Firefox Extension: Twitterfox

Twitterfox is a handy little Firefox Extension for all users of Twitter. It keeps you up to date with your friends twitters, and gives you a nice quick interface for posting. It takes up a tiny piece of real estate on your status bar (an issue if like me you have a lot of extensions that place things there, I have run out of space on some of my installs, and Firefox gets a bit ugly when that happens).
What is also worth mentioning is that it is really nicely designed, the alerts and interface for reading/posting twitters is tiny and well done. I suspect that the style may well end up influencing other similar extensions, as it is the way to do it. I’d love similar for status updates to Facebook for instance.

BarCampOxford announced for September 2008

Quietly excited to see the announcement of BarCampOxford. Barcamp is a series of user-generated conferences, where participants provide the content, and help to run and organise it themselves. I can remember reading about the rise of BarCamps a couple of years ago, and I’m very interested to see it in action, get a feel for how it works, and of course participate in it myself. Many more details are on the BarCampOxford page for what they have planned thus far.

EDIT: BarcampOxford has in fact been rescheduled for September 20-21 2008.

Nokia Mosh – Share Applications and Media

I’ve been meaning to write about Nokia Mosh for a while. It is a place to share all forms of mobile media, from images and videos to themes and applications, for all of their current and recent phones (including of course the N95). You can upload and download anything on the service. There is also a social networking side to it, as you can build up a collection of your favourite apps, comment on them, and share them with friends.

It is of particular interest to anyone interested in new Symbian applications. You can search for new releases and versions, and see what is popular with other users. It is fairly open, anyone can upload what they like, but they do police it, through a combination of observation and complaints (it isn’t a huge service, and is still in beta). It is worth reading the comments on an application to see how other people have got on with it, and none of the content is assured by Nokia, so any installation is at the users own risk.

I’m going to work through some of the applications I find on there, and talk about them on here over the next few months. I’ve set up my own collection on Mosh if you want to see what I’ll be looking at. I’ll make no guarantees for any of them either yet, but have a look through them, and obviously if you use the service yourself, add me as a friend.

Flock for 64-bit Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon

I’ve been using the Mozilla-based Flock browser more in the past month, I do like how integrated the social networking side of it is. I can’t find extensions for Firefox that do it all so neatly and seamlessly. I’ve decided to start using it at work, and hit an issue, namely that the version supplied on the Flock site doesn’t work with 64-bit Linux. However, Getdeb.net does compile a 64-bit version for the current and previous versions of 64-bit Ubuntu, namely Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon. This worked fine for me in Gibbon.

Blogged with Flock

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Another piece of the Google puzzle in place – Social Networking

Well I’d just finished writing the previous post, just went to flick through my feeds, and found this little gem. Google Maps is going Social. They’ve now added a profile section to Google Maps, so that any maps you chose to share will also now have your profile attached to them. I checked this out, and sure enough, I’ve already got my avatar and website in there already, from some other Google service I’ve used.

It’s very likely this is going to slip into the Google Apps family over the next few months. I suspect that it would go nicely into Gmail, so that you could find out more about anyone who mails you from a Gmail account.

This is going to be Facebook by stealth. Rather than a launch of a rival, they will add the profiles in. Rather than adding apps to a social networking app, they add the social networking to their existing apps. Google has Google Groups (formerly known as Usenet, in a way). They’re even a step ahead of Facebook by having IM and voice chat in place too. It’s starting to fall into place.

Pibb – The Social Network you never knew you needed

I’ve been having a quick look tonight at OpenID. I signed up for one about six months ago, but I must admit, I’ve never needed to use it since. At the back of my mind I’ve been considering adding it to a blog, as it is an ID system I’d like to buy into. A post on Lifehacker today about the pros and cons of OpenID got me thinking about it, and I started reading round again, reminding myself how it might be used.

This was how I happened upon Pibb. Pibb is a social network which starts with the OpenID protocol, and then adds in forums, groups, messaging and IM. Imagine Facebook without all the junk, and which looks really pretty and clean. And to be fair, Facebook isn’t that ugly to begin with. It’s worth a look into, for one, it could be a good place for IM chat where you’re not able to set up a client. Ultimately it’s main attraction for me is that it just looks good.

What can Facebook do for you, and what you can do for Facebook?

I’ve been looking at the Facebook Developers site, and having thought about it a bit, I can see a lot of potential there. What drew me there in the first place was the Facebook-based game Scrabulous. I’ve been playing it quite a bit, and I was wondering how they might add to it. I was interested in setting up a league of fellow players, and wanted somewhere I could record the results. So I started looking at how this might be possible.

What occurs to me at first is that in terms of games, and possibly other applications as well, it shares several elements with the wonderful Xbox Live Arcade. You have a friends list, you can challenge those friends to games, you can suggest new games they might like to play against you, and you can compare your scores with them, and indeed with the best players out there. The scores in particular are a meta level that wraps around ordinary gaming, drives people to play and use the application more. I’ve seen a whole raft of friends get very involved in Scrabulous, many of whom are not computer “games players” at all.

You then get other possibilities, they have a donation advert built into the game, and there is also a service to listen to music as you play. These are the sort of things that are crying out for other sites, developers and artists to take advantage of. Got an album to promote? Build a small flash game, stick some tracks from the new album in as the soundtrack, and sit back and let Facebook’s users promote it for you. The News Feed that everyone has at the top centre of their home page shows (in the main) when and what applications their friends are using. The applications get spread and popularised in a viral fashion. It is in this way that Scrabulous has built up over 350,000 users.

It’s worth thinking of how your site could use Facebook. Maybe it’s just a Facebook group you want, somewhere your users can talk about you. Or it could be that there is an application that you promote at present you could adapt for Facebook. Or even that you could build one to promote your site in some manner.

What does Facebook get out of this? Well for one, they keep people on their site longer. Another benefit though, is that they are building up a massive body of developers creating ways of interacting with their site. They get all their API code tested on a large scale far beyond what they could ever do internally, and they also get the benefit of being able to mirror for themselves creative and successful uses of their site. For instance, they could choose to license Scrabble directly from its owners, mimic all the work of Scrabulous, and then build it into everyone’s profiles when they are created. Suddenly they cut out the middle man, and can potentially claim more traffic and advertising revenue for themselves.

I’m not suggesting that they would necessarily be this evil, but they do get a great benefit from all the 3rd party creative and development work being done for them. Of course this is a benefit that can come from an API in general, but it is rare you see it being utilised by both developers and users on such a large scale. It will be interesting to see what it produces over the next year.

Read The Next Age of Facebook.

The Next Age of Facebook?

I’m starting to second guess what the next stage of expansion for Facebook will be. I don’t think it is an IPO. I don’t think it is a takeover of another social network (although if they wanted to buy Myspace off Murdoch at a knockdown price and stop it being ugly, that could only be a good thing). I think the next stage of expansion for Facebook is when our parents start using it.

We, the sort-off grown up children, many of us with kids of our own, have busy lives. Many of us are lousy at keeping in touch. What better way for our parents to keep track of what we’re up to in more detail than by following our profiles?

I’ve had experience of this already with my own personal blog, I can remember the surprise I had a couple of years ago when I mentioned something I’d done to my father on the phone, and he responded with “Oh I know, I read it on your site last week.” I hadn’t hidden it from him, I had mentioned it at some stage, but I just hadn’t expected him to be a regular reader. Of course though, your parents are often likely to be your keenest readers (proviso: unless say you’re blogging about a specific subject, say microbiology or your own porn model career).

Myspace is very much a teen audience in the main, partly because it is just so garish. It is the unkempt teenagers bedroom of the internet, it looks bad, there’s some unearthly music you really don’t want to listen to, and if you read their diary you’re probably going to learn that they hate you, they can’t spell, and that they’re up to a whole load of stuff you wish you hadn’t read about.

Facebook is much more tidy, it’s more like their living room in their rented house after they’ve had a couple of decent jobs and made their first trip to Ikea. It’s much more simple, pleasing on the eye, and whilst there is still some clutter hiding in the corner, you can find most of what you want easily. It is also a lot quieter.

Thus I feel that Facebook is easier as a way for parents to read up on what their children are up to. They’ll come for that, then stay for keeping in touch with their own friends, and enjoying the Friends Reunited side of it. The social network will expand exponentially.

Of course this comes with its own set of issues. For one, you may have to think, just as many people are finding that employers are checking out potential new staff on it, what your parents might think of what you are saying, or of whom you are friends with. Why are you still friends with that ex that they had to listen to you complaining about? Or that friend that always gets you into scrapes? Why are you a member of the “I hope Michael Winner slips and falls” group? Or simply why are you spending so much time on the internet yet you can’t manage a phone call? All issues we are going to face in future.