Progress blog post 1

Data Collection & Analysis

The Difficulty in Data Collection

Our project was designed to organize and visualize the data of some selected high-value cargos imported or exported in the ancient Republic of Venice. We planned to build an interactive interface which shows trading routes, cargo prices, and trading amount of spice, silk, and slave to the users, However, during our extensive search on the Internet of the feasible quantitative data of these goods, we have realized that such digital dataset is beyond our reach.

With no possibility to work directly in the State Archives, where most of the information of this kind is found, we realized that there is no good source for the historical quantitative information of these 3 cargoes we can acquire on the Internet. Most existing researches about ancient Mediterranean commercial activities do not explicitly provide tables of numbers to support the context. Besides, a lack of understanding in Italian makes it even harder to recognize lots of relevant literatures.

A Change of Goals

Because for now a thorough dataset is nearly impossible to acquire, we have made a reasonable change to our project goals. Instead of an ad-hoc application which would probably be hindered by a sparse and incomplete dataset, we aim to build a general framework for organizing and visualizing trading information of Mediterranean cargoes. We now have found sufficient information about trading routes and countries of origins of the cargoes. As prices and trading amounts are scarce, our expected dataset will be made mostly by interpolation via curve fitting and regression analysis.

Last, even though we do not have a complete dataset, our work will still be valuable, since we expect that the “missing pieces,” i.e., digital quantitative datasets including prices and amounts of goods in the ancient Venice trading markets, will be made possible by the future progress of the Venice Time Machine Project.

Database Construction

Since the goal of the project is to show the route of cargoes based on the time period the users choose, an approach to display these data on the website immediately relies on a well-organized database. We construct the database with MySQL which is a universally used database management system.  At the same time, in order to provide  services all day long, we need a stable server with power on all the time. Hence, the solution goes to a online server instead of our personal computers. Besides, the online server must be compatible with PHP, MySQL and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The reason is that MySQL database can only be accessed by PHP and FTP is a convenient tool for us to upload data, such as web development language and images. After thoroughly comparing with several online servers, such as 000webhost, freehostia, Wix, freehosting, zymic, freemysqlhosting, grubba, summerhost, byethost, 110MB, SitesFree, we decide to use freehosting as the server hosting for its powerful functionality and friendly user interface.

Building up the whole database is a pretty demanding. Firstly, we have to learn the MySQL commands. Secondly, creating tables of data of these high value cargoes needs  adequate considerations on attributes, such as time period, location, amount, prices, etc. Moreover, we are forced to insert these data into the database one tuple by one tuple. After the above steps are finished, we need to write PHP codes to access and query the database based on the requests of the users.

What we have completed so far about a construction of the database is  choice of the online server hosting and understanding of MySQL commands.

Next Step

The following steps are to find enough data to make the whole dataset more complete and insert the dataset to the database.