Yearly Archives: 2007

Everyone loves a contest

Pro-bloggerNothing gets bloggers’ juices flowing better than a leaderboard. Today we launched a friendly little contest to see who can add the most users to their MyBlogLog community between now and the end of the month. Face it, we’ve all been there – how many friends do you have on MySpace? How many of Facebook? How many are following you on Twitter? Now’s your chance – tell your friends to join your blog’s community on MyBlogLog and if you end up on top, we’re offering a bevy of fabulous prizes to help you blog better.

Details here. Be sure to join my community while you’re at it!

Tim O’Reilly is Skeptical about OpenSocial

Tim O’Reilly sums up quite nicely the key problem we’re all waiting to see solved with OpenSocial

If all OpenSocial does is allow developers to port their applications more easily from one social network to another, that’s a big win for the developer, as they get to shop their application to users of every participating social network. But it provides little incremental value to the user, the real target. We don’t want to have the same application on multiple social networks. We want applications that can use data from multiple social networks.

Tim’s a great writer and is able to sum up what took me over 600 words to try and describe. But both these posts are worth a read for the comments.

In my post, Paul Linder from Hi-5, one of the launch partners for OpenSocial says that OAuth will be the preferred authentication method that will potentially bind identeties together across social networks. This is great because it’ll be neutral.

In Tim’s post, Kevin Marks from Google reminds everyone of the technical challenges of preserving privacy of data across social networks that honor the complex rules and “social norms” of each social network. In his comment, Kevin hints that “publicly articulated performative” social networks (i.e. twitter, MySpace) would be easier to integrate because the data such as friend connections are public and connections are made with that in mind.

This is why I think the momentum and growth will favor social networks that are built on openness. Just as my parents are frustrated with the permissioning layers of flickr that I have put in place for personal photos, the vast majority of users are going to opt for simple to understand integrations, those that are open.

Getting back to what’s real

After a breathless day at the office with multiple IM windows open, twitter updates pinging away in my snitter window and heavy discussions on internal email lists, I retreated to a dinner party with my suburban neighbors to unwind from the week’s events. My mind was bubbling over with thoughts from the day’s news and the significance for the valley’s latest star, Facebook and mid-conversation over a tumbler of Maker’s with my neighbor who builds HVAC systems for companies like Cisco, Google, and Yahoo my neighbor interrupts and asks, “What is Facebook?”

Solipsists’ bubble popped I realize what a small corner of the world I exist. In the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters. With that in mind, allow me to share two items of mind-boggling impact that really send the mind reeling. These come to you via Todd Sampson, co-founder of MyBlogLog who sits next to me at the office and, in true renaissance form, has his fingers in all sorts of interesting developments.

Fab @ Home – full plans for a kit that will allow you to “print” a 3-d object out of any material. Check out the video. Because blueprints for the objects are just files with instructions for the printer, it’s now possible to download plans for things like spare parts for your washing machine or even a wedding cake. Imagine being able to email someone a chocolate bar!

Wired Science video on Body Builders which describes a process where researchers have been able to “grow” body parts for transplants.  Watch them grow a blood vessel which, after a few weeks, begins to pump blood on its own. Cell substraits are “printed” using recycled HP inkjet cartridges.

In light of this news, advancements in social networking seem so, trivial.

How does OpenSocial map identities?

I’ve been pouring over all the commentary on yesterday’s announcements of Google’s OpenSocial initiative. I’ll reserve judgment until the MyBlogLog team has had a chance to check out the documentation to see what’s possible. One open question I have is the one raised in this post by Dan Faber about the GetFriend call,

MySpace CTO Aber Whitcomb’s MySpace profile incorporates a widget from Flixster that shows what his MySpace friends think about certain movies. In order for that to happen, MySpace must look that information up in Flixster and the question I basically had was “How does the process know how to map a MySpace identity to a Flixster identity.”

This mapping is key. From what I can see in the API docs, you need to look up each person on a service and get back a service specific list of that person’s friends on that service. For example,

http://orkut.com/feeds/people/14358878523263729569/friends

This gets you a list of all the friends of this person on Orkut. This gets back a list of member IDs specific to Orkut. These member IDs can be used with the fields populated by the service to retrieve things like,

  • Display Name
  • profile url
  • email address
  • IM handle
  • phone number

This is what I glean from the API Reference doc. There is also another field called gd:extendedProperty where each service can put their own, service-specific information but it is not clear if this will extend to include a unique identifier that can be used to map a “John Smith” on one system to a “John Smith” on another.

So in order to make something like a flixter module work in a MySpace page to show what your MySpace friends are doing on Flixter this is what happens,

  1. Login into MySpace
  2. Have Flixter module lookup your MySpace friends via OpenSocial
  3. Have OpenSocial return a list of your MySpace friends with their OpenSocial numerical identifiers
  4. Parse the response for unique identifiers that you can use to lookup a list of Flixter users via OpenSocial
  5. Figure out which of the responses that are returned are, in fact, the same people on your MySpace friends list

Again, how do I make sure that “John Smith” that is on my MySpace friends list is the same “John Smith” I get back from Flixter? What if 20 “John Smith” records are returned? Which one do I present? I can double check email addresses but that can no only be easily spoofed but also the email address I use on MySpace might be different from the email address I use for Flixter.

MyBlogLog Services TabThis mapping is key. MyBlogLog has a Services tab on each members’ profile (click on graphic for a larger view) where members can enter all their identities on different social networks. This was built as a simple locater service because MyBlogLog members like to find each other where ever they hang out. MyBlogLog could be this mapping table but, as it’s built right now, there is no authentication to prove you own the profile you put into the table (other than Facebook) so we’d have to build that authentication layer in.

Maybe this is where OpenID comes in? Can OpenID serve as the unique key that ties this all together? Why weren’t they part of the announcement? This seems like a key bridge that needs to be put in place before all the pieces work as advertised. Am I missing something?

Update: Bob Warfield posts that Google ID is the recommended key to tie everything together via something called AuthSub. I sure hope this isn’t the only mechanism going forward. This brings us right back to a centralized, shareholder-owned, authentication service which isn’t very open.

Ballpark promotions gone horribly wrong

As we slide into the World Series we remember Five Ballpark Promotion schemes that went wrong. Includes gems such as the Cleveland Indians 10-cent beer night

Management forgot one small detail: drunk people get restless. More than 25,000 fans showed up for the event, most of them already tipsy at the gate. Among the more tame incidents was a woman who flashed the crowd from the on-deck circle, a father-son team mooning the players (good bonding experience, I guess) and fans jumping on the field to meet shake hands with the outfielders. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game, but never got a chance to win. Fans started throwing batteries, golf balls, cups and rocks onto the field and one even took the glove of the Rangers right fielder. As the player rushed into the stands to get his glove back, fans starting swarming the field to stop him and threw chairs to block his way.

Full list at Mental Floss.

Widget Summit, a conference done right

Widget Summit 2007 Badge

Earlier this week I moderated a panel at Niall Kennedy’s Widget Summit. It was the second year for this event which he co-hosted last year at the same time, right before the Web 2.0 Summit to take advantage of all the people in town. I want to give a public shout out to Niall for hosting an excellent conference that paid attention to a myriad of little details that often get looked over at other conferences.

Turn-by-turn directions, complete with Google Street view photos to help out of town drivers.

A great web site for the conference. Links to each speakers’ Facebook and LinkedIn profile was really handy so you could get in touch with folks you didn’t get a chance to exchange cards. Adding the MyBlogLog badge was to my page was a nice touch too.

The location (UCSF Mission Bay campus) was beautiful. The building was brand new and the colorful scheme made for a great backdrop for portrait photos. Lane Hartwell, the local flickr superstar, was the official photographer and has a great set online.)

Two-sided conference badges. How many times have you spent an entire cocktail party wandering around only to realize that you’ve been going by Mr. Blank all night because your badge had flipped over. Apparently the design of the badge was inspired by a spirited discussion on a Flickr photo somewhere about badge design.

Peet’s Coffee in take away paper cups. No fiddly china.

The dinner for the speakers at the Slanted Door was an excellent choice and a great way to get the people that are helping define the widget space together. Thanks Niall!.

A job board on the site because you know the widget companies are all looking for talent and they were all there.

Thanks again to everyone that was there for making it an enjoyable two days. See you all next year!