Input: Dashboards for Everyone v1

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Summary

In 2014q3, I created the Dashboards for Everyone project. This blog post covers what the project is, what's out there now, some examples of usage and the future.

Input collects sentiment data on Mozilla products. Currently, this data can be seen on the front page dashboard. This dashboard sucks for a variety of reasons amongst which is that it's a slog of data that isn't particularly informative.

Further, it's pretty clear that the greater Mozillaverse has different informational needs. Some people are interested in issues with products in specific locales. Some people are interested in today's hot topic. Some people are interested in comparing the first week after release of one version of a product with another. Etc.

Given that, we have two paths:

  1. Create dashboards that live on Input catering to all these needs.
  2. Create an API that allows people to create their own dashboards and host them wherever.

These two paths aren't mutually exclusive. However, I want to put effort into the second one first for the following reasons:

  1. It enables people to individually and collectively solve their own informational problems.
  2. It enables people to solve informational problems as problems crop up rather than wait for Input developers to have time to write up a dashboard.
  3. As people are solving their informational problems, we'll learn a lot more about what informational problems exist which will guide how we build dashboards that live on Input.

The Dashboards for Everyone project aims to create the infrastructure for enabling people to write their own dashboards using Input data.

Version 1

Over the course of the quarter we put enough of the bits in place that building your own dashboard is a viable thing now.

First, we wrote and honed an API for getting feedback data.

Then we wrote a bunch of proof-of-concept dashboards that use this data.

I threw together these two dashboards which are defined in Github gists and "hosted" on bl.ocks.org:

Ian Kronquist (Input intern for summer 2014) wrote this one:

Those are examples of fetching and manipulating the data into a chart. They're not very informative. We used them to help flesh out the API and their current purpose is as examples for using the API to do things.

However, we've built some real things that use the data and are "in production" now:

  • I use the Input API for the Response Breakdown graphs on the Input Health Dashboard. That helps me figure out whether we've just pushed out bugs preventing people from leaving feedback. That uses a d3-based charting library I've been toying with to help me flesh out possible data transform needs. It also uses a library that lets me defined the charts in HTML attributes and they get "auto-charted" without me having to write JavaScript.
  • Cheng used the Input API to build the Hello dashboard for tracking Hello feedback.
  • I then reused most of his ideas and some of his code to produce a Firefox for Android trends dashboard. That's still got some issues namely that the tokenizing isn't very good and thus there's enough noise in the words lists that it doesn't bring real trending issues into starker relief.

That's where we're at. Now I need to tell people about it so that you know these possibilities exist.

Do you have informational needs for the data on Input?

Can the API help you solve your specific needs?

Are there important things missing that you need to have implemented in order to solve your needs?

If you use the Input API to build your own dashboards and you run into problems, write up a bug.

Version 2 and future

Bugs, conversations and seeing other peoples' dashboards will inform us as to how we need to grow the API going forward. That will set the priorities for the next version.

Also, I have a few ideas I've been mulling over:

  1. Build an index of charts: If there are a sufficient number of interesting charts out there, then we should build an index of them on Input.

  2. Build tokenizing into the Input API: If you look at the JavaScript code for my Firefox for Android Trends chart, a good portion of it deals with tokenizing. If tokenizing is a common thing people are doing to build charts, then we should pull that tokenizing in-house.

  3. Build an auto-charter or chart widget library: Right now you have to do all the charting by hand. It'd be really nice to be able to throw dashboards together using chart "widgets" and possibly define the dashboard entirely in HTML. I've been toying with this with the Input Health Dashboard. I'm curious to find out if there's a need for throwing dashboards together quickly to follow certain issues (e.g. e10s, Hello, ...).

    The Metrics team produces some really great looking dashboards that use MetricsGraphics.js. Maybe we could build a shim on top of that letting people more easily use that library with Input data?

Thanks

I really want to thank Matt Grimes for coordinating d3 training, Cheng Wang for giving me some compelling code to reuse and Mike Cooper for helping me debug code whose mystery was only exceeded by its brokenness.

Thoughts, comments, etc

I'm using the fruits of this labor now, so at a bare minimum, it solved some of my problems.

Can it help you solve yours?

Want to comment? Send an email to willkg at bluesock dot org. Include the url for the blog entry in your comment so I have some context as to what you're talking about.