Resist Data Integration Redundancy

The Internet makes massive amounts of data available for lots of interesting applications. But whenever you design a unique analysis and presentation of information you don’t privately control, you risk that the owner will offer the same view at some point in the future, instantly making your application redundant.

That’s exactly what happened to the Groupon API data-mining project we originally wrote about in August, 2011. Fortunately, the core of our project is a MapForce graphical data mapping. We can quickly and easily tweak the mapping and repurpose it to present an entirely different data set that provides new value.

HTML output from MapForce and StyleVision

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XPath Enhances XML Reports

In our previous post on Creating Elegant Reports for GPS XML Data we used an XPath expression to select nodes from an XML document for an elevation line chart. You can also use XPath to compute values. Altova StyleVision includes strong support for XPath, and we can write XPath expressions to add interesting information to our GPS XML reports. For instance, we can process the elevation data stored by the GPS device in meters to plot a chart showing the elevation in feet above sea level instead.

Altova StyleVision line chart

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Creating Elegant Reports for GPS XML Data

In our earlier post on XML for Global Positioning Systems, we mentioned that adventurers and athletes might want to use XML data from their devices to keep a record of their trips, or even training sessions leading up a marathon or other special event. Several colleagues responded by offering example files!

Looking through all this data, we realized that plotting elevation changes over time would show interesting results for many activities. We used XMLSpy to create this customized line graph directly from the XML data to show elevation vs. time for an afternoon of bicycling through California wine country. We even applied the vineyard photo as a background image right from the XMLSpy chart settings dialog.

Line chart generated by XMLSpy

Whenever you want to elegantly present data from multiple XML data files based on the same XML Schema, Altova StyleVision is the tool that lets you design a richly featured stylesheet for repeatable output in HTML, RTF, PDF, or Microsoft Word formats. Here’s how we did It for our GPS XML data:

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Transforming a Plain Layout in StyleVision

Altova Online Training’s newest course, XSLT Technology, leads the student though several transformations of XML data into new formats. Even with all the transformations performed in the class, there are some transformations that did not make it into the final edit.
In Chapter 4 of the XSLT Technology training, I walk students through the process of creating a flyer for the play “Hamlet” using StyleVision. The source content is in XML, and StyleVision autogenerates the XSL stylesheets required to render it into HTML, PDF, and Word, based on our design.

I asked the Altova Art Department to spruce up my design, and, while I did not end up using the nicer design in the training, I wanted to show how to turn my plain flyer into the Art Department’s vision.
Let’s explore the transformation.

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