Archived entries for Cool

Most Underrated API? The Yahoo! Term Extractor

There’s a million APIs out there, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s easy now to translate street addresses to lat/long coordinates. It’s easy to grab local results, and overlay them on a map. It’s easy to use Yahoo or Google to get all types of search results (local, images, etc), and sites like Amazon to get prices and products.

But I think one of the coolest and most underrated APIs is the Term Extractor API from Yahoo!:

In other words, you point it at a piece of content — a news article, blog post, movie review or whatever — and it returns a list of terms, or keywords (or “tags” for those of you keeping score at home).

What do you do next with a list of keywords from a piece of content? Well, lots of things. Jeremy Keith wrote yesterday about a few ideas (that seem up for grabs, if you’re in a hacking mood!).

What if you treated each returned term as a tag? You could then pass those tags to any number of tag-based services, like Flickr, Del.icio.us, or Technorati.

So, instead of the simple “here’s my Technorati profile” or “here are my Flickr pics” on a blog, you could have links that were specific to each individual blog post. If I sent the text of this post to the term extractor, it would return a list of terms like “api”, “yahoo”, etc. By passing those terms as tags to a service like Technorati or Del.icio.us, readers could be pointed to other blog posts and articles that are (probably) related.

Like he suggests, it gets interesting when you let the output from this web service be the input for another service. I was lucky enough a few months ago to lend a small bit of help to the team that brought you the Yahoo! Events Browser mashup. One challenge of that product was to get images associated with each event. If you’ve ever worked with unstructured data — event listings are super unstructured — then you know that they don’t provide many high-quality hooks for understanding their content. The team tried doing image searches on venue or artist name, but the results weren’t very relevant or interesting, even when the parsed venue or artist was accurate. So, being the put-lots-of-pieces-together types there are, they decided to use the Term Extractor to discover more accurate, meaningful, and specific query terms to then find images for. Here’s how they summed it up:

To display appropriate images for events, local event output was sent into the Term Extraction API, then the term vector was given to the Image Search API. The results are often incredibly accurate.

I’ve only seen a handful of implementations of the Term Extractor API so far. If you’ve got a cool one to point me to, or a cool idea for a future implementation, please leave ‘em in the comments below.

Late Xmas Gift? 30-inch LCD!

Dell is to start offering a 30-inch widescreen digital flat-panel monitor tomorrow. If you didn’t get what you wanted for the holidays, or have a year-end bonus to spend, this might be what you’ve been looking for. It’s stats are pretty amazing, beating Apple’s Cinema Display in all categories (e.g.; resolution, response time, contrast ratio, etc).

Here’s the promo link for the Dell 30-inch widescreen LCD.

Riya Photo Search Screenshots


riya_reg_step1
Originally uploaded by natekoechley.

At brunch this morning, I received an email invitation to play with the early “soalphaithurts” alpha of Riya. Riya is consumer facial recongition software. After you name a face, it will scan and auto-tag the rest of your photos.

The concept is great; I took 9000 photos on my backpacking trip earlier this year, some help tagging them is very welcome.

Anyways, I just signed up and installed the uploaded. It takes quite a while to upload and process the photos, but in the meantime check my screenshots of “Nine Step Registration Process” and the “Six Page Tour”.

More Riya details, screenshots and first impressions coming soon.


Peter at the White House


Peter at the White House
Originally uploaded by natekoechley.

My brother Peter, who works for The Onion attended the Press Club dinner at the White House earlier this year.


Yahoo! My Web improves Search

If you’re not using Yahoo!’s My Web yet, allow me to recommend it. The value of My Web is what it does to your experience on Search.

At first glance, most see similarities between My Web and del.icio.us. It’s true, My Web contains a full featured social bookmarking service, complete with tags and RSS-love.

But My Web is much more than that: My Web is relevant search. Human-verified search. Better search.

Here’s a screen shot of a Yahoo! Search results page for javascript, with My Web enabled.

Y! My Web SERP

Over on Flickr, I’ve extensively annotated that screenshot. In short, it shows the following:

  • Of the about 265,000,000 results for javascript, 1,569 have the unique distinction of being personally saved and annotated by people in my community.
  • For each link, My Web shows who and how many people saved it, what they said about it, and if they’re currently online.
  • Lower on the page, the normal search results are enhanced and show which links have been saved by either me or my community, and any notes I may have made about the link.
  • For every result, there’s an quick way for me to save it to My Web. Thanks to the goodness of some AJAX DHTML, clicking Save brings up an on-page editor that lets me annotate and save the link without leaving or refreshing the page.
  • (As a bonus, Yahoo! Search also tells me if the site in question has an RSS feed, and if so gives me access to the XML feed, and a one-click “Add to My Yahoo!” link.)

In addition to an improved SERP, My Web also offers what I’ll call the “Browse” view (screenshot below, again annotated). The Browse View lets you surf the data in interesting and useful ways. There are three objects you can explore: Pages, Tags and Contacts. Pages are my favorite, exposing tons of interesting and relevant links. You can scope your exploration to My Pages, My Community’s Pages, or Everyone’s Pages. I spend most of my time on the My Community page, since these are the people I’m most interested in, who’s interests I care about, and who’s expertise I value. If Jeremy comments on MySQL, I know it’s a quality link. If Douglas Crockford saves a link on Javascript, I know it’s a must-read.

The pages — links — are arranged chronologically, with the most recently saved toward the top of the page. (You can sort by popularity, title or URL too.) The most common tags in my community are listed on the left. Clicking one limits the pages to those with that tag. Selecting multiple tags is an AND operation, so I can quickly see all My Communities links that deal with “CSS” + “Hacks”.

Y! My Web - Contact Page

I actually have this My Community page (not Jeremy’s page as in the screenshot above) set as my browser homepage. Each time I look at this page, I’m seeing the web sites my friends and colleagues have recently deemed worthy. I see high quality, fresh links, and get insight into what coworkers are thinking about at this very moment. More than once I’ve pinged somebody on IM to talk about something they just saved. It’s great for staying in-the-know.

There’s much more to My Web — invites, cached pages, a sweet API, RSS feeds for each facet, optional search history, tag clouds — but the two I described are the most important to me. I’ll let you discover the rest on your own, that’s half the fun, right?

If you want more information, there’s no place better than the official My Web blog or FAQ. Of you could read what Michael Nguyen, Yahoo!’s Jeremy Zawodny, or the blogosphere had to say.

Be on the lookout for new features all the time. In the last few weeks, the team has improved the auto-complete tagging features and the RSS feeds, and provided slick inline editing capabilities. 2.0 is lightyears better that the 1.0 product, and it’s getting even better every few days.

Have you tried it? What do you think? How do you use it? What features are most important to you?

PS: If you’re interested, it’s API is ready and waiting.

Yahoo! Instant Search (Instant Answer?)

Wow, this is slick. Before you’re even done typing, your answer is there in front of you. Don’t bother hitting “Search” or reaching for your mouse. No page refresh, just your answer, instantly.

(Plus, it’s a nice use of AJAX to improve the user experience.)

Instantly find the weather
Instantly check scores
Instantly check stocks
Instantly map an address
Instantly eat
Instantly convert

It works for a bunch of other “shortcuts” too, and I’m sure the list is ever-growing. Let me know if you have a good idea for a new one.

What do you think about this feature? Seems like a vastly more delightful user experience to me.

(Once again, Charlene Li has the scoop.)



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