Posted by Chris Coté on July 17, 2008
Technology author and activist Drew Clark turned to Dancing Mammoth when he wanted to make his idea for Broadbandcensus.com into a reality. He envisioned a site capable of providing the most accurate and up-to-date information on broadband technologies to consumers in the United States.
Dancing Mammoth implemented blogs, wikis, speed tests, comments, real time graphs and carrier data into Broadbandcensus.com and designed the clearinghouse Clark imagined.
The first step in the creation of the site involved gathering data for the “What are your broadband internet options?” function. Dancing Mammoth collected data from the FCC and maps from the U.S. postal service. Data was also gathered from individual carriers websites, this data is usually buried deep in the sites, or worse yet, involved some programming knowledge to scrape the data from the sites. We did the scraping and we did the hours of manipulating data to create a tool where users could search their market by zip code.
The website also continues to learn about broadband markets by surveying its users about location, carrier, promised speeds, and an individual’s rating of his service through a census. The survey data, in combination with the search function previously mentioned, a user can automatically correlate carriers to specific zip codes, along with promised speeds and any comments about that location and carrier.
The second part of the census involves a speed test. Broadbandcensus.com has worked closely with Internet2 and Virginia Tech to implement a modified Java-based NDT (Network Diagnostics Tool) client.
Based on the location provided by the user in the census, the site calculates the closest online NDT server accepting connections. The speed test takes approximately 30 seconds and roughly 50 data points are collected during this time, which measure everything from total speed to where bottlenecks in the network are occurring. Once this data is collected it allows the site to display real time percentages of user ratings and percentage of users getting their promised speeds. This is crucial when trying to find the right (only) carrier in your market and makes it a great research tool for consumers.
Broadbandcensus.com is now a publicly available resource that provides real data to consumers about broadband in the U.S. and facilitates consumer research and competition in the broadband carrier sector.
- Custom ORM Framework written in PHP/MySQL
- custom wiki software
- 37,000 zipcodes
- 30,000 Federal datapoints
- 95,000 relationships
- 110,000 objects
- 1500 providers (and growing)
Posted by Brian Kieffer on July 9, 2008
In the Internet world of seemingly endless computer resources, it’s not often that a website requires visitors to wait in line to visit, but a recent Dancing Mammoth project called for just that.
- Visitors will be added to a Virtual Waiting Room prior to advancing to website content.
- Visitors will be advanced according to First In First Out.
- Page must indicate current position in line via a client provided Flash object.
- An administrator must be able to control flow of traffic.
The client expected light traffic to their video chat feature, so we decided that capturing queue data in a single table was the most efficient way to go. We could then poll at a some set interval to determine a visitor’s place in line, and take action based on the result.
data: "sess=<?php echo $session_id ?>&random=" + new Date().getTime(),
var ky = "";
var val = "";
var action = "";
var pos = 0;
action = $("key", this).text();
val = $("value", this).text();
if(action == "forward")
pos = val;
If you’d like to review all the sample files, you can download them here, but no warranty is expressed or implied.
jQuery sends the visitor’s session id (as well as a random string — always send a random string when making ajax GET calls or IE will give you cached content) to a script that checks the queue and returns some XML with the action and associate value. Then the visitor is either forward to the content, or their position in line is displayed.
On the back end, the VirtualWaitingRoom class provides functionality to retrieve queue position, administratively advance visitors through the queue, and remove records for abandoned sessions.
The project was a success and while there’s nothing especially complex about it, this Virtual Waiting Room is a good short example of how various web technologies can come together to provide a unique solution.