The Economist put forward the idea that an interactive chart to display some of their data over different time spans would be a great piece of content for their website. What better technology is there for web based interactive charting than Flex? Especially when there are brilliant third party libraries of code developed to achieve just that, such as Flare.

This project has been divided into two stages and the first “proof of concept” stage is what this post is about. One of the great things about working with this client is their data is in great shape. There were none of the endless days of working with Excel to get a decent, coherent data set together that seems to plague many data driven web projects. I was able to get the data normalised and imported into a MySQL database in no time.

As with many of my recent projects I chose PureMVC as the Flex framework. I am really refining my processing using PureMVC these days. Common production details such as different paths on the development and final servers and also bulk loading of assets are handled easily.

The real challenge with this project came in using the Flare library. As a tool for plotting graphical representation of information it is fantastic although with a limited amount of documentation available it takes a little bit of determination to get results. I must admit that perhaps AS3 developers have been spoilt by Adobe with their excellent language references and everything else is judged against it.

Once the piece was ready to deploy I wrote a small amount of PHP to export the database as an XML file. A small change was needed on the PureMVC model so that the new data source could deliver the same information to the application and the job was done.