Blog Posts by Chris Heilmann

  • Discussing European accessibility matters in Frankfurt

    On the 27th of March 2009 the first European Accessibility Forum in Frankfurt attracted about 170 visitors to listen to a couple dozen speakers covering all aspects of accessibility.

    Impressions of the European Accessibility Forum

    Under the motto of "accessible internet for all," the organizers invited experts from all facets of the market to discuss accessibility matters in panels and answer any questions the audience might have on the subject.

    Before we go into details, let me congratulate the organizers for pulling off an amazing conference that excelled both in organization and content. All the talks were filmed, recorded, translated live from English to German and vice versa, and transcribed in real time into sign language for the hard of hearing. All of this needs a lot of work and planning and is not cheap - but it is very vital for a conference that revolves around the needs of people with different abilities.

    The videos will be available in the future and some of the slides are already available on the web. As with photos,

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  • Ada Lovelace Day: Meet Sophie Major

    Today is Ada Lovelace day and alongside a lot of other people I pledged to write a blog post about a woman in technology I admire.

    So here's my little post telling you people about my colleague Sophie Major:


    Photo credit: Gopal Vijayaraghavan

    Information Technology or IT is still quite a male dominated market. This is not necessarily because of prejudices but because of the fact that it is a game of geeks. It is really hard to find a woman that openly admits to being a geek though - most of the time it is mentioned as a hindrance to women having success in IT.

    This leads to a few female geeks in the trenches fighting the good fight and challenging their male counterparts but it becomes a borderline miracle to find a woman who happily admits to being a geek and at the same time reaching management level. This is not a only a gender issue - whilst IT is very much dependent on geeks there is no real HR infrastructure for someone to be technically focused and reaching all the way up the

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  • Did we say it is on? Open Hack Day, London, 9th-10th May 2009

    Oh yes, Open Hack Day comes back to London. Despite being hit by lightning twice the first time we went over, there was no holding us back.

    Open Hack Day London 2009

    The stage is set, the sign-up site is live, the venue is chosen and we're ready to break it down and celebrate the hack, UK style*:

    Morris dancing, old school

    * For illustration purposes only, may not mirror real events.

    Seriously though, we are planning two days of tech talks, hacking, entertainment, food and drink and all we need is you to come and show us what you can build in 24 hours using our APIs - or anything else you find on the web. The expectations are high, as the 2007 Open Hack Day in London is still mentioned as one of the most inventive, crazy and dedicated hack events (which is saying something, as the competition of hacks in Sunnyvale, Sao Paulo and Bangalore are tough!)

    We're planning quite a packed event for you but we've only got space for 200 hackers.

    So we need you to provide us with some information along with your ticket application. Tell us what

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  • Open Hack Day winner hack turns product – SlideShare goes mobile

    This morning I was positively surprised to get a message that the Slideshare for Mobile winning hack of the Open Hack Day in Bangalore (we reported about this) now made it into a live product.

    slideshare mobile

    The hack team (who work for Slideshare) used Yahoo Blueprint and their own new API that creates JPGs from Powerpoint, PDF, and Keynote presentations to allow their users to watch presentations without relying on Flash. This means that you can watch any SlideShare presentation on the iphone or other modern mobile device.

    Congratulations to the Slideshare team of hackers to get this out so quickly and using the time at the open hack day very effectively indeed.

    Chris Heilmann
    Yahoo Developer Network

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  • Dundee Hack Day 2009 – hacks breaking the barriers

    Last Friday the Yahoo University hack team (European division) went up to Dundee in Scotland to crown the winners of the third Dundee University hack day. In contrast to the Uni hack program in the US, hacku students in Europe get to deliver a mashup/hack as part of the course curriculum and have more time to deliver something really cool that makes a change in their own lives.

    university hack day dundee 2009

    And deliver they did. All in all the students created twenty-three hacks, most of them working with technologies and APIs never covered in the university before. The judges (Chris Heilmann, Andy Cobley, Ian Pouncey, Dirk Ginader and Neil Crosby) had a hard time choosing the winners but in the end three hacks stood out:

    The main winners

    Main prize: IntelliSearch by Laurence Hole, Chris Brett and Matthew Ross a.k.a. iForward

    Intellisearch is a search interface written in Canvas that allows for fast predictive typing without using a keyboard. Instead the interface builds on the Dasher research of Cambridge

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  • Creating an image search hack with PHP, YQL and YUI

    Travelling from hack day to hack day I keep getting asked the same questions on how to create a "good hack". I've covered my ideas on good hacks in some presentations before but somehow a quick step-by-step tutorial seemed to be needed.

    So I created a small hack at the Georgia Tech University hack day that allows me to find creative commons licensed photos on flickr and a few blogs and collect them in a simple interface called Slidefodder. Here's what it looks like:

    Slide Fodder - find CC licensed photos and funpics for your slides

    You can download the source code of the hack to take a closer look and I've written a long and detailed step-by-step explanation of the hack over on my blog.

    You'll learn in the step by step tutorial:

    • How to retrieve flickr photos by license from flickr using YQL
    • How to get photos from blogs without an API using YQL
    • How to use PHP to pull this information of the web and create a small API to use it
    • How to use YUI to quickly create a progressively enhanced interface

    I hope this will make it easier to come up with own ideas

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  • Open Platform – The Guardian just made journalism available to fix the UGC web

    Mashing up the web is fun to do and it is possible to un-earth relationships and data meaning my applying a new angle which could be as simple as plotting the data on a map.

    The problem we have is finding relevant data as user generated content is very up to date but not necessarily high quality. This kept journalists wary about the whole web2.0 thing for quite a while. However for some the read-write web is an opportunity rather than a bunch of amateurs trying to take away "real" journalists' jobs. The Guardian now puts a massive stake in the ground that shows this.

    The Guardian Open Platform is contains two main items: the Data Store, which is a repository of all the public data gathered by The Guardian for their newspaper analysis pieces and the Content API which is a search over all the Guardian content.

    In essence both of these pieces give you access to all the data that you just read online or in the newspaper and play with it yourself.

    The Content API is a restful API that

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  • Georgia Tech University hack – talks over, let’s hack!

    We're right now about to start the 24-hour hacking period of the Hack U Madness at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Georgia Tech university hack day

    After a bumpy start because of *snow* in Atlanta of all things (I arrived just in time to do the kick-off and the Californians arrived a day late), we spent the last few days bringing the students closer to the technologies and ideas offered by the Yahoo Developer Network.

    We started with an overview of the history of hack at Yahoo and explaining what the ingredients of a good hack are:

    On the second day we followed with a Q&A session during lunch explaining some of the API offered in detail. In the evening, chief search monkey Paul Tarjan introduced GA Tech to the ideas of the semantic web. He also gave a good introduction to how SearchMonkey makes the semantic web much easier to grasp:

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  • Mozilla Labs meetup in London

    Mozilla Europe today poked their heads out and organized the first labs meetup in London. Pascal and Jane Finette, Mozilla Foundation's man and woman on-the-ground in the UK, invited developers up to the fifth floor of Waterstone's in Piccadilly to chat about the things that are going on at Mozilla Labs.

    Mozilla Labs Meetup

    Pascal Finette gave a quick overview of the projects run at Mozilla Labs, including the "command line for the browser" Ubiquity which is such a success that it'll be part of Firefox 3.2. Ubiquity allows you to call services and alter the current document with a few simple keyboard shortcuts.

    Bespin, the Canvas-based online editor suite was another project that was mentioned. I saw a preview of Bespin at the Web Directions North conference in Denver earlier this month and I must say I am very impressed with its performance and ideas.

    Pascal's main point was introducing his own project, the Concept series, a collaborative approach to "Get involved and share your ideas and expertise as

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  • So how do you find all address information in the UK? Ask the Yahoo! Geo Technologies team

    The small island that is the United Kingdom is full of mysteries: Stonehenge, Druids, the stiff upper lip, things considered food sold to tourists in London, the random difference between the data on the train schedule and the real arrival times, the joy of nesting roundabouts (see below) and many more.

    The magic roundabout in Swindon, England

    One of the more baffling issues about Blighty is the address system and how to get the hierarchy of an address (as in what is the county, the part of the United Kingdom and so on). Whilst Britannia rules the waves in this respect many a time it waives the rules.

    This confused far and foremost Andrew Woods who tried to get this information for a web app and failed to do so. Broken, disheartened and annoyed he didn't turn to drink but instead to Twitter where he asked me of all people for advice. Being the cunning networker that I am I re-tweeted this (crowdsourcing - another pound in the buzzword kitty) and got the attention of our very own Gary Gale, benevolent overlord of the Geo

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