Yahoo! Shortcuts (beta)

Over the last few months Crowd Favorite has had the opportunity to work with some great people at Yahoo! to create a rather unique WordPress plugin: Yahoo! Shortcuts. This is probably the most ambitious plugin I’ve helped build, and I think it will be really useful for a number of bloggers out there.

Yahoo! Shortcuts

Basically it will suggest all sorts of Yahoo! content to augment what you’re writing about. It can give you little finance widgets for companies:

Finance

Maps and travel information for locations:

Maps

And even Flickr photos1:

Flickr photo

You get to choose to enable or disable each of the detected shortcuts, and you get to choose how to display them. Some can be embedded badges while others have little pop-up effects when you mouse over them.

Reviewing Shortcuts

This is a beta release, which means there are a few little quirks that may pop up from time to time. I’m sure there will be a lot of great user feedback (and bug reports) coming in as folks start using this to make 1.0 even better.

More info and coverage:

It’s also worth noting that the plugin code is all Open Source under a modified BSD license. It’s almost a no-brainer for a company like Yahoo! to make this decision nowdays, which is pretty fantastic.

We had a number of interesting challenges during the creation of the plugin. It was great to see the Yahoo! team not want to make compromises from the user experience they wanted; it was up to us to make sure they didn’t have to.

  • Interacting with the WordPress rich text editor is always interesting. We needed to allow people to move the Yahoo! content (maps, photos, charts) around and align them left and right. To accomplish this we had to use placeholder images for the content in some cases. Then we translate the placeholder image back to the proper content to display it.
  • As anyone who builds an API knows, no matter how much you plan ahead your first customer will always ask for a feature you overlooked or thought you could postpone until later. As the first customers of the Yahoo! Shortcuts API we found that while almost everything we needed was provided to us, there were a few things that we needed to tweak in order to accomplish what we needed on the WordPress side. Luckily we had access to the API engineers at Yahoo! to give us the additional functionality we needed.
  • Working with a large company without having our project manager in place (yet). I verified that project management is not my strongest suit – thankfully we’ve remedied that situation. Back to focusing on development for me (yay!).

This project also afforded me a chance to meet Jeremy Zawodny. Jeremy is one of the first bloggers I started following in (I think) late 2002 and it was great timing to be able to meet up with him at Defrag a little over a month ago. We shot a little screencast video walk-though of the Yahoo! Shortcuts plugin2.

Full Disclosure: Yahoo! was our customer to create this plugin. That said, they did not provide any restrictions about what I could say here, ask me to follow any guidelines or even ask me to highlight any specific features.

  1. Those with proper Creative Commons licenses. [back]
  2. Because who doesn’t love to watch two guys in green sweaters staring at a laptop? You can tell that Jeremy knew there would be footage of us as well as the screencast in the final video – I’ll know next time. :) [back]