Blog Posts by Chris Heilmann

  • Yahoo! search results now with natural language support

    I am happy to announce that based on some research and a Greasemonkey hack to make people aware of the consequences, Yahoo! is now a search engine that has natural language search results.

    Natural language?

    HTML has a wonderful attribute called lang that allows you to define the language of the text in the current HTML element. This seems a bit superfluous as it has nothing to do with the display of the language specific character set (which is the encoding and another issue). However, defining the language has other benefits.

    The first one is that search engines and other robots know what language the text is in and thus have a much less harder job to differentiate between keywords and stopwords.

    The second, and most important has to do with accessibility. If you do not see the text but you get it read out to you then the pronunciation is very important. Visually impaired surfers use screen readers to tell them what is on the current page, and by defining the language, you make this

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  • The Highland Fling 2008 – The browser and beyond is round the corner

    With everyone in the web development world seemingly flooding Austin at the moment to attend SXSW we take the opportunity to remind those who are in Europe and don't want to spend a lot of money on flight tickets about another conference close by.

    The Highland Fling takes place on the third of April for the second time in Edinburgh, Scotland. Considering the very state-of-the-art topic and excellent line-up of speakers it is a "cheap as chips" alternative for those who missed out going stateside.

    The conference's motto this year is "The browser and beyond" and was highly influenced by Tom Coates' talk at dconstruct in Brighton last year. Tom was talking about "Designing for a web of data" (Podcast here) and explained that in the future we'll get away from pages and browsers and the internet will become more and more a web of data independent of display device.

    Following this motto, you'll hear tales and tips from the speakers Mark Norman Francis, Chris Heilmann, Chris Mills (Opera),

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  • A new challenge for web developers – replacing the page with lots of independent modules

    Talking to several partners and architects in other companies, there seems to be a general move from page-based sites to frameworks with modules that can either be under your own control, added by users or provided by third party companies. This is an interesting concept for much more personalized web experiences but it also poses quite a technical challenge for web developers.

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  • London’s West End in YUI Birthday Shocker!

    London, UK, 27th of February 2008 - Yesterday night found around 60 developers, designers, project managers and people lucky enough to sign up in time at upcoming in De Hem's - a pub in London's West End to celebrate the 2nd birthday of the Yahoo User Interface Library (YUI).

    The noise level was adequate and did not disturb the neighbours (China Town, actually) and the only casualties of the festivities were a very young cake (exhibit 1), and a fair amount of refreshing beverages originally stored in barrels (not shown to protect the innocent).

    Exhibit 1: the cake

    YUI cake

    During the course of the evening the assembled consumed a visual and almost audible (small speakers) greeting from the YUI team in the U.S., a presentation on what everybody in the world can do to help the YUI (exhibit 2), and several platters of Dutch finger food, including chips with peanut sauce (don't ask).

    Exhibit 2: the presentation

    At the current state of intelligence gathering, the only

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  • The why of libraries and the YUI – a talk at GeekUp Leeds, UK

    It is great to see when a group of developers and designers comes together to celebrate their area as much as learning from each other and about what they do. One of these examples is GeekUp in the North of the UK, and I went up there for 3 hours (with a 2.5 hour train ride one-way from London) to talk about the why of JavaScript libraries and the YUI in detail. The slides of the half-hour presentation are available on slideshare:

    The GeekUp people also filmed the presentation and the long Q&A session, so make sure you check their site for information about that.

    Chris Heilmann

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  • The Art and Science of JavaScript


    There is a big problem with JavaScript books: they are either just not sexy or lack in technical detail. For years we've either had the hard-core references or the "teach yourself how to make blinking menus in 24 hours" kind of books on the subject.

    This is partly because of the diverse nature of the audience: everybody who works as a web developer is sooner or later asked to write or implement some JavaScript. However not many people are dedicated to really dive into the world's most misunderstood programming language - as Douglas Crockford put it.

    Therefore books historically either tried to explain every detail of the language or made sure to give the reader some quick to apply solutions that don't necessarily need much effort on the part of the implementer.

    When Sitepoint approached me about the Art and Science of JavaScript I was not only holding a drink (as it was the @media2007 afterparty) but they had just released a CSS book with a similar title. I didn't really want to write

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  • Yahoo! Frontend Engineering Summit in London, England

    presentations at the European Yahoo! Frontend Engineering Summit 2007

    Last week, from the 5th to the 7th of December the London office of Yahoo! hosted the second internal European Frontend Engineering Summit. This meant that for three days everyone who works on the confusing bit of web development – the frontend – had a chance to meet up and listen to lots of talks about internal technologies in Yahoo! and best practice approaches to common issues.

    People came from France, Germany, Spain and several colleagues from the US to see what the old world folks are up to. In addition to the Yahoos we also invited friends and colleagues from outside which meant that in total it must have been around 75 people filling the three meeting rooms in Yahoo’s office in the middle of Covent Garden, London.

    Ex-Yahoo Simon Willison came around to deliver the keynote covering the pains, perils and joys of Comet as an upcoming technology.

    There were too many talks to mention all, but we will try to upload the ones not covering internal information to slideshare and there’ll

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  • Celebrating Scotland’s University Hackers and Patron Saint in Dundee, Scotland

    On 30st of November - St. Andrew’s Day - the European University Hack Team went from London to Scotland to pick the winners of the Dundee University Hack Program.

    The winners of Dundee University Hackday 2007

    All in all the Scottish students came up with 18 hacks to woo both the judges and the professors - as the European University hack is a bit different than the US counterpart.

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  • Yahoo! University Hack Dundee Mark II – getting those students hacking


    The European University Hack team went up to Scotland yesterday for a day (taking a turboprop plane from London no less) to start this year's Dundee University Hack.

    The University of Dundee is taking the idea of our hack program very serious and made it part of the students' course work deliveries.This is why we don't go for the 24 hour hackathon we normally do across the pond but allow the students a week time to come up with a hack idea, get some feedback on it from the Yahoo! development team and deliver their hack in a month's time.

    Yesterday we kicked off this year's program by explaining the idea and showing some of the technologies you can use to hack in the sense of the program.

    We also introduced the students to some of the best practises we use and provided information about internationalization and localization using our own product R3 (which was already covered here previously).

    You'll be hearing more about R3 here soon - for now you can check the presentations on hacking

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  • University Hack Days in the UK – with a difference


    Following the great success from last year's first European University Hack Program in Dundee/Scotland, Yahoo! Europe started working with the University of East London.

    The structure of university hack programs in Europe is different from Open Hack Days and the US University Hack Days. The main difference is that it is not a 24 hour hacking frenzy - instead the program runs alongside the studies and in some cases is part of the course.

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