An Interview with
  • Waylon Flinn

We’re curious to learn about some of the common issues users face when working with data. In our Case Study series, we are highlighting projects and organisations who are working with the Frictionless Data specifications and tooling in interesting and innovative ways.

What is Dataship?

Dataship is a way to share data and analysis, from simple charts to complex machine learning, with anyone in the world easily and for free. It allows you to create notebooks that hold and deliver your data, as well as text, images and inline scripts for doing analysis and visualization. The people you share it with can read, execute and even edit a copy of your notebook and publish the remixed version as a fork.

What are the challenges you face working with data?

It’s hard to share it with others. Tools like Jupyter (iPython notebook)1 make it much easier and more affordable to do analysis (with the help of open source projects like numpy2 and pandas3). What they don’t do is allow you to cheaply and easily share that with the world. If it were as easy to share data and analysis as it is to share pictures of your breakfast, the world would be a more enlightened place. Dataship is helping to build that world.

How are you working with the specs?

Every notebook on Dataship is also a Data Package4. Like other Data Packages it can be downloaded, along with its data, just by giving its URL to a tool like dpm5. Additionally, working with existing Data Packages is easy. Just as you can fork other notebooks, you can also fork existing Data Packages, even when they’re located somewhere else, like GitHub.

Dataship GIF

Dataship in action

Every cell in a notebook is represented by a resource entry6 in an underlying Data Package. This also allows for interesting possibilities. One of these is executable Data Packages. Since the code is included inline and its dependencies are explicit and bounded, a very simple tool could be written to execute a Data Package-based notebook from the command line, printing the results to the console and writing images to the current directory.

What else would you like to see developed?

A JavaScript version of some of the functionality in Good Tables7 would be most useful to me right now, specifically header detection in parsed csv contents (output of PapaParse). I’d also like the option in dpm to not put things in a ‘datapackages’ folder. That turns out to almost never be what I want when downloading a dataset.

What are the next things you are going to be working on yourself?

My next task will be building and integrating the machine learning and neural network components into Dataship. After that I’ll be focusing on features that allow organizations to store private encrypted data, in addition to the default public storage. The focus of the platform will always be open data, but hosting closed data sources will allow us to nudge people towards sharing, when it makes sense.

What do you think are some other potential use cases?

The volume of personal data is growing exponentially: medical data, internet activity, media consumption. These are just a few existing examples. The rise of the Internet of Things will only accelerate this. People are also beginning to see the value in controlling their data themselves. Providing mechanisms for doing this will likely become important over the next ten years.

  1. Jupyter Notebook:

  2. NumPy: Python package for scientific computing:

  3. Pandas: Python package for data analysis:

  4. Data Packages:

  5. Data Package Manager (dpm):

  6. Data Package Resource:

  7. Good Tables:

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