Saturday, August 25, 2007

Facebook Developers Garage - Build on FB as Platform

Facebook Developers Garage on Saturday Aug 25th 2007. rocked!!!! It was an awesome event with 300 developers all handon discussions at Facebook headquarters, with excitement in the air that we are all part of some new beginning.

Caitlin O'Farell of Facebook organized it and keep a smooth flow of the event. Thanks Caitlin!

10 min of Lightning Round presentations by real facebook App developers
Everyone sharing their experience building and scaling Apps was the highlight of the event as they had different viewpoints about scaling, my summary is below.

All in all, Facebook is in early stages as a development platform with great promise with many smart minds betting on it with lot of promise to bring the real promise of the web to provided hosted solutions with power to user communities and promise of building inter-operable applications building on each other, reducing development costs. Its left to us to build Applications that create fundamental value and create businesses here!

1. Tyler Ballance of Slide was a great speaker, spoke in depth about building apps thats scale:

* Choose the language you are most comfortable in - php, .net or rails Do not choose php because Facebook is built in php or rails because thats new.
* Focus on building App and getting it to users, don't write spagetti code, optimize later.
* Compartmentalize your business logic from interface layer, similar to any large software app during design.
* Facebook helps to scale Apps using social graph, so you may scale from 1 to 3Mil in a week, so focus on your database which can crash with too many hits, keep a simple schema, key on integers,
* FBML on canvas pages is easy to scale, it puts the load on Facebook servers and they fix quicker than App developers, your App doesn't have to fetch users name, profile etc. Cut unneccssay calls to Facebook API because if anything on facebook users blame you as they cannot tell the difference. eg. iframe
* With IFRAME/HTTP you never have absolute control. The disadvantage of using IFRAME is the need to call FB API a lot and it heightens load on your server. Also limitation on multi user access with FBfriend selecter so, Slide (tyler) built their own multi-friend seletor for Top Friends App.
* Use Browers processing to your advantage eg Flash on the browser, use Javascript even if slow, offers better user experience
* Keep in touch with new FB stuff, they are fixing and adding to our feedback.
* Most users are on FB for fun, checkout what friends are doing, leisure activity. integrate as much as possible with social graph.
* Someone asked about importing 3000 friends. Tyler said there is technical limitations in interacting with FB API they'll timeout so they did batch loads in Top friends.

2. Joyce of Booze-mail from Renkoo $1M users serving 1Million drinks served per day.

* Joyce had a different views from Type on software calls and perception of Facebook users behavior.
* She gave detailed of what backend they have to manage the load.
they use HAProxy as Loadbalancer- free open source one and 3 webservers on Amazon Web Services which is slow, old, not too much memory with problem for persistence.
* They use Heap Writes, denormalizing them.
* Added a tier of Image caching, They use "Vanish" not "MemcacheT" which was Tyler's favorite (so it appeared)
* Joyce thinks people will do more than the simple fun things of today on facebook, though Booze-mail is purely in that fun category.

3. Matt Culver of Amazon Web Services(AWS) spoke briefly about using AWS, it first appeared he was part of the Booze-mail team, but he was talking about Amazon Web Services for FB App developers.
* Most people in the room knew about Amazon Web Services so he just gave some pointers.
*Amazon EC2 - blog, wiki - and CTOS Who Use AWS, a group on Facebook. Interestingly this group has open discussions on AWS alternative and comparision with AWS.

4. Ali Partovi, CEO of affirmed how Facebook was THE PLATFORM for anyone building any web business.
*They started as a dot come with and their growth spiked once they decided to become a total facebook application business.
* They have 16 Engg, 100% of time spent on Facebook Platform
*Ali is very optimistic on Facebook as a platform and addressed some user's concerns. He said think of creating an entire business, not just another widget.
*Are you worried about dependency on Facebook?
He trusts current management team but says build interdependency with FB depends on us too so they won't compete.
* He said all business on any platform needs to think of sustainability so no one can replicate their business. Ilikes is building connection between parties - itunes and facebook, ticketmaster, platform for artists to create profiles on facebook. They offer a music api to add music to other apps which is stitching them into the Facebook ecosystem.

5. Courses - Michael and Joeseph spoke very honestly about their experience.
*Wish I could talk to myself the night I launched.
*Take lot of advice from slide.
*Common theme of the day from everyone was- put your app out there and see what works.
*Get mathametical with your app - track every link - where its coming from, every invitations, see whats works, whats not, adapt quickly to emphasise the stuff that works.
* Settings preview of profile boxes - let users know as users get desensitized by notification.
*Michael was teacher for 3 yrs, found it difficult to get students to get to use any technology, but students were connecting on Facebook so this was perfect to build course on FB.
*Users care about things you didn't know so listen to your discussion boards.
* He said "Slide is wrong, not just fun, facebook is going to become the center of how we organize different aspects of our life."
Personally it reminds me of the early days of the web when everyone defined it from their perspective.

*What rail server - mongrols, optimizing for scaling have lot of work to do! have 30K users. *Working on a tax application by the side.
* Mistakes -didn't launch quickly once Fb decided to get rid of their courses app.
Focus on one thing that your users care about.
*Two of us full-time older brother helping part-time at night.
*Fun - making invite page lot better. - video chatroom where people can get together and talk.
*Tracking - started by using Google Analytics, slowing us down, build your own analytics into app right at start.

6. Joe an Eric Diep - Quizzes interviews - 4 mil users

*Started at F8 launch party.
*Work independently - manage your time, set your own schedule;
*Wear a lot of hats. scale, develop, dedicate time to talk to people outside us,
*Don't worry about scale.
*Great opportunity to make something in 1 weeks effect.
*Your app is prototype, pay attention to user feedback, some user needs guidance.
*Track everything what works what doesn't.
* We have 4 boxes for servers
*How do u deal with imitiation app - with same name. Facebook allows app with same name which is an issue for all developers.
*important not to think about monetization -till u have users invested in your product, coming back.

7. James of

*James platform Director for
*Facebook - not going to be same in 2 years, getting ready for it.
*Users - learning - schools used CMS. connect learning in school and your social graph. *Edutainment games, tutoring, - all apps
*Opening Files App as a platform for developer on facebook.
*Apps to share docs and tags and description with other apps.
* Tyler compared with FB Datastore which came from Facebook. Looks like something Facebook launched similar to the App, which is going to be an issue if we build something that can be part of the FB core OS.

8. Rock You Lance Tokuda, CEO RockYou

* Gave good stats on distrinution of users for apps. 87% Apps have than 10K users
1% have Million+
*RockYou owns Super wall which has 4.8Mil users
* He gave a casestudy of how they helped Y! Music Videos scale.
Y! Music App had only 7K users in 1 month. RockYou ported same source code and added viral features got 900K users in couple weeks.
What they did:
- Cross sell apps network got 100K users
- Virality , integrated with superwall,
* Lance gave a framework of designing good Facebook Apps
a) New users - simple linear flow, min steps to configure apps, provide defaults (min work)
b)Engage friends
Engage on invite- strong call for action
Ideal is when friends want to engage all friends
ongoing engagement - trigger events to invite friends or connect with them.
c) virality
Strong call to action for receiver
d)Integration with other Apps - cross sell existing user base
eg. likeness - quiz related to music

peter louis who developed superwall was there to talk to everyone.

* Louis announced Superwall API - All media types supported images, video, flash.
9. Chris Chan - Causes 3M users.
*Decision - name causes has a positive feel.
*Looks like Facebook (not separate branding), credibility with same font size, style.
* Decided to accept donations
*Viral flow - show cause page without adding app. If you shorten viral play too much, users won't understand what the apps is about.
* Tech - Asynchronous, reduce depenedency on Facebook. Stats we track and update, separate from user requests. Hired SQL consultant helped.
*F8 Story - Blake built zombie and vampires and chris. 10 days launched at F8 at 2pm.
$300K for donations, its 10cents per user. Testing is like eating vegetables.

User Announcements

1. VC view (didn't catch the VCs name, will check my notes and update): People will come, Facebook users are going to be worth $10/user so everyone should build apps for facebook.

2. Worth checking out

Dave @ Facebook summarized the day, then there was Pizza, networking and a round of indepth technical discussions.

Dave's summary talks about Facebook's welcoming attitude towards users and builds trust to build on Facebook as the next platform.

He says, users drive growth for apps, listening to community and adapt. Some apps are building an ecosystem of services offering interoperability between communities, which is very exciting for Facebook, which he calls "Value center community" so he encouraged everyone to build a suite of apps like Rockyou.

PS: I'll upload my photos from the event on FB later.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sudha,

It was a fantastic, stimulating event as you so capably described - thanks! So much so that I had trouble sleeping :)

It's amazing what the Facebook team have created and even more incredible that they are so willing to work with us all to add to their environment in creative and positive ways.

I got a very real sense of community and willingness to help each other from Facebook and from other developers.

Exciting times.


Mark Wayman

blakestar said...

great recap! just found your post looking for mike culver.

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