Something useful

Righty, I’ve started blogging more specifically about web-related stuff over at http://bigthingsandlittlethings.wordpress.com.

In fact, I just put up the first (possibly) useful article, on Flickr’s API, http://bigthingsandlittlethings.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/flickr-api-what-ive-learnt/

So, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, why not check it out.

Flickr API – what I’ve learnt

I’ve never really paid a huge amount of attention to Flickr, and even less to the Flickr API. I’ve had to rectify this recently as a site I’m working on needs to have an easily updatable slideshow as a fairly prominent element.

Flickr was the platform that we decided to go with to upload the photos to due to the fact it’s pretty nice and easy to use and there are a huge range of pre-existing apps etc that you can exploit to do pretty much anything you can imagine.

Flickr provides a standard way of embedding photos/photostreams, although it is via an i-frame, is fairly clunky and not very customisable – it also looks pretty crap if you want to make it sit with the rest of the site’s design. I explored various methods of calling the relevant photostream to the site via php and the Flickr API but really it was all becoming far more complicated than I suspected it needed to be. If you are a php-lover then the very clever Dan Coulter has written the phpFlickr class to act as a wrapper for the Flickr API and make interacting with it via PHP relatively easy – check it out here http://phpflickr.com/ there is also a very useful-looking tutorial over at Nettuts+ which details how to create a very nice photo gallery using phpFlickr – you can check that out here http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/php/how-to-create-a-photo-gallery-using-the-flickr-api/

As I’ve already mentioned all this was looking to be slightly too cumbersome for what I was needing – all I really needed was to be able to call the photostream (perhaps with the option to display photos within that stream with a specific tag) and for the embedded call to be style-able. If there were some nice, sexy transitions etc than that’d be a bonus.

I thought that there would probably be a jQuery-related solution out there, and unsurprisingly there was, loads of them. Once again I came up against solutions that did far more singing and dancing than I would ever need or want. I just wanted a lightweight, simple solution goddamnit – why does everything need to be so bloody complicated!?

Then I stumbled upon flickrshow, “a simple, lightweight javascript slideshow for Flickr”. Only slight problem was that it was still in public beta testing mode so there wasn’t any documentation available. However the demos that they’ve provided give you more than enough of an idea how to use the script and which variables do what. You can check it out here http://www.flickrshow.com/ – it’s absolutely perfect for what I need you can call photos from a particular user, using a particular tag or from a particular photo set and it’s all lightweight, easily customisable and ace. Excellent.

I must stress that there are numerous other Flickr solutions out there, flickrshow just suited my needs and spec – hence me highlighting it. There seems to be a vast range of possibilities using things such as phpFlickr – however I haven’t spent the time looking more closely at these yet as they weren’t required for this project.

But my interest has been piqued so I think that the Flickr API is something I’m going to properly re-visit soon.

Anyways, hope that this was in some way useful – feedback and comments would be very welcome – I’m still trying to work out what people would find interesting.

Ash

Back once again with the semi-useful behaviour

Righty, I realise that to date this blog has been a)infrequent and b)fairly boring and useless, I intend to remedy this.

The blogs I find most useful are those that offer advice, tutorials and point you in the direction of useful things. As I spend every day doing web design and development in some shape or form I feel that it is probably this that I can offer something in the way of useful content about.

We’ll see…

Anyway, my plan is to blog at least once a week with something useful.

Run run run/web web web

It seems that all I’ve really blogged about lately is running, and I’m going to continue that trend.

Yesterday I ran the inaugural Jane Tomlinson Hull 10k. We got a lift over with Maggie (Run For All’s head of press), which was great…the only problem being that Maggie needed to be in Hull very early and as a result we were picked up at 5am…5am! This is the second Sunday in a row that I’ve been up before 6.30am (last Sunday Becca and I went on an early morning bike ride) – it’s suprising how light it is at 4am (and how loud the birds are). The drive over to Hull is pretty boring, lots of motorway, so I carried on ready The Man Who Cycled The World (by Mark Beaumont) – which is excellent and I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in cycling, travel or slightly mad and ambitious adventures. We arrive at the Guild Hall in Hull shortly after 6 and made ourselves useful fetching and carrying things to help with a few last minute things (as one of the designated Run For All IT bods I immediately got sat at a computer on arrival).

Even at that time it was getting warm, by 8.30 as we made our way to the start line it was absolutely roasting. Luckily the course was fairly flat and part of it goes down to the river-front so there was a nice breeze coming in off the Humber. This was the first Hull 10K and the support along the course was absolutely great, comparable to the awesome crowds at last year’s York 10K. It makes such a difference to have loads of people having a great time and cheering you on and it always makes me smile to see the brilliant hand-made signs held up by kids with ‘good luck mum/dad/etc’ messages on. Despite the heat I finished in a PB of 45mins 57seconds, once again managing to convince my body that a sprint finish was a good idea – if only I could’ve kept my pace up between 6k-8k then I would’ve comfortably got below 45 minutes – need to do a fair amount of speed training over the next month if i want to stand any chance of getting close to (or hopefully under) 40 minutes at the Leeds 10K in July.

Right, that’s quite enough babbling about running, onto other things. I’ve been playing around with some ideas to enhance the Jane Tomlinson Appeal website, I’ve found a couple of nice jQuery twitter plugins and also this excellent (and very simple/easy to use) javascript flickr plugin – Flickrshow (http://api.flickrshow.com/v7/). I had a bit of a look at the YouTube API but it seems to be fairly stubborn and not hugely useful for the relatively simple things I’ve got in mind – I’m sure I can work something out.

In other web-news, I’m on the finishing leg for the Pickles & Potter and Northern Dales Farmers Markets sites – hopefully have a bit more news about them in the next week or so.

Half marathon, easier than a full marathon

Ash Mann - Leeds Half-MarathonOn Sunday 9 May, I ran the Leeds half-marathon. It was all a bit last minute, I had been toying with the idea since earlier in the year but it had always seemed a bit soon after the London Marathon so I had decided against entering. However immediately after running London, whilst high on endorphins or stupidly tired, or both, I made some enquiries to see if I could sort out a last minute place.
Thanks to some very lovely people at Run For All, and Leeds City Council, I managed to get myself in.

The day was great, 3800 runners took part, it was all very well-organised (although bloody freezing while we were waiting to start) and i saw one or two people spectating who i knew from work, which was a nice suprise. Everything I’d read and heard about the race mentioned the hills, “oh the hills are awful, they’ll make your legs fall off” and similar. Maybe it’s because the route took in most of where i head for my training runs, but i didn’t find the hills too much of a problem. It was a little disappointing that there wasn’t much opportunity for a decent crowd to form – the route, taking in the ring road, made that fairly impossible – but what support there was was great and i event managed a sprint finish to finish in a (fairly respectable) time of 1 hour 47 minutes 21 seconds.

Have got the Hull 10K coming up this weekend, here starts my work to get a sub-40 minute 10K time (possibly a foolish and unrealistic goal).

Ben Cotton’s life(stream)

The ‘lifestream’ (his description, not mine) that I’ve been working on for Ben Cotton has gone live www.ben-cotton.com.

Ben had asked me to develop a 1-page site that pulled together all of his online activity in one place.

The new site uses Simple Pie (http://simplepie.org/) to aggregate the rss feed from Ben’s ‘Social Web Thing’ blog and also uses Twitter’s standard JSON call to display all Ben’s latest Twitter activity (although this script is a little temperamental as it relies a little to heavily on Twitter’s sometimes unreliable servers – i’m looking at alternatives.

The site also links directly to Ben’s LinkedIn, TwitPic, Twitter, Scribd and Flickr accounts as well as using the Google Maps API to produce a location map of Edelman’s London office (where Ben works).

Last but not least I’ve also included the ever-present Google Analytics to give Ben some decent stats.

Phase two of the development will see me combining all of Ben’s rss feeds into one ‘master’ feed and providing Ben with a simple CMS to control certain elements (such as meta data) of the site.

24/7

The result (or lack of clear result) of the British general election has seen me glued to the 24 hour news coverage for the last 4 days (particularly the excellent BBC and Guardian live blogs).
This style of coverage suffers slightly in a vacuum and, through force of necessity, ends up endlessly repeating itself. However alongside the almost super-human sleep-defying powers of messers Dimbley, Paxman et al it also throws up the odd piece of tv gold, such as this little gem which has spin doctor supremo, Alistair Darling, winding up professional moron Adam Boulton until the latter seems ready to explode.
Brilliant.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gkHwU4DRA8&feature=player_embedded