Science On a Sphere® comes with a large collection of datasts that are grouped
by category. Sites typically find that the most convenient way to present the
datasets is by creating presentation playlists. A presentation playlist
is an ordered list of datasets that are generally related to one another in
It is often helpful to think of an SOS playlist as a music playlist in iTunes.
Playlists can be saved and repeatedly used. Different playlists can be made for
different presentations or shows. Also, docents can have their own playlists.
All playlist file names have to end with the extension .sos and are stored in
either /home/sos/sosrc or /home/sosdemo/sosrc depending on the user.
Educators at NOAA along with input from SOS sites have put together the Docent
Best Practices for SOS based on years of experience
with SOS. All SOS presenters are encouraged to read it. Feedback is welcome!
If you are just getting started and want to use presentations created by others
or if you’re looking to mix up your usual presentation, Live Programs are a
great place to look. Live programs are SOS presentations that have been created
by users of SOS, including scientists, educators, museum staff and student
interns. They are carefully crafted presentations that use SOS datasets to tell
a story and teach audiences about a specific topic such as ocean currents or
extreme weather events. Included in each Live Program is an SOS presentation
playlist (i.e. a collection of datasets) and a script with notes for
presenters and sometimes supplementary educational materials (i.e.
clicker questions and classroom lesson plans). A description of each Live
Program can be found on the SOS Data Catalog Live Programs
page along with a copy of the script for presenters.
The Live Program presentation playlists can be easily accessed through the
iPad SOS Remote App. As indicated in the following
screenshots, simply go to the Data Catalog tab and select the Live Programs
button at the top of the page. Then, select a Major Category and a Live Program
to show the datasets in that Live Program. Many of the Live Programs also have
Presenter Notes associated with them. To view these on the iPad, simply go to
the Presentation tab, make sure the Catalog button at the top of the page is
selected, and then press the Presenter Notes button, also located at the top of
If you’ve created a SOS presentation that you would like to share with other
SOS users as a Live Program through the SOS Data Catalog, please email
The Visual Playlist Editor (VPLE) is an incredibly powerful tool for SOS users.
It can be used to create both datasets and presentation playlists. In addition
to creating presentation playlists and adding presenter notes, the VPLE also
allows you to modify the datasets in your presentation playlists by extending
them or overriding preset attributes. This is something that you are not able
to do with either of the Playlist Builders. The downside of the VPLE is that it
must be run on the SOS computer. You can get to it from the VPLE icon on the
SOS computer desktop.
The Playlist Builder in the SOS Remote App is a convenient way to create a
presentation playlist. It allows you to add datasets to a playlist and add
presenter notes, but you’re not able to modify the datasets in the
presentation. A benefit of using the Playlist Builder in the SOS Remote App is
that it’s easy to load datasets on the sphere while you’re building your
playlist, giving you a good preview of what you’re including in your
presentation. If a site has multiple iPads connected to the SOS computer, it’s
possible for one person to be creating a presentation playlist with the
Playlist Builder while another gives a presentation at the same time. You can
read more about the Playlist Builder and how to use it in the Playlist Builder
section of the Remote App Manual.
There is also a simplified Playlist Builder available on the SOS website in the
Data Catalog that allows you to put datasets into a playlist. The benefit of
this Playlist Builder is that it can be used on any computer that has an
internet connection. Because it is a simplified version, however, you cannot
add presenter notes and you cannot modify the datasets.
You can add datasets to your playlist directly from the Dataset
Catalog on the website. Each dataset “card” will display a
button above its cover image labelled “Add to Playlist”.
Clicking the “Add to Playlist” button will display a message telling you that
the dataset was added to your playlist. You can add as many datasets as you
like, and you can add the same dataset multiple times.
You can work on only one playlist at a time in your browser. Playlists
are stored in your browser’s “local storage”, so you can safely close your
browser and when you come back to the playlist builder later, your playlist
will still be there. You cannot, however, work on multiple playlists at a time
in the browser. If you clear the datasets from your playlist to start a new
one, the first one will be gone.
At the top of the Dataset Catalog, you’ll find a “View My Playlist” button that
will take you to your playlist. Each dataset in your playlist has a set of four
buttons you can use to manipulate it. The up and down arrows allow you to
change its order. The red button with the minus sign inside of a circle will
remove the dataset from your playlist. The first button — the one with two
overlapping squares — duplicates that dataset, in case you want more than one
copy of a dataset in your playlist.
Some datasets have multiple “variations”. A dataset variation is an alternate
version of the dataset with some small changes to the dataset. Blue
Marble, for example, has a variation called “Blue Marble (with
audio)” that adds an audio track to the basic Blue Marble dataset. The
Hurricane Season - 2005 dataset has five variations,
each of which focuses on one of the major hurricanes from that season,
sometimes with audio, sometimes without.
When you add a dataset that has variations to your playlist, you’ll be provided
with a dropdown menu beneath the dataset’s title that allows you to choose
which variation you’d like to use in your playlist.
You can use multiple variations of the same dataset in a playlist by
duplicating that dataset and selecting a different variation for each row in
Once you’re happy with your presentation playlist, you can download it using
the “Download” button at the top right of the playlist builder interface.
The default name for the playlist will be custom_playlist.sos, or you can
provide your own file name in the “Playlist Name” field to the left of the
“Download” button. You can also just rename the file once you’ve downloaded it.
The name must have no spaces and no special characters. You can download
the file to any location you want on your computer.
In order to use the presentation playlist that you downloaded, it will need to
be put in the sosrc directory in the home folder of the SOS computer. You can
get it on the SOS computer with a thumbdrive, or by emailing it to yourself, or
by using cloud storage, or however you prefer. The important part is that it
ends up in /home/sos/sosrc or /home/sosdemo/sosrc.
If you prefer to do things by hand and don’t want to use one of the three
options above, a presentation playlist can always be written by hand in a
simple text editor. To do this, you must know the location of all the datasets
that you want to use and be familiar with all the playlist
attributes. You can also choose to use one of the
three options above and then modify the resulting presentation playlist by
hand. This is only recommended if you are comfortable with the playlist format
The basic format of a playlist is a file that points to all of the
playlist.sos files for the datasets that you want to show. The Datasets
Manual has more details about about playlist files.
Each “include” is used to point to a different dataset. This example playlist
includes the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the X-Ray Sun and the GFDL Temperature
Change Model. All of the information about the labels, color bars and timing is
saved in each of the separate playlist.sos files. The nice thing about this
format is that everyone’s playlists will be using the same versions of the
data. However, if you do want to modify some of the options for a dataset,
within only your personal playlist, you can do that by either using the VPLE or
by modifying the file by hand. The modifications you make apply only in your
presentation playlist and don’t impact other’s. List any changes you want below
Presenter Notes may be added to any presentation playlist file. Presenter notes
are accessed from the iPad’s SOS Remote app’s Presentation tab, and can be
edited either from the app’s Playlist Builder tab, the VPLE, or manually using
a text editor. If editing a playlist file manually, each line that is to be a
presenter note should begin with #>. Presenter note lines should go at the
very bottom of the presentation playlist.
To provide some assistance for presenters, Presenter Notes can be assessed
through a simple button press on the iPad in the presentation tab, as described
in the Presentation section of the Remote App
Manual. Presenter Notes are associated with
presentation playlists rather than individual datasets. There are several ways
to add Presenter Notes to your playlist:
The SOS Remote App allows presenters to load datasets, orient the sphere, and
control the datasets from an iPad. This is the main way presenters will be
interacting with SOS. The SOS Remote App offers many features for enhancing a
live presentation. These include annotation, zooming, layering, and splitting.
The annotation and [zooming][remote-app-zooming] tools
can be accessed through the Presentation icon. The [layering
interface][remote-app-layering] can be accessed through the numbered circle
next to loaded dataset. To become familiar with the app, check out the SOS
The simplest presentation mode is Autorun. In the Autorun mode, the system
displays each dataset for a default three minutes. This is a good option when a
docent is not available to lead a presentation. If this format is used, it’s
nice to have supporting audio or text so that the audience knows what they are
looking at. There are audio tracks available with a limited number of datasets.
Many sites give live presentations with the sphere throughout the day, and in
between presentations leave the sphere on Autorun. Autorun can be turned on in
the Settings tab of the SOS Remote App or in the SOS Stream GUI.