Saturday, March 8, 2014

The VPC 2.5 Web site -- the gateway to 25 years of research for Venice

On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Venice Project Center, we decommissioned our Venice 2.0 web site and created a brand new VPC 2.5 site to replace it.  Everything is now under a new domain,
The new web site is deceivingly simple and purposely minimalist. Kyle Miller and I picked the basic template over the summer, aiming for a googlishly-simple look.  In the fall, Ben Lichtner engineered the inner workings to reflect the progress we had made with the PreserVenice and Bardolino web sites. Kristen Brann, a member of the WPI team in charge of coordinating the 25th Anniversary projects, worked with Kyle to revamp most of the original features in the 20th anniversary site, and, with Benny's assistance, added the new interactive components that make this site at least 10x better than the earlier one.  
Most of the items on the menu bar leverage a hidden JavaScript platform that combines real-time data management (via JSON trees), with real-time retrieval of images and other media from cloud storage (thanks to Amazon's S3 Web Services -- AWS), glued together by our proprietary agent-based approach to the management of City Knowledge.  The beauty is that all of these sophisticated technologies -- based on applied complexity principles developed at the Santa Fe Institute -- are integrated into this innocent-looking web site in such a seamless manner that a visitor to the site would never know the difference.
The Visualizations and Data menus on the 2.5 web site, as well as the Accomplishments and Accolades, all take advantage of the underlying real-time cloud technologies. Venipedia itself, despite its long history as our hyperlocal encyclopedia, is now mostly composed of pages generated in real-time from our backend City Knowledge Console, thanks to our custom-made wikipedia Firebase add-on.  It's impossible for users to tell the difference between an auto-generated, data-driven wiki page and a "normal", manually-made Venipedia page.... Several of the Data (e.g. Bridges, under Infrastructure>Water) and Visualization pages on the VPC 2.5 web site share the exact same data as the Venipedia pages and all are set up to read changes in the underlying database in real-time.  In essence, everything on the new 2.5 web site is designed to work in perpetuity.  As the underlying data are updated, the web site and all related wiki pages and applications will reflect the new information immediately.
There is a lot more to say about the rich content of this anniversary web site, which I summarized in a recent presentation at WPI.  Each of the menu items on this new web site is worthy of a full description and I will make sure I gradually expound on each of them in upcoming blog entries, now that WPI is on Spring break, and I am preparing to fly to Santa Fe to work on 6 new projects with a cadre of 23 WPI students until May.  
Take some time to click around the VPC 2.5 site and stay tuned for more detailed posts about its numerous features!