Editor’s Note: Guest author Mark Showalter is a Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute. — Arun Nagarajan
In 2011 and 2012, while studying the region around Pluto with the Hubble Space Telescope, I discovered the dwarf planet’s fourth and fifth known moons. Like all new astronomical objects, they started out with rather prosaic names — “S/2011 (134340) 1” and “S/2012 (134340) 1”, or, for short, P4 and P5.
I soon found my inbox stuffed with hundreds of naming suggestions. With so much interest, it didn’t seem fair to leave the job to just a handful of scientists. Instead, we decided to let the public propose and vote on the names of Pluto’s moons.
We knew that the web servers at the SETI Institute, my research home, could never handle the bandwidth required for such a task. However, the Institute has built strong relationships with Google through our extensive use of G+, and our friends there were thrilled to let us use Google services for the demanding task. I asked my husband Frank Yellin, who works on the Gmail team, for help in setting up the forms and collecting the data. Google Forms and Google Sheets were obvious choices, but with the volume of contributions and votes we were expecting, we knew we’d need programmatic help checking for duplicate nominees, filtering out inappropriate names, and tallying the votes.
With some help from his colleagues (“How do I split a string?” “How do I make a hash table?”), he turned the project around in a few hours. Processing that had taken tens of minutes using Java took mere seconds in Apps Script, since nothing but the results ever had to leave the data center.
We were right to be prepared. By the time we closed the write-in ballot, we had received 30,000 write-in nominees and more than 450,000 votes.
We are now using the results of the poll to support our proposal for the formal names of P4 and P5. That decision is currently in the hands of the International Astronomical Union. When the final decision is made, Pluto and Charon and Nix and Hydra will be joined by two more representatives of the ancient underworld.
Editor’s Note: Guest author Andrew Stillman is a teacher who works at New Visions for Public Schools, a non-profit that provides direct support services to 76 New York City high schools. — Arun Nagarajan
On March 16th, as a green tide tide of college students flowed into Manhattan for a day of rousing revelry, more than 50 young coders from New York-area computer science programs and 30 teachers were drawn instead to Kean University in New Jersey by the gravity of St. Hacktrick’s Day, our first Apps Script for EDU Codeathon. Inspired by the viral popularity of the Flubaroo, Doctopus, and autoCrat scripts for teachers, St. Hacktrick’s Day aimed to pair coders with educators to produce more free, smart tools for education.
Most of the student scripters were on their first day of spring break, making our huge turnout for this event all the more remarkable. Product designers — all working educators who took time out on a Saturday — traveled from as far north as Ulster County, NY and as far south as Virginia, while we had others who joined teams via G+ Hangouts from Singapore, Montreal, Vancouver, and London.
Unlike a typical hackathon, teams weren’t simply building their own ideas — instead, to ensure their scripts would be truly useful in the classroom, we solicited project proposals through a Google Moderator board. By the day of the event, we had 48 ideas with 187 votes from educators around the world.
In all, 17 teams built demo-ready prototypes in less than 6 hours of coding. The Apps Script team rounded up a few Nexus 7 tablets for the winners below and invited them to present their projects to the Google Docs engineering team:
Popular vote: Picture Prompt Generator
Summary: Inserts kid-friendly pictures from Google Image Search into student documents. Elementary students then write stories based on the visual prompts.
Design: Daniel Scibienski
Code: Ashish Nandwani and Krutika Shah
Judges' choice: Plagiarism Detector
Summary: Uses a similarity algorithm to rank Google Documents by originality.
Design and code: Alice Lin, Basim Baig, and Jackie Wei (Stony Brook University)
Judges' choice: Unpivot Google Form Data
Summary: Removes duplicates from Google Form data and transforms it for use in a pivot table.
Design: Ron Turchyniak
Code: Andrew Ireland, Sangwook Lee, and Steve Byung Park (Stony Brook University)
Teams have been asked to open-source their code and donate it to New Visions for Public Schools, the support organization I work for, and to consider improving their projects for use by educators everywhere. We’ll keep you posted as these resources become available.
Big thanks to our participants, to organizers Meredith Martin, Dave Zirkle, Daniel Scibienski, Emily Graves, Diana Potts, Lisa Thumann, Andrew Carle, and to Google’s Arun Nagarajan, Saurabh Gupta, and Zach Yeskel.
Right now, Apps Script developers have three competing ways to create user interfaces: Ui Service, a visual tool for Ui Service called GUI Builder, and Html Service, which we launched at Google I/O in 2012. We designed Html Service specifically to help developers build complex applications by letting them work with familiar libraries like jQuery and jQuery UI.
Today, we are deprecating GUI Builder and five UiApp widgets — but not Ui Service itself. This will help us further focus our development efforts on Html Service.
The GUI Builder will continue to be available until September 9, 2013. After that point, you will not be able to create or manage GUI Builder components, although existing components will still function. The five deprecated UiApp widgets are Hyperlink, InlineHyperlink, LayoutPanel, RichTextArea, and SuggestBox. These widgets will be also available until September 9, 2013, at which point they will cease to function.
To plan for the future, we recommend that you migrate your user interfaces to Html Service, which will offer the best combination of features and support in the long term.
Meanwhile, we have a few awesome new features planned for 2013. Although we’re not quite ready to announce those features, I dropped a few hints when Arun Nagarajan interviewed me for a State of the Script episode on Google Developers Live last month. Give it a watch, and I’m sure you’ll be as excited about the future of Apps Script as we are.
Lots of photographers, both professionals and amateurs, have started using Google Drive to store their photos online. We recently launched new features such as a way to quickly preview files and today I wanted to share more details about the image media metadata capabilities of the Drive SDK.
All digital cameras add some Exif information to the photos they take, and we exposed an initial set of Exif fields via the Google Drive API at the end of 2012. That set of metadata has now been expanded to include 9 new fields, such as the sensor type or the metering mode.
For instance, take a look at this recently taken photo:
Photo credit: Claudio Cherubino
What follows is the image media metadata as returned by the Drive API (in bold the new fields):
"date": "2013:02:18 12:51:51",
"sensor": "One-chip color area",
You might have noticed that a number of fields have been added to the response while others (“subjectDistance” and “lens”) were not returned. This is expected as the camera doesn’t have to populate all Exif fields and in that case the corresponding properties will simply not be included in the API response.
For more information and to check the description of all metadata fields returned by the API, check the Files resource Reference Guide. If you have technical questions, please post them on Stack Overflow, my team monitors the google-drive-sdk tag and is happy to help.
Hey Silicon Valley developers,
We are organizing a Google Drive hackathon next week. If you’d like to learn more about the Google Drive SDK, meet with Google Drive engineers and have fun developing your first Google Drive application or integrating your existing application, join us.
The event will take place at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. We’ll start with an introduction to the Google Drive SDK at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday March 13th 2013 and the hackathon will run through the next day at 3:00 p.m. See the detailed agenda of this event, don’t forget to RSVP and tell your friends about it.
Also there will be some exciting Google prizes for the best apps.
See you there!