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Sunday, December 16, 2007

OpenSocial and Ning

Ever since OpenSocial platform was announced by Google I wondered who will benefit the most from cross-social-network applications?
Probably not Google - it was forced late into the game by Facebook and realized that market will not accept another closed platform for the social apps.
Could it be MySpace? Surely it will be a nice addition to the kaleidoscope of widgets crowded on user's pages.
And only today I realized the major benefactor - with its own ecosystem of small social networks. One-time effort of creating a hosting container for the OpenSocial by Ning will be realized by all of the hosted networks.
Simply brilliant combination of open standard and Ning's business model!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons learned from CS377W (Stanford facebook class)

Stanford successfully created a unique mix of:

  • Open social network platform (thanks to Facebook)
  • Exceptionally talented students
  • Focus on success (as defined in social network world by number of app users, stickiness, time per visit)
  • Ways to measure success (thanks to Google analytics)
  • Sponsors with their push for app monetization (Social Media)
  • Technical leadership (thanks to Dr. BJ Fogg, and Dave McClure)

From this mix number of Facebook applications emerged. No all of them were equally successful but each one teaching their own lesson on success in a new world of social media. Common theme that I managed to pick up:

  1. Survival of the dumbest. Successful applications do not expect anything from the user a beyond couple (or even better - one) click. What application do should be obvious within 3 seconds. This seems to be the attention span for an average FB app user (my dear readers – you are not typical J )
  2. Focus on invitations. With the number of viral growth channels available for FB applications, invitations that is the part of application work flow remains the most important factor for the application user base growth
  3. Math is important. Teams that figured out correct set of measurements, instrumented FB applications to provide these measurements, and acted on the feedback happened to be the most successful applications
  4. Application name is important
  5. Good graphics helps

6. Know where FB deficiencies could be turned into application advantages (successful applications are hard to uninstall and there is a reason for it)

7. Programming language/platform matters. PHP seems to be the winner

If you are still with me, below are my unedited notes on individual applications:

Pictures with collaborative filtering (

Pick me up ( experimented with whether or not to enforce rules on number of friends to be invited to use the application. Lesson: tell the rules but do not enforce them

Funny images ( – rate images – send pictures to friends, verticals helped– cars, architecture – force to invite 10 friends to unlock application (!) exp growth for architecture app 40% day-by-day

Good eats ( – social restaurant recommendation – find places to eat – high user engagement 6 pages/10 min avg. friends who are using the application. Activities, search, updating recent recommendations. 1-clik recommendations -. Virtual points- goes to ranking (medieval system) – leader board on the dashboard

Lovechild ( – collaborative digital parenting. Multiple parents, number of actions. Compete to rise the best lovechild. Branded digital goods – branded outfits and apparel . Great imaging by Sylvia Yun! You are the best!

Share the Love( – card game – fail because users invite only friends, no feeds [critical for installations]. Change to “Share the Love”

- Do not give users too much to do – single action! – encourage communication
Exp growth /1/2 mil installs

Bless me ( – single action 5 weeks – 300K users. Religious users. User retention. Marketing – iteration. Simple – attractive – not destructive

Matchmaker( – Initially did not work. Main action should be invitation!!! Hug me -> squeezeMe. User receive and reply on the same day.

Dodgeball ( Nobody reads rules. 2 step process for throwing balls 2% grows rate. Dimmer application – single – “hit 10 friends” and “open new level” 18%. Cleaner interface 1-step process!

Wall of Shame ( –later transformed to Yo Momma. Bulletin board of what people hate. Leverage invite. Distribute jokes. Sending insults using invitation mechanism. Simplicity- invite – know the demographic (cynical may not be the best)

Polls ( – People a lazy^3 Took off when created pre-define questions

Compliment box ( – good first page with images of friends. Benefit? Social Value? Guide the user – remove functionality.

Super Status ( – lightweight communication – microblogging space. Attention span \ Go away from Facebook’s ‘is’ style to do reach content. Commenting on statuses. Tags.

Scribbled Photos ( Mash-up on top of photos. Creativity. Random selection of first photo. Colors/undo. Instantaneous gratification. Pre-fill all possible slots. Future: stamps – pre-drown content.

College: the numbers – engaged Kaplan for the distribution – name recognition. See where the score are in relation with other applying to the college.

Social Buzz ( My experts. My credibility. Micro connections between friends. Propagate content between friends. Optimize first user experience.

Commonalities( Look into profiles. To come up with common elements.

Social Buzz. ( Kiva, microfinance. Distributing money from sponsor shown in the application. 40 loans.

OneVoice. Started as Radio/TV for FB. Users rate [U-tube] playlists and DJs. Use emotions for ratings.

Save the Rainforest – vocab game. Started with the idea of creating socially meaningful application. Vocab game. Monetization from ads to benefit the cause.

Guess Who? ( Board made out of mutual friends create shared intimacy ! act fast on surprising data.

Car overload. Engage advertisers by segmenting the market and providing relevant to app advertising.

Fun, Inc. Split app. 1 button and text box. Acton –and- reaction. Force to invite friends. Had to abandon .NET for PHP.

Tournaments ( Create/share tournaments. 1 click creation tournament +

Send Hotness ( – 5 Mil users(send hotness to friend). Viral factor = conv ration * invitation ratio * engagement rate > 1. Required to add users. 10 – req – 20 Max limit of FB.

KissMe ( 1-st to reach Mil in class. Full moon on the quad. Appealing action. Provocative. Hard to reject a kiss. First gain users – next create deeper experience.

Perfect match ( “Stable marriage problem” math problem. Announce result first – than collect preferences and improve result. 3.5 Mil users. User mini-feed. Catchy message. Invitations. Next – live/love chat.

Hugs ( 2 Mil users, 15 Mil hugs

Summary: best practice – go viral first – then deep; instrumentation/analytics; session time, K-factor; iteration dev process. Viral factors-> message -> measure. Extremely short dev time/cicle hrs-days.

Monday, December 3, 2007

leading social networks

Here is the dynamics of the socical network use based on the Alexa's data:
Is there a dip in Facebook use? And OpenSocial is not on the Myspace or Hi5 yet. What would be really interesting is to see how this dynamic will change when social apps based on OpenSocial platform will be rolled out.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

MySpace will join OpenSocial

MySpace will join the list of social networks participating in OpenSocial initiative. Other members include:
  • Orkut
  • Salesforce
  • LinkedIn
  • Ning
  • Hi5
  • Plaxo
  • Friendster
  • Viadeo
  • Oracle
  • SixApart

Looking forward for the announcement tonight at Google

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finally there is a way to bring some order to the data on the Web:
I am very excited about the project and the very elegant way of linking structural data, unstructured data, images, people, time, and place in a form that is both accessible by humans and computers.

- Gene (

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why Facebook will eclipse Google

Today, when Google stock reached a new high of 623.22 and company seems like a dominant player of the Internet game, I take liberty to declare that within 5 years Facebook will eclipse Google.

  1. Social media potentially more profitable than search. Search is either "find-and-leave" pattern or "search-clickonthead-leave" (and only on this exit money are made by the search company) . Social media is where people come to communicate, express them self, play, hang around, date, and (one day) shop together. Longer people stay - more money could be made.
  2. Facebook already gained and most likely will retain leading role controlling big slice of the social graph. They are brilliant in terms of design, user focus, and execution.
  3. Facebook engaged developer community in the level I have not seen since Java days.
  4. Facebook is heading toward the application infrastructure and development platform that will rule the market similar to how Microsoft used to rule for many years with Windows
  5. My blog that I started as software architecture becomes more-and-more Facebook application development blog :)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Inside Facebook

Read a nice book-blog recollection of an early days of Facebook. Stories are very much similar to early days of other companies, successful, or not. So what make it a fun reading is to decipher what really made this company a success story unheard since stratospheric flight of Google. Book is short. I read it in classic "paper" format but it is also available as pdf from writer's site:

Inside Facebook: Life, Work and Visions of Greatness

Thursday, September 20, 2007

JavaScript in Facebook applications

Facebook (finally) allowed Java Script in FB applications outside of IFRAME
Among other things, I liked how elegantly they are creating namespaces separating different applications on the same page. Seems that it cold be a security hole here - it is possible to enumerate java functions on the page and "impersonate" user actions with another apps installed on the same page. Other than that - it's great that we can use JavaScript outside of the IFRAME sandbox.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

SF New Tech September Meetup

Visisted SF New Tech September Meetup last night.

Very exciting! People in the audience simply rock. Formal presentations, on the other hand, are behind the curve. Meaning that smart people are not presenting or presenting in other venues? Or rather "work" than "talk"? :) presented upgrade to their browser plug-in. Good implementation but I do not personally see much of the future in the environment of customizable dashboards, gadgets and widgets with much richer experience also a couple years behind the curve - good use of GMap mash-up with RSS feeds. Generated active discussion and bunch of suggestions that were "pushed aside" by the presenter as difficult or computationally intensive to implement. Do we create start-ups to solve exactly these kind of problems? Hire a part-time architect to sort-it-out. - showed a Web site that is, basically, MediaWiki + custom plug-in. Impressed by accurate implementation, good job. Nothing revolutionary, but, really, is it really needed? - I understand obsession with scheduling lunch outings. A lot of work needed (especially integrating with chat software).

The 60-Second Soapbox is were most of the fun were. Apparently there are companies that specialize in placing people to work with "stock options" only compensation, people that want to grab the microphone just to show off there theatrical skill, I should admit, very impressive.

Summarizing the above was fun and I am looking forward for the next event.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Facebook Developer Garage - Palo Alto

A must-attend for Facebook fans:

Ping me here so that we can shake hands there

Minimo released by Mozilla

At some point (last year) I was discussion with Mozilla regarding location-aware application development for the upcoming phone-based web browser. Too bad that did not materialized into the code... Still browser is good and hopefully will capture well deserved attenshion and appreciation of the users. In my opinion it is superior to the much-hyped iPhone browser.
Here is the link for the app:
Minimo 0.2
Win Mobile is the only platform at the moment. I am sure other builds will be available soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Google Calendar Gadget

Goggle just release Calendar Gadget spec:

I like it. Especially the elegance of incorporating metadata into the iCal format.

Will try to create calendar gadget myself by extending one that I created for connect12 a short while ago: conference Google gadget

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Market maps

Found nice (and free) market maps:
My favorite is "The Gadget & Widget Universe"
Others include:
- The Skype Ecosystem
- A Guide to VoIP
- A Guide to Web 2.0 Communities

Great for your desktop or the wall (if you still have some space left)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


What not to do when you have a problem:

  • Encapsulate it into a bigger problem

  • Ignore

  • Delay

  • Hide, disconnect, or use any other method to burry the head into the sand

  • Give up

  • Write to the blog about it instead of solving it

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mapping Platform Selection



  deCarta ESRI GoogleMap MapQuest
Scalability + + + +
Internet/Internal Internet (hosted) Internal and Hosted Internet (hosted) Internal and Hosted
SDK, Ease of development Navigation SDK, rapid deployment for hosted solutions, no
code needed for simple apps (using Wizards)
ArcGIS for desktop, client and web dev. KML, javascript SDK SDK
Support + + good public forums +
Development Languages JavaScript API, WS Java, JavaScript, C++ for WinCE, Win XP, JSP, ASP, ASP.NET,
ColdFusion, ArcXML, WS, Eclipse dev environment
Major Markets Telecom, Wireless Goverment, Public works mostly Consumer, Google MapEnterprise for >500K hits a
day or when ads are undesired
commercial, asset management, logistics
Other pluses Free access to TeleAtlas data Exact boundary data integration with search platform, Maplets, add links to
maps, iPhone integration
(relatively) long history, MapInfo consulting, Points of
interest SDK