BigQuery Toolbox

While BigQuery is a lightning fast data warehouse solution, the BigQuery UI leaves a lot to wish for. Not only is it painfully slow, it is also very poorly designed with lots of white space that takes away precious screen real estate that could be used for your queries.

Enter BigQuery Toolbox.

The BigQuery Toolbox is a lightweight Chrome browser extension that I made for users of Google BigQuery. The BigQuery Toolbox comes with a set of features designed to make your live in BigQuery a lot easier. Top features include:

  • Toggle the “Explorer” side panel with the click of a button
  • Toggle the “Query Results” with the click of a button
  • Show (smaller, redesigned) query tabs in multiple rows (if “Editor Tabs” is enabled)
  • Hide the top toolbar (“Features & Info” / “Shortcut” / “Disable Editor Tabs”)
  • Minimize the “Compose new query” button

The idea for the BigQuery Toolbox was born when I felt annoyed by the huge “Explorer” side panel that shows your projects, data sets and tables, but takes up a huge part of your screen and cannot be minimized.

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Introducing NaviChat

Since Chatbots are the so hot right now, I decided to have another go with Chatfuel and build what the world will remember as … the Navibot, the world’s first chat-based navigation bot! Then, however, I typed that into Google and found out that Samsung already has a vacuum cleaner called NaviBot, which doesn’t even navigate. Lame.

Anyway. I then decided to build what the world will remember as NaviChat, the world’s first chat-based navigation bot.

That is probably not true, but anyway, my main mission was to play around a bit with the Google Directions API and the Google Places API and see what they can do in terms of navigating the public transport network.

Give it a try by going to on your mobile with Facebook Messenger installed.

Both the Google Directions API and the Google Places API are part of the Google Maps Platform, which in turn is part of the Google Coud Platform.

(to be continued)

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Customizing posts with the new Facebook API update

In an attempt to fight misleading news on their platform, Facebook has recently changed the way you can use their API to edit previews of posts. While before you could specify the header, preview text, and the image, this is no longer possible. Instead, Facebook picks the relevant information from the website that the post links to.

This article presents a solution to continue to post customizable post previews for certain contexts.

Facebook takes action to fight fake news

To fight misleading posts with false preview texts and misleading images,  Facebook has started to disable the ability for Pages to edit the previews of the links they post – both for the Page composer and the API.

Says Facebook (July 18, 2017):

By removing the ability to alter link metadata (i.e. headline, description, image) from all link sharing entry points on Facebook, we are eliminating a channel that has been abused to post false news. (…) Specifically all API versions will no longer support this capability, and Page admins will no longer be able to make these edits in Page composer. (source)

Now I’ve been doing exactly that with Jazzity: Everyday a cron job would run a script that took a few snippets from a data base and post them to Facebook using the API:

postPicture($post_message, $post_link, $post_picture, $post_name, $post_caption, $post_description);

The function postPicture (we’ll go into more details later) would take six parameters, which will make up the post as follows:

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Introducing Jazzity – Your pocket guide to jazz in Berlin

A while ago I moved to Berlin. Being a huge fan of live jazz music I was really excited to move to the jazz capital of Europe, as Berlin is frequently called.

Berlin has a lot of amazing jazz clubs, from well-known and established jazz clubs such as the A-Trane, the b-flat or the Quasimodo, to smaller and less well known clubs such as the Donau 115, the Hangar 49 or the Hat Bar.

I quickly came to realize, however, that there was no good overview of all jazz clubs in Berlin. There was no convenient way to know which club was playing what and when, or when there were jam sessions at which club. I decided to change that.

Enter Jazzity.

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Spotify Discovery now live

Spotify Discovery, announced back in December (and mentioned here) is now live for the web player:

“The Discover page is available from today on our brand new web player which is now available to all users. Just head over on your computer to try it out. We’ve also started to gradually roll out the Discover page to users on our desktop and mobile apps. When we’re ready to update your account, you’ll receive a notification.” (source)

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Spotify Follow now live

Spotify just posted that Follow,  announced back in December is now live.

Now on Spotify, you can follow all the people who turn you on to the music you care about. Find out what friends and artists are listening to in real time, and check out the music that matters to the trendsetters in your life.

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Spotify introduces Discovery

The Spotify press event of Dec 6, 2012 is full of great feature announcements. Most importantly, Spotify has introduced their new Discovery page as well as their new Follow functionality.

As mentioned earlier, knowing what your friends listen to isn’t all that interesting. Much less does it help you discover new music. As Daniel Ek of Spotify puts it:

“Spotify today is great when you know what music you want to listen to – but not so great when you don’t.”

Check out the video of the press release (Spotify Discovery is mentioned about 16min into the vid), or read on for the highlights:

According to Ek, the biggest issue for Spotify users today is: “How can you help me figure out what I’m gonna listen to?”

The traditional approach to answering this question for online recommendations today is to present to the user a list of 500 items saying “Because you like this you might also like that.”

Spotify, on the other hand, wants to “make discovery even more seemless and intuitive” by making it “truely human” and “personal”:

“That’s not really how a friend would approach the problem. They would know what you like, and they would recommend you a few items instead – but with a ton of context.”

Hence Spotify wants to “give Discovery on Spotify the context that’s been missing”.

Whereas previously recommendations basically were just lists of songs, artist or albums (or just “cover art” as Ek puts it),

“Now in Spotify recommendations come with context for why they fit my tastes.”

The new Discovery page

He continues to present the new Discovery function on the web app:


The Discovery tab basically gives recommendations for artists or album based on your music taste.  However, there’s an extra layer of context. For example, it will give small artist biography for recommended artists. Or, it will tell you why an artist is suggested for you  (“You listen to Deadmau5. Check out Daft Punk.”). It will tell you when one of the artists you like releases a new album (“You might like this new release by Muse”), or reminds you of your old favorites (“Do you remember this song?”) – even based on your personal data such as your birthday.

Moreover, it integrates information such as upcoming concerts (from Songkick), reviews (from Pitchfork), or news about artists that I follow.

Basically, they take all the content that’s available via the Spotify app platform, and feed it into Spotify Discovery.

In summary, the Discovery page adds context and combines personalisation and recommendations to give users a more helpful and natural user experience.

Seems like quite a powerful tool to me if it’s done right. Looking forward to trying it out on my own!

Spotify Follow

Ek continues to argue that the best context that users can possibly get is a recommendation from a real person that you trust.

“Social has always been a very big part of what we do here at Spotify, but up until now finding people who can introduce you to music you cared about has been pretty hard.”

Even though “you had access to all your friends on Facebook”, but “there’s really only a handful of these guys that are amazing sources of music”. Hence Spotify has introduces a new follow functionality, which allows you to follow artists, music journalists, or companys in the music space. It works pretty much like facebook: once you follow someone, stuff they post will show up in your newsfeed.

The beauty of this really is that it a allows – like on Facebook – artist to communicate with their fans directly, be it sharing playlists or announcing new releases.

“Now artists can talk back and they engage their fans right where they already are, right when they are ready to try new music.”

Pretty cool stuff coming up I’d say!

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Spotify moving into A&R?

Musically quotes Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, indicating that Spotify will move more into A&R in the future:

[Y]ou’re going to see us doing more and more to break acts and try to really promote them as well. (source)

Interesting development.

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