May 2008 – Stay N Alive

Twitter Kills Important Features on the API With Just a Few Hours Notice

IMG_0022.pngI saw some very concerning issues on the Twitter development list today, and my frustration has only been increased after reading some of the claims of Blaine Cooke today on TechCrunch. Yesterday, the one thing that seemed evident, and perhaps I’m wrong on this, but Ev Williams and Biz Stone do not seem to have much of a technical background. They made this clear in the interview, and there’s nothing wrong with this, assuming they have the technical staff to handle it.

Today on the Twitter development mailing list something was made apparent – experienced developers and businesses on the Twitter development mailing list cannot trust the architecture of the API that runs on Twitter. Just yesterday, a crucial feature of the API which allowed the retrieval of an individual’s friends and all of those friends’ timelines was removed from the Twitter API.

About 1 week ago, Alex Payne, the developer Biz and Ev kept referring to in the interview yesterday as having a lead role in the development, announced on the developer mailing list that this feature was going to be removed and asked if anyone was using it. With only about 5% of the applications saying they needed it, Twitter removed the method Thursday with just a notification on the developer mailing list and about 8 hours notice, no other notification elsewhere or warning that it was happening at that point.

All of the sudden, application developers everywhere were saying they couldn’t run their applications because of this change. These were applications such as Hahlo, Twitterati, Twibble, and Gridjit. What’s the issue here?

The issue is Twitter isn’t communicating effectively. We addressed this yesterday – I think they realize it, but I want to reiterate it. I can’t help but wonder if the experience is even there to be able to communicate effectively. I’ve worked as a developer in several publicly traded companies, one of them a Fortune 40, and some of the decisions the Twitter development staff have made would have gotten me fired at previous employers I have worked for. Where is the experience, and how can I, as a business and developer using Twitter trust them to build something on top of? I want to see where the experience is before I build any more on top of the Twitter API – does the Twitter staff have LinkedIn profiles?

Now, I’m not trying to criticize any individual at Twitter – I want to think they have the experience necessary to handle this, but I’d prefer they not pull the wool over our eyes if there is not enough experience at Twitter to handle the API I am trying to build a business off of. I know for a fact there are many smarter people using the API that could help analyze the experience if they need that help, but we need Twitter to communicate with us and let us help them out. Because businesses are being built on the API we want to see them succeed (I’m writing this as I wear my “Wearing my Twitter Shirt” I got from them yesterday). I think, as they said in the interview yesterday, while it could take months to get things in place, we, as businesses and developers could help them out if they just let us and communicate properly with us.

The questions I asked yesterday were centered around the developer and how we could help them. They told us to communicate with them. I really don’t know how we can communicate effectively with Twitter if they can’t be open to us back. I even posted this on the mailing list this morning, and received absolutely no response. As a Twitter API developer and business owner, I don’t know how much longer I can keep my Apps on Twitter. I know many others share the same frustration, and once the Apps begin leaving, so will the users.

I think, and hope, based on the interview yesterday, that Twitter understands this. I’m optimistic they do. However, we need an open communication channel, consolidated, and the experience to know how to manage that channel effectively with the API, or new opportunities are going to arise very quickly wich developers will leave to.

UPDATE: It appears that Twitter has a pretty experienced crew, per their recent blog post. Again, you still have to keep in mind that it may take time to fix the problems that are already there – is it worth the wait?

Scoble and Twitter, Behind the Scenes

IMG_0024.pngToday I had a very unique opportunity to in many ways get in the middle of the Twitter Fiasco, the VentureBeat article suggesting that Robert Scoble was the reason for Twitter’s failures, and Robert’s response to it. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and before I start I want to thank Robert for bringing me along to be able to participate and hear all of this, first hand (and still getting me back to the airport in time). Robert Scoble’s such an amazing guy and no one could ever tell me otherwise – I wish all could meet him in person, hang out with him, etc. like I was able to do today.

Originally Robert and I were just going to go up to the Disqus new offices and see the founders, Daniel Ha and Jason Yan (they said they are readers of this blog!). However, today around lunch he called and said we were going to make a pit stop at the Twitter offices in South Park. I was told they had made an offer to him (and he was happy to accept) to come by and chat about the recent blog posts and frustration between the two.

When we got to Twitter I was actually quite impressed by the professionalism of Ev and Biz at Twitter, along with Robert as they discussed the matter. There was some nervousness on both parts I could tell, but after the cards were laid out on the table and both sides understood, I think both felt a little better about the situation. In the end, here’s what I got out of the conversation (which you can view via Robert’s Qik stream here):

  • There is still a long way to go before Twitter will have a fully functional product – they are in the process of re-architecting it all so they can scale further as it grows further.
  • It does seem they’re still trying to work with it to make the existing system work with what they have.
  • The problems they are having are NOT because of big “whale” (and I doubt the picture on Twitter’s error page was meant to reflect this) users such as Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington.
  • The problems they are having are very much due to problems with their current architecture, and in particular the way their API is currently set up to handle. Their system was built as a prototype and ended up becoming the product.
  • There is no good immediate solution to this. As they remove API features, applications like Twhirl and TweetScan, and other 3rd party applications with thousands of users will fail, and thus the users will complain and leave. They simply can’t punish the developers as a whole because it would end up offending their users as well.
  • There are still some pretty smart people at Twitter and I really think they know what they’re doing – they’re just stuck between a rock and a hard spot because they designed their architecture wrong.

The most interesting thing for me, and should be for developers as well, IMO, came at the end however, and I think it’s a smart move the faster they can implement it. Twitter is looking into the possibility of having a better way of tracking the Applications developers write on the Twitter API. By doing such, they can first of all put an end to spammy applications that are abusing the system and killing their traffic with too many unnecessary requests (similar to the way Facebook does with notification limits), but secondly they can begin to organize the Applications and provide a centralized directory for all the Twitter applications out there.

I recorded this video to get Robert’s thoughts on the interview afterwards – I think he shares the same feelings as I do:

[vimeo w=400&h=300]
Getting Robert Scoble’s Thoughts After the Twitter Interview from Jesse Stay on Vimeo.

You can also see some more of my thoughts afterwards, although I think I was still processing it after we were done so I didn’t say much. You can see that on Robert’s Qik stream here.

In all, I think while there’s still a long way for Twitter to get everything worked out, what they said to us was very promising. It’s promising, yet frustrating at the same time because I know it may still be some time. They are willing to accept help and ideas. If you are a developer and want to offer your time to help them out, join their mailing list, offer your assistance in any way. Most of all, as was pointed out, if you’re going to do any heavy hitting on their API, let’s talk to them the same way they’re talking to us now. Let’s build an open communication between the developers and the Twitter dev team themselves and I think perhaps we can all work together to make Twitter an even better place than it was before.

I’m going to talk a little more about my trip to the Bay area in another post coming up. I feel like I visited half the Web 2.0 internet, in person, in a matter of 3 days, and I’m still processing it all. The Bay is an amazing place that you just have to see for yourself to believe. Now Robert – my offer still stands if you ever want to come out to Salt Lake and have me show you around next time!

Where is Jaiku???

jaiku_hires_rgb.pngI don’t know if it’s the horrible logistics at yesterday’s keynote and that I had to sit on the floor to watch it, or the T-Shirts that in binary say, “GoogleKO” (Mike, I’ll give you mine if you have lunch with me tomorrow), or maybe the fact that I now can’t get internet connectivity as I write this due to the poor planning for WiFi in this room. Or maybe it’s that I’m presenting on Facebook and have had Facebook on the mind the time I’ve been here, but I’ve really been on an anti-Google run lately and I’m not sure why.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed here at Google I/O is there is absolutely no presence of Jaiku at the event. I haven’t seen any booths, presenters are not running it up on the screens like we saw with Twitter at Web 2.0, and it almost seems as though Google doesn’t care that there is an opportunity with the problems Twitter is having right now. In fact, I think I’ve even seen Twitter on a few of the presenters boxes rather than Jaiku.

Does Google just not care about Jaiku? They have an amazing opportunity here. Twitter is down about one half of the time. They are hosting a blog on their competitor, Tumblr’s, site because they can’t trust their own servers by all means! I don’t agree that FriendFeed is a competitor to Twitter – Jaiku is, however, and now is the time for them to step up! Google has a conference with attendance that perhaps exceeds that of Web 2.0, and the whole world watching them as they make some serious announcements, so I can’t figure out why they aren’t taking this opportunity to gain an edge on their competitors.

Jaiku is perhaps the only other service out there with an SMS status update system similar to Twitter’s. People really want to find another solution that solves what Twitter gives them. Jaiku does this, and Google is failing seriously at promoting it and bringing attention to it at this conference.

Lifting Up Serenity – New Website and How You Can Help

I mentioned earlier that we were working on a Fund for Phil Burns’ daughter, Serenity, and would post information about it today. Well, we have a bank account set up, but unfortunately the fund will take a little bit to get going. However, I’m going to set a new goal for the Chipin widget.

I’m proud to announce that the Chipin Widget for Serenity and the Burns’ family is, as of this writing (and in just 2 days!), at $1,506.97. There seems to be some issue with the Widget updating on mine and others’ blogs, but I’ve got a support request to get that fixed. We’re going to raise the goal for the Chipin Widget to $10,000 by the end of this Saturday. If you can donate, just a few dollars, help promote this, and maybe even Digg it up, your efforts are sincerely appreciated. Any little effort is a step towards Serenity’s recovery.

In addition to the ChipIn widget, you may also go to any Wells Fargo branch (I think only in Utah), and make a donation to:

Serenity Burns Donation Account
Wells Fargo Bank

or you may send a Check to:

Serenity Burns Donation Acct.
224 S. Main St. #555
Springville, UT 84663

Of course, you can install the Chipin Widget on your own site by visiting here. Please feel free to set aside a little now, or the coming months ahead to help out this family. I estimate their costs for medical expenses alone will exceed $100,000 and we should do what we can to help them not have to worry about that and focus on getting Serenity better.

I’m also proud to announce, thanks to the Burns’ friend, Becky Wilson, the creation of a site just for Serenity. You can find it at Please leave a Guestbook post for her or the family, leave your wishes, see updates from Phil and Adria’s blogs, Twitter feeds, and the FriendFeed room. You can also donate there. If your business would like to promote this through sharing proceeds with the Burns family, we will be happy to include your promotion on the website as well.

We’re also creating an Amazon “wishlist” that you can purchase items for Serenity and the Burns’ Family. Please look for that soon on the website.

So let’s all “Lift up Serenity” together and do what we can to promote this cause.

My Trip to Google I/O

logo.pngTomorrow evening I’ll be heading off to Google I/O at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I’m very excited to look over the various new technologies Google is offering, including OpenSocial, Google App Engine (keep an eye out for Bungee Labs, the competitor to App Engine – I hear they’re planning to make an appearance there), and hopefully I’ll get a first chance to play with Google FriendConnect. I’m hoping to take quite a bit back so I can apply it to the work I’m doing for Takes All Types to transition them over to OpenSocial.

While I’m out there, look out for me the next few nights. Tomorrow evening, probably late, I’ll be visiting the WordPress 5th Anniversary at the Minna Gallery. That should be quite a fun event, and I look forward to meeting Matt Mullenweg and crew again. Then, Wednesday night, be sure to come out to the Silicon Valley Web Builders meeting, where I’ll be speaking to about 100-150 developers and such with an interest in Facebook and Social Media development. There, I’ll be speaking about a few tags you probably weren’t aware of in FBML, and we’ll go over some fun FBML facts, as well as discuss some of the latest news we’re seeing about Facebook lately. I also hear a local news reporter will be there, so the pressure is on. I’ll have a number of copies of my first book, “I’m On Facebook–Now What???” there for you to purchase, and I’m happy to autograph any copies you buy – if you haven’t yet RSVP’d please do so now!

The final event, Thursday night, is the Palo Alto Facebook Developers meeting. That meeting looks to be jam packed with developers, Facebook enthusiasts, and investors, from Jim Breyer, to Lee Lorenzen, to Justin Smith of InsideFacebook, to Dave Morin of Facebook, it seems anyone that has anything to do with Facebook will be there. They will be celebrating the 1 year platform anniversary, going over the new design and how that will affect developers. I anticipate some announcements out of that meeting, although I can’t say for sure.

So if your out in the area, stop by and say hi! I’m @jessestay on Twitter and FriendFeed – give me a holler and maybe we can go get some Thai or Seafood (my two favorite San Fran cuisines!) together. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Would you Like to Donate to the Burns Family? Use This Widget.

I’ve created a ChipIn Widget that goes straight to the Burns‘ Paypal account, which you can donate to help them with their miscellaneous expenses over the next few days. I’ll also be adding it to the right-sidebar of this blog. Until the banks open, please feel free to donate what you can – I am sure they are very much in need of help with their miscellaneous day-to-day expenses while they are in the hospital, so they can focus on their daughter, Serenity and getting her better. You may also use this widget to promote donations on your own blog – I highly recommend you share with others! We’ll be getting a tax-deductible (hopefully) fund organized for the Burns’ family as soon as the banks open after the holidays. In the meantime, let’s see if we can raise just $500 in the next few days to help them out. Any donation is very much appreciated!

New Series: Social Coding

I’ve been contemplating for awhile now a good way to share what I know about Social Software Development and helping business owners, marketers, and developers learn how to set up their own social apps. Especially for developers, I know there are many out there looking for howtos and ways to learn more about starting their own App, promoting it, and getting it off the ground. As the author of FBML Essentials, I feel I am well suited for the task so in the next few days I’m going to start doing howtos and overviews on how you can get your own Apps together. If you’re “the business type”, I may get a little technical on you, but I do recommend you keep watching and forward these onto your IT personell – your CIO, CTO, and the like should read these so they can learn what’s possible to integrate into your existing environments. I’ll also try to throw in a little goodie here and there for “the business type”.

So, I’ve created a new category to the right, “Social Coding” – if you want to track just that, click on the category name and add it to your RSS. I’ve also started a new FriendFeed Room where those involved or that want to get involved in Social Coding can discuss, learn, and talk with each other. You can subscribe to that here.

Let’s start by going over the types of sites I could cover. Here are just a few – let me know if you have a particular interest in learning about how to code for any one in particular:

  • Facebook
  • OpenSocial
  • Google Friend Connect
  • Twitter
  • FriendFeed
  • Pligg
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • WordPress
  • MoveableType
  • Google App Engine
  • Bungee Connect

Stay tuned! I’ll keep posting news and other rants as we go forward – I’ll just be adding in some good howtos at the same time. Oh, and if you’re a developer and would like to do a howto in your preferred language for us, contact me – I’d love to let you do a guest post.

My Old Partner, Phil Burns’ Daughter has Leukemia

2519922124_4dc53c5171-1.pngFor those unaware, my old partner and good friend, Phil Burns (aka @phil801 on Twitter) just found out today that his daughter, Serenity, has Leukemia. She has been pricked, prodded, and the stories Phil and Adria tell are heart-breaking! Phil says (much of what I have learned has been through Twitter) that Serenity just got a transfusion and is feeling relatively better, if there is such a thing. She will start chemo in the next day or two. I’m still trying to get things organized – we’re working on a website to show support for her and raise money for the family, and I’ve had numerous Web 2.0-related organizations offer to dedicate funds in their name. The support and interest in helping has been amazing so far. For now my suggestion would be to contact Phil directly to donate money in the more immediate term – I will try to set up a fund as soon as we’re able to. There are many expenses that they are unable to avoid now and I’m sure they can use all the help they can get (they are checked into the hospital now, so I’m sure things like just paying for food at the hospital restaurants is much appreciated).

In the meantime, I’ve set up a FriendFeed Room here that even if you’re not on FriendFeed, you should be able to subscribe to via rss and get updates on the situation. I’m trying to share everything I see from Phil there, including his Twitter posts, blog posts, Adria (his wife)’s blog posts, and his Flickr photo uploads. If you are a member of FriendFeed feel free to leave your comments there or on his or his wife’s blogs, where they seem to be documenting the process.

For those unaware, my Grandmother died from Cancer, my Aunt is fighting it, and seems to be surviving it, and my Uncle died from Cancer. My Grandfather is a Cancer survivor. Things like this hit home for me. Phil says Serenity has the type of Leukemia that has an 80% survival rate (the “good” kind, as he puts it) – however we need to make it easy for them to focus on her and give her 100% of that 80% to survive! Please stay tuned and I’ll post more here as we get organized. If you’d like to help out in any way please let me know and we’ll find a way to put you to good use.

In the meantime, please blog, retweet, or share with all you can to send support and encouragement their way!

Finally! Twitter Adds an Official "Twitter" Account

twitter.pngToday Twitter announced the creation of an official “twitter” account on Twitter. This update has been a long time coming – other companies are doing it – why hasn’t Twitter all this time?

I brought up multiple times on the Twitter developer mailing list that Twitter needs to add an official “Tom” of Twitter that people can follow and get official Twitter updates from. Such a user would allow Twitter to let users know why there was slowness in the service and post about new blog updates (I just learned that Twitter actually has 2 blogs – a company blog and a development blog).

It’s good to see Twitter adopting this practice – this is one way Twitter will be able to better manage their reputation and keep others informed of service outages and updates to the system. I just hope they have given this user priority over other updates on the service so it can get messages out during slow times.

You can follow the “twitter” user here.

UPDATE: I’ve since learned from the comments of that post that there is a “twitter_status” user as well – the difference of the two, I’m unsure. Care to share your thoughts?