I’m one of the recipients of the first-ever round of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Individual Engagement Grants for a project that I initially titled the “MediaWiki Data Browser“. The project started about three months ago, and we’re now just a little past the halfway mark. I’m very excited to announce the first release of the software I’ve been working on, now called the Miga Data Viewer, or Miga for short.
My website has information about the code and usage of the software, and I have a longer description of the project on the WikiWorks blog, but in brief:
Miga (pronounced MEE-ga) is a generic framework that can be used to browse and navigate structured data in a (hopefully) user-friendly way. The core of the software is not actually MediaWiki or Wikipedia-specific; it reads data from arbitrary CSV files (and it is open source). However, the code also contains “importer” scripts that can extract data from Wikipedia, Wikidata and other MediaWiki-based wikis, and turn them into CSV files. In this way, users of Wikipedia and other MediaWiki sites can hopefully easily create their own Miga apps, for whatever subset of data they want users to be able to navigate. There are a few demos on the site that illustrate this: apps for browsing information about fictional nonhumans, jazz musicians, public parks and sports cars using information from the English-language Wikipedia, and one for browsing information about countries using facts from Wikidata.
When a user first accesses a data set, the data is all imported into the browser itself, using a technology called Web SQL Database. The downside is that Miga apps will not work on Firefox or Internet Explorer browsers (and possibly some other minor browsers), because those browsers don’t support Web SQL. The upside is that, on all other browsers, Miga apps run quite fast, and can keep working if the network connection is spotty or nonexistent, a difference that really makes itself felt when browsing on a mobile device.
There’s another demo app I created that holds schedule information for the upcoming Wikimania 2013 conference in Hong Kong. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the demo that gets a lot of the initial buzz, and it could be that its use as a lightweight framework for creating conference and event apps will be the “killer app” (to the extent that there is one) for Miga to start with. I’m not aware of any other tools that allow for creating a conference app in this sort of lightweight way. Personally, I find the Wikipedia-accessing stuff a lot more compelling, but you never know what will really spark users’ interest.
I’d like to thank the IEG project and team (especially Siko Bouterse) for their support. And I hope people try out Miga for themselves. I think it could lead to a lot of interesting discoveries, as people “unlock” the data contained in Wikipedia infoboxes and elsewhere.
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