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MediaCloud Dashboard

MediaCloud is a suite of tools built on top of the MediaCloud online news database. A number of tools make up the suite, all driven by a query you author to specify media sources, a date range, and some keywords.

The Dashboard shows simplified widgets to give a quick overview of an issue's media coverage and let users identify interesting trends for more in-depth analysis.


You gotta install the MediaCloud-API-Client by hand. Then just

pip install -r requirements.pip

Creating a module

Modules allow you to define new endpoints on the server as well as additional models, views, models, and front-end routes. To begin, create a folder under app with the name of your module. Add a file which will contain the new flask http endpoints. Then create a file called in that directory so python will recognize it as a package, and include a line to import

mkdir app/foo
touch app/
echo "import views" > app/foo/

Within the module directory, create a static directory to hold javascript, css, images, etc. and a templates directory to hold the server-side jinja2 templates:

mkdir app/foo/static
mkdir app/foo/templates

We also need to create symlinks to these directories from the main flask directories:

cd app/static
ln -s ../foo/static foo
cd ../templates
ln -s ../foo/templates foo

Finally, update app.config to include your module by adding to the comma-separated list of modules under the custom header.

Creating a back-end route

In your module, add a new method that returns some json

def important_info(id):
    results = ms.getRelevantData(id)
    return json.dumps(results)

You can now test this route in your browser to make sure it returns the JSON you want.

Creating a Result Model

Create the file app/foo/static/models.js and define a backbone Model (and Collection, if necessary) corresponding to your flask endpoint:

App.ImportantInfoModel = Backbone.Model.extend({
    url: function() {
        return '/api/important-info/' +;

Add an include for javascript the main.html template in either dashboard (if you are creating a dashboard widget) or your module (for a stand-alone module).

Creating a Result View

Views are defined in the views.js file. Assume that your view will be created with the model that it needs (we'll set that up later). All you really need to do is set up a render function that displays the relevant info from the model. The key is that the HTML is defined in a template HTML file.

First make your HTML file in your module's template folder - important_info.html:

<script id="tpl-important-info-view" type="text/template">
<div class="important-info-view panel panel-default">
  <div class="panel-heading">
    <h2 class="panel-title">Important Info</h2>
  <div class="copy panel-body">
  	<div class="row">
  		<div class="col-md-12">
      Id = {{id}}

Now edit your main.html to include this template:

{% block backbone_templates %}
    {% include 'foo/important_info.html' %}
{% endblock %}

Now you need to make a view that uses the model info to render with this template:

App.ImportantInfoView = App.NestedView.extend({
    template: _.template($('#tpl-important-info-view').html()),
    events: {},
    initialize: function (options) {
        _.bindAll(this, 'render');
        var that = this;
            success: function() {
    render: function () {
        var modelJson = this.model.toJSON();

Now all the view pieces are ready to go!

Routing a URL to your View

If you are creating a whole new view, you need to add a route for it in your routes.js file. Add an entry like this:

'important-info/:id': App.Controller.routeImportantInfo

Now in your controller.js, define that method like this:

routeImportantInfo: function(objId){
    App.debug('Route: important info');
	var importantInfoModel = new App.importantInfoModel({id:objId});
    var importantInfoView = App.con.vm.getView(App.ImportantInfoView, {model:importantInfoModel});

Now when you hit this url, the app will create a model instance, and the view will fetch the info and render it on the page.

Available Backbone Mixins


Object Model

Object model diagram

Custom Classes


Models extended from App.NestedModel can have Model objects as properties. When a subclass of NestedModel is defined, any properties that have Model or Collection objects for their value are specified using the attributeModels object. The object's keys are the property names while the values are the constructors for their respective Model or Collection:

App.MediaModel = App.NestedModel.extend({
    attributeModels: {
        "sources": App.MediaSourceCollection
        , "tags": App.SimpleTagCollection

When a subclass of NestedModel is loaded (and the parse parameter is true), for each JSON key matching one of the attributeModel keys, the value will be passed to the associated constructor.


Authentication flow diagram

Authentication takes place primarily in App.Controller and App.UserModel. The initialize() functions of each class set up listeners for authentication events. The email address and key are stored in cookies on the client, rather than in the flask session to allow the same login to be used across different tools, which will have different urls and sessions.

Authentication: UserModel

Listens to: sync, error Throws: signin, signout, unauthorized

To sign a user in using a key or password:

var user = new UserModel();
// Sign in with cookies
// Sign in with username and password
    "username": "foo"
    "password": "bar"

UserModel provides an authenticate attribute. This attribute is a jQuery Deferred that resolves when a server response is received after a login request. It provides the following convenient pattern to wait until the user's authentication state is known:

user.authenticate.then(function () {
    if (user.get('authenticated')) {
        // User is authenticated
    } else {
        // User is unathenticated

Authentication: Controller

Listens to: signin, signout, unauthorized