Goldsmiths University research architecture department in London chose google sheets as the database of their conflict and crisis
data visualization platform and investigative tool Pattrn.
The platform is used by organisations such as citizen investigative journalists Bellingcat, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, transparency project Airwars, and the Tactical Tech Collective. Eliot Higgins, Belingcat founder, has described it as “the best conflict mapping tool I’ve seen so far”.
The choice of google sheets was obvious, it allows researcher to collaborate accross the globe on a unique dataset. When the project grew bigger, the data structure became more complex with space and time coordinates, tags and media contents all needed specific formats and validation.
They decided to commission an add-ons. After analysis Digital Consolidation suggested to use the same technology behind add-ons (google apps script) to build a full web application.
Web app developed with google apps script like add-ons are very efficient. They don't require any server, virtual or physical so the cost is low while benefiting from the latest google technologies.
The benefits of a web application over a simple add-on for this project was multiple. While still allowing users to input directly in the google sheets. It allowed users to pin an event location directly on google maps, upload photos to a central Google Drive Folder and witnesses to contribute data anonymously. It also offer better version control with drafts, audit and work in progress versions with a difference algorithm between versions.
See a demo below.