Dora lives!

April 5th, 2009

I’m finishing up most of the development work on Dora, my final project for Mixing and Remixing, the Berkeley iSchool course on web mashups.

Dora is a mashup of three API’s: Pandora, Twitter, and

Pandora’s API is an unsupported, undocumented Javascript file that listens for events from the Pandora flash player. “SongPlayed”, “SongPaused”, that kind of thing. I’ve only ever seen the JS file in use in one place in the wild, the excellent PandoraFM, which scrobbles your Pandora songs to Last.FM. With Dora, I’m capturing song data from the Pandora player to streamline music tweets.

Users will have the option of writing a message (with @replies, RT’s and whatever else), prepended to a section of the tweet automatically filled in with the artist, song name, and #dora hashtag. They may also choose to add a URL — that’s where their API comes in handy — linked to the Pandora URL for that song.

Tweets from Dora have the following format:

“@MyFriend This song rocks! — Band: Track #dora”

At the bottom of the main interface, there’s a link to view other Dora tweets that include the artist or artist/song pair. The hashtag makes searching more accurate. I’m hoping that this feature is a key to bringing in new Dora users — the project isn’t just about tweeting your own music tastes, but finding out about others’ as well.

It’s up and running at There are still a few bugs to work out and I haven’t worked it over in IE6/7 yet, but overall I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.

Progress on the San Francisco photo project

March 14th, 2009

It still needs a catchy name, but I’ve made some pretty good progress on my iSchool Final Project, tentatively titled “Mapping San Francisco’s Photographic History”. This week we were asked to submit a mid-semester progress report, detailing the deliverables and some of the features.

I don’t yet want to post the link to the project page itself — I’m still neck-deep in development on it — but I thought I’d at least post a screen shot and write a bit about the overall idea of the project and some of the features I’ve already finished up. I’m essentially copying from my progress report for this post, but here’s the idea behind the project:

At a high level, the key deliverable for the San Francisco Historical Photo Map project is as follows:

A web interface for filtering and searching historical and current photographs of San Francisco, written in XHTML, CSS, PHP, and Javascript and using a MySQL database. Additionally, the project includes the following applications/libraries/APIs:

  • Omeka, a PHP/MySQL web application designed for storing and displaying metadata (based on Dublin Core) for digital collections and archives
  • OpenLayers, a Javascript library for dynamically displaying maps, markers, and geometric figures
  • Yahoo! Maps API for displaying maps of San Francisco, via OpenLayers

Overall, the deliverable features include:

  • Aggregate photograph metadata from multiple online collections into a central database via custom administrative interfaces and Omeka
  • Allow filtering by photo type (street-level, aerial, etc.), neighborhood, date range, and keyword searches
  • Within the map, outline neighborhoods and show map markers for photos with exact geographical (lon/lat) locations
  • Provide thumbnails, full-size images and metadata for selected photos
  • For street-level photos with exact lon/lat identified, provide side-by-side comparison with modern Google Street View
  • Allow export of data to KML and other formats
  • Allow users to bookmark photos — ie, for research projects — and mark photos as “favorites”
  • Allow users to contribute a limited amount of metadata, including tagging and identifying exact geographic locations of photograph subjects

And here’s a sample shot of the front page, after a search for street-level photos of Nob Hill. There are still plenty of changes ahead, but this is how it’s looking right now:

Current project screenshot

The project will hopefully be featured within the next week or two on the front of the iSchool website, with a few more screenshots and some text about what inspired the project. I’ll post the project URL here within the next few weeks, once I’ve implemented a few more key features.

There’s plenty of work still to do, but with two months to go, I’m feeling good about the progress of the project.

Conquering the Vast Series of Tubes

January 19th, 2009

Welcome to My name is Isaac Salier-Hellendag, and I am a second-year master’s student at the UC Berkeley iSchool. My areas of focus are UI design and info visualization, and during my time at Berkeley I’ve also enjoyed exploring my interests in artificial intelligence and mobile application development. I live in San Francisco, California, where it already feels like spring.

My resume and portfolio are available here, and if you’d like to get in touch with me, my contact information is in the footer of every page. Apologies for spelling out my email and phone number — gotta defeat those spammers somehow.