New Google+ communities: Bioclipse, Cheminformatics, Semantic MediaWiki

After spending countless hours on Google+, I have realized how useful their new group feature is, for sharing/finding interesting stuff happening around different technologies. It's nice handling of previews of movies, images, webpages etc makes it so much easier to spot interesting stuff. IMO it works FAR better than e.g. twitter, for this.

E.g. by subscribing to groups for the topics you are interested in (I have over 50...), I get tons of interesting stuff on your Google+ home page all the time.

While Google+ groups definitely don't replace mailing lists and IRC, which are superior for discussions, it is a great complement for sharing interesting stuff happening around a technology.

With this in mind, during the last week or so, I've tried to make sure that a few of my favourite softwares and topics have groups, which resulted in a few new ones:

... so make sure to join those of these that you like, and post some interesting stuff there! :)

Using the Chemical Translation Service with Python to get Inchis from chemical names

I needed to convert a bunch of chemical compound name into International Chemical Identifiers (Inchis), to enable easily creating links to various web services and databases that take inchis as input, such as Chembl.

I found out the very useful Chemical Translation Service, which has nice GUIs for doing this manually. In order to do this in a more automated fashion for many compounds though, I realized I'd have to script it up a bit, (in python of course).

I decided to make use of the XML format of the translation service. I have had mixed experiences with both messing with urls, and parsing xml, in python before, so I was very happy to get to know two new python packages that focus on providing a straightforward API that is "usable to humans", requests and xmltodict.

They turned out to be great combination, and IMO the conversion becomes a quite readable bunch of code lines:

# Base URL of the Chemical Translation Service
base_url = ""
# Create a dictionary with the query parameters
query_params = { "format" : "xml",
                   "extension" : "xml",
                   "to" : "inchikey",
                   "idValue" : query_compound_name,
                   "from" : "name"}
# Execute the query
response = requests.get(base_url, params=query_params)
# Parse the XML into a python dict (array) structure
xmldict = xmltodict.parse(response.text)
# Extract the Inchi key from the array structure
chem_data = xmldict['compoundResultSets']['compoundResultSet']
inchi_key = chem_data['inchiHashKey']

And, why not make it complete with command line flags and stuff: