Saturday, September 15, 2007

Facebook and Firebox - Which is the Real platform and for Who?

I am one of you who shares the dream of an inter-connected Web where:
- A site and Web Application are not different terminologies
- Everything is online and accessible from anywhere
- A user uses the web site for what its meant to do without stopping to think of technology and setting up or downloads etc. (I am thinking of a seamless user experience here)
- Web Apps are built seamlessly upon one another - extending todays' world of Open Source, XML, APIs (real ones which offer the developer time saving and reliability)

So all this platform talk excites me wondering if the era is on where we can really get there!

You all know my excitement of Facebook as a platform, many of you have been nice to share your preview of Facebook Apps everyday.

I work on a Mac, use no browser other than Firefox and love to try every technology (sleep takes away some of my day) every time I can get in the web - hosted, digital delivery, content world.

Facebook - Whose Platform is it?

Lets get out of the Myth that its cheap to build a Facebook App, a prototype, yes. A real app which can take million users requires all the same 3 tier architecture, load balancing and handling caching problems, which adds to the cost. But yes, you can build an App with no users and put it to the market in 1-2 weeks to scale to 100K users fast and cheap!

Facebook is a Product Manager's dream because it offers easy access to a user's social graph.

Like the web brought publishing technology closer to a non-technical content publisher, facebook is a marketers dream. I am amazed at how easily Facebook developers today talk about "that is not my profile of users" or "engaging users" discussions segmenting user targets, under standing their needs, typing in feedback mechanism to incorporate user needs to product, and positioning discussions of differentiating and calling for action into the social graph.

Most Facebook Apps today are technologies, not really productized. The successful ones are - intentionally or unintentionally productized for an audience segment.

These are my 5 stpes for every Facebook App to be productized to tap into the social graph:

  1. Build invitation to friends as part of the product (like Booze-mail "send a drink" or Zoo "send an animal").
  2. Display a pleasant image and clear messaging with call for action in the profile box. This is where new users get to hear about your application, users care *a lot* about what goes on their profile and will decide to keep or remove the app based on profile box.
  3. Build in notification at every user engagement of your App. This will goto their friends and be displayed in your feed for all users to see. Keep the messaging of this feed item to communicate what your App is about, with a call for action for the new user to try. eg. Zombie does an awesome job on the profile box.
  4. Use your Canvas page with clean messaging about why one should try out the App, show as much stats as possible on the friend's network to build on the social influence to try out the app. eg Top Friends is a great example.
  5. Use the left bar below profile to show Apps Stats that builds intuitively into the social graph. eg. All Slide Apps do this well, Tyler has mastered this one well. The games apps that shows scores does this well and builds social pressure to try out the game to change your score or your position in your facebook network.
Firebox - A Web Platform for Developers

I want to expand this blog post to a meaningful comparison of Facebook and Firefox as a platform.

Firefox has taken the bold first move in launching
Rock Your Firefox App for Facebook.
It does an awesome job of offering a App environment to manage your add-ons an share favorites with friends etc.

Those of you who are at Mozilla24 today, can you share your ideas with me?
How many Firefox add-on developers are there? I want more than stats in understanding the real platform play.

Ping me on facebook or comment here or write to me, I'd love to expand this to a full post comparing Firefox and Facebook as platforms, are they complimentary where do they overlap, how do we see them converging or competing, what can we do today to get there?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What to expect at Facebook Developers Meetup?

Facebook Developers Meetup is a cool entrepreneurial group of people, all building facebook Apps, some for their work, most on their own!

The last FB Dev Meetup was hosted at Spock at Redwood City on Aug 30th 7pm.
30+ people showed up, and it was very informal led by Lawrence Sinclair, a quiet leader who let the group decide on the agenda. We had a round of intros and cool demos of Facebook Apps.

The group pitched in great ideas and brainstormed with each App developer.

Jay Bhatti co-founder of the people search engine Spock shared his enthusiasm about their Cartoon You Facebook App and how any user's attribute for the Cartoon in Facebook gets added as a tag to the user's Spock profile. The Spock Developer Wayne was modestly standing and spoke to everyone without pushing his App.

The Standford Duo Rob Fan and Brett Keintz were there with their 2 cool Apps - iheart and a cool game.

The audience has a mix of people building facebook apps, some business trying to understand whats a facebook app and what will make sense to build to extend their business to Facebook and many many smart people trying to figure out how to get into the Facebook Apps world.

Faraz came from who has the product findit toolbar to find answer to the question, "can fb user use findit toolbar in some form?". Hui was building a multi user video chat upon david kings "vawkr technology". Sujee Maniyam ( wanted to learn about Facebook Apps building.
phil wong from oracle there to listen said Oracle was focused on Web2.0 at ccom
Mr. Clement Huang of Copacast has a targeting technology that can help monetize any community including FB App users was there, he was modest about his pitch and I wish I had learned more.

There is no official format for the evening and you can volunteer to show a demo of your facebook App.

Demo 1:
Courses App's presented by Michael Staton, experience shared with amazing honesty
Has 50K users, was teacher wanted o build something for students, courselist.
1. Get it out as soon as you can. Users are very forgiving.
15 yr old posted a courses app 12 hrs ahead of them and got users mindshare.
2. Make invite page first, come with a gimmick, throw a paper airplane at people.
3. Users will send message directly fast. He hears from lot of textbook sellers. Set aside time for outside communications. Its easy to get sidetracked with negotiations, lot of deals fall thru. but you need to followup to see which ones are good.
4. There are merging with another courses app textbook finder
5. Keep early adopters by messaging them personally.
6. People care about what goes on profile as lot , most user requests
7. Lots of app are about identity and social interaction.
8. Started before F8 when FBML was not yet announced, so build app in IFRAME APP, not FBML , we spend lot of time on CSS, gotto build friends finder etc.
He wanted to know if IFRAME excluded from Most Active App? Doesn't show in metrics as they index only one courses app.
9. Students care about - picking class, knowing who is in your class, picking profs more than actual course itself.
10. Its safe. No one can chat with any 15yr old, gotto be in the same class with them.
11. How did you spread your App when you got started?
Advertised on Scrabulous App.
Found major schools in terms of FB activity Penn State.
This App is long-term value Profs asking how to claim themselves as Prof $5.
Ad options Fb Exchange, Adonomics, Slide, RockYou.
12. How long did it take to build Course?
Moonlighting for 2 months, in retro can build it in 2 weeks. Didn't know they were Facebook was going to kill their own courses App and were not ready when there was a void. 4 people working on it part-time.

Demo2 - Ellen Leanse Cool New Lists Application (launching now as we speak!)
  • Ellen's background is Strategy, Branding work, social community work consulting
  • PDG Creative in midwest is developing for Ellen.
  • Project list or Grocery list or Packing list - work together and manage to-dos.
  • Very Cool drag an drop items, invite a person. (wiki style collaboration)
  • Build on IFRAME to make it drag and drop
  • Tie to events, cannot be used outside of Facebook.
  • Theres a business idea here, gotto validate and use it.
  • Show it profile box, yes or not was the open discussion to the group
  • Apps need to be viral. Make an app to share with friends
  • Voting on images is cooler. Create cool recommendation. Social pressures that your friends is less cooler. better ranking. (younger crowd)
Demo 3: Lawrence matchthis a recommendation Engine

  • Used on AC2 S3, reading and writing over network to S3, so bad performance.
  • matchthis - ask questions, feeds to a system and makes recommendation to connect with people you should connect to, feedback with agreement or disagreement.
  • Dating is a natural,political.
  • Once you want to expand beyond your network, you can use matchthis.
  • Very brainy algorithm and data massaging done, Lawrence was modest about his 6 mo effort on it so far.

Demo 4: Robert showed iheart
  • Two apps helps each other, another is a game
  • Robert is the most knowlegeable and articulate facebook developer who understands the social graphic and building product to tap into it.
  • Random selection of friends.
  • link to zazzle to make a t-shirt, link to other app (play game)
Demo 5: Voicemail and Zoo by Action

  • Zoo is such a colorful and fun app, EVERYONE loved it.
  • There was lot of suggestions and feedbacks to integrate voice into Zoo, which Action has got done already.
  • You send an animal to a friend for free, very viral.
  • How diff from tag app. Add fun and playfulness. Voicemail app was compared with Audiogift app.
  • What he did for viral spreading? Built a Monkey app to promote Zoo, people actually
  • facebook apps - these days you can cross promote apps like a link exchange.
Facebook meetup and inbetween: am excited about the next Facebook Developers Meetup.

I have have the privelage of getting beta previews of many cool apps build by my new facebook meetup friends. I have exercised my product management muscles by offering advice of messaging and product features to tap into the social graph.

I tried my hands at building my own test Facebook App using only FBML calls. Now I know why Dave McClure compares Facebook to Visual Basic.

Where to go from here?

I would like to get more educational discourse to help the new facebook developer covering topics on decisions they made on language, hosting platform, caching servers, finding their partners, beta testing, building viral functionality .....
Maybe we can have someone present on a topic and have a followup networking sessions in alternate meetup meetings? Do you like the idea? Are there others who think like me?

See you all tonight!