Blog Posts by Chris Heilmann

  • GeoMaker updated and source code released

    About two weeks ago GeoMaker - a simple interface to the Placemaker web service saw the light of day. Today we've updated the service with some new features requested via email and Twitter, and released the code on GitHub.

    GeoMaker takes a website URL, an RSS feed, or plain text as the input and turns that content into maps and Geo microformats. You can see it in action in the following screencast:

    GeoMaker is still a work in process, so we'd be happy to get your feedback on other useful features. Here's what you can do:


    Chris Heilmann @codepo8
    Yahoo Developer Network

    Read More »from GeoMaker updated and source code released
  • More fun with Placemaker: A video introduction and an RSS-to-map converter

    The topic of last week's YDN Tuesday in London was Placemaker and Skills Matter now released the video of the introductory talk:

    Christian Heilmann - Yahoo! Placemaker - 07.07.2009 from Skills Matter on Vimeo.

    The slides, notes and audio recording are also available in case you want to dive deeper.

    Following this talk and the success of GeoMaker, I was invited by The Telegraph to talk about creating GeoMaker and how to use Placemaker to geo-enrich Telegraph content. The main thing they wanted to know was how to place an RSS feed that doesn't have Geo data on a map, and how to style it.

    To make this easier I created rss2map, a demo PHP script with all the CSS and JavaScript needed to show a feed on a map.

    To display a feed as a map, provide the feed as a variable (or via the URL as a parameter) and include the script where you want the map to appear:

    Which results in something like this:

    RSS 2 Map example page by  you.

    • Get the
    Read More »from More fun with Placemaker: A video introduction and an RSS-to-map converter
  • Using YQL insert in PHP: the making of MultiTweet

    Ever since I heard about YQL going from read to read and write with the new insert, update and delete functionality I wanted to see how to use this for my own nefarious schemes use cases. The answer came with UPDATE in the form of a very useful example that allows you to update Twitter from YQL, letting you to send an update to Twitter with the following syntax:

    USE "";
    INSERT INTO twitter.status (status, username, password)
    VALUES ("your new tweet from YQL",
    "twitterusernamehere", 'twitterpasswordhere')

    The benefit is that instead of ploughing through the Twitter API docs and finding the right formats and parameters I can use this in any YQL statement and even mix it with other lookups.

    Taking this example, I put together a proof-of-concept for how you can use this open table in PHP called MultiTweet. MultiTweet is a PHP script that allows you to send Twitter updates from several accounts simultaneously - something I frequently need to

    Read More »from Using YQL insert in PHP: the making of MultiTweet
  • Yahoo at the Web Meetup in Auckland, New Zealand

    On the second of July, around 150 developers came to the Web Meetup sponsored by Yahoo!Xtra in Auckland, New Zealand. Amongst other things, they came to listen to Neil "Wilf" Wilkinson talk about Yahoo's open APIs and how to use them in their own products.

    YDN presentation in Auckland, New Zealand

    Neil, who is Technical Director of Yahoo!7 in Australia and Yahoo!Xtra in New Zealand, was one of three speakers at the event and gave an overview of Yahoo!'s developer offering. The slide deck is available on Slideshare:

    Since the event took place at the Media Design School and the audience was a mix of designers and developers it was vital to show something visual to accompany a deep dive into the code, which is why Wilf prepared some demos.

    Originally the talk description went like this:

    YQL is Yahoo’s SQL-like language that provides straightforward ways to mash up different APIs into one data source for use in applications. The presentation will outline how YQL allows developers to mash HTML pages,

    Read More »from Yahoo at the Web Meetup in Auckland, New Zealand
  • Introducing Placemaker – YDN Tuesday talk in London, England

    Every first Tuesday of the month is YDN Tuesday in London, England, which means that Yahoo engineers give free tech talks in partnership with Skills Matter. This time the topic was Placemaker, our new (beta) geolocation service.

    Almost 40 attendees had signed up to come and see the talk, but torrential rainfall (of almost biblical proportions) in London lead to the closure of several underground lines and made it hard for people to get to the venue in time and good health.

    It probably is due to the proverbial English stiff upper lip that half of the attendees managed to show up. Those who succeeded went to the pub with us and then home, with a much better idea of what Placemaker is and an understanding that adding geographical information to content is not really dark magic anymore.

    During the talk we covered:

    • The need for a system like Placemaker (making the web more location aware and adding structure to the chaos)
    • A basic example of how to use Placemaker
    • Annoyances with Placemaker
    Read More »from Introducing Placemaker – YDN Tuesday talk in London, England
  • The state of mobile browsers – PPK in London

    Browser tester and researcher extraordinaire Peter-Paul Koch of Quirksmode visited our office in London recently to give a talk about the state of play in the mobile browser world.

    PPK on mobile browsers by  you.

    Today PPK (as he prefers to be called to keep things brief) sent through the PDF versions of his talk. Stay tuned for a video of the talk, it will crop up sooner or later on the YDN theater.

    I interviewed Peter-Paul about some of his findings and his ideas about where professional web development is going, and what constitute good testing practices.

    The interview recording is available at the Internet Archive and you can also get the 33MB MP3 directly.

    Christian Heilmann
    Yahoo Developer Network

    Read More »from The state of mobile browsers – PPK in London
  • GeoMaker – Turning web content into maps made easy

    Yahoo! offers some cool tools that let you play with web content and enrich it with geographical data. Placemaker finds geographical information in texts or web addresses and lets you display the new-found information on maps. All of this is pretty easy to use for those who love to deep-dive into code and play the API game on the web.

    As preparation for an upcoming tech talk about Placemaker I thought I'd have a go at making this a whole process a bit easier. A day sick at home, a dash of YUI and some PHP later, you can see the result: GeoMaker. In just three steps you use content to create a copy-and-paste map to include in your pages. Check out the following screencast to see GeoMaker in action:

    As you can see, adding the website address as a URL parameter can shorten the process: Another nice-to-have: getting the locations marked up for you as Geo Microformats.

    I'd like to get your feedback and once everybody's

    Read More »from GeoMaker – Turning web content into maps made easy
  • Hacking Up North : Winners of the Sunderland Hack Challenge

    The format of Yahoo!'s university hack days are different in Europe than in the U.S. In the U.S., we visit for a week and give tech talks every day, after the normal day-to-day proceedings (once they are defined for each university environment). These sessions are followed by a 24-hour mad hacking session, presentations, judging, and prize giving.

    sunderland hack day

    In the UK, we arrive for a day, (re)introduce the idea of mashups and hacking, show off some of our technologies, and then ask the students to come up with an idea or problem to solve. After this phase of collaboration and support, much of the rest of the work is done at the university, by the students. Instead of being an add-on to the normal university curriculum, the hack project is part of the course deliverables.

    This is why the Sunderland students didn't get 24 hours to hack but - (this varies from university to university) - weeks or months to build a full product, complete with architecture documentation, business plan, security and

    Read More »from Hacking Up North : Winners of the Sunderland Hack Challenge
  • Research in the sun – developer evening in Barcelona

    Last week the Yahoo! Developer Network went to Barcelona, Spain to host our first local developer evening. Around 40 developers showed up to hear about what Yahoo! offers for developers and to get expert answers to their questions.


    Yahoo!'s presence in Barcelona is twofold: there's a sales and marketing office that's a sight to behold. The research office is a tad more cramped -- it shares space with university students and staff, but has an amazing aura of creativity.

    Yahoo! Research Barcelona has produced some very cool prototypes -- they can be found in the Yahoo! Sandbox. We spent a great day chatting with the team about their current projects and how YDN could help take some of these solutions to the next level.

    In the evening, developers from the community arrived and listened raptly to the presentation (which surprised me considering the gorgeous weather and other distractions). You can download the slides as a PDF (11mb) from S3 or watch them on Slideshare:

    Read More »from Research in the sun – developer evening in Barcelona
  • Adding a Geolocation Button to WordPress with Greasemonkey, YQL, and Placemaker

    Adding geographical information to a text on the Web is a terribly useful thing. For one, you can then display the information on a map and give it visual context. Furthermore, web users are becoming more mobile with the help of laptops, free wireless, and smart phones. Being able to identify relevant geographical location for a document would allow search engines and other websites to match users in a given area or point searchers to a geographically relevant document. Plain text search doesn't quite cut it, as location names can also be names of people or events. Just do a search for "one night in Paris" if you don't believe me.

    Geolocating content can be done using several open services - including Yahoo! Placemaker. (If you want a library that uses several services check out Simon Willison's Geocoders.) The issue is that adding geodata to existing content can be quite tedious until you find a nice and easy way to batch-process content.

    We need easy-to-use geo lookups when we edit

    Read More »from Adding a Geolocation Button to WordPress with Greasemonkey, YQL, and Placemaker


(233 Stories)