Hey Yahoo, You’re Optimizing the Wrong Thing

I was visiting my grandparents yesterday, and my grandfather asked for help e-mailing an article to some of his friends. I asked him to show me how he normally writes an e-mail, and taught him the magic of copy and paste (it is amazing if you haven’t seen it before) but I noticed that in the course of sending an e-mail and checking on his inbox, he clicked on this ad three times.

When I asked about it, he didn’t realize he had clicked the ad — he just thought these screens popped up randomly — because he didn’t realize that his hands were shaking on the trackpad.

I’m sure the data says that that’s the optimal place on the screen for the ad. I’m sure tons of people ‘click’ on it. I’m also sure it’s wrong, and it results in a terrible experience.

It’s common sense, but experiences like this are great reminders that data only takes us so far, and creativity and clear thinking are always required to find the best solutions.

Yahoo, please fix this!


LSL: Newspaper Stand (Pull Data From an API and Display it in Second Life)

Second Life news stand

Second Life news stand

One of the more popular objects that I created in Second Life is the News Stand. This charming device takes any query term and displays the two latest headlines from Yahoo! News. Clicking the news stand will load the top news story for the topic in a web browser.

I’ve gotten more requests to customize the script than I can possibly keep up with, so I’ve decided to release the code under a creative commons license. I hope you find it useful! Please let me know if you make improvements, so that I can link to them from here.

Unfortunately, parsing XML at all and RSS feeds in particular is extremely messy in LSL. This script doesn’t contain a general RSS feed parser — the parsing code was written specifically for the Yahoo! news feed.

// News Stand script
// by Ann Enigma

string url="http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/rss?p=";
key requestid;
string current_url = "http://news.yahoo.com";
integer gLine = 0;
key data_card; // for settings notecard
string query;

integer mins = 10; // number of minutes between refreshes

get_news() {
    llWhisper(0, "Refreshing the news...");
    requestid = llHTTPRequest(url,[HTTP_METHOD,"GET"],"");       
}

default
{
    state_entry()
    {
        data_card = llGetNotecardLine("Settings",gLine); // load settings from notecard
    }

    // read data from the notecard
    dataserver(key query_id, string data) {
        if (query_id == data_card) {
            if (data != EOF) {    // not at the end of the notecard
                if (gLine == 0) {
                    query = data;
                } 
            }
        }
        state setup;
    }
    changed(integer change) {
        llResetScript();
    }
}

state setup {
    state_entry()
    {
        url += llEscapeURL(query); // set the url
        get_news(); // get the news!
        llSetTimerEvent(60*mins); // every mins # of minutes
    }

    touch_start(integer total_number)
    {
       llLoadURL(llDetectedKey(0), "Current Top Story", current_url);
    }
    http_response(key req_id, integer status, list metadata, string body) {
        
        integer count = 0;
        string display;
        
        if (req_id == requestid) { // parse the results (unfortunately messy)
            list result = llParseString2List(body,["<",">","n","[","]"],[]);
            integer length = llGetListLength(result);
            integer i = 0;
            for (i = 0; i < length; i++) {
                if (llList2String(result,i) == "title" && llList2String(result,i+4) == "/title") {
                    display += llList2String(result,i+3) + "n";
                    if (count == 1) { 
                        current_url = llList2String(result,i+6);
                    }
                    count++;
                }
            }
            llSetText(display, <1,1,1>, 1.0);
        }
    }
    timer() {
        get_news();
    }
    changed(integer change) {
        llResetScript();
    }

}

This script is released under Creative Commons License. Have fun!

Create a notecard called “Settings”, with a single line containing your search term. For example:

Educational Technology

The original news stand comes with these instructions, which may come in handy:

To set up the News Stand, simply open the "Settings" notecard, delete the default search term, and type in your own!

This gadget will refresh every 10 minutes, and will display the top two headlines on Yahoo! News for any search term. If you click on the news stand, it will load the top story in a web browser.

If you would like to build your own news stand, you can simply drag the script and "Settings" notecard into any object.

If you want the no-assembly-required version, the News Stand is available for L$350 at Xstreet SL Marketplace or from the ICT Library on Info Island in-world.

The original news stand object was created by (now former) student Kyle Pouliot.