Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘yahoo’

Backing up delicious bookmarks

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

OK, it is not the end of the world yet, but a leaked screenshot of the latest Yahoo all-hands shows that delicious has no bright future in the company.

So in order to preserve the years of work I put into this web service of awesome I am backing up my data. There are a few simple ways:

You can then import and sync your bookmarks in your browser of choice or upload them to Google Docs.

As to the future? Who knows?

Goodbye, Yahoo – it was an awesome time

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Last week I handed in my notice at Yahoo to leave them for pastures new. I’ve been with the company for almost 5 years (which would have given me a gumball machine) and I have to say that I do not regret a single moment.

So yeah, I quit! Anybody for a Hot Piece of Engineer/Evangelist?

Hot piece of engineer/evangelist anyone?

So yeah, another Yahoo jumps the ship – I can already see people talking about talent bleed and all that. To all the people who blog, write and publish that Yahoo is not a technology company and there is no innovation going on I can only say: bullshit.

Yahoo rocks as a tech company

The amount of talented people I was lucky enough to work with is one of my best takeaways from the time I had at Yahoo. The amount of innovation and kick-ass tech being produced is staggering, too. Yahoo doesn’t blow its own horn about it enough, that is all. If, as a web developer you look at the Yahoo homepage and see the JS implementation and the performance you will see what I mean. Yahoo also publishes and gives out the findings for free. The design pattern library, YUI and the performance guidelines can be used by you to be as awesome without much work.

In Yahoo I learnt a lot I previously thought I knew already – having come to the company with already 8 years of experience. I got a chance to hone my speaking and training skills and I witnessed the birth of amazing technologies like GeoPlanet, YUI, YQL, YSlow, BrowserPlus and all the other things you probably miss out on if you see Yahoo as a huge ad company on its way out like some of the rag mags of our tech world love to paint it.

It is about the people

The thing that kept me for a long time in Yahoo are its people. You can have fun working there. Travelling the world and visiting different offices I was amazed just how much local flavour is retained rather than being a Silicon Valley drone someplace else. It is also OK to be outspoken in the company and nobody gets stopped from blogging, tweeting or writing their own thoughts on their own server. Going through a few interviews I found this not to be the norm at all with other companies like Yahoo.

I find myself being in contact with all of the people I care about outside the company channels and there is no way that I will not use these connections in the future to share great ideas, get inspiration and bounce off previews of the things I will release. There are far too many people to thank personally for the time I had in Yahoo and this is not for public – you know who you are.

Yahoo has its problems, and given time I will write about a few I can mention. None of these are really surprising given that they are a big company. Putting too many people together to solve a problem will always result in a lot of noise vs. signal – it is simply human nature.

So why am I quitting?

It is actually very simple – my job is done here. I’ve spent the last two years evangelising Yahoo and left over a hundred different presentations, numerous blog posts, demos and screencasts and other info on its technologies and how they fit into the larger picture of technology or how you can use them to make your life easier.

I find myself repeating what I said before and getting congratulated for getting people excited about technologies like YQL just to get the final blow of “I had no idea Yahoo did anything like that! I thought you guys were almost dead”. I don’t mind the misinformation – albeit wrong – I mind that I feel I ran in circles telling people about the real Yahoo just not to be backed up by other official statements and actions of the company.

I proposed to start a full evangelism department in the company (based on requests from engineers which also lead to me writing the Developer Evangelism Handbook), training up engineers to talk to the world and get them excited and offer evangelism and training as a natural evolution for engineers who want to talk about what they do. Right now Yahoo has two full-time developer evangelists: Tom Hughes-Croucher in the US and me for the world. There were no plans for that to change in the near future so maybe a change is in order.

The other thing is that I have been in the company too long. As I mentioned in my talk at Fronteers this year it is amazing how much better you work when you concentrate on the good things about your job. If you’ve been at one place for a long time you start to get tainted and always see the “this will not work as it didn’t before” instead of the “fuck yeah, let’s do this”.

The good news is that the man who brought me to Yahoo in the first place, Murray Rowan, is now in charge of YDN international, so I am confident he will find a replacement for me soon.

So what’s next?

Later today I will publish a chapter of a book I started but never went anywhere – so this is one of the goodies I will leave immediately. Update this is now live get the book chapter here.

As for the new job…

You know, what? I keep that announcement for tomorrow. I have a new job and I am as excited as a 12 year old in a candy shop with a free puppy section. There is a hint in the source code of the start page and I can say that I am very much looking forward to being Wash and playing with Dinosaurs:

I am also very much looking forward to being able to rant and realise that it is me who can and will fix the thing I am annoyed about:


Again, me leaving Yahoo is not on a bad note – I just see myself in the way of people who should get a chance to shine. I will still be rooting from the sidelines and talk about their stuff when I like it. My last day is the 24th of November, my last official Yahoo gig is YUIConf in Sunnyvale and I will be at Science Hack Day in Palo Alto. Then I will go to Jordan to talk to the Maktoob people about the wonderful world of Yahoo Tech and on the first of December my new job starts – with me brewing a coffee in my own flat in North London and writing my first mails to the people I had so much fun with during the job interview.

Geolocation und Bauen mit freien Webdaten – meine Vortraege auf der WebTechCon

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Die letzen zwei Tage hatte ich einen “Hit and Run” Auftritt bei der WebTechCon in Mainz auf dem Weg von Fronteers zu Paris Web. Hier sind die Slides meiner Vortraege:

Bastelstunde mit dem Web und freien Daten

Mein erster Vortrag war ein “Night Talk” da ich zu spaet angekommen bin. Daher aenderte ich die Abfolge meiner Vortraege da der Geolocation Inhalt zu technisch war. Der folgende Vortrag ging darueber, wie man mit kostenlosen Datensaetzen und Bausteinen ganz einfach interessante Web-Produkte erstellen kann:

Nach einem Kurzauftritt in einer Diskussion ueber “Die Cloud” kam dann der zweite Vortrag zum Thema Geolocation:

Wie, wo, wer, was- Geolocation im Web

Beide Vortraege wird es auch bald als Audio Aufnahmen geben.

Mehr das naechste mal

Leider muss ich sagen das ich kaum Zeit hatte die Konferenz zu erleben und entschuldige mich dafuer nur als Durchreisender aufgetreten zu sein. Das ich eine Erkaeltung hatte/habe hat auch nicht geholfen. Ich hoffe, das ich trotzdem ein paar Leute dazu bewegen konnte, mal was Neues zu machen.

A research interface for the social web – fork it now and find what people are talking about

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Researching something on the web can be pretty annoying. Search engines get better every year, but there is a whole world of social sites that are not indexed. For example if I search for a nice photo of a red panda I use Google image search. If I want to use this photo later on I am better off using Flickr or Picasa and see what license the photo is.

Yahoo’s researchers had the same problem which is why they assembled all the social updates in one XML feed – the Yahoo! Firehose. This, in contrast to other Yahoo APIs also comes with commercial terms and conditions and is available through YQL. In terms of data, the Firehose aggregates a lot of different sources:

Yahoo! 360, AOL, Bebo, Blogger, Bloglines, Digg, Diigo, Goodreads, Google, Google Reader,, Ma.gnolia, Movable Type, Netflix, Pandora, Picasa, Pownce, Seesmic, Slideshare, SmugMug, StumbleUpon, ThisNext, TravelPod, Tumblr, Twitter, TypePad, Vimeo, Vox, Webshots, Xanga, Yelp, YouTube, Zooomr, Yahoo! Avatars, Yahoo! Buzz, Yahoo! Profiles, Wisteria, Yahoo! Answers, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Autos, Bix for Yahoo!, Yahoo! Bookmarks, Yahoo! Briefcase, Yahoo! Calendar, Yahoo! Classifieds, Delicious, Yahoo! Family, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Flickr, Yahoo! Food, Yahoo! Games, Yahoo! Geocities, Yahoo! Green, Yahoo! Greetings, Yahoo! Groups, Yahoo! Health, Yahoo! Hotjobs, Yahoo! Kids, Yahoo! Local, Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! Music, MyBlogLog, Yahoo! News, OMG! from Yahoo!, Yahoo! Personals, Yahoo! Pets, Yahoo! Status Updates, Yahoo! Guestbook Comments, SearchMonkey from Yahoo!, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Tech, Yahoo! Travel, Yahoo! TV, Yahoo! Video.

You can do the data junkie part and use it in the YQL console:

This can be annoying though, especially as you cannot see the photos and videos. This is why I put together a research interface on top of the Yahoo Firehose:

You can see the research interface in action here but more importantly, the source code of the interface is available on GitHub which means that you can host it yourself – for example behind a firewall or make it part of your Intranet.

For a local install you need to sign up for a developer key, edit the keys.php file, put all the files up on your PHP enabled server and you are done. If you get stuck you can get help on the YDN Forums.

Notice that I am keeping the state of your last search by storing it in local storage when your browser supports it – this can be useful for larger searches.

The Hackday Toolbox – getting you started faster

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Just having spent a lot of time at the amazing open hack day in Bangalore, India I found that most of the questions about starting a hack using Yahoo technology revolved around a few issues:

  • How do I access data on the web/from web services?
  • How do I use YQL from JavaScript or PHP?
  • How do I display information I received from YQL with PHP or JavaScript?
  • How do I get the location of the user and how do I analyse content for geographical locations?
  • How do I access oAuth authenticated information of Yahoo?
  • How do I set up PHP and where can I see errors?

So, to avoid having to repeat myself again I put together The Hackday Toolbox which contains sample code that deals with all these issues.

The Hackday Toolbox

The hackday toolbox contains:

  • An introduction to installing and using PHP with MAMP/XAMPP and debugging it
  • YQLGeo for all your geo and location needs
  • Demos of querying YQL in JavaScript, YUI3 and PHP
  • Demos to display YQL data
  • Authenticated example to access the Yahoo Firehose
  • Rendering Yahoo Geoplanet data as a map

You can download the Hackday Toolbox on GitHub or try the examples.

The toolbox is BSD licensed, so if you want to add Java/Ruby/Python/Heskell/Pascal/Logo/Fortran/6502 Assembly code examples, please do so.

I put my hack in a box…