April 2008 – Stay N Alive

Improving the Twitter Web With SocialToo

socialtoo.pngI have a sincere favor to ask of you. Would you, if you have not already, go to http://socialtoo.com and sign up and help me out in my cause? Share it with others, blog about it, Twitter it – this was written for you. Today, I launched something special on SocialToo.com, something that I hope will make a better environment on Twitter. It only works if lots of people use it though.

Today I launched an intelligent blacklisting feature on SocialToo.com. After registering and logging into your SocialToo! Dashboard, you’ll see a text box where you can enter twitter screen names you would like to blacklist. For each “spammer” you see, or individual you simply do not want to follow, enter their Twitter screen-name, and when a certain percentage of users on SocialToo.com all blacklist that same user (we have a unique algorithm that determines that, based on crowd-sourcing the definition of “Spam” on Twitter), we add that name to a global blacklist on SocialToo.com. When anyone chooses to auto-follow those that follow them on Twitter using the SocialToo! auto-follow feature, now those users will never be followed. You can now ignore them forever, hindering their reasons for being on Twitter!

SocialToo.com is a project I term, “the Companion to the Social Web”. After registering you have options such as the ability to automatically follow those that follow you on Twitter, add an automated message that gets sent to users (via dm) after they follow you for the first time, and on Facebook, redirect to your Facebook profile via yourusername.socialtoo.com. More features are being worked on for multiple social networks, and the idea is to find all the needs that just are not provided by the traditional Social Networks, and make them available to the public. If you have a need let me know. All scripts that run behind the scenes at SocialToo.com I am releasing on a single-user level via Open Source (GPL v.2) so you can run it on your own server should you desire.

The final feature, released today, is this Global, Intelligent, blacklisting feature. This feature, to me makes much more sense than services like twitterblacklist.com, since rather than depending on ratio only, we’re depending on actual user definition, by the masses to determine who is a “spammer” on Twitter. I’ll look to also integrate with twitterblacklist.com’s API in the future, and maybe even contribute back to it as we grow, but this is the start of something big. This is truly a Groundswell opportunity (I’m reading Charlene Li’s book right now) that you can be a part of.

Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Matt Mullenweg of WordPress

wordpress.pngMatt Mullenweg, a fellow Houstonian and all around cool guy spoke to us today at Web 2.0 Expo about WordPress’s present and future. Some features from the talk:

WordPress has 2 main products, Akismet, and WordPress.com. Akismet is solving many of the Spam problems Matt Cutts from Google talked about earlier, and WordPress.com handles much of the “Software as a Service” suggestion Matt Cutts gave.

WordPress.com has had a tremendous Growth. At their start, they had just 2 million uniques. This year, WordPress.com is at 168 million unique visitors, all with only 20 employees.

Some featured WordPress.com blogs that Matt Mullenweg likes:

  • NY Times
  • Flickr Blog
  • Fail blog
  • I can haz cheeseburger

99.999% of WordPress.com blogs get less than 10k pages/day. They are all on a different model.

Matt had some great announcements. He mentioned that 40-45% of their traffic is going to permalink pages. Therefore they are introducing a new feature they call “(Possibly) Related Posts”. With this, WordPress.com lists relevent links below each blog post, the first being links from your blog. Secondly, posts from the 300 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com are displayed, then mainstream news sites are displayed – these are all opt-out. Matt mentioned they partnered and worked with the company Sphere to do this.

The coolest announcement of Matt’s was the announcement of a new theme called Monotone. Monotone automatically adapts its color scheme to the photos uploaded to to WordPress. The idea is to adapt changes to the look and feel of your website based on what you’re doing, and every page changes as you move through the site – it was actually quite beautiful, and knowing that Matt is a very good Photographer I expect to see some cool things from that theme. I’m told Monotone will be released some time soon.

Stay N’ Alive Productions and SocialToo.com Present Facebook "Chat-B-Gone" (#web20expo)

I’m sitting in here at the Blogger Lounge at Web 2.0 Expo, and have been working on a cool little gadget I think you may like. Mari Smith yesterday Tweeted that she and others wished there was a way they could “turn off” Facebook chat. Right now there are privacy controls to block people and keep people from chatting with you, but there is no real way to turn off the Chat feature in Facebook.

So I created a simple little Greasemonkey script (works in Firefox only, sorry) under the GPL v.2, in conjunction with SocialToo.com‘s “Social Companion to the Web” theme, that I call, “Facebook Chat-B-Gone”. Go ahead and download and install Greasemonkey here, then click here to download “Facebook Chat-B-Gone”.

Enjoy! And be sure to sign up for SocialToo.com for more cool “companion” features like this in the future!


Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Yahoo Announces Y! OS #web20expo

Picture 8.pngYahoo’s keynote proved very interesting. In it they announced a new technology they call, Y! OS. This technology is to be the beginning of a new Open, Social Strategy for Yahoo, and with the technology, as they term it, they are “Re-wiring Yahoo”.

Starting today, Yahoo is opening up the beta for their Search Monkey platform, which is to be a new way to organize and format search results. He showed some interesting formatting of search results with reviews, descriptions, etc.

According to them, Yahoo’s open strategy is about opening up all the properties of Yahoo. First of such will be an Application platform. They will be socializing all of their properites, unifying the user profiles, and integrating the ability to add “applications” across all Yahoo properties and apply Social properties to those applications.

According to Yahoo, they are “Not creating ‘yet another social network'”. Yahoo does not view “Social” as a destination. It should be an integrated environment. He showed some examples of integration within the Yahoo mail environment, showing a way to pop up messages most relevant to the individual through the Social Graph. Taking Yahoo portable will also be an integral part of this.

Yahoo says that later this year the first version of Y! OS will be delivered. This will include the beginning of Social Graph and Application Development platform, and an entirely new dimension of developing applications at Yahoo will become available.

This is huge news for Yahoo – it puts them up at par with Google and Facebook, and will change the way you use the internet as you know it. Expect to see more from Google along these lines in the future – I believe the iGoogle OpenSocial integration predicts this. With Yahoo as a part of the OpenSocial foundation, I expect them to integrate OpenSocial as part of this, and move to a fully social strategy. I’m very excited for this announcement and look forward to Y! OS to come into play at the end of this year.

Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Mark Andreeson #web20expo

Picture 8.pngMark Andreesen, creator of Mosaic and founder of Ning.com, spoke to us in an interview today at the Web 2.0 Expo, and shared with us some of his thoughts on the growing up of the web, and what he thinks of the future. As I mentioned earlier, one interesting thing he mentioned was plans for Facebook Platform Integration, something I am very excited for. Here are the highlights.

What were your expectations when you released Mosaic?: “Hype at the time was interactive TV. Mosaic and internet technologies were kind of the renegade of the time – no one believed it could make money.”

At what point did you think this was going to change the game?: “It wasn’t until after Netscape was started that Mark started thinking it was going to be a phenomenon.”

Many of the TV and media companies mentioned are now extremely important players in this space. What do you make of those guys now?: “By and large most of the major media companies are still unprepared for the shift. Many of the newspaper companies are in an absolute free-fall. There is still a story that has yet to be written. These companies are uneasy about a commodotized future. That said, things are still developing and are still unknown.”

In 1995 Microsoft realized what you were doing was competitive and decided to launch Internet Explorer for Free – what is your thought of that?: “Well, in fact they used my code. If you go into the credits you’ll see the name of Mosaic from University of Illinois in there.”

Looking at the legacy of the browser, what is it you like and what do you wish evolved differently?: “It has turned out far better than anyone ever thought. The big surprise has been how many of the ideas that we had that we thought were experiments have lasted. One example being javascript – we created something that looked like Java because it was familiar to people at the time. Another example was cookies – we were writing an E-Commerce site for MCI, and needed a way to do it, so created the “cookie thing”. People are now seeing that as a threat to privacy, and I find that amusing. The other expiriment was the back and forward buttons – we were looking for a better way to navigate the internet, and it’s interesting to see that that method has stuck around.”

You said, “It’s nice to have this kind of money for the ‘coming of the nuclear winter'”. Can you tell me how to “build our bunkers”?: “There’s a huge irony for the industry where after the crash of the stock market in 2001 all the money got put into Real Estate, and now that’s crashing. On one hand all of this is happening in a remote area and doesn’t have a lot to do with us, but on the other hand, it all comes back around, and effects us in the end.”

What are the advertising models that might work?: “Your company has a strong advertising model to it – Ning is a social network play, but different – why is it not Facebook?: Ning is a company for people to create their own social networks. On average those networks are growing very quickly. Adding 1500 networks a day, and people are discovering that social networking is a central part of their lives.”

How do you feel about the idea of Data Portability?: “In general, pro. You can import data in and out of Ning as you want. There is not a lot of consumer demand for that type of thing however. The majority of supporters of Data Portability are early adopters.”

Google has laid out OpenSocial and you have ascribed to it. What does that matter to the users of Ning?: “It matters by default. Facebook did an amazing thing with rolling out the idea of a Social Networking Platform that users can take applications and apply them to their profiles, a powerful idea. The Facebook platform was specific to Facebook though, so a standard was needed which we joined.”

“Facebook is starting to get more open about the Platform – directionally that is the trend. I think a lot of people like us will be implementing both OpenSocial and Facebook.”

Ning Creator, Mark Andreesen, Announces Plans for Facebook Platform Integration

Picture 8.pngI’m sitting here at Web 2.0 Expo and watching the Mark Andreesen Keynote. One interesting thing he mentioned was that Ning (and others) has plans to launch onto both OpenSocial and Facebook platforms. This is the first I have been aware of plans outside of Bebo to utilize the Facebook Platform, and I believe a wise decision. The Facebook Platform is indeed one of the most popular and most used platforms out there, and therefore worth looking into as a Social Network looking for a standard to adopt. The question is, is Ning in talks with Facebook on this, and how far along are they in organizing this? Is this pure speculation? I am very much looking forward to Ning, and other Social Networks adopting the Facebook Platform as a standard. I’ll be posting the notes from the keynote next.

Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Microsoft

Picture 8.pngMicrosoft has been all over the news lately with their “Mesh” announcement. It really sounds like Ray Ozzie is getting the idea of “being open”. I’ll share my notes from the keynote here:

Microsoft has “a big announcement” we’re told. Here are the notes from their keynote:

“Unified Data Management” – what if all your devices could share and sync all of their data and feeds? “Applications Everywhere” – what if all your devices were completely cognisant of the apps that were running on them. Making sure all of your machines all over work the way you want them?

Introducing “Live Mesh” – showing a video… Showed a guy with a macbook (interesting), cell phones, laptops, xbox, cameras…

Demo available to anyone in the audience. Today, available for the Windows PC. Next few months, support for mac and other devices. Future many more devices.

Very easy to create a folder to give access anywhere.

“Mesh Bar” – provides consolidated view of all devices, members of folder, views and events that are happening in the folder. Automated consolidated view of everything in the mesh.

All devices work together. Data and applications are always accessible. People are always collaborating, always up-to-date with info needed.

Just “the tip of the iceberg”. Speaker’s team is a “Platform Team”. There will be a Platform Focus. It will be very easy for developers to take advantage of the web and these devices. Platform will provide open access to data and APIs. “yeah right – this is M$ – prove it!”. Showing code… You can choose between ATOM, JSON, POTS, RSS, XML, WXML… you choose language, protocol, etc. to interact with Live Mesh.

Tomorrow, attend sessions and visit mesh.com and visit booth for more…

Charlene Li and Max Levchin from Slide

Picture 8.pngI came in late for the Tim O’Reilly keynote, but Tweeted the highlights. The next keynote talk was a discussion between Charlene Li, and Max Levchin from Slide. Here are my notes:

  • Facebook is not a fad.
  • How do you make money and get a valuation of 1/2 million dollars?: “Advertising”. 2 different methods – advertising and direct-to-consumer sales. The next couple years will focus on the consumer sales.
  • “Juno” sponsored an action within the Super Poke app called, “Pregnancy Test”. Juno was utilizing Super Poke to draw a close reaction to the fans of the movie. Every “super poke” sponsorship has been a smashing success for the advertisers.
  • How do you acquire customers?: Precise measurement of users engagement within software helps to determine.
  • Is Privacy an issue?: Aided by the social networks. Determine who wants to see the ads and who does not.
  • With more users than some of the social networks (70 million users), how do you deal with the conflict?: Competition is for advertising dollars, also who engages the user.

I am very much not a fan of Slide. Their business model is what encourages that “bubble” atmosphere on the Social Web. It is my hope that they adopt their model and move away from pure advertising and spammy-methods of propogation.

Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Social Strategy for Business #web20expo

Picture 8.pngCharlene Li, and Josh Bernoff are two of my favorite Social Media Experts. They published “Groundswell”, a book I strongly suggest and recommend to anyone looking to utilize social technology in their business strategy. Here are my notes:

Key roles and their Groundswell objectives:

  • Research
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Support
  • Development

Charlene talking about specific applications that accomplish these objectives:

Del Monte community, invitation only, has conversations with their customers. Del Monte asks their customers questions like, “What does your dog eat for breakfast” and gets responses back from the customers. Then, more specific questions are asked, and a conversation is started. This information is hard to measure in a focus group, but can be gathered via a Groundswell.

Now Charlene’s talking about tampons. What, don’t like the subject? Neither do most people. P&G had this same problem, and created the social network, “Being Girl”. No branding of “P&G” on the site. In articles, adds things like, “Brought to you by Always pads”.

Brides.com: Allows the bride-to-be to create a count-down calendar on their Myspace page. Widget shows the countdown, and offers a challenge to get the widget. When a user clicks to get the widget, they go to brides.com to get the widget. With widgets like this, your fans are doing the selling for you.

Starbucks: Suggestion boxes. All suggestions are public, and can be voted by the community. Management talks back to the community and responds to their feedback!

Keys to success for pragmatists:

  • Start with your customers
  • Choose an objective you can measure
  • Line up executive backing
  • Romance the naysayers
  • Start small, think big

Pragmatists bring companies and the groundswell together. Objectives are the key to successful social strategy. Use POST to frame your strategy. Think big, but start small.

Live Blogging the Web 2.0 Expo: Comparing Social Platforms #web20exp

Picture 8.pngUnfortunately I only have a Flip which gives me just 30 minutes of storage so you’ll be able to see the first 30 minutes below. I’m currently watching “Comparing Social Platforms”, with Dave Morin, Senior Platform Manager for Facebook, Allen Hurff, SVP Engineering for Myspace, Jessica Alter, Dir. of Platform and Business Development for Bebo, Patrick Chanezon, Google OpenSocial Evangelist, and David Recordon, Open Platform Lead for Six Apart. It’s fascinating to see the leaders of all 4 areas, including a developer standpoint from Six Apart all talking about ways to improve the Social Graph.

I’ll continue from where the video left off:

Allen Hurff said a great point when it comes to focus on Platform Development: “I love developers, but I love users ten times more”. That’s a great point and something we need to remember, and not be too demanding on as developers. In the end it’s all about the users of our applications.

Dave Morin talked about the Causes application. If the user can’t get the message to the friends that they care about such a cause, that’s bad and needs to be taken care of. Facebook is trying to focus on this, while finding balance with Applications that perhaps aren’t as impacting to ensure they aren’t being spammy and user experience is protected.

Patrick Chanezon says Google prefers the term “organic growth” to “viral growth”. Dave Morin brought up that ultimately, creating the best product is the end goal. Those applications that just focus on Viral growth grow fast, but ultimately die out. In the end you want the best experience for the user.

Dave Morin: “A lot of the times we’ll see viral but no ‘social'”. Being able to see what your friends are doing with your application, how they interact together makes it social and not just viral.

Dave Morin: Social Commerce is the future of how people do business on the web. Working on a commerce engine for Facebook. He likes the applications that are doing virtual currencies (I agree).

David Recordon: Building applications has to be easy. Extensibility is important. It has to be easier than it is today – if more successful than today next year, technology still isn’t easy enough.


  • Matt from SocialThing: will there ever be a premium model with guaranteed uptime, extended support, etc.?: Myspace says they haven’t thought of it. Facebook says they are committed to their platform – says it’s a good point and also haven’t thought of it.
  • How liberal are platforms going to be in sharing data?: Six Apart is one of the creators of the ATOM standard – bloggers should own their content. Facebook is committed to enabling people to take data where they want to. What exactly does “data portability” mean? Dave Morin posed that question to OpenSocial… “data portability” might not be the right word for it – “privacy portability” might be a better term for it. “It’s all about the user – it’s not about technology.”
  • What are the thoughts on creating an even playing field for viral channels?: Myspace will have a hard time

In conclusion it looks like the theme for this was putting focus on the users in the end vision, not the application. I’ll upload the video in a minute if it isn’t showing yet.