YubNub and UofT library catalogue access

March 26, 2006, [MD]

YubNub was created in June 2005 as the result of a one-day programming contest in Ruby on Rails, a very rapid and neat web-framework for Ruby. It bills itself as a “social commandline for the web”, and it’s pretty neat. Let me explain. Not many people know that browsers like Firefox have the opportunity to create web shortcuts (through the bookmark menu), so for example if you often go to Wikipedia to search for something, you could make the shortcut wp, which would enable you to type

wp ruby on rails

which would perform the Wikipedia search, and take you to that page. This is a big timesaver, however trying to figure out how to make web bookmarks for various sites is a major pain, and it’s also stupid to keep reinventing the wheel. So the idea with YubNub is that you can create a commmand, and make it public, and let everyone else use it. Then they took it further, and let people build on each others commands. It’s pretty cool.

You can either go to Yubnub.org and run commands from there directly, or there are many ways of “installing” yubnub in your browser, depending on which browser you are using. For example, in my browser (Camino), I can type “y (yubnub command)” in my address field, and it does what it’s supposed to. For example “y wp norway” will give me the Wikipedia page for Norway. “y gimyim cars” will split my browser window in two, and show hits from Google Images search on cars on one side, and hits from Yahoo Images on the other. “y fccca eiffel tower” searches for Creative Commons licensed pictures on Flickr. And so on.

And today I made my humble contribution to the command list. I had planned to try doing this for a week or so, but had a major essay to finish first. Now you can use utcat to search the University of Toronto library for keywords or authors, and uttitle to search for book titles. Combine this with “y gs efficiency” which searches Google Scholar, and you are ready to do research for that paper! (And don’t forget y gmt norway for when you need to call your family.)

(Note that in listing my favorite commands, I prefixed them with a “y” - this is because that is my particular way of invoking YubNub, you might put it in your search-engine field, without a prefix, or use another method to invoke it. See the installation guide linked to above).

This whole concept fits well into what I remember telling Wojciech about the reason I love Google so much: It resembles a command line. Granted, graphical systems are great, but the commandline is so much faster sometimes. Before, to get a currency quote, I had to go to xe.com, and choose “list more currencies”, and then find NOK and CAD on long drop-down lists. Now, I can do the following in Google “(230 *1.15) CAD / lb in NOK / kg”, which takes a price in Candian pounds, adds 15% taxes, and gives me the Norwegian price in kilos. Brilliant. And so much faster. An interesting point is that when speech-input to computers takes off, in a way, parsing them will resemble parsing a commandline.

Stian\ YubNub as a distributed operating system for the web\ How YubNub can make you rewire your brain patterns\ A really weird command - search the digits of PI\ Genuine VC does some higher level thinking about YubNub

Stian Håklev March 26, 2006 Toronto, Canada
comments powered by Disqus