Blog Posts by Tom Hughes-Croucher

  • Enhancing YQL with Server-side JavaScript

    This article explains how to get started writing tables for Yahoo's web service equalizer, Yahoo! Query Language (YQL). It looks at how YQL uses JavaScript to manipulate data and how server-side JavaScript is a different beast from JavaScript in the client. We'll look at ECMAScript for XML (E4X) and server-side concurrency models not found in the browser.

    What is YQL?

    YQL is a way to access web services using a language that is very like Structured Query Language (SQL). Where the language

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  • JSConf.us: The Pirate Edition

    I always like to take my time writing the JSConf posts. Once the hangover has worn off (what happens at JSConf stays at JSConf), the digesting of material begins. It's so hard to quantify the conference because the "B-track" is the main stage line-up for almost any other conference, and the "A-track" is basically a who's-who of JavaScript. And me.

    So here is my totally biased review of the material.

    First up, Crockford — and security

    First up, Crockford. I get to work with Doug so I'm definitely pretty biased right off the bat. That said, Doug is crazy smart. Doug has been advocating improving JavaScript security for a while, and this was a major theme of his talk. I've been writing about AJAX security recently too.

    One of the key points is that you shouldn't let other people write scripts to your page, because once they do, it's game over. One problem is that many of the ways to inject JavaScript onto a page are fairly obscure (PDFs, anyone?). Heck, there are lots of good reasons you

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  • MinneWebCon recap: Content strategy, HTML5, lawyers, accessibility, and YQL mashups

    I've never been to Minneapolis or St. Paul before, but I have to say I was surprised at how vibrant the twin cities are. This goes double for their developer community. MinneWebCon, hosted by the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, was a really great event. I met a lot of new people and made some new friends, and I look forward to getting to go back there some time soon.

    The conference itself had some wonderful presentations on a diverse range of subjects for the Web. That created a great community vibe in the conference center, as all the different attendees mixed it up. Here is a quick summary of some of the sessions I especially liked:

    Kristina Halvorson, a jet-setting Minneapolis local, gave the opening keynote on Content Strategy — and, man, it was a corker. This presentation, the same one she delivered at SXSW, was fun, informative, and full of great experience and information.

    In summary, she points out that content is not a feature, and that, to be successful with content, we

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  • Building a social media dashboard with jQuery and YQL


    I recently interviewed web designer Justin Shearer (@justinsane98), Senior Web Designer at VC3 (@VC3inc). Justin described himself in the third person — which is a little creepy — but here it is: "Justin began designing for the web over a decade ago in Columbia, South Carolina. He started a small design firm that was eventually gobbled up by another startup once he realized that he should stick to design and leave business matters to others. He is currently the senior web designer at VC3 where he tries to be innovative and to create new functionality that clients and users don't even know they want yet! He is a designer by trade and a geek at heart who is fascinated by code, disturbed by Comic Sans, and loathes IE6 on a daily basis. He has a pet 'jaguar,' drives a Jeep that is probably older than you, and, oh yeah... he got the girl too!"

    You wrote a jQuery plugin for YQL, how hard was that?
    Actually this was my first jQuery plugin. After I wrote a couple of YQL widgets in just

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  • Velocity Web Performance Conference

    Anyone who likes our YSlow tool and performance guidelines will want to be at the Velocity Web Performance and Operations Conference, June 22-24, Santa Clara, CA. We'll talk in more detail about getting to the cutting edge of performance.

    Yahoo! developers can take advantage of a 15% discount: enter the discount code vel10fsp when you register. Not a bad deal at all.

    Following are the Yahoo! speakers who'll be there and what they will talk about:

    • Leif Hedstrom, Apache Traffic Server - HTTP Proxy Server on the Edge:
      Apache Traffic Server is an Open Source project implementing a caching HTTP proxy server, donated to the Apache Foundation by Yahoo!
    • Nicholas Zakas, Building Performance Into the New Yahoo! Homepage:
      Nicholas talks about the overhaul of the Yahoo! flagship site in 2009.
    • Tom Hughes-Croucher, I Made a Map of the Internet - And What It Can Teach Us About Speeding Up Websites: I'll talk about what to optimize when getting from your computer, via your ISP, to a web site and
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  • HackU University of Texas, Austin

    I love Austin. It's a fine city with weather so great in March that it makes me scared to visit in June. This was our first time at University of Texas in Austin, but we had an awesome visit.

    The Talks

    This time we brought a mighty party of folks from Yahoo! to do some classes. I gave a talk about how to optimize web applications for mobile and how YQL can be used for that.

    We also got the excellent Mr Doug Crockford talking about the good parts of JavaScript. Also joining us were my colleagues Jeremy Hubert and Allen Rabinovich. Jeremy talked about his exciting job as a search prototyper, testing new ideas on a deadline. Allen gave an excellent introduction into YUI 3 and YQL by taking the students through building a Flickr search application from scratch.

    Hacking in the Dungeon Basement

    On Friday we all started hacking in the basement of the CS department. They have a pretty awesome space for the Association of Computational Machinery (ACM) club down there.

    We had a lot of fun

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  • A tasty discount for Web Directions @Media 2010

    I'm pretty excited about heading back to Blighty for Web Directions @media. I've been living in the U.S of A for a couple of years but there isn't anything quite like the Big Smoke. So if you are in London on June 10th-11th why not join me for an amazing line up of speakers?

    Our friends, John and Maxine, from Web Directions have kindly given YDN a discount code, "Yahoo", that you can use to get 50 quid off the ticket price. The conference will cover a huge range of the hot topics including:

    • HTML5 for web designers
    • CSS3
    • Server-side JavaScript
    • HTML5 for web application developers
    • Geo enabling your web sites and applications
    • JavaScript testing
    • Designing for the web with grid systems
    • Building native mobile apps with web technologies
    • Improving your sites' performance

    So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and we'll have a pint when I get there.

    Web Directions @media
    Southbank Centre, June 10 + 11
    Just £449+VAT with YDN discount code: Yahoo

    Tom Hughes-Croucher (@sh1mmer

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  • More YQL tables = more awesome!

    We've just upgraded datatables.org with a few improvements. We know that people have had a few issues with the reliability so we are happy to say that we've moved datatables.org from its current hosting provider to dedicated servers in multiple Yahoo! data centers.


    The YQL team pose with their YQL shirts on.

    Most importantly we've improved the process which we use to process your contributions to Github. This makes it even easier for us to accept your contribution and roll it into the console and our environment file with key from the NYT, Amee and others (it's store://datatables.org/alltableswithkeys in case you were wondering).

    Thanks to all the tables you've been contributing we now have a massive 700+ tables available to use today with 600+ community contributed tables. We aren't satisfied with that though, we still want more tables. So if you contribute a new table that we add to the Github repository we'll send you one of these awesome YQL t-shirts. You'll be the envy of all

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  • Getting started with YQL is now even easier

    We've listened to your feedback and we are happy to announce that it's now even easier to get started with the YQL console. Starting this week you won't have to log in to Yahoo! to try YQL and quickly test a query.

    Of course if you want to try all the tables and make the most of Yahoo!'s social graph you'll still need to sign-in so we can access your account, but have no fear there is an easy link at the top of the page.

    We hope you'll continue to enjoy YQL, and tell all of your friends.

    Tom Hughes-Croucher, YQL Junkie
    YDN Team

    Find us on Twitter: @ydn

  • Easy Accessibility Testing with the NVDA Screen Reader

    It is very important for every web developer to write clean code, but it is equally important to make sure that what's written actually works for people who know nothing about the code: 95% of the people who use the web. For this reason, developers spend a lot of time testing with various browsers, on different platforms, lots of devices, and even get advice from other people.

    Among the various testing environments, screen readers remain one of the gray areas for many developers. There are a few reasons for this: sometimes people ask why do they need to bother. But perhaps many of you ask "where do I get one?" or complain, "I don't know what to do with this thing." I hope this article will answer the last two concerns. Perhaps I'll try to persuade you why you should bother in another article. Hopefully, though, you already know why accessibility is important for web development.

    What is NVDA for Windows?

    Screen reader is an assistive technology software that allows any blind or

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