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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a freelance data mangler in London

Thoughts on ExcelMashup.com (and a rant)

Microsoft last week made available a new website called ExcelMashup.com and Chris Webb tweeted me exclaiming:

"Excel Mashup: http://bit.ly/uvvFxy - so, @jamiet, we've got the Excel Services API but no OData unfortunately...?"
If you have followed Chris' blog and my own of late you may know that the need to easily extract data out of Excel spreadsheets has become a personal crusade of ours lately, for evidence check the following: In his blog post Chris summarises quite nicely what we would like to see in terms of an API on top of the Excel Web Apps:
what I’d like to see is the Excel Web App be able to do the following:
  • Consume data from multiple data source types, such as OData, and display that data in a table
  • Expose the data in a range or a table as an OData feed


My take on it: I simply want to make data [consumable from/producable into] Excel in a manner that is consumeruser-agnostic.

Hence then why Chris tweeted me that link - an API for Excel that uses files on SkyDrive (which is what ExcelMashup.com talks about) certainly sounded promising. Unfortunately it seems ExcelMashup.com is not what we hoped it would be - it is a JavaScript API and hence intended for pulling data out of an Excel spreadsheet and displaying it on a website. There's nothing wrong with that of course but it does not cover any of the scenarios that Chris and I are interested in and frankly that is a rather disappointing. To sum up, as Mike Levin on the forum thread says:

A web-based spreadsheet without an easily accessed API amounts to cutting it off from the world of data around it. I do mashups against Google Spreadsheets all the time, and came over here looking to port the work, and make it Web-spreadsheet agnostic.
I'm disappointed. Just give me a credentials system and a REST API. I see the reference to having this in Sharepoint, but is there a lightweight way to do it? With login credentials and a restful API, we woudn't even need client libraries, Sharepoint, or any such software overhead. Just use the language of your choice, and bang against the spreadsheet.

ExcelMashup.com simply does not provide what Mike is after, and that is disappointing.

I decided it would be right and proper to give the above feedback to the team behind ExcelMashup.com so I headed to http://www.excelmashup.com/Content/Forums.html to see this:

image 

Very strange, none of the forums have got anything to do with “Excel Mashup”, instead all but one of them seem related to Sharepoint which, in this context, I have no interest in. Undeterred I headed to the Sharepoint 2010 General Questions and Answers forum where I posted the following:

ExcelMashup.com - Where is the forum?
Hello,
I was browsing http://www.excelmashup.com/Content/Forums.html to discover where to go to ask questions about excelmashup.com and the forum that I am posting this to seemed the most appropriate. Its still not a forum dedicated to excelmashup.com though - does such a forum exist?
I have lots of questions that I would like to ask about excelmashup.com but I'm not going to waste my time firing off questions to non-relevant forum.


regards
Jamie

I thought that was pretty fair - they haven't provided a link to a relevant forum so I wanted to know if such a forum existed. Apparently though a Microsoft employee didn't agree with me because the thread has been moved to the Off-Topic Posts (Do Not Post Here) forum. Say what? I post a forum thread related to ExcelMashup.com on a forum that ExcelMashup.com advises me to post on and that thread gets moved to the "F off and stop bothering us" bucket? Are you fricking kidding me? In addition to that facepalm I also sent an email to docthis@microsoft.com (as advised at http://www.excelmashup.com/Content/Community.html) saying exactly the same as on my forum thread. That was two days ago and I haven't yet received a reply.


OK, I can accept the fact that ExcelMashup doesn't have any use for me - I have no issue with that. What angers me is that the site has been put out for customers to use and then promptly disregarded. There is no dedicated forum, they're clearly not monitoring the forums that they provide links to, Microsoft support folks clearly have no idea what ExcelMashup is and instead are soft-deleting any forum thread related to it and to top it all the ExcelMashup team aren't bothering to respond to emails sent to the email address that they provide a link to.


I don't know why they didn't just put a logo showing big two-fingered salute on their website instead just to save us all the bother!

@jamiet

UPDATE, 19th December 2011:  I have been informed by Cyrielle Simeone in the comments below that ExcelMashup.com has been updated in light of my comments and now has a specific forum for ExcelMashup.com at Microsoft Answers.

Published Wednesday, December 14, 2011 7:46 PM by jamiet
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Comments

 

andyleonard said:

Hi Jamie,

  I actually thought you were ranting about the forum when your wrote the name "Off-Topic Posts (Do Not Post Here)" forum, so I clicked the link...

December 14, 2011 4:35 PM
 

Mike Davis said:

Seems the website is down compltely now. At least right now it is down.

December 15, 2011 11:41 AM
 

Cyrielle Simeone [MSFT] said:

Hi Jamie, thank you so much for bringing this up. The forum page has been updated accordingly. We will continue to improve ExcelMashup.com and the API in the future and hope you will enjoy it.

December 19, 2011 5:26 AM
 

jamiet said:

Hi Cyrielle,

Excellent, thanks for the quick turnaround.

JT

December 19, 2011 5:39 AM
 

Jan Karel Pieterse said:

Hi Jamie,

Maybe I am missing the point, but the JAVAScript API does allow you to push data into the Embedded Excel web app.

See:

www.jkp-ads.com/articles/embeddedexcel00.asp

December 21, 2011 10:47 AM
 

jamiet said:

Hello Jan,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, the JavaScript API allows you to push data into an Excel spreadsheet (and that is a good thing) however when you describe it as "the JavaScript API" you allude to the inherent problem - that being that it assumes that you're writing Javascript.

I stated above that the API needs to be "consumer-agnostic" (although I might change that to be "user-agnostic" given that we're not only talking about data consumers, we're talking about data producers too). The Javascript API on ExcelMashup requires the consumer to be a Javascript program - that is inherently not user-agnostic.

Hope that helps

Regards

Jamie

December 21, 2011 10:59 AM
 

Jan Karel Pieterse said:

I think I get your point. You'd want to be able to use the API from any programming language, not just JAVAScript, correct?

December 21, 2011 11:23 AM
 

jamiet said:

Hi Jan,

Yes, absolutely. And, more than that, I'd like to use it from the multitude of data integration products that exist. Or even just by pasting a URL into a web browser.

As Mike Levin says above "Just give me a credentials system and a REST API."

Regards

Jamie

December 21, 2011 11:30 AM
 

jbooker said:

Jamie,

Excel Services is a service application built for sharepoint 2010 which exposes a REST API for excel documents.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee556413.aspx

 I agree it's strange to land in sharepoint forums, but sharepoint is the technology that makes skydrive & excelmashups work.  It appears you're correct that those free sites have not exposed the rest api.  However it is available on Office 365 'E' level plans.

I once saw the word sharepoint and turned the ther way thinking 'all I want to do is 'X'...not learn another MS server product'  Now it's clear the sharepoint is the gateway\dev environment for everything web relating to MS Office products.

We're looking forward to pros like you giving it a try now that Office365 makes sharepoint more easily accessible.  Can't wait for your future blog about using REST API to load data from Excel on Offce 365 in SSIS.

Keep up the good work!

Josh

February 7, 2012 9:20 AM
 

jamiet said:

Hi Josh,

Y'know, just this weekend I signed my mum up to using Office365 for her business - maybe I'll stick some excel documents up there and try and give this Excel Services thing a try.

cheers

Jamie

February 7, 2012 10:14 AM
 

SSIS Junkie : Exploring the Excel Services REST API said:

March 13, 2012 9:59 AM
 

SSIS Junkie said:

Sean Boon has begun an interesting blog series where he is analysing data from the Olympics using using

July 30, 2012 10:07 AM

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