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Working with LimeSurvey’s RemoteControl2 JSON-RPC API in PHP

Posted by bcmoney on April 17, 2014 in Cloud Computing, JavaScript, Mobile, PHP, Semantic Web with 2 Comments


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Hideous LimeSurvey shirt

Hideous LimeSurvey shirt (Photo credit: juhansonin)

Recently, I needed to switch away from SurveyMonkey, which, while still a useful free service for quickly collecting some basic Survey results, leaves much to be desired in terms of what they offer in their basic version. Of course the fully paid versions offer significantly more functionality, but the upper-end of the pricing schemes that do everything I needed are just way out of my price range for small individually-funded and/or non-budget independent projects.

This lead me to LimeSurvey (formerly PHPsurveyor), the leading open source web-based Survey data collection software, with a back-end written entirely in PHP.

Getting LimeSurvey installed on my own server was incredibly easy, just download the latest release version and upload the files via FTP. Then load the installation script and it will guide you through the remaining install steps (which are basically just setting a username/password for the administrator account, as well as database configurations such as connection info, table naming, etc). Pretty standard fare for a long-running open source PHP project with a solid development community in place.

What really set LimeSurvey apart from the alternatives though, was the extensibility offered by its API, dubbed RemoteControl2 (with support for both XML-RPC and JSON-RPC).

I had initially started out with XML-RPC since I’m kind of a nerdcore “semantics” guy, and favour XML over JSON for most server-side integration use cases (unless I’m publishing data for client-side consumption, then I almost always favour JSON). The reason, well there simply are way more tools and methodologies already in place for XML than JSON and the reliability mechanisms built into XML such as well-defined schemas (DTD/XSD) which provide data validation, namespsaces (ns) which prevent conflicts in name/value label namings and help ensure you get the right values when parsing, stylesheets (XSL/XSLT)  which allow for on-the-fly transformations, query languages (XPath and XQuery) which simplify data filtering and extraction tasks, and XML security mechanisms such as Digital Signatures which enable better security. However that’s all sure to start a debate on here.

The point is, I wanted to go XML-RPC, I really did! However I have to say, the simplicity of their JSON-RPC API which seems particularly well-implemented won me over.

So here’s what I made, a simple Survey response submission script that I call “limesurvey.collector.php“:
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Semantic Web and LinkedData Explained For The Lay Person

Posted by bcmoney on January 21, 2013 in Semantic Web with 5 Comments


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W3c semantic web stack

W3c semantic web stack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Semantic Web is beginning to gain steam along with the related (but separate) NoSQL and BigData movements; but what is the Semantic Web (commonly abbreviated “SW”)? The term itself sounds like some uber geek-speak and turns off most people without a technical background and appreciation of web evolution almost immediately after hearing it. However, whether the business world knows it or not, the Semantic Web will be the defining information technology of this decade (2010-2020). Let me start this off with the abridged version for the very impatient, by providing three simple definitions of three key terms RDF, LOD and SW. Sorry, but reading through these three are necessary to be able to understand the core concept of the Semantic Web…

RDF
Resource Description Framework is a building block technology (like a single lego brick) to enable the Semantic Web to be built”.
lego

LOD
Linked Open Data is a set of best practices, policies and guidelines for connecting datasets on the Web to make them more Semantic (like the instruction manual for a pack of legos, detailing how to put your bricks together to make them match the image on the box, so that you get what you expected and can then show it off to others and they can understand what you’ve created and how you’ve done it).”
tiger

SW
“The Semantic Web is a cross-domain network of data, services and applications built upon the World Wide Web  in a particular manner, such that the data, services and applications can be easily interconnected in novel ways (like a big, “constantly updated” encyclopaedia/guidebook of all the cool structures and combinations that have EVER been made with Legos – such as towers, castles, dinosaurs, robots, vehicles, animals, scenes, and just about anything people can dream up)”.
LEGO-Ideas-Book

 

Linked Data and Semantic Web Defined In Detail
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SkipSearch ALPHA released

Posted by bcmoney on December 12, 2012 in E-Business, Semantic Web, Web Services with No Comments


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facebook engancha

SkipSearch logo

The ALPHA version of SkipSearch has been released!!!

SkipSearch is a proprietary front-end to OpenRecommender, an open source recommendation engine. Its primary features include:

  • Easy-to-use Interface with hover-intent to reduce clicks, audio controls & shortcuts
  • Lightweight HTML5 / CSS3 layout
  • Mobile-friendly, responsive design
  • Schema.org properties and support for RDFa/Microformats
  • Import data from multiple accounts (Google/Yahoo/Microsoft/Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIN/Last.FM/StumbleUpon and other social media account integration)
  • Export functionality based on open formats (RSS, ATOM, OPML, XSPF, FOAF)
  • OpenID authentication
  • OAuth authorization

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CNN-style Interactive News Ticker (HTML5/CSS3)

Posted by bcmoney on June 22, 2012 in CSS, E-Business, HTML, Semantic Web with 1 Comment


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CNN breaking the news of a plane crash at the ...

CNN breaking the news of a plane crash at the World Trade Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the real, true and unbiased news inevitably moving online towards the so-called “Alternative Media” (which really is almost reaching the point where it is not alternative so much as the first go-to source), its a good idea to start replicating some of the most useful elements from Television, Print and Radio (aka. the rest of the dinosaur media).

The CNN News Ticker Tape is a somewhat controversial item, as it is considered annoying by many. However, in terms of being able to quickly get information across the screen without interrupting another presentation, it is arguably somewhat effective. Proponents of its use claim it is the best way to get instant updates while maintaining a coherent programming schedule, while critics point to its potential for misuse and indoctrination of the weak-minded with subliminal messages flashing across the screen or fear-mongering sensationalism so common in the “Mainstream Media” today.

Taking the bad and the good into consideration, I’ve thrown together a mock-up that could function somewhat similarly to the Semantically Enhanced Video Pop-ups I’ve implemented using Popcorn.js and to replicate the VH1 Pop-up Video effect. You could imagine having the usefulness of having contextual content being inferred based on the content being viewed, or, simply populating a basic news ticker with the entries from an existing RSS or Atom news feed to link to the day’s top stories.
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FOAF and the Facebook Death Star

Posted by bcmoney on May 18, 2012 in E-Business, JSON, Semantic Web, Web Services, XML with 2 Comments


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An updated SVG of the FOAF logo...

The Facebook Death Star

Since the February confirmation of the Facebook IPO, Facebook has continued to stagnate in user-base yet as an organization it holds no punches as it attempts to grow internationally, and its stock price continues to soar as Class A shares finally open up to the average person (major investment firms had first dibs at the initial Class A shares released during the IPO). Facebook founder and owner Mark Zuckerberg maintains 58% control of the company through complete control of Class C shares and veto power over all Class B shares. This is indeed shaping up to be a new Galactic (global internet) Empire, similar to that sought by a young Annakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. The new schematics for a seemingly unstoppable battle station would be the carefully-timed Facebook Timeline rollout along with Facebook Connect and OpenGraph protocol. So if one can draw vague parallels between Mark Zuckerberg and Darth Vader, who can play the role of the Emperor? An obvious choice would be early angel investor Petr Thiel of PayPal, but a more appropriate figure is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose company owns approximately 2% of Facebook:

Symbolizing Facebook as the death star is hardly a new concept, just check out these previous references.

Enter the FOAF project and its RDF/XML data format for representing friendship connections in a social network, as well as personal interests and contact info. Although the FOAF file format is designed first of all to be machine readable, it is often desirable to be able to browse it as if it were a usual Web page.
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BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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