Monday, February 18, 2008

Google Forms Timeline is Back! Hurrah!

Maybe I haven't found the secret button on Blogger that sets off flashing lights when one of my posts receives comments. As it is, I sometimes forget to check recent posts for comments. I'm glad that I did so today. A comment from Tom at Bionic Teaching regarding my Google Forms Timeline gave me the impetus to take a second look at it. (Plus, I finally have some time to do so.)

As I wrote previously, the Google Spreadsheet was forcing dates people entered with the form into a MM/DD/YYYY format rather than the YYYY-MM-DD format that Exhibit can read. Google Docs defaults to the former display mode for dates, but you can change the output for each column, and I had done so. I expected that doing so would correct the problem. The spreadsheet was showing the correct date format, but the timeline still wasn't showing the events that people had entered. I just figured something else was wrong.

But Tom's comment led me to check the Exhibit JSON on the timeline (the orange scissors you see when you hover your mouse over the timeline). And it turned out that even though I'd changed the formatting of the dates within the spreadsheet, they were still outputting incorrectly to Exhibit. I went back into the spreadsheet and changed the column formatting for the dates to plain text. And now that I've reentered the events, everything is suddenly working.

What I think this means is that although I was telling the spreadsheet to output the dates in a certain way that it nevertheless stores dates in MM/DD/YYYY format on its backend. It will change how it displays them to you, but as far as Google is concerned the data stays the same. And it obviously stayed in this default format when going out on the feed and consequently couldn't be read by Exhibit. Changing the columns to plain text will prevent the spreadsheet from cramming my data into a format that won't work.

What this means is that you can feel free to start adding events to the timeline. Try it out. I still believe, as I wrote in my first post, that there are some real reasons to give students access to the whole spreadsheet for creating a timeline. But this certainly presents another option.

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