Apr 20

Rebooting your social network; When is it time? And how can you garden?

Tech with tags: 5 Comments »


After talking about the “Social Web” over the weekend, I heard about how the young’uns often reboot their social network every year or so. It becomes too unwieldy for them, they may have switched groups (high school to college for example) and they kick off a new account and start afresh. After getting all of those friends????? Hmm.

I have noticed something similar myself. I find that the gardening that you have to do once your social network evolves can be as intense as dealing with your RSS subscriptions. A lot of people are ignoring feed readers and instead just rely on the social streams and “friends” to tell them what is happening. Social aggregation really helps keep down the flow without making you think that you are missing out on something. I personally look forward to a day when I hang up the feed reader hat for awhile. It can be too heavy for my neck these days.

Anyway, back to the gardening. The problem that I have is that when I start on a new network, I plant a lot of seeds. People who connect to me will get connections back, as why not? However, if I get a follower on Twitter now, unless I recognize the username, chances are that I won’t make the time to follow them back. This is unfortunate, and is due to the fact that I perceive myself to be at the upper limit of the number of people that I can follow and still stay sane.

The problem though is that this new chap may have a lot more interesting things to say that someone who I followed on day 10. I just don’t unfollow enough (weed the garden).

I mentioned not taking the time to follow the person back and you may think “time??? to click on a link???” but that isn’t really where the time is. To do it right, I should either go back and read their past tweets and/or follow them and “give them a few days”.

One small change by Twitter itself that I would appreciate, and would help me follow back, would be to change the email notification that you get when someone follows you. Instead of the simple:

Hi, Dion Almaer (dalmaer).

Zaphod Beeblebrox (DaBeebiest) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Zaphod Beeblebrox’s profile here:

You may follow Zaphod Beeblebrox as well by clicking on the “follow” button.

Turn off these emails at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

How about showing me the goods. Let me know what I am missing by NOT communicating:

Hi, Dion Almaer (dalmaer).

Zaphod Beeblebrox (DaBeebiest) is now following your updates on Twitter.

You may be interested in following him back, and to help you decide, here are some of his recent tweets:

“I love catz”
“My cat is the cutest”
“@arthur can we leave!”
“Tie me kangaroo down sport is the best song evar!”
“@arthur uh uh!”
“Giggling. It’s sunny.”
“@arthur DON’T PANIC!”

Check out Zaphod Beeblebrox’s profile here:

You may follow Zaphod Beeblebrox as well by clicking on the “follow” button.

Turn off these emails at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

On a side note, I got to meet Alex Payne of Twitter who had some good insights on Bespin. Very helpful, and an all round great chap.

Mar 27

A different kind of container

Comic, Tech with tags: No Comments »


It is fun to see the wheel turn around again. I remember when EJB containers were the cats meow, and now when I hear someone say “container” in a meeting it is a social one.

I am happy to see some innovation from the Orkut folks. I have often been frustrated when I have clicked through something and been asked to install an application when I just wanted to see something simple. It makes me so mad that I never say no!

With OpenSocial, it’s possible to create environments where applications can spread because they provide great user experiences. The metric for success would be not the number of installs an application receives, but user engagement and happiness. Environments that focus on more than viral growth cultivate healthy, organic growth and usage. This contributes to the long-term sustainability of social platforms for both users and developers.

To that end, you’ll notice there are a number of functions in the OpenSocial API starting with “request” (e.g. requestShareApp, requestSendMessage). These functions define an agreement between the applications developer and the host container that allows the container to optionally prompt the user for more input, or simply deny the request. While each container will be able to define its own policy, we encourage apps developers and containers to take advantage of these functions to create an “install-free” user experience.

Jan 03

Netflix fellow endorsing Blockbuster?

Tech with tags: , , No Comments »

Adding an application doesn’t equal endorsement.

This showed up once again to me today as I had to do a double take on a sponsored piece of content in my mini feed:

Movie Clique

Hmm. Why is this strange? Well, Bill Scott is the UX dood at Netflix. This ad makes it looks like he is endorsing public enemy #1, Blockbuster. I haven’t emailed Bill, but the case is probably more that he wanted to give it a looksy. Who doesn’t?

What is Movie Clique?

A Facebook app from Blockbuster that:

  • Share: List which movies you’ve seen and which you want to see.
  • Suggest: Let your crew know about a must-see flick.
  • Rate: Stick it to the critics by rating movies yourself.
  • Review: Good? Bad? Ugly? Tell everyone exactly what you think.
  • Play Favorites: Make a list of your favorite movies of all-time.
  • Queue it Up: Link Movie Clique to your blockbuster.com account and add movies to your Queue right from Facebook.

Movie Clique Ad

Next we will see “Steve Jobs added the application Windows Vista” and the like.

Dec 29

Facebook finally giving me my messages where I want them

Tech with tags: , 1 Comment »

People are keen to jump on Facebook whenever they do something “wrong” (e.g. the Facebook Beacon debacle). Companies are going to make mistakes, especially when they are finding their way in a slightly new world, and are trying to work out the boundaries, and how to make money.

It is good that the community keeps a watchful eye, just as people are ready to pounce on Microsoft over IE and monopoly-type things, and even my company, Google. These companies have a lot of power, and a watchful eye can be a very good thing.

There are certain features that users have been glamouring for, and it appears that Facebook is slowly adding them in.

One of my pain points has been a simple feature. It drives me nuts to get emails like this from services:

“Dion, someone left you a message. click here to get it”

Just show me the freaking message. Some claim that it is smart to do this for page view purposes, but that smells bogus to me. Do what the users want, and it will be better for you. In this case, it has already been better for Facebook that they changed this, and I now see my Wall and Fmail messages:

Facebook Messages

Why has it been good for them? As I now respond! I participate more! Next, they need to let me reply to the darn email to write back instead of going through FB again. Forget about forcing me onto facebook.com and let me use you as a real platform. With the Bebo announcement, it seems like they are getting it, and doing good things. I hope that 2008 will have a very different look to social networks, and we will move to the hard part of getting data portability in a way that makes sense for users.

I never want to have to enter contact/friend information again.

Dec 24

Interviewing Brian McCallister on Ning, OpenSocial, and Apache Shindig

Google, Tech with tags: , , , , 1 Comment »

Steve Yegge just talked about X programmers in his latest rant:

But you should take anything a “Java programmer” tells you with a hefty grain of salt, because an “X programmer”, for any value of X, is a weak player. You have to cross-train to be a decent athlete these days. Programmers need to be fluent in multiple languages with fundamentally different “character” before they can make truly informed design decisions.

When I think about the opposite of the weak player, I think of Brian McCallister. He seems to thrive in many languages. He tinkers in Ruby. Builds a platform in Java. And, even plays a little with PHP. And then he is off playing with Scala, Erlang, LISP, Haskell, etc etc etc.

I always enjoy meeting up at a conference, and now that we live in the same hood, I feel like we should get together more. It is fun to run into each other at the Palo Alto farmers market after all :)

Anyway, when I saw that Brian had proposed Apache Shindig as an open source OpenSocial incubator, I knew that I should get together and have a chat with him.

This interview is the result of that conversation: