July 2008 – Stay N Alive

The National Bloggers Blood Drive – How You Can Get Involved

TSFBlood.jpgMy good friend, Phil Burns (@phil801), whose daughter was recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, has organized a cool concept that is starting in Salt Lake City today, but could be organized soon in your area as well. The idea is organized by his foundation, The Serenity Foundation, in conjunction with Takes All Types, who you may have heard about on TechCrunch and the New York Times, and is intended to organize bloggers in different areas to donate blood in honor of the need to donate and give blood in the USA. Did you know that only 5% of those eligible to donate blood actually donate?

The first of the blood drives is to take place as I am writing this, until 8pm MST in Salt Lake City, Utah at Twelve Horses, 13961 Minuteman Dr. Suite 125. You can help organize your own however by simply contacting Phil, or editing the Wiki they have set up with your own organized efforts. The Serenity Foundation will be there with you to help you get it organized and announced.

If you are a blogger, microblogger (aka Twitter, FriendFeed, or Identi.ca), or just like to donate blood, I highly suggest you look into organizing one of these for your own area. In fact, if you do, let me know and I’ll feature you here – I think this is a great, Web 2.0 way of allowing bloggers to unite in an effort to combat the shortage of blood in your area and our nation. Also, please help spread the word by blogging, twittering, “dent”‘ing, FriendFeeding, or whatever – the more exposure we can bring to this cause the better (and please, don’t feel like you need to link to me for it – go ahead and link to the Serenity Foundation’s site!).

You can learn more about how you can get started with a Bloggers Blood drive in your area via the Serenity Foundation’s website at http://theserenityfoundation.org/national-bloggers-blood-drive/. If you’d like to donate to the Burns family (Kevin Rose and Gary Vaynerchuk, this is as good an effort as any to shave your heads for!), you can do so on Serenity’s website at http://www.liftingupserenity.com/blog/donate/. I’m looking forward to see what comes of this.

The TechMeme Factor – is it Good for Blogs?

techmeme.pngI received a lot of criticism for my post recently stating my reduction in use of the service Twitter towards other services like Identi.ca and FriendFeed. In a series of personal attacks through both Twitter and the comments on my blog, people called me names, said I was pompous, and almost seemed offended as to my proposal to reduce my use of Twitter in hopes to eventually move away from the service. (Ironically, the discussion on FriendFeed was much more constructive)

Well you know, sticks and stones will break my bones and such, but I did begin thinking as to why these attacks were occurring and what I may have done to bring them on. In a discussion on a post on Dig, I suggested the following in response to why I had written the post to begin with:

“vmarinelli I wrote this mostly for those that were existing readers of my blog and followers of mine on Twitter. I had people asking why I was doing it. I didn’t expect it to make headline on Techmeme, so wasn’t writing it for an external audience. Had I been prepared for that I would have been much more 3rd person, and I would have written it entirely different.”

That post was intended to be a personal post, to the readers of my blog, and possibly some of my followers who had already asked as to why I was and why I was not posting much on Twitter any more. The post reached TechMeme, and soon many more people completely unaware of who I was or what the context was were reading the post.

This post wasn’t the first of mine to be a headline on Techmeme – I definitely heard my share of criticism as to my post on developers bailing on Twitter. Ironically, there wasn’t much criticism at all on the guest post I wrote on LouisGray.com which made it as a headline on Techmeme – it seems with him being on the Leaderboard, people might be more used to who he is and what his blog is about.

It has gotten me thinking however, when you reach that status where you are being indexed by Techmeme, do you need to watch what you are writing, or even write differently, as I was suggesting on Digg, to speak to that audience? Is it even possible to keep your posts personal as you used to when your blog is reaching a much larger audience?

My brother, Luke, had a great argument when he mentioned on FriendFeed:

“I don’t get it, why can’t you talk in the first person if you’re featured on Techmeme. This was an editorial of sorts and most editorials are written in first person even if they’re written for the New York Times. Could also be considered a review of Twitter. Reviews are also often written in first person.”

I think many blogs may be getting corrupted by Techmeme, becoming too “newsy”, in the 3rd-person, and less personal when they begin to get indexed by the service. I’m wondering in the end if Techmeme really is a good thing for blogs. It certainly has an effect on any blog it begins to index. Many blogs do seem to be influenced.

However, I’m pretty sure there has to be a way to stay personal, reach that larger audience, and stay interesting at the same time. In the end you can’t abandon your existing user-base, so a strong balance is important.

My goal is to keep this blog personal, stay myself, and be informative at the same time. I don’t think you should have to change your writing style completely (note I said “completely”) when you start reaching that larger audience. Being yourself is important, and I won’t abandon that.

I’m curious though – have you seen any other blogs reach this stage, and how do you see them adapting? Do the majority of them lose their “personal touch” in order to be able to adapt? Let’s discuss via comments and FriendFeed below.

SocialToo.com Now Supports Identi.ca

st.pngIf you log into your SocialToo.com account (or register if you haven’t already!) you can now click on the “Identi.ca” link at the top, provide your Identi.ca credentials, and you’ll now have the capability to automatically follow those that follow you on the microblogging site identi.ca. Not only that (I realize you can do that already on identi.ca through preferences), but if you do it through SocialToo.com you can also blacklist users from being followed again, something Identi.ca does not currently provide. Auto follow happens each night (and will happen more often when the API allows me to do so).

This is significant, in that now in addition to Facebook and Twitter, we’ll now have the capability to integrate Identi.ca into the tools we’re building and integrating with the Social Networks you belong to. Auto follow is just a start, but we are just days from launching a new feature that I think you’ll like, and it will automatically work on Twitter, Identi.ca, and Facebook if you’ve provided your credentials to do so.

SocialToo.com is your companion to the Social Web. My intention is to build tools that complement the Social Networks you already belong to, and make those networks even more powerful and useful through the tools we provide and integrate together across social networks. This is only one of many features we’ll be adding over the next few months.

Bear with me right now – the interface is still really simple. We’ll fix that up as we move forward. Be sure to provide your credentials if you’re on identi.ca already, let me know if you see any bugs, but give it a try!

You can find me on identi.ca here.

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My Hiatus From Twitter – Why You Should Join Me

whale.pngYesterday I announced I am permanently and officially on hiatus from Twitter. Bloggers and other Twitter users, while annoyed, are giving them too much attention in both the negative and positive forms, and frankly, both of these only help Twitter. Any publicity is good publicity, especially when it comes to Twitter. I’m fed up with their lack of communication with users (try to talk to @ev or @biz – I rarely ever get a response to them, while many other companies on their own service I get an instant response from), their lack of experience and poor architecture that keeps causing these problems. It seems, while they are trying to get better, they just keep getting worse!

Just Wednesday, Twitter, while not on purpose, removed mine, and others’ followers in some sort of mistake that took a day to fix (I’m guessing someone erased too much data in the database via a bad query on live data, and they had to restore from Tape backup to get it all back). This hit the breaking point for me – they violated the most important thing to me about Twitter, my followers (which are also those I follow and have a deep interest in), and I just can’t trust that things like this won’t keep happening in the future. They crossed the line, whether on purpose or not, and it’s time for me to take action.

I’ve endured them being down in times I needed them most. I’ve endured them removing API features from us developers with little to no notice. I’ve endured them launching things into production without telling developers or warning users. I’ve endured their lack of a proper staging environment and other simple architectural issues that they still have yet to fix (I’m still not convinced they’re not developing in their production environment!). I’ve endured their lack of a proper and regular launch schedule to warn other developers and users when new features and bug fixes are being launched into place. I’ve frankly, been too patient with them and I’m fed up with it.

Unfortunately, after only one day I realized I could not do it cold-Turkey. I have a good number of followers on Twitter that have some interest in me (and I thank you so much for that support – it really means a lot to me), and regardless of whether I want to leave or not, abandoning Twitter would mean abandoning those followers, and I just can’t do that to all of you. To me, you’re not just a number – you’re all people interested in me in some way, and I follow each of you back because of that (and will continue to do so). I do care about you, and need to do what I can to encourage you to join me in more productive, more reliable and trustworthy sources however. Here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to post much more on Identi.ca

My followers from Twitter are already very quickly joining the open source communications and micro-blogging service, Identi.ca. I use identi.ca with Twhirl and have it open at the same time I have Twitter and FriendFeed open. I will be posting to identi.ca much more often – follow me there so you don’t miss anything!

Why identi.ca? Distributed or not distributed (some argue it isn’t, which they have a point), identi.ca is open source. This means I, as a developer, can actually have some sort of chance at giving back if things ever go wrong. Everything’s plain, simple, and out in the open. I know Evan, the identi.ca founder, has also been very open with the community and has maintained that communication. I don’t get that from Twitter, at least not on an individual level. Also, identi.ca, like Twitter, now imports to FriendFeed, and now satisfies my status updating needs to initiate conversation (which is what FriendFeed satisfies).

I’m going to be much more involved on FriendFeed

On Wednesday at F8 I realized something significant – I was using FriendFeed as my primary communication mechanism throughout the day, and I really wasn’t missing Twitter much by doing so (and most of it from my cell phone). FriendFeed, frankly, is much more viral and advantageous to my blog and brand than Twitter because every time anyone likes or comments on an item I post or comment on, that item goes right back to the top of the feeds for all my friends. It brings instant exposure, and in fact, for many posts on this blog I get more traffic on FriendFeed than Google, Twitter, or any other service out there. FriendFeed takes power away from the A-listers and puts it right back in your hands – it can happen to you too, and very easily!

Some people, for whatever reason, won’t give up Twitter

As long as the majority of my followers remain on Twitter and don’t join FriendFeed or Identi.ca, I still have an obligation to you, and frankly, I’m outvoted at the moment until the scale tips. I’ll still follow your Tweets on Twitter, respond to your @replies, and direct messages, assuming you’re not already on the other services. You gave me your attention and I need to continue to give you mine. For the most part, my blog posts will keep posting there (although they are also on FriendFeed – discuss below!). Please don’t hesitate to contact me – I respect you having your own opinion. I hope this post can convince you otherwise however.

SocialToo.com still lives! It has to.

The fact of the matter is, there is still a large audience using Twitter and frankly, there’s a business opportunity there as long as people are still there. I built SocialToo.com to work across many social networks, and as you switch, so will SocialToo.com. For now though, there’s an opportunity, and Twitter will still be a part of that opportunity, as will Identi.ca, Facebook, and even FriendFeed in the future. It is already powering hundreds of Twitter accounts helping you follow those that are also interested in you and I have no intention in giving that up. If I can do my part in making Twitter a better place, I’ll at least try, so long as they let me. I’ve actually got a really cool new feature that will be released soon for both Twitter and Identi.ca.

I will not give Twitter any more attention!

I’ve given Twitter too much attention, both positive and negative already. We as bloggers, if we’re frustrated with the service, need to take a stand, and my hiatus starts with blogging about Twitter, and that happens right now, cold-turkey. This, unless Twitter does something absolutely profound, will be my last post about Twitter.

How Twitter can get me back

Twitter needs to do something profound – they need to show they have the experience necessary to protect those that follow and are interested in me. Twitter needs to open up more – let us into what you’re doing. Allow other services to sync with my updates in a federated, open manner. Open your source code like identi.ca. Any one or two of these will do, but, frankly, I’ve been disappointed too many times. Twitter has to gain my trust back, if some other service doesn’t beat them to it. Show your support by joining me on Identi.ca at:

http://identi.ca/jessestay

Or, more importantly, join me at FriendFeed at:

http://friendfeed.com/jessestay

I hope to see more of you there!

Facebook, May I Please Have a Shirt???

http://seesmic.com/embeds/wrapper.swf

Okay, I’ll admit, I did beg and get an “F8” shirt from the booths (which I lost and I’m still bitter about), but any chance you could send me (or even let me buy???) a shirt with the Facebook logo on it (like the waiters were wearing) to add to my collection Facebook? Pretty please? πŸ˜‰ (oh, and I promise no more silly posts like this in the future)

Facebook Confirms Launch of Platform on iPhone

Ben Ling just announced that the iPhone will be an official Facebook Connect launch partner. As I mentioned earlier, this is part of the developer course today. I’ll be staying tuned today to try and find out more information on how you can include Facebook in your iPhone App building process as the day goes forward.

SixApart Announces Comment Integration With Facebook

skitched-20080723-143258.pngIn an announcement about the launch of FacebookConnect, and going head-to-head with commenting services such as Disqus, IntenseDebate, and others, David Recordon from SixApart has announced the integration of MovableType comments with Facebook.

When commenting, the service recognizes your Facebook account and automatically takes the information from your Facebook account and posts it into your comments on your MovableType blog.

Your Facebook Photo gets automatically taken from Facebook and integrated right next to your comment. MovableType then links your comment back to your Facebook profile for others to learn more about you. Not only that, but SixApart automatically takes your MovableType comment and posts it back to your Facebook profile.

This is only the beginning of Facebook Connect and it will be interesting as you see more sites like WordPress, FriendFeed and Disqus doing similar things. The Social Web is truly becoming transparent.

Facebook Quietly Announces New iPhone/Mobile Platform

IMG_0001.PNGIn a recent blog post announcing the developer track at F8, Facebook made brief mention at the very end of one simple, yet very significant announcement. From the post:

7:00-7:45pm Made for Mobile

Jed Stremel and Pedram Kayani (Q&A with Joe Hewitt)

Mobile is everywhere. On Facebook Platform, too. These devices are opening up and creating new opportunities to build Facebook applications that extend beyond the Web, for ten million mobile users and growing (fast!). Jed, Pedram, and Joe give insights into mobile application development and show you how to get started using Facebook’s new development framework for the Apple iPhone.

It seems I may have been right, and we’ll find out for sure today at Zuckerberg’s keynote, but Facebook may just be about to launch an entirely new mobile platform for developers, starting with the iPhone. Of course all this is speculation at the moment, and the above mention could be referring to something else, but it’s looking more and more like mobile is Facebook’s future.

I will be streaming the event live via my Qik streams through my cell phone throughout the day. I’ve syndicated my Qik stream to StayNAlive.com so you can just pay attention here and you’ll get all the latest, live updates from F8, including the Zuckerberg keynote at 1:30pm PST. (Please forgive the lack of titles – I’m still working on that!) You can also catch the keynote via Facebook’s official stream here.

Oh, and btw, I just got the very first printed copy of my FBML Essentials book – if you want to see it in person, come look me up!

The iPhone Needs Privacy Controls

iphone_security.jpgThe iPhone seems to have created a huge security and privacy problem recently that I think many more people should be watching. By launching a developer platform and SDK, Apple has essentially created one of the largest social network platforms in existence, bringing even more powerful and personal data than ever before to the developer. Apple is essentially enabling the developers themselves to create the iPhone social network with almost no power whatsoever given to the iPhone user on how to enable or disable that data.

I became amazingly aware of what a huge issue this is when I, like many other iPhone early adopters, downloaded the Loopt application from the iTunes App Store and signed up for their service over my iPhone. Before I knew it, I had realized I just SMS’d about half of the contacts on my iPhone, including important business contacts and more that I would just rather not have an Application have access to. I couldn’t necessarily SMS them an apology, as that would just add to the issue I had just created. In fact, my Mom, who doesn’t have an SMS plan on her cell phone called me later that day to ask that I not send her SMS text messages to her cell phone, when in reality, I had no idea it was sent to her! Loopt had assumed that it would be okay to allow their users to send their friends SMS messages inviting them to Loopt (in a very ambiguous manner), when after mass complaint, Loopt quickly retracted from their efforts.

I argue this wasn’t Loopt’s fault though. Of course, Loopt does have some responsibility to satisfy their users, but despite having to apply to be in Apple’s directory, there is nothing stopping them from being malicious with the way they are handling the data on your iPhone. I know Loopt had no ill intentions, but this could have been any App out there with ill, or even not-so-ill intentions. Apple has no privacy controls on the iPhone giving the user control over what Applications can and can’t access, and as we’ve seen already, this is coming back to haunt them.

The iPhone has some very powerful features, accessible via the API, that make it an extremely valuable and unprecedented Social Networking tool. I’ll list those here:

Location, Location, Location – the Profile

First of all, the iPhone has access to your location and where you’ve been, which, I argue, is much more valuable information than any other Social Network profile in existence can provide about an individual user. The iPhone makes the people in the “Social Network” real.

The Contact List – your Friends

The iPhone has one of the most realistic contact/friend lists available in existence. The iPhone contact list contains information about people you actually talk to and interact with in real life. It also imports your other contact lists from other locations such as Gmail. No other Social Network in history has that type of completely real information about those you truly interact with on a daily basis.

Multimedia – the big picture

The iPhone has the most up-to-date photos, audio, and other multimedia in existence. Think about it — every social network you belong to currently probably has photos that originated from your iPhone or other camera. They are on your iPhone before they are on the Social Network. The iPhone also has real-time listening habits of users, along with your mail, your internet history, your stocks, the weather in your location — I could keep going on and on!

As you can see, the iPhone provides an extremely rich set of data integration points which any Application can take right now, and use as they please, and the user has absolutely no control over it (minus one prompt if the application is trying to get your location data). This is actually quite scary if you think about it!

Apple really needs to take a lesson from Facebook on this. One of my favorite features of Facebook is the fact that I can click on a single link and control all the information I save on Facebook right then and there. As a user, I can feel comfortable that no application I install will share my information in any way I don’t want Facebook to share it. Facebook takes pride in this, and it has even caused them problems as they have tried to fight this with the likes of Google’s FriendConnect to protect this data and keep it in the hands of their users if the users do not want it shared.

Never in history has there been such a phenomena as the iPhone SDK being opened. It’s brand new, and it’s unprecedented, so issues and flaws are to be expected. I only hope that Apple can, in the end, respect their users’ privacy and place a little more control over what data the Apps you install are allowed to access. Doesn’t this concern you?

The Rise of the Twittering Church-Goers

Warrenton-Baptist-Church-1-[Credit---Peyton-Knight]-728499.pngI knew Twitter had hit mainstream when I was Twittering about speaking in Church awhile back, and the CIO of a major Church organization Twitter’d me back, wishing me luck, while he himself was in church. Both he and I some times Twitter about the current sermon or teaching going on in our individual congregations and more – it’s quite frankly, an excellent tool to share with others of like beliefs and even outside your faith inspiring things you may learn. I’ve seen this from others as well, across boundaries of many different faiths – it’s a very common thing to see on Sundays on Twitter and FriendFeed. On Sundays, Twitter often becomes, “Church Day”, at least amongst many of my friends of different Faiths on Twitter.

Many people may gasp at this idea, saying, “What? You use your cell phone to Twitter in Church?”, but I’m not so sure it could be such a bad thing for the reasons I mention above. True, some times it is easy to get distracted, check e-mail, or FriendFeed, or other things going on and that takes some control. I also have to remember to turn off the sound on my wife’s cell phone so if/when I Twitter her phone doesn’t go off in the middle of sacrament/communion because she receives my Twitters on her cellphone (true story!). I do find it an easy way to study the scriptures in church without having to bring a whole book with me. With the iPhone’s new 3G speeds it’s also a great tool to be able to cross-reference and research the topics I’m learning – I’m a stickler for ensuring only the facts are being learned!

However, as I said, without restraint, my cellphone can be a distraction. Not only that, but the mere appearance of me constantly on it can bring an irreverance to the service that perhaps shouldn’t be there. I still can’t help wonder if it may be better just to leave the phone at home. To figure this out, I asked my friends on Twitter and FriendFeed how they use their cellphones in Church. I got a variety of great responses:

jtzemp – I work with the youth, and so I don’t believe in setting a double standard. If they can’t use them to be checking sports scores, texting friends, etc. than I’m not going to either. I have five rules: 1.) It’s OK in emergencies 2.) If it is being used to enhance the experience we’re all sharing, it’s ok. (calling people to get them to activities, finding out if someone is up for a visit, etc). It’s not ok to isolate yourself from people present to have conversations with people who aren’t present. The people you are with right now are the most important people to you right now. 3.) Following up on assignments is OK. I participate in a lot of meetings, and I do text people to remind them of, and follow up on completion of assignments. 4.) It’s _not_ ok in very sacred settings. It takes your mind off the spiritual experience and leaves you spiritually distracted. 5.) If you use your PDA/iPhone to store scriptures/notes/etc. It is ok to use it for that purpose only in appropriate settings. My $0.02.

LdsNana-AskMormon – Calender items, notes and on occasion accessing the scriptures via the Internet….. but NEVER texting.

Justin Hileman – i think appropriate use of technology can be beneficial… i’m far more likely to remain engaged when i’m looking up supplementary material or cross-referencing scripture. with a phone/pocket pc/iPhone i can look up that quote that i can almost remember, i can jot down notes so i’ll remember later. and i’m far less likely to carry a pad of paper to church with me.

Louis Gray – I used to bring the Treo, to have the standard works, hymns, lessons on. Now, I leave all the gadgets at home. You know I’d be Friendfeeding during communion and on Fast Sunday.

Ontario Emperor – If I am alone at church, I will occasionally tweet and/or friendfeed the highlights from the sermon. http://friendfeed.com/e/17edcd…

LGR – Occasionally, if I have the kids on my own in the parents room I will check email, and do some RSS reading while I am watching the kids. I can’t hear the sermon in the parents room unfortunately so I play with the kids and check things on my cell.

James Hull – Never. In the past I have used it to save notes or ideas that may pop into my head, but lately I turn the thing off on the way in and back on on the way out.

the JoshMeister – I like jtzemp’s comments. I carry 3 phone/PDA-type devices with me (yes, I know it sounds silly, but there’s a reason for each device). I use my personal PDA (not a phone) for notes, scriptures, lesson manuals, hymns, and my calendar. I use my Treo (my work PDA-phone which is Internet-enabled but not calling-enabled) to look up talks on lds.org during meetings when appropriate e.g. if a particular talk is the main focus of a lesson, and also for typing notes during General/Stake Conference…

…And finally, I use my personal cell phone only before/after church, or to add a church member’s phone number.

Harvey Simmons – This will probably blur the definition of “in church,” but I’m on the AV team, so we send texts from the sound board to the video room all the time. We just turn our ringers off. At the same time, we occasionally remind people that they could be on camera at any time, so they shouldn’t text or talk on cellphones during service. Last week, the Assistant Pastor’s phone rang during communion service. It was hilarious.

James Andrews – My church is wireless and I love looking up scripture in service, though my wife says it looks like i’m checking my email. My pastor is pretty progressive and I am sure knows what Im doing

klecu – I quite often use my pocket PC in church…to read the Bible of course

Jeff P. Henderson – Maybe there is an online church you could join. Then it would be totally appropriate to use your iPhone there πŸ˜‰

Akula – I occasionally check email although I shouldn’t. If I had an iPhone I’d probably use it too much at church.

This Twitter and FriendFeed Phenomena is still quite new. I’m sure as it pans out we’ll see more and better uses for it in Church. In the meantime I’m going to watch it with a close eye and see if I can figure out a middle-ground that keeps the sacredness of Church and still adds to it through use of new technology. With the new iPhone App store it could actually be quite interesting to see if any “Church-apps” come to fruition as more people use it. I’m a believer, that’s for sure!

We’re still discussing this on FriendFeed – you can keep contributing to the conversation here.

Photo Credit Peyton Knight