interface really doesn't support my query.

Anyone who curates data & makes it available deserves applause, and I hate to sound ungrateful. But could you please make a flatfile dump available? Someone might just want to use your data in a way you didn't imagine.

No comments: