Saturday, October 20, 2007

New Facebook Application - Just Three Words

Paul and I released a fun Facebook application last week called "Just Three Words".

It's a tell-a-story mashup where you and all of your friends (and we do mean all!) put together a story three words at a time. Remember that childhood game where you pass the paper around and everyone adds three words? Same thing - but in this case we take advantage of the simultaneity of users' access to a web-app: nobody has to wait for their turn and the story build rather quickly.

If you have friends like mine who either a) are witty & clever, b) have wildly dirty minds, or c) both, you get some very, uh, interesting stories!

We'll be making small enhancements over the next few weeks to make the user experience more fun and engaging. Come on by and start a story or read existing stories, or better yet add your three words to a three word story.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Conferences

I just got home from attending two conferences - CommunityNext (organized by Noah Kagan and Johnny Lam) and GraphingSocialPatterns (organized by Dave McClure).

The latter is still going on - I had to get back to Los Angeles for some prior commitments, alas.

At CommunityNext, in addition to meeting some exceptionally bright developers & listening to their ideas about and experiences from developing successful Facebook applications, I listened to various presentations & observed: every successful developer/entrepreneur was quick to market with a product and quick to iterate new releases based on user feedback. In addition, they "failed" quickly - if an application didn't gain traction as hoped, they'd move on to a new idea.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to speak with, among others, the developers of Free Gifts, Top Friends, Honesty Box, Nicknames, Audio Poke, Social Moth, one as-yet-unlaunched application, the CTO of Hi5, and representatives from UserPlane, Compete, FaceReviews, both Noah Kagan and Johnny Lam, and others. (If I didn't mention you here, gimme a shout!)

It was humbling to sit at a table with developers whose Facebook applications have user bases in the millions while mine has barely 1000. Lesson: Move! Build something else quickly, and iterate. And simplify! While there are users who think what I've built is cool and fun, it needs to be re-worked to allow for more social engagement - and it still won't appeal to a general population, but rather only to the music&sound-geek-crowd. So we're moving on to building other applications & will see what takes.

And if you have a chip on your shoulder as large as the one I have on my shoulder, being humbled sucks. So I won't be blogging much for a while.. I have a lot of work to do.

At GraphingSocial, which I was only able to attend for one day, I took the technical session given by R. Tyler Ballance of Slide.com. He reviewed a Facebook application he created specifically for the class (Why Are You Awesome?) , gave insight into some ways to build a better application (E.g., use fql), and presented an excellent walkthrough of how to get started. If you're interested in building facebook applications, watch the video once it's on the web. I suggest keeping an eye on the GraphingSocial website.

I also got to meet Dave McClure, who truly rocks. I've been following his blog for a while, and his "Startup Metrics for Pirates" presentation is a must-see for anyone building a web site or application, or even an intranet application since within an intranet, your "customers" are your employees.

Some technical notes from R. Tyler's presentation:
  • If you're building a facebook application, try to use fql instead of the apis. If you don't know what this means, email me or leave a comment and I'll reply - or come to the IRC channel for Facebook and ask anyone there: it's on freenode and is called #Facebook.

  • If you're working in python and using the excellent pyfacebook module, I'd suggest adding cjson to the code. The module is written to use simplejson, but cjson is much faster. What I did was to try import cjson and fall back to simplejson on an exception. If you're using django, pyfacebook is the way to go. Also, I prefer to use pyCurl to urllib2 for heavy http work.

  • Learn to love the Facebook developers wiki.