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 JavaScript I realized there had to be a better way of doing things with less code. The main thing I wanted to do accomplish was to be able to just copy and paste the YQL statement from the YQL console and have the plugin create that crazy REST query for me. All in all it was pretty easy.

What about now there is a plugin, how easy is it to get YQL from jQuery?
Super easy. It really enables me to take advantage of the YQL console. The tree view allows me to easily find the data I am looking for and makes it very clear what the path is to the specific piece of data. Looking at raw jsonp can be a bit overwhelming and this alleviates that.

What's your favorite feature of YQL?
YQL enables me to grab third-party data with no server-side coding. Thus I can take my widgets from platform to platform and CMS to CMS. The flexibility is amazing.

Your site is http://justinshearer.com/yql/. What do you plan to do with YQL next?
I am currently working on a Facebook feed reader, but my overall goal is to eventually create an all-in-one social media stream. One stream to rule them all! Kind of like the Facebook live feed but with the latest data from all of your social sites.

YQL Social Media dashboard

What's your favorite YQL table?
I'd have to say the generic XML or CSV tables for their flexibility, but I use the weather.forecast table a lot. I do a bunch of municipal government websites and they all want weather on their site. It takes me 30 seconds to swap out the zip code and put it on their site.

Is there a YQL table you wish existed?
Well personally, I am a bit of a football fan so I would like NFL players statistics so I could do some type of mashup with my fantasy team. But from a business perspective I would like to see tide tables. Being in South Carolina we have a lot of coastal towns and cities that would love to have that information displayed on their site. I have scraped the data off the boat and beach forecast on weather.com using XPATH, but in my mind it is way too hacky for a production environment.

Thanks, Justin!

Try out Justin's social media dashboard and grab his jQuery code samples for every piece to use on your own site. Or use the YUI3 YQL module or the YUI2 widget.

Tom Hughes-Croucher
Tom Hughes-Croucher (@sh1mmer)
Yahoo! Technology Evangelist