… Strata lets you access and manipulate data from pretty much anywhere on the web. It’ll let you work with HTML tables, RSS Feeds and CSV files natively in tables. And then once you have the data, you can do all sorts of ad hoc analysis, such as creating calculations, sorting, filtering, creating queries and reports — similar to the kinds of things you might do with a desktop database or a spreadsheet.
That sounded interesting enough, although I had no idea what it might be useful for, so I went to the site to see. It’s a nicely designed site, easy on the eyes and with very obvious access to two of the most important pieces : the screencast and the download. I watched the screencast, which was also very professionaly done and downloaded the software. The software itself has some usability quirks, but it’s a first public beta so we’ll forgive the folks.
But after going through all those steps I couldn’t figure out what am I supposed to do with it. I mean, the site is nice, the movie is well done, the program seems to be thought out, but why haven’t anybody tell me why whould I need a specialty data browser.
The list of benefits on the site didn’t help me either:
- Access Data From Anywhere
- Integrate Data From Across the Web
- Manipulate Data Quickly
- Create Reports Easily
- Customize and Extend
Alright, so I can do all those cool things with data. What data? Why data? Why would I ever need to do something with data I find on the web? It’s not like the proposition doesn’t sound reasonable. We all like data, at least the geeks among us. We probably manipulate data everyday, and most of it comes from the web. But for the life of me, while reviewing the site and the application, I couldn’t come up with a single example.
Fast forward about three weeks and I wanted to do some research about the development outsource market. Specifically, I needed to know the number of active developers listed on www.rentacoder.com. They have a nice statistics page, but alas, it’s a table. Hmm.. how am I going to compute the sum of the “Coders with completed projects” column?
Finally I had a use for Kirix. I downloaded it again, installed it, browsed with it to the stats page and got the data I needed. And then a thought came to me. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if I could do that right from Firefox? All I needed was to copy the data from the table to Excel and I could do all the computing there in a familiar way.
A short search came up with Table2Clipboard, a nifty Firefox extension that lets you copy an entire table or just a bunch of cells in a format that can be pasted into Excel (should work for OpenOffice Calc as well, though I haven’t tried).
Just hold Ctrl and select the cells you want to copy dragging the left mouse button. You can also use Shift+Click to select a range of cells without dragging.
When pasting to Excel, use the Edit > Paste Special > Paste as text command, otherwise Excel might not parse the data correctly.
I finally found out what I might need Kirix Strata for, but I also came to understand that doing analisys from web data is a rare activity for me and that there is a much simpler solution to my needs. I used to think that market research is something you don’t need to really do when creating a small mISV. But it seems that it’s important after all. I imagine that if the folks at Kirix were to do their homework, they would determine whether there is a need for their product, and if so, what specific niche they will be filling.
Obviously, I’m not the kind of user they had in mind.