February 2008 – Stay N Alive

London Earthquake and Twitter

As I was blogging about emergencies yesterday, I saw an amazing thing happen today.  I mentioned I am tracking the term, “earthquake” on Twitter.  This evening I started receiving a large influx of Twitters on my cellphone, almost non-stop that an earthquake had hit London.  It was almost immediate, and turning to the news revealed nothing – Twitter had beat the masses that there was truly a 4.7 earthquake in London.

What’s most amazing is that even the USGS’s “real time earthquake tracker” had not yet updated with the information.  Twitter proved an invaluable communication method in the event of a potential disaster, while only 4.7, to let the world know something big was going on.

OpenSocial Launch to be delayed "a few weeks"

I’ve blogged over at OpensocialNow.com that Orkut is delaying their launch to the public for a few weeks.  Read more about it here:


Announcing OpensocialNow.com – OpenSocial News and Reviews

OpenSocialNow.comI’m proud to announce a new website I’ve been working on.  You may have heard me Twitter about it a few times.  The site is called OpensocialNow!, and will be your source for OpenSocial News, Reviews, and info.  We’ll cover the Orkut launch, the Myspace launch, Hi5, and LinkedIn, as well as general things you can do with OpenSocial.  This is the first blog of its kind, and as OpenSocial launches in the next week or two I’m sure you’ll see many more like it.  It’s my hope that you’ll subscribe to the site via rss and make it your Official source for all things related to the popular social networking platform, OpenSocial.  You can read more about it right on the website here:


Oh, and stay tuned to OpensocialNow.com.  I have one more big announcement about a change in the OpenSocial launch coming up tonight!

Twitter as a Tool for Disasters and Emergencies

First, let me start by apologizing for the silence.  I kind of went dark over the weekend for an all-weekend binge to finish a project developing a Facebook app for a very large client.  I’m actually quite pleased with what we were able to accomplish in just a matter of 2 days! (and no sleep, I might add)  When their application goes public I’ll talk more about it – I really like what we did!

Now, back to the topic.  Recently, my Aunt sent out an e-mail to my extended family’s e-mail list on yahoogroups asking about how she could use Twitter in the event of a disaster, or to prepare for disasters.  My Aunt and Uncle are currently in charge of the Welfare program for the entire country of Chile, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

First, I was taken back that my 60+-year old Aunt even knew what Twitter was, but secondly it got me thinking.  Chile has had some of the largest earthquakes in the recorded history of this earth.  It is not quite at the level of the United States in terms of mass-communication methods such as computers and the internet.  I’m sure there are many areas that do not even have internet.

Because of the inability to get high-speed internet access (or even phone lines, in general) out to remote areas, the majority of people in third-world countries communicate via cell phone.  It is simply easier to give someone in the middle of Chile, or Brazil, or Nigeria, or Burma, a cell phone than to run phone lines and broadband lines around to every remote village in the country.  Not only that, but it’s more expensive to do so!

Therefore, I can very much see a strong benefit for these countries to utilize services such as Twitter, that have a strong Mobile, SMS platform, to communicate in the event of an emergency.  I mentioned my Aunt’s desire on Twitter, and got this response from @theotherdrummer via e-mail (Please forgive the LDS terminology.  For the non-LDS, a “Ward” is a local congregation.  A “Stake” is a group of those local congregations.  A Bishop is the leader of a Ward.  In LDS culture, LDS refer to each other as “Brother”, and “Sister”, hence the reference…):

My first thought was that it can be used to notify families/stakes/wards of the status of individuals, to serve as a central hub. For example, set up a Twitter account specifically for the Chile 1st Ward. Should something happen, members of the Ward begin texting their status and location to Twitter: “Brother Martinez, at home, OK.”

The Bishop can use this as a starting point to check on people, and can also be used as a source of info for relatives and friends who might be out of the affected area worrying about their loved ones.

The Stake would also have an account to which the Bishops can pass information to.

I thought this was an excellent example of a way to bring people together in the event of an emergency.  Of course, I’ve been in Hurricanes before.  Having grown up in Houston, TX, and lived in Richmond, VA, I know that when emergencies happen, communication lines generally go down.  In cases like that there are better communication methods such as Ham Radio to consider (I’m KC5PZP in case you were wondering…).  There are still often cases where that isn’t the case, and even those that are able to get through can communicate with the world the status of their situation, and where they are.

Twitter as an Emergency Tracking Tool

After this, as an experiment, I started tracking “earthquake”.  There was recently a 6.0 earthquake near us, out in Wells, NV.  I even felt it in my bed early in the morning, way out in Salt Lake City, UT!  This inspired me to follow the term and see where else in the world people were experiencing earthquakes.

Once I started tracking “earthquake” on Twitter I began to realize this was not at all a rare occurance!  Soon I was seeing big and small earthquakes all around the world, from California, to aftershocks around Wells, NV, to Sumatra and Jakarta, Indonesia.  What was fascinating is that I wasn’t only being notified of the earthquakes, but I was also seeing others’ reactions to the events!  I can only imagine what I’d see if I tracked, “tornado”, or “fire”, or “storm”.  It would take just a simple, “help” from someone for me to get into action and communicate via Twitter to find someone to help them.

Now, imagine a tracker that tracked all these terms, and put them on a map, such as the USGS’s earthquake tracker, and added Twitters to the Earthquake Geological alerts.  Add in Hurricane trackers, weather data, and more, and you’d have quite a useful tool that could be utilized by FEMA for tracking where help is needed on an on-demand basis.  FEMA could actually become the first responders with such a tool!

While communication is often disrupted in such events, Twitter can still serve as a useful resource among those that do still have communication.  What suggestions do you have for emergency management and preparedness using Twitter and similar such services?  Any and all comments I will forward to my Aunt for use in Chile.

Orkut to Launch First OpenSocial Public Release February 27

A little birdie actually told this to me earlier, and I was going to blog about it tomorrow, but Orkut just confirmed it on their new developers blog. Orkut is looking to officially launch OpenSocial to the Public in one week – Wednesday, February 27.

Orkut is looking to release the final version of OpenSocial as Release Candidate on the Orkut developer sandbox this Friday, February 22. It will be released for developers to hammer away at for 3 days, and then will go back to Orkut for final QA and fixups. February 27 it will officially go live for the entire public to start installing Apps!

One feature that will be missing is user to user messaging – this is a very big feature that is perhaps much of the reason Facebook has gotten as large as it has. I am told in the first few weeks after launch that should go live. I anticipate after this launch, the public will get curious about Orkut and you’ll see their membership go up substantially – with a tie-in to Google it is sure to bring many of the current fans of Google into it’s ranks with the news surrounding the launch.

My Social Media development and consulting company that I co-founded, SocialOptimize should have an app released on the 27th. Keep an eye out for the “Know Your Neighbor” app when it launches!

OpenSocial is Solidifying the Days of the Rich Web App

Gone are the days of the traditional website, and in are the days of the Rich Web Application. OpenSocial is introducing a new era of development on the web. All OpenSocial containers at the moment give you one page, and one only (with the exception of the profile, or other “surfaces”) to write your entire web application. All development is required to be client-side, with loaded javascript or Flash at the load of the web page, with occasional calls back to the server to load bits and pieces of data. This style of web development has had a long time coming, from the inception of AJAX and the ability to dynamically load just portions of a web page from an external web server.

As OpenSocial and the social web move forward, client and server development will move closer together and soon you will be developing more and more on just one “page”, similar to OpenSocial. From now on, web apps will begin to move towards the style of loading the entire application on the first load of the page, and only loading pieces of that application as data needs to change. Javascript and Flash will play larger roles in development because of this, and as technologies such as Adobe AIR take hold, more of that development will move away from a traditional browser environment and onto the desktop. More and more desktop and web development will move towards “widgets”, and further away from “websites”.

OpenSocial is the beginning – I predict Facebook will be forced to implement something similar to keep up with OpenSocial. Currently the Facebook API is completely server-based. There is a javascript API, but the ability to create a rich web application like OpenSocial, the javascript and Flash capabilities of Facebook are simply too limiting. In order for agencies like SocialOptimize, my Social Media development and consulting agency that I co-founded, to more efficiently write applications across multiple social networks, we’re going to have to standardize on one method of programming. With the openness of OpenSocial, and ability to develop containers on the server side, we will work more and more to write code that lets OpenSocial code run on Facebook itself. Facebook may not implement OpenSocial, but we, as developers may very well!

Is OpenSocial and the new method of “widget programming”, the death of the Facebook API? Definitely not – OpenSocial itself lacks a rich tagging system such as FBML provides (pre-order my book!). As these systems move forward Facebook, OpenSocial, and others will be forced more and more to standardize across platforms. We’re in a completely new era of web development – gone are the days of the traditional website!

Jesse Stay is Now an OpenSocial Developer and Consultant! – My Orkut Hackathon Experience

OpenSocial Hackathon, San FranciscoThe past 2 days I had the opportunity to join the Google OpenSocial developer team, along with other Silicon Valley and nationwide developers to celebrate the soon-to-be launched Orkut release to the public of OpenSocial apps at the Googleplex in San Francisco. The event started with an overview of OpenSocial, and went over some of the resources available to OpenSocial developers as well as a quick, “Hello World” example of an OpenSocial app on Orkut.Following that, it was up to the developers to code away, chat and meet with each other, ask the Google OpenSocial development team questions, and move forward, very fast on their apps. The goal was that by the end of the day, your OpenSocial application would be in a state, with the encouragement and approval of the OpenSocial team to be submitted to the Orkut directory. Those submitted yesterday would be available upon launch of the OpenSocial directory. (yesterday was the deadline for those to be included at launch, but you will continue to be able to submit throughout the launch)

While there, I was able to meet Adam Glickman, notorious for following perhaps the most people on Twitter, at 7000 (Adam, I should note that I have you beat in number of updates!). I also met, and chatted for a bit with Bess Ho, founder of the Silicon Valley Facebook Developers Garage, the Silicon Valley Web Builders, and a very strong evangelist and organizer of Social Media events in the Silicon Valley area. She was there developing her own app. We talked about collaborating further on some events between Silicon Valley and Utah in the future (stay tuned!).

The big buzz around the event was how one could better migrate a Facebook app to OpenSocial. One person pointed me to OpenSocket, which is intended to be code you can install on your Facebook app, essentially making it a container for OpenSocial code. So, in the future, ideally you would write your code in OpenSocial, and when you’re ready to port to Facebook you would simply place it on top of the OpenSocket container. I think you’ll see more things like this as OpenSocial launches. I’ll talk more on my opinions of why Facebook will need to implement OpenSocial in some capacity in a later post.

What I was most impressed with, is that with all those developing applications for OpenSocial, the theme for the hackathon was simplicity. Every single app demo’d that was going to launch on launch day was extremely simple, with plans to build on it further down the road. There were former Facebook developers, Google Gadget developers looking to make their gadgets more viral, as well as people completely new to developing for the social scene which demo’d their apps for the rest of us. I saw a drag and drop “Top Friends”-type app which will be called, ironically, “Facebook”. OpenSocial is really cool in that, because of Caja, you have much more flexibility with your Javascript than Facebook. Facebook (the site, not the app) should really look to implement Caja into their apps to keep security, while allowing flexibility within the app. Another group of guys from Idaho and Utah were developing a “date ideas” app. Some other guys were developing a really cool slide show app with some neat viral twists. It was also fun to see the mashup of different other Google APIs into the OpenSocial APIs. Each presenter got to take home a very cool OpenSocial T-shirt.

The event ended with a really great presentation from the project lead of the OpenSocial team – you might remember him as the Indian guy from the Campfire video at the OpenSocial launch. He showed User Experience and UI from a Google experience, with some really great tips on how to make your apps better. He suggested using the Orkut locality settings to set everything to a different language, and then seeing if you can navigate your app in a language you can’t understand. He also suggested breaking up your app – if it is 2 different ideas in one robust app, he suggested breaking it up into 2 different apps. He had some very interesting tips that I’ll try to incorporate into my own apps.

As for what I did? I wrote an app that allows you to track a group of people geographically close to you, send updates back and forth to that group, organize and collaborate, and find more people that are geographically close to you. I call it the, “Know Your Neighbor” app. I demo’d it at the end of yesterday, and got my cool T-Shirt to take home. Everyone had great response, so I have hopes it could be a hit. Then I submitted the app to the Orkut directory (ironically, Google uses the same “forms” system I talked about earlier for the app submission process. They are just collecting the app submission data in a Google spreadsheet somewhere), of which it will appear on the day of launch.

Look for the “Know Your Neighborhood” app on Orkut when it launches! As the other platforms launch I will be rolling it out to those platforms as well. SocialOptimize, my Social Media Development and Consulting Agency does OpenSocial development too – look us up if you would like some help building an OpenSocial strategy at your company!

My Tour of the Googleplex

GoogleplexToday I got to knock off another one of those “bucket list” items of things to do before I die.  Today I got to tour the Google campus as I attended the final Google OpenSocial Hackathon before it goes live at the end of this month.  I truly learned the creativity of Google as I attended this event.  It started, when I was asked to wait in the lobby for my escort into the Hackathon.  I was asked to “have one of the free juice bottles” over by the wall, and “have a seat in the massage chair”.  It was no ordinary massage chair either – it was a full body massage chair!

From that point on I felt like I was receiving the royal treatment.  Brad Feld would be proud of Google, as even their bathrooms make you feel as though you are receiving the royal treatment, from the heated toilet seats, to the bidet (no I didn’t use it – well, it was broken), to the literature on the walls to read and keep your mind “invigorated”.

As I was there, I had the privilege to meet with my cousin who works on the Google Caja (pronounced, “caha”, btw) team.  He took me to lunch in their gourmet cafeteria, where I had the best lunch I think I’ve ever had in my life, in a cafeteria lunch room!  All the food was prepared by professional chefs, and the cafeteria we attended was only one of the many cafeterias or restaurants they have around campus.  While there, we even got to see a Serge sighting – my cousin had to point him out to me, as he just looked like any of the other engineers there, t-shirt, jeans, messy hair.  Evidently, with as large as Google is this was only the second or third time my cousin had seen Serge Brinn there.

All scattered throughout the Google campus are things just like this.  There are scooters as well as Segways provided throughout campus for employees to get around quickly.  I’ve never seen so many Prius’s in my life, as Google evidently gives a $5,000 credit if you buy one.  Near ever door were bike racks, filled to the brim with bikes, something I haven’t even seen in Utah where things are usually fairly close together.

All around campus there were “mini-bars”, stocked full with drinks, cereal, snacks, food, and whatever you might need to munch on as you work hard for the company.  My wife keeps asking me why I don’t work for Google.  I don’t think she really wants me to though, because if I did, I don’t think I’d ever come home!

With such royal treatment from Google, as even just a visitor they got my attention.  While I run my own business, if I were any of the other developers attending that OpenSocial hackathon I would definitely be thinking how I could get a job at Google.  Google brands itself even down to its headquarters as a place for Engineers, and a place you could live your life around.

While there I met some really great people – I’ll talk more about that, and the hackathon tomorrow as I finish up the hackathon.  Let’s just say Facebook has got some serious competition to contend with now.  Let’s just hope, with the support they have from the developer community, that they can keep up.

Amazon, the Social Network?

Did you know Amazon has a Social Network?  In fact, it’s pretty robust!  In Amazon, if you click “(your name)’s Amazon”, then “Your Profile”, you have the option to set up a profile, including a biography, information about yourself, and get this – a list of all your friends currently on Amazon.com. It can show your recent purchases, your favorite items, your wish list, and more. It even gives you a blog in which you can send messages to those that are friends with you. You can also import your own blog’s rss into the blog feed. Amazon has even MySpace beat, with an activity feed of recent activity by your friends.

The real power comes for authors. As an author, I can have people add me as a friend, and I can keep an open dialog with my readers. I can introduce deals, notify when new editions of the book are released, and more. You can see my favorite books, movies, and music, my wishlist, and my biography. You can also see the other books I have written. Amazon also lets you verify through a publisher or agent that a book was written by you, so your books on Amazon can link back to your profile.

Amazon has quite a tool here that I wouldn’t put past them building on in the future. If you think the MySpace OpenSocial announcement was big, imagine if Amazon were to embrace an API such as OpenSocial. In the USA alone, Amazon has over 60 million members in its network. Each one of those members is tied to a bank account of some sort and has probably bought something at some point from the site. Add to that the existing APIs Amazon provides, allowing users to query the Amazon database, associate affiliate IDs and sell items based on commission, Amazon could have the first proven revenue model for a Social Network.

Amazon and Google aren’t the best of friends. Would Amazon embrace Google’s OpenSocial, or create their own as they have through Amazon AWS? Visit my Profile and add me as a friend on Amazon!:


Jesse Stay's Amazon Profile

The Power of the Small Community

It used to be, one could make a deal on just a handshake.  People could leave their doors unlocked on their homes and their cars without worry of break in.  A man’s word was his bond.  Everyone knew everyone, by name.

This wasn’t the world I grew up in, but I’m told by my Grandparents, and I’ve seen stories of ancestors where this was, at one time, the way things were done in the world.  We just trusted each other back then.

You see, back then, communities were much smaller.  In the days when trust was in its prime, everyone did know each other by name, because they could know each other by name.  Communities were much smaller back then and accommodated this lifestyle much easier.  Crime was much harder to commit because everyone in the town knew you, and you knew them.  Think, the Scarlet Letter – the worst punishment of that time was shame.  There was no anonymity.  There was no privacy.

Sound familiar?  We are quickly overcoming the bonds of large society which put us in this untrustworthy time to live.  The internet came at a time when society wasn’t ready to be exposed.  People enjoyed their anonymity and their sheltered lives.  They were used to contracts, and handshakes never meant what they used to.  Society fought the internet, and it appears, finally, the internet is fighting back.

Social Media is bringing back an era which we thought we would never see again.  People are being held responsible for their actions online, and again, communities are getting much smaller.   Now, circles of friends can virtually know everything about each other, know each other by name, and start to trust each other again.

I argue, the lack of privacy in Social Media is a good thing.  When you know who your friends are, you can build trust with them again.  Contracts are no longer necessary, and back is the handshake and word as a bond.  Small Community has been re-architected through a virtual means which no one saw coming.

Now, imagine the cell phone, when virtual lives become melded with real life.  Virtual “small communities” become real, and back again is the small town, weaved into the fabric of a very large Society.  Social Media is bringing back the days when man could actually trust one another!