Friday, April 25, 2008

On Being a Yahoo! Store

This post is a bit "inside baseball", BTW. Forewarned is forearmed. Now, on with the show:

An Example of Yahoo! store RTML

Being primarily a PHP/MySQL developer (with a little thrown in), I miss the customization that those development environments allow, what with Software Supply Group being a Yahoo! store and all. Still, with custom templates and Yahoo's deeply goofy Lisp-ish RTML development environment, customizations can be made, though stuff I could put together in PHP in 20 minutes ends up taking me all day. Yahoo's RTML is not, BTW, the same as Remote Telescope Markup Language, though when I first started working with RTML, it was actually easier to find information for that than Yahoo's RTML. I certainly got a lot more hits on Google for telescopes than Yahoo! stores.

Anyway, here's one of my proud RTML achievements: A page designed to sort through all the products currently in our store and list them in order of price, from highest to lowest. May seem simple (and would have been for me in PHP), but it was, I guarantee you, a Herculean labor. Doable--and I finally did it--but the development for me is not intuitive, I don't always understand exactly why I finally got it working (and why it didn't work before) and it seems like such a simple and common thing. It irritates me that I have to struggle for it.

And to this day, I haven't figured out how to increment a value arbitrarily in RTML. I can do it in as part of a FOR loop, but I can't do something simple like say "x=x+1". Huh? But, it does have several tools customized specifically for the making of Yahoo! stores, and that's a big plus when it comes to displaying product images or generating links that take you where you want to go in the backend or on the site. And I've seen people do some elaborate things in their Yahoo! stores, although most of them end up using some combination of Ajax to get it working. I've heard promises of Yahoo! getting their Yahoo! stores working with PHP and MySQL in such a manner that you might be able to access the Catalog Manager, thus allowing greater flexibility by pointing to a Yahoo! Web hosting account where a fellow like me could do some customized PHP/MySQL magic on the store. But, so far, no such luck. And while there is much to like about the Yahoo! store platform to like, the creakiness of things like the built-in Yahoo! store search engine demonstrate that Yahoo! is slow to add new features and capabilities to their platform. But, it is a generally robust platform (that's why we use it), so I'm not complaining. Or, only complaining a little.

Anyway, in addition to my list of products sorted by price (I know, it doesn't seem like much, but I did it in RTML which, believe me, for a developer steeped in PHP and and MySQL, it's like a successfully navigated the Klingon initiation into manhood) I also managed to develop a sitemap that works the way I wanted it to. See my fabulous Software Supply Group Sitemap here!

As a point of clarification, in the old days site maps or indexes were always a page where you could get to most anywhere on a website, and see it's structure. Nowadayas, they often mean an .xml file describing the site, often for search engines. We also have one of those here, keeping in mind that some browsers may not render XML prettily, or at all, in case you click on it.

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boreder said...

I could do that in my sleep!

Kevin S. Willis said...

Good for you! I wasn't trying to throw down a gauntlet in challenge, or suggest and others couldn't do it faster and easier than me. I was just glad I could. Because I could certainly do it in my sleep, with both hands tied behind my back and only my tongue to type with, in PHP or ASP. But doing it via RTML and imposed limitations of limited documentation of that system was quite the challenge for me. Glad it wouldn't be for you! Kudos, and good work.

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