We won hack day!

Friday was my favorite quarterly event at Yahoo, hackday! It’s the internal version of the hacku event that I help with. I want to chronicle my experience since it was my favourite hackday to-date. I’m being overly vague about the project since it might actually get shipped.

This year, I had an idea mulling in my head, talked to a few people, shared it on the internal hacker list and got a ton of great buzz. I started the ball rolling with some editorial work and design. Then our SearchMonkey community manager, Evan Goer lept on the idea, and did a ton more of the editorial work. His enthusiasm was contagious.

When hackday finally came around, Evan was definitely onboard, but it was still a daunting task. He wanted to help in any way he could so I gave him a small coding task in PHP. Lo-and-behold he pulled it off with flying colors. I think we should get huge bonus points for a project manager coding on the project 🙂 He sat next to me at the start of hackday, and went out for dinner, and then CAME BACK to finish it up. What a trooper.

Right as I started to code, one of the SearchMonkey ops guys, Brett Proctor IMed me offering his services. He told me he can barely code and had to leave that night at 9pm, so I gave him some “store and retrieve” webservice to work on. He pulled it off amazingly, and again, we should get more bonus points for an operations guy building the whole backend 🙂

Prior to hackday, in the email exchange, the SearchMonkey UI guy (notice a trend here?) Micah Alpern suggested it to one of his designers, Kara Mccain. She’s the one that did the SearchMonkey logo, so I was elated to have her onboard. She cooked up some sexy designs for the project and then passed out from the exhaustion that the designs caused 🙂 She stopped by the hack room, and then left before Evan got there, so as far as the rest of the team was concerned, she was “remote” much like Brett.

While Brett was doing his work, he showed the project to Reid Burke who then obviously wanted in. The only non-SearchMonkey guy, but we won’t hold it against him. Reid came to the hack room after Evan left, and hung out with me until the wee hours of the morning. Reid came into the project with a self-contained piece so it was easier to integrate. By the time I left at 5:00 am, Reid’s part still wasn’t working, but I guess my threats to take him off the team worked, because when I came back at noon the next day, Reid’s part magically worked. 🙂

I’d like to note that there was a handful of people in the hack room that contributed in one way or another to the hack. Matt Claypotch made up a lot of great titles, had some witty banter all night and made us a pretty picture too! Philip Tellis was Mr. Knowledgable sitting in the corner. I would ask a question to the air, Matt would say something snarky, Reid would join in, and then when it simmered down, Philip would quietly answer the question wonderfully. Oh, and Eric Wu was hammering away on the designs for all the little things to make hackday work. Thanks guys, the hack room was great!

We were presenting as #48 out of 92. #46 was my other hack with Yury Lifshits, webnumbr.com. And then #47 was Reid’s other hack. So a big showing all in a row kind of worried me a bit. Right before I was going to present, Eric Wu called a break for pizza. So I went back, got my carb and sugar rush going, and then setup to be first after the break. It was kind of nice placement, since people actually were ready to pay attention. Not to mention I was wearing my wizard hacking hat, which helped the intrigue.

I started off pointing out Jerry Yang was on his 3rd beer, so that boded well for his coercibility. 10 seconds in, I realized I didn’t clear my cookies from all the testing I just did, so nothing was working. I mentioned that noone should pay attention to the man behind the curtain as I quickly “⌘,” -> clear cookies. The presentation went well with lots of laughs and clapping. Lots of people in the audience smiled at me and gave me high fives. It was good. Brett couldn’t get the live streaming working, so he tail -f‘ed the apache logs to see what I was showing 🙂

When the judges came back we were just sitting around after Havi Hoffman gave away some old shirts. I had been to many hack days before this and hadn’t won, so I was already over the emotionally crushing experience of not winning and didn’t care anymore. When Prabhakar Raghavan announced the most innovative entry going to webnumbr, Yury and I were elated! We skipped up and got our awesome bright orange t-shirts with pride. I was just so excited I didn’t pay attention to when Ash Patel gave away the prize for the most fun hack to us! Sadly Brett and Kara couldn’t be there, but Evan and Reid and I bounded up to get our shirts (I didn’t take a second). We got our picture taken as we were hugging and it was just a great experience.

I chatted for a while with everyone and then walked back with Yury and Evan, talking about the future of our stuff. I’m sure on Monday the joy will wear off and the reality of our real jobs will set in, but maybe, just maybe, we can start another small project like SearchMonkey and see where it goes.

So yes, hack day was awesome, and I hope this tradition spreads and thrives.


Online YAML parser

So, today I needed to verify some YAML was correct, and eyeball the JSON output. I couldn’t find a good tool online that did what I wanted, so I wrote my own in about an hour.

I give you the Online YAML Parser.

It takes in YAML and outputs JSON using pyYAML. Simple, but useful. Try some examples from the 1.2 spec, or paste in your own, and let me know of any bugs.

SearchMonkey Object Examples

So, a few weeks ago we released SearchMonkey Objects that let web developers markup any of our 8 object formats for their pages. These pages included examples and explanations.

To help people understand it a bit more, I marked up a few real-life pages using our SearchMonkey objects.

(games and documents are identical to video).

So, I hope those help a bit. Try running them through the extraction tool. Let me know if you have any issues or have any more examples.

Only 1 word left on google voice, and its mine!

I recently got an invitation to google voice and have been trying to come up with a good number. I tried all the first 10 digits of physics constants and every single 10 letter word in the ubuntu /usr/share/dict/words. Out of all of that, there was ONLY 1 that was available.

So I give you my new phone number (which is very easy to memorize, hehe) :


(636) 674-9464

The 2 other leading candidates were :

(209) 782-7526 (209) PTA-RJAN

(707) 728-5468 (707) PAU-LIN8 (thanks ultramegaman)

Is it too much to ask for the number (314) 159-2653, (299) 792-4580, or (137) 035-9990? What is a geek to do…

Here is the source of my script:

If it can help anyone, here is the list of the first 10 digits of all of the physics constants on that site which are known to 10 digits or greater :


What is "git"

I was just compiling git and found this at the top of the README file :

"git" can mean anything, depending on your mood.

 - random three-letter combination that is pronounceable, and not
   actually used by any common UNIX command.  The fact that it is a
   mispronunciation of "get" may or may not be relevant.
 - stupid. contemptible and despicable. simple. Take your pick from the
   dictionary of slang.
 - "global information tracker": you're in a good mood, and it actually
   works for you. Angels sing, and a light suddenly fills the room.
 - "goddamn idiotic truckload of sh*t": when it breaks

Finally, I know how to swear correctly when git isn’t working!

Posted in geek, git, readme. 1 Comment »

OpenID Avatar

gravatar does a wonderful job with email avatars, but they have failed to support OpneIDs. I built a simple interface for associating your OpenID with an email, which is then proxied to gravatar.

So I give you OpenID Avatar.

Simply change your gravatar urls to use http://paulisageek.com/openidavatar/avatar/ instead of http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/ Then you can use md5s of openids in addition to emails. If you want to use them both, just set the email_md5 param as well. See the img in this post for an example, or see the docs.

To setup your openid to email link, simply login and pick which email to associate with. Done.

Suggestions are always welcome.

Easy OpenID Delegation with Yadis

Lets say you have a site somewhere that you want to use as your openid. The easiest way to delegate OpenID is to put these in your <head>

<link href='http://www.myopenid.com/server' rel='openid.server'/>
<link href='http://ptarjan.myopenid.com/' rel='openid.delegate'/>

That requires that the URL you are putting them on returns HTML. For me, I have a 302 redirect from http://paulisageek.com to http://blog.paulisageek.com so all of my enpoints are getting my identity as http://blog.paulisageek.com. Not what I wanted.

Enter : Yadis. I created a small Yadis file that says the same thing as those link elements. openid.xml.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xrds:XRDS xmlns:xrds="xri://$xrds" xmlns="xri://$xrd*($v*2.0)" xmlns:openid="http://openid.net/xmlns/1.0">
    <Service priority="10">
    <Service priority="20">

And then redirect it if the HTTP Accept header is application/xrds+xml. This is my index.php on paulisageek.com :

if (strpos($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT'], "application/xrds+xml") !== FALSE) {
    header("Content-Type: application/xrds+xml");
    echo file_get_contents("openid.xml");
} else {
    header("Location: http://blog.paulisageek.com");

And Voila, it work as an openid endpoint.

Update: You can also use mod_rewrite to get people to your openid.xml file :

RewriteCond %{HTTP_ACCEPT} application/xrds\+xml
RewriteRule .* openid.xml [T=application/xrds+xml,L]

You can replace .* with the urls that you want to be allowed openids, but I intentionally have .* so that I can have unlimited openids for myself.