Ubiquity Command : Linkify - Technical Details

In an older post, I had written about a command that lets you insert links by searching for selected text, without leaving the current page. This post is about the technical details.

To understand the details, you would need to understand the basics of authoring a ubiquity command. The code above shows the preview and the execute function. Interestingly, the "this" reference points to the current object only in the execute function. Hence, to pass data between the two, I used the setGlobal and get Global methods that internally set values as attributes of the window object.
Another interesting thing is the way double-clicking works in Firefox. The trailing space is also selected and making that a part of the link does not look good.
I tried out YAHOO BOSS and wrote the search function using it. The response JSON is rendered by the render function.
Another point to note is the way modifiers work. If nothing is specified as the modifier, the modified["word"].text carries the same value as the input text. Hence, the modifiers, along with the input text has to be sanitized.
Another problem I faced was the number of times the preview function was called. There were times when the input to the preview function also had the modifier attached. Making so many searches, with the modifier attached was not good and hence, only the selected text rather than the input is the search query parameter.
Finally, I am also working on using the input text if no text is selected, and using text links if they are directly specified by the user.

Creating Links while you type using Ubiquity

It is always a pain to converting text to while typing blog posts or emails. I have to Google for the terms before I get the right link to insert in the blog.
This post discusses a ubiquity command that helps you convert text into links easily. You can subscribe to the command from here.

  1. Once subscribed, you can use this feature by selecting text in the Rich Text editor where you are typing.
  2. Invoke Ubiquity and type in "linkify this " to see the search results for the term you have selected.
  3. A preview pane with YAHOO BOSS search results is displayed. To insert the link of the second search result, you can continue typing "linkify this with 2"
  4. The text you selected becomes linkified.
Here is how the code for this looks like. Watch out this space for updates on the script and technical details. Some features that I still am working on include.
  • Ability to search for text that you type in, in addition to selected text
  • Navigate the search result pages
  • Insert any arbitrary link without searching.
And sorry for the large number of links, I was playing around with the extension :).

Bookmarking to Delicious using Ubiquity

A couple of quick checks and I have my first ubiquity command written. The best thing I liked about the command was the way you could share it easily on GitHub. You can subscribe to it from here. Interestingly, the rel="commands" tag for ubiquity is automatically added and hence, the subscribe button is present right on the page!
The code itself is not really complex, I ripped most of it from the Twitter example.

The delicious API has a post/update URL that can be used to update, with authentication taken care of automatically. The selected text is added as notes. Currently, there are no tags automatically added. I was looking at a tag could generator, but it seems to be too much of a pain.
I still need the feature to search my web history only, and I am still waiting for infoaxe to add the "import delicious" feature.
In the meanwhile, I am working on a ubiquity command that 'linkifies' selected text with URLs of Google search results; particularly useful while blogging. Watch out this space for more ubiquity commands that I come up with :)

Reading those boring mailing lists on a RSS reader

Lifehacker today featured an article about a service that lets you read mails on a RSS feed reader. Though my initial reaction was trying to question why anyone would like to read mails on a reader and lose the capability to reply to them, I realized that this service is the right thing for those mailing lists that you want to be subscribed to, but hate to see them in the inbox.
These are the mailing lists that are private (protected by your credentials) and hence do not expose a direct feed url. You can only get them into your inbox. These are also the lists to which you seldom reply to, and its mostly skimming through articles to keep you informed.
I am subscribed to one such list and I quickly created a mail account to which I directed mails from the mailing list. I tried a Gmail account but the IMAP on gmail somehow seems to be unreachable. I created an AOL mail instead and linked that account to my account on mailonfeed.com.
The only problem with adding this "private" feed to reader is that is uses HTTP authentication and most readers cannot fetch content when HTML authentication is enabled. A better way would have been to add a secret long random string to the end of the feed URL to make it private (like Flickr uses for email uploads)
Till then, just happy with saving some spam from my inbox. :)

The activity Feeds on Opensocial

I hope this is not greeted with the "Yet another post on Sneak-O-Scope" frustration. Actually, the application is taking up majority of my free time, and thats the reason I seem to write so much about it. This is a about a more generic bug that I have encountered.

Sneak-O-Scope now has activity feeds integrated into it. Activity Feeds are a great way to get visibility as they are the only pieces of information that an application can push to other users. This is again done using the SNAPP application framework. Since the application that SNAPP hosts in inside an iFrame, the application itself cannot instruct the opensocial container to publish the feed. Hence, SNAPP requires the application to expose the URL of the activity feed as an RSS Feed. This RSS Feed is fetched by SNAPP, parsed, and the items are posted to the activity stream.
Interestingly, the gadgets.io.makeRequest for FEED type seems to have some glitches. The specification says that the sample feed would be parsed and available at the return obj.data. However, when I run the same code using the Opensocial developer application to fetch the sample feed, all entries except the Item Sumary are available. I was having some issues with this and hence am currenly parsing the XML that I fetch as TEXT in the SNAPP javascript framework. Not sure if this is a bug, but if it is, I hope it is fixed soon. I have also asked about this in the orkut developer forums and am awaiting the requests.
In the meanwhile, see your sneak-o-scope updates sent to friends. I am still deciding on how to make more specific and "teasing" updates without compromising on privacy.
As a side thought, since updates can have images linked to your server, sneak-o-scope can theoritically display statistics on times when the friends of a user log in, etc. Bad for privacy is it ? :)

Update :
I found a reply on the Google Forums. It said that the GET_SUMMARIES command parameter had to be set to get the summaries by default. Here is the link.

Sneak-O-Scope - Version 3 - New Release, New Bugs :)

A smooth release for software is not trivial specially when it depends on a lot of external components. I had earlier posted about releasing Sneak-O-Scope V3 on Google App Engine. Though it was seamless initially, some changes on the data by Orkut broke the functionality. The JSON Object that Orkut returned consisted of a internal object called fields_ which is now changed to obj_. I was referring to this throughout my code and hence had to make this change to get the application back in form.
There was also a complaint that the graphs were not displayed properly. This was a bug that crept in when I was looking at extending it to other platforms. I added an identifier that signified the platform to ownerIds, and that ended up passing wrong values to the Maps and the graph. That has also been corrected.
In the previous post, there was also a comment that the application showed a lot of useless data. There was a specific mention of the uselessness of IP address. To that, I would like to point out that more meaningful information derived out of the recorded data is in the offing. I am currently working on getting the application on MySpace, Hi5 and Friendster. Though there are help icons, those are not functional yet.
Once that is done, I would love to add features like
  1. Adding location of visitors
  2. Adding animated timeline graphs showning when people came and left
  3. Popularity of a profile when compared to friends
  4. Most popular profile of the application etc.
  5. Realtime update of who visits whom
  6. Badges showing off popularity of people
  7. People visiting your profile also visited...
Would love to hear more suggestions on the kind of analysis that we can draw out of visit data. Drop in your suggestions as comments.
Currently, I am the only person developing the application. It would be great if you could lend a helping hand, development would be easier, quicker and more fun. Please do drop me a mail if this interests you.