Thursday, August 28, 2008

Got back from the Hackathon

So, anyone who has been following my twitter feed (which seems to only be uncle bill... at least via twitter) would know two things (well, at least one) First, today was the Google appengine hackathon. Second, I just got the best firefox extension EVER, and I think the word ever deserves both bold and capitol letters.

About the hackathon. It was a lot of fun. I learned how to deploy an appengine application for the public, and I wrote an application that does just about exactly what Google Reader does, but a little more social oriented. See, I created a site that uses your Google account to authenticate access. Once you log in, you can add RSS or Atom feeds to the app, then share the app with any Google account you invite. It is really a tool that takes all the posts that you look at for longer than 5 seconds, and merges them into one RSS feed that can be subscribed to by all the people you invite. Basically it is a way to share the news articles you read with other people around you.

My next step for the application, is to ensure that all items that both you and your "followers" read is merges into a shared reading list. Meaning that the service can be used to initiate conversations about the news articles. This process involves two things: compairing the feeds you read with the feeds others read, and add a form page to allow you to directly email people about the articles you have both read. I think it's so cool to be working on this. When I'm done, I'm going to deploy the app, publish a tutorial for the source code on the Frizzlefry Tech Blog, and start trying to get people to actually use my app. It will be really cool!

The other highlight for today (and yesterday) is this new extension for firefox that I got names Ubiquity. The idea is that if I hit +Space in firefox a command line style box appears in the upper right corner of the web page I am viewing. The service automatically will use my gmail address book (if i'm logged into Google) to figure out what I mean by "email ". Because I use both first and last names in all of my contact lists, the service can figure out who I mean almost every time. I can use either a name or email address.

The best part though, if I don't specify text, ubiquity will automatically insert the web page I am viewing, or any text I select from a website into the command. That means I can select a good quote from a website, then say "email " and it will add the quote to the beginning of the email message, allowing me to finish the message as I see fit. or, the same command will add a link to the web page I am currently viewing if I don't say anything else.

The plugin also does a lot more than just email though. Anyone can write scripts for their own site, and I can choose to install those scripts for additional functionality. Already included in the list of sites that support the beta stage addon are: twitter, a bunch of search engines, emaill address lookup, yahoo search, msn search, check and add to google calendar, language translator, general purpose converter, digg, flickr, International Movie Database, wikipedia search/link, Google maps, weather, word count, tinyurl, youtube, yelp, browser controls, and a bunch of developer tools.

Needless to say for the modern computer nerd, this is an essential tool.

So, that's what I was doing today. It was fun.

So, that's all for now.



P.S. I am starting to feel much better. My bronchitis has really cleared up, and my cough is amost better. Oh yea, by the way I got bronchitis last week, but I feel much better now.