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Government sites such as bea.gov and census.gov provide lot of
interesting data relevant current events. These data are usually
provided in dense spreadsheet tables with limited, if any,
charting facilities making them relatively inaccessible to the
casual visitor. As a former Economics and Statistics educator, I
have an interest in presenting data in a straightforward, visual
Perl’s libraries such as Text::CSV, HTML::TableExtract,
Spreadsheet::ParseExcel provide means to extract relevant
information from data distributed in commonly used file
With the advent of HTML5’s canvas element, the task of
generating graphics can be offloaded to the visitor’s web
browser (ignoring, for the moment issues with browser support
for this feature). Web applications can avoid external graphics
files, instead embedding the data necessary to produce a chart
in a table element in the HTML. Such a table can then be
browser supports it.
Recently, Perl has gained a number of simple Web application
frameworks. One of these is Dancer .
Web applications written using Dancer can be deployed easily in
a number of ways, including as standalone scripts. Dancer works
well with Perl’s Template::Toolkit for HTML generation.
I propose a presentation putting these elements together to
create a simple interface to the National Income Accounts data
provided by the Bureau of Economic
None of this is particularly complicated, but I am not aware of
any tutorials or documentation that would help someone with
reasonable familiarity with all the technologies involved to put
together such an application. Therefore, an example of such a
self-contained web application might be of interest.
Of course, these building blocks can be used to provide
interfaces to data from other domains than Economics as well.
Sinan Unur is an economist by training and currently works as an
independent programmer and consultant helping his clients make
sense of large and complicated data sets.
He earned his Ph.D. in Consumer Economics at Cornell University
where he worked as a Senior Lecturer until 2009, teaching
Economics and Statistics to graduate and undergraduate students.
Unur’s passion for Perl dates back about ten years to when he
decided to switch from Java to Perl as his tool of choice for
writing Economics experiments. He is an active contributor to
the Perl tag on
maintains Perl’s Crypt::SSLeay and Net::Sharktools modules on
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