Has been a while…I know.
First thing I found when I tried to post something new here was though that WordPress was broken – and no entries were shown whatsoever – really sorry for this. I do still not really know what exactly was broken – but could eventually get it to work again.
Anyhow – happy new year 2013 everyone!
Wonder how a typical AidIQ workplace looks like?
Yeah – nothing compared to Google, of course.
What you don’t see, though, is that it runs with a peak energy consumption of 150W – that means a full month of operation taking less energy than commuting for a single shift to the nearest hospital.
For an almost too long time now, the Sahana Eden framework development has emphasized the flexibility to take in data from almost any source, and to spit out data resources in many different formats – for maximum interoperability and rapid deployment.
As a side effect of that, Sahana Eden has gained a reputation as a flexible connector platform for data pools in humanitarian operations with integrated mapping capabilities. That may be a little bit exaggerated, but if you hear people considering to deploy Sahana Eden as a back-end-only data exchange platform, while leaving the user-facing stuff to more sophisticated front-end solutions, then you know what I’m talking about.
I’m not disappointed at all, no.
However, it’s time to move on beyond pure data hosting – and actually produce knowledge and provide decision support. We’re doing this already in point-efforts, and the DRR Project Portal shows what this would mean to the users. However, the framework still doesn’t provide integrated support for data analysis and visualization, and thus the amount of work that is required to make such things work in Sahana Eden is still far from the RAD objective.
So, we’re introducing S3Cube.
Imagine you have a table with data about tens of organizations involved in a disaster response operation. This table could look like:
The spreadsheet experts among you will recognize this right away – yes: it’s a pivot table. Such a “twisted” view of the raw data reduces the amount of information to what you actually want to see in order to make your decision: which organisation provides health services in Viet Nam? Perfect.
Or say – this is a simple example of a simple pivot table. The whole thing is a little more sophisticated, but don’t let us go into too much detail here – this is a blog, not a manual.
So – what’s the “S3Cube” then? The S3Cube is our back-end engine to produce this kind of analysis. It’s called “S3Cube” because it describes what the module is actually doing: it re-structures the raw data as a data cube (also called a “star schema“), and then uses more or less sophisticated SQL queries to group and aggregate the data into a result table like the one above.
The aggregation function is exchangeable. You can just group records as in the example above, but you can also count them:
…or sum them up, or even do more advanced statistical analysis (although the high-end scientific stuff would usually not be required during disaster response, but hey…it’s still possible).
But not only the aggregation method is exchangeable – with the S3Cube being a framework-level tool, you can request such reports for any data resource within Sahana Eden.
Once we have this tool complete, we’ll be able to do more than producing pivot tables. We will also be able to export them in multiple formats, provide subscription and notification methods for the results, visualize the results as graphs (bar charts, pie charts, histograms etc) and even to put them on maps easily.
All that said, Sahana Eden will still be a highly flexible connector platform in the data pool – with integrated mapping – and now also on-demand data analysis and visualization capabilities.
While mummy is traveling abroad, the boys are to get their food themselves…
Well, for a moment it wasn’t quite clear who was dragging whom and where, but finally the pike gave up and René remained dry – and proud!
Daddy just added some fresh mushrooms, and so this gave a really delicious dinner.
Not bad for us boys, is it?
Oh dear – is this really just one year that went since my last post? Feels like five, to be honest. And updating this blog with everything about this one year would easily fill another year, so I regret – but have to leave this out.
The top news is that I have a cat. Right here – where other IT folks use to have a mouse. A black-and-white model with no name, and most of the time completely wireless (well sometimes with a network cable between the teeth, which though can easily be replaced by any other sensitive material on or around the desk). And whilst a mouse is a useful kind of thing to sort stuff on your screen – a cat is a extraordinarily efficient tool to mess it all up.
Else – hmm, let’s see: I have relocated to Alsterbro. A lovely forgotten place somewhere in the middle of the woods of the “Crystal Kingdom”, far from any urban area, with a tranquil lake and a lively creek, among gnomes and elfs (moose and midges?). Quite the right place to be creative.
And yes, I have mostly stepped down from my active nursing job, and am now mainly doing software development again with AidIQ and Sahana.
SahanaPy is being used as development platform in another project: a portal site to track and manage requests for food aid between the aid organisations involved in the Haiti relief effort and the UN World Food Programme.
The wider the scope grows, and the more practical experience is flowing in, the more limitations and wrong assumptions come to the fore. While the REST-heart seems to be strong and keep most of promises (not all, though), the UI - especially those features mainly based AJAX technology - turns out to be a rich source of problems (~50 to 70% of all issues). As a main reason for the latter I understand the loose implementation of indivual solutions with insufficient framework integration instead of solid generic formulations.
However: another challenge - another small step ahead.
People think we have done something new: the Sahana Hospital Status Assessment and Request Management System aka HMS. Actually looks like a useful thing:
…I am on the ground in Port-au-Prince helping with the relief efforts. I met a physician at the UN who shared with me that a huge problem hospitals are having is coordinating transfers of patients. One hospital will not necessarily know the capabilities of another hospital, or how to contact the hospital, or—even more importantly—how many beds that hospital has available.
I mentioned that the Sahana hospital info system seems to be a great solution….
However, it is not new: the magic engine was already there. Build in months, created in painful detail work and nightlong discussions of just us two. The small rest now has been nothing but new labels for the same thing.
Though – we were not through yet and not at all prepared for deployment for Haiti. Honestly – the new engine was not ready to race yet, S3XRC is only half the way. Or maybe two-third, but however a stub. We could have completed that already, if we wouldn’t have to do that all in our spare time of which both of us don’t have enough. But funding ain’t.
However, now they grab at it as if it could extinguish fire – the Sahana people run around with flashing warning lights on their heads as if they could save lives with mouse clicks. But actually it is rather about helping Sahana to survive – while the people in Haiti are still suffering.
Please note: that was not my intention! I was creating that out of what we discussed in Kobe and Himeji – to help the health professionals – especially my colleagues – to do their really vital work. All else is just the picture frame, nothing but flies on the windscreen of fate, obfuscating the clear sight on vital information while people are in need – while children loose their arms and legs due to the lack of means for early proper surgery.
The Sahana Software Foundation operates a SahanaPy instance at:
Services provided so far include:
- Capturing of information about Aid Organisations, their offices and their activities on-site
- Situation Mapping
- Request Management
If you think of volunteering for Sahana – welcome! – we have plenty of tasks for you, e.g.:
- Data collection and entry
- Translation (French, Haitian Creole)
- Coordination of volunteers
Join us on IRC: