What I wrote in May

So it turns out that I haven’t wrote as much as I intended in May. I don’t think this is entirely surprising. I had a lot of other things I wanted to put my time into, and writing for half an hour day just seemed like an additional burden which I didn’t really need in my life.

However, that isn’t to say I didn’t do anything. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time writing, but most of it is code. Specifically, I’ve written a program in Javascript to automate part of my job! OK, I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail here, but what I would like to do is explain some of the concepts I’m using, and why I’ve got quite enthusiastic for coding over the past few weeks.

I’ve been programming a web application. Not one that it is intended will be made public on a website, but I just mean that it uses the browser to display content and as the user interface for the program. My application carries out some routine drawing functions that it is annoying to do using a CAD program which is the sense in which it is automating my job. However, I’m hoping the mechanisms which I’m writing will be adaptable to various other functions in due course.

The program is made up of an html page which calls a Javascript file which is where the workings of the actual program take place, which it then outputs back to the browser as HTML. Because it needs to output a drawing, I am generating SVG code which is then embedded within the HTML page.

Programming

For those who don’t know what SVG is, it stands for Scalable Vector Graphics and is essentially a way of encoding drawing information in a format similar to HTML. The reason why it’s so useful for my purposes is that it is really easy to create drawings on the fly. In my program, you just have to enter a few variables, and the program then converts these variables into the code necessary to make the drawing.

But something that I think there’s huge untapped potential for using SVGs is interactive drawings.

Several years ago, I created a program that took data from Open Street Map, rendered it in a webpage, and made the items on the map interactive – when you hovered your mouse over an object on the map, it would give you more information about that object.

I still think there is huge potential for concepts like this to be used to improve public planning consultations. I realise that there are already mapping tools where you can add locations and comments to a map – however, what there isn’t really yet are interactive drawings. Say a developer produces a masterplan for a housing development – at the moment, these tend to just be PDFs, and often a whole series of PDFs that represent different aspects of the same design. This means that they are often very hard to understand, and you have to keep on switching back and forth between different pages and have to try and relate them to each other. This is particularly difficult for people not used to viewing drawings, like many members of the public.

With an interactive drawing, as I’m proposing, you could, for example, have a website with a masterplan drawing where if you clicked on a building, it would zoom in and show the floorplans of that building. From there, you might then click a location to the side of the floorplans and you would see the elevation of the building from that side.

It would really help members of the public, professionals and officials alike better understand the proposals that developers are putting forward.

So, basically, the reason why I haven’t really done much writing writing in May is that I’ve been spending all my time writing code. Sorry about that.

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