October 2008 – Stay N Alive

How Transparent is Your Business?

ATT0005216161616.pngThis image is a Gas Station from the times that my parents and grandparents grew up. You’ll notice that there are glass cylinders on top of each of the gas pumps giving a glimpse into what’s inside. Those aren’t lights, nor are they crazy bug zappers. They are a symbol of how honest that gas station is.

My Uncle explained to me his memories of these:

“First a valve would open to fill the glass cylinder (about 5 gallons). That proved they weren’t cheating you. Then another valve would open and the 5 gallons would flow down the hose into our tank. This would be repeated as needed.”

Nowadays, in a world of computers and binary calculations, it’s easy to just let the computer do the work for you. They’re pretty accurate, and hey – nobody shares their statistics any more. You don’t need to share that data. After all, you know you’re being honest. But do your customers know you’re being honest?

Some times it’s easier to keep our honesty secret and trust the computers. However, your customers will be happier if you follow these Gas Stations’ examples. Go transparent, open up the blinds, and be sure your customers have no doubt in their minds that you’re being honest. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all felt pressure to expose our honesty, rather than hide it?

Announcing Follower Messaging and Follow Statistics for SocialToo.com

socialtoo_logo.jpgI’ve been throwing hints on Twitter over the last week or two that I’ve been working on this, and with a little extra time I finally got it together. Today I’d like to announce that, as of this moment, we have some really cool new features for Twitter users on SocialToo.com, all in one place!

SocialToo, which is trying to be “Your Companion to the Social Web”, is seeking to build the tools and utilities that compliment your experience on the social networks you belong to. Up until now, anyone could sign up and automatically get the ability to have it follow all those on Twitter that follow you. The script ran once a day, and would do all the work for you, while also enabling you to blacklist users you don’t want it to follow. This enables you to automate, while making exceptions, making management of your friends on Twitter much easier. In addition, by providing Facebook credentials it would redirect “yourusername.socialtoo.com” to your Facebook profile.

Today, I’d like to announce some new features:

  • First of all, for those with less than 2,000 followers (this is due to a Twitter limit), we’re now updating your followers up to the hour – as Twitter improves their API I’ll update this to work even more realtime. We’re working with Twitter on getting their API improved to handle this. If you have 2,000 followers or more instead of just once a day, we’re now updating every 6 hours, so even your followers will update faster than before.
  • Today, we’re adding the ability to add a message that we’ll send to all your new followers via direct message. This can be a great opportunity to thank your followers, or, as a business account, tell them about a unique promotion you are running. However, if you’re just signing up and aren’t already following those who follow you, we recommend waiting until your account syncs up before turning this on, or all those we follow will get dm’d, even if they’re not new followers. This should only be applicable to new accounts – if you have an existing account, check your preferences and be sure to turn this feature on!
  • In addition, if you have a bunch of people who followed you, you followed back, and then they stopped following you (this is the case for many Twitter spammers), we’ve added the ability to turn on a feature that unfollows those that are not following you back. I think it’s who you follow that matters, so my recommendation is to use this feature sparingly, and turn it off when your account is back in sync. You can use it however you want though.
  • We’ve got a fresh new design! – okay, I admit, we’re not perfect yet, and were this the golden days I’d say we’re still technically in “beta” (I hate that excuse though), but we got a superstar designer to offer some help on the design for this – thanks so much to our designer!! You know who you are. The new design will come into play much more in the next round of features.
  • My favorite feature: follower statistics. Not only are we now tracking those that follow you, but we’re also tracking those that stopped following you. You’ll now get an e-mail every night telling you the followers that stopped following you, and who your new followers are (and consequently who you followed). This is turned off for all existing users – go into your preferences to turn this on and find out details about those you’re following and those who may have unfollowed you (and we’ll soon provide other statistics to help you find out why).

As planned, I think we’re changing the game in making your social experience better all in one place with these tools. You may be familiar with other sites that do similar things out there, but you will quickly find that SocialToo.com is easier to set up, more automated, more accurate, and much less hassle than some of the other services out there.

Oh, and there’s one more really big thing. You’ll have to wait a few weeks to hear our next announcement though. Much more on the way!

You can sign up at http://socialtoo.com (that’s T-O-O, like “tool”, or “also”). Follow us on Twitter at @socialtoo for more updates!

Suicide Note on Facebook Developer Forums?

UPDATE: Facebook’s security team is now aware of this and is taking care of the matter. Again, if you know the guy, call the police immediately.

I found this, posted under 2 categories in the Facebook developer forums today. The man seems depressed over having his account removed, and gives 1 week before he dies. I have notified Facebook – is there anything else we can do for the guy?

His note, quoted below, from bhong025:

My facebook account is my life! I really need the account active for my work, my family, my friends and my own world.

I can’t live without facebook. All the years of work, message, relationship and love is gone.

It’s very very important source for my work. I know the rules now. I won’t randomly add people again.

The entire friends i have for my life is vanished! I am lost in the deadly loneliness after my account is disabled.

How can I possibily live again?

So this is it, I should just kill myself. I can’t live with this shameful sin.

There is nothing I could do to get it back. I am here all alone by myself after my job is over and my friends all laughing at my disabled account.

Without facebook, I am planning 1 week to live with the rest of my money.

Please tell god, I died in a painful death.

If you know this man or this user, please, call the police immediately. This is completely serious and letters like this shouldn’t be taken lightly. How can we help out this guy?

Proposition 8 – It’s Not Exactly Cut and Dry

your_vote_counts_button_3.jpgI’ve been standing back for awhile listening to the various sides in the blogosphere on Proposition 8 in California. The proposition is in response to a Judge overturning proposition 22, a law which attempted to define marriage being between a man and a woman. The Judge declared the law unconstitutional, making Gay marriage legal in the State of California. Opponents against the Judge’s decision have organized Proposition 8 to amend the State Constitution, thereby making marriage between two of the same gender illegal. I thought that since many of my readers are in California I would chime in.

As a Mormon (aka, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), like Louis Gray, I’m very torn on this issue. I had several gay friends in High School, and while I wasn’t very close with them, they were some of the nicest people I knew. Frankly, I wish the world had more people as nice and genuine as many of the gay people I know. I know many of my gay friends would never be able to change even if they wanted to – it’s part of them. It’s something as natural to them as eating is to you and me.

At the same time, my religion teaches me “that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” To me, our church’s manifesto on this subject, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World“, is one of the most beautiful and divinely inspired pieces of writing in these modern times. It teaches me that “all human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” This includes those that are Gay – yes, we believe they have a part in God’s plan as well, and I believe this to be true. Unfortunately, in my religion it cannot include marriage.

While I’m grateful I don’t have to make the decision on whether I’m voting for or against this amendment, I do understand the great difficulty others are having showing love towards those with same-gender attraction, while at the same time following what their faith teaches them is sacred and true. Here are some of the major issues they are contemplating:

Natural/Human Rights

Those against the amendment say that Gay people are born gay. There are conclusive studies that show there could be genetic evidence of being gay in both gay and lesbian people.

At the same time the pro-8 supporters argue that despite some being born gay, regardless of whether it can be proven or not, that voting “no” on proposition 8 will encourage under-age “experimentation” for those that may not have been born with the trait. At the same time, some studies of a “gay gene” have been debunked as being biased and lacking concrete evidence, supposedly because the scientists themselves were homosexual.

The Human Rights issue simply isn’t clear enough yet to prove someone can be born gay or not to make it as clear as someone being black or white, or man or woman. And even if it were, there are other issues that come into play that add a whole lot more complexity to the legal definition of marriage and how that definition could affect society.

Parental Rights, Education About Homosexuality

This is one I can’t quite wrap my mind around (of course, I can’t quite wrap my mind around most of this). Those for voting “yes” on 8 argue that parents will lose power to control what their children are being taught in schools. In fact, there are cases in Massachusetts, where a Kindergartner was taught a story about 2 gay parents without notification of the parents. The “no” on 8 would argue that the parents were told about this in a letter sent out earlier in the school year. At the same time, in San Jose a professor was fired for quoting a textbook, stating that homosexual behavior could be influenced by “genres” and “environment”. There are also many other cases from Massachusetts legalizing Gay marriage listed here.

All this ends up sounding very bigoted however to the “no” on 8 supporters, if you can prove, and believe that homosexuality comes from birth. Based on the links above though, these are both highly contested viewpoints in the scientific community. I think you’ll find in the comments below that this continues to be contested (if I can predict correctly).

Church Rights / Freedom of Religion

If I were to have to vote, this is the main thing that would end up influencing me. To me this is the most convincing. The fact is, entire religious doctrines are at stake with this amendment. This is the main reason the LDS Church is involved (and just to set the record straight, it was the Catholic church, not the LDS church that instigated this).

If this amendment takes place, I predict there will come a time when all religions have to accept Gay marriage into their doctrines. Already, this has become an issue in Massachusetts where at least one religious faith is being sued for not allowing a Gay marriage to take place on their property. There are also other cases. This isn’t a matter of letting religions just do what they want to do and keeping the legal definition separate from the religious. Things all change when it becomes legal. I can’t have government forcing my religion to change its beliefs. That takes away from my right to worship. I’m very concerned about this one.

As you can see, the issue of Proposition 8 isn’t very cut and dry. There are many studies, and many issues, all conflicting with each other. The one fact I think we all agree on is that we want our Gay friends and neighbors to all have the best life they can possibly have – I think we all agree they have a right to that. I’m just glad I’m not the one having to make the decision to vote for or against Proposition 8. I hope I’ve presented at least some of the studies, on both sides, for you to make your own decision. Please feel free to discuss in the comments!

Twitter API Lead Changes Priorities With New Book

UPDATE: Be sure to see Alex’s comment below for his view on this.

twitter_logo_s-2.jpgI am a huge fan of Twitter, regardless of what I say or ever complain about. As a developer of Twitter apps, I want to see it succeed. However, I will sound the warning bell when I see things happen that could detrimentally affect the service. A post on his personal blog today by Twitter’s API Lead, Alex Payne, has me concerned. In the post, he announces that he’s writing a book, and ironically, the book has nothing to do with Twitter development.

In the post, Alex announces he’s writing a book on a new, JVM-based language called Scala. He did a presentation on it awhile back at C4, talking about why he was supporting it and why it was a good language. Alex is a smart guy, and it would seem he’s a very appropriate author for such a book, but in his blog post he mentions nothing about what is going to happen with his work at Twitter – what are his priorities after he begins writing this book?

In development for my own site, SocialToo, I’ve dealt quite a bit with Alex, so I know he’s a hard worker. He’s answered my e-mails in the middle of the night, and even over the weekend. He’s always talking to the Twitter development list and lately seems to be doing a great job interacting with developers.

As an author of 2 books, one of them O’Reilly, I’m a bit worried Alex’s priorities may be shifting. Writing a book is no easy task, and especially not an easy task to maintain a full-time job at a very time-consuming startup that still doesn’t have its API squared away. He should expect to spend several weeks in a row, full-time, writing, editing, and re-editing the book. It’s not very easy to write a book in your spare time – he should expect his focus at Twitter to diminish. There’s no avoiding it – that’s why O’Reilly gives authors an advance, so they can support themselves during the time they are writing the book. O’Reilly has tough deadlines to get books to print in time.

So, seeing perhaps the most important player in Twitter’s API development completely shift their focus after posts like this one last week by Alex himself, I can’t help but wonder where the priorities are at Twitter and who’s actually working. Does this mean we’ll never see them open the firehose? As a Twitter developer, I’m truly worried about this announcement.

Does Facebook Finally Have T-Shirts?

n11204705797_649885_5738.pngFor those that regularly read my blog, you’re blatently aware of my weird annoyance that I can’t seem to get my hands on an official Facebook T-Shirt. My Friend Rodney had to purchase one off the back of a waiter at F8 in order to get his hands on one – that’s how hard they are to come up with. Dave Morin has said they’re coming soon.

Could a recent announcement on the Facebook Engineering blog be a signal that Facebook finally has T-shirts to give away or for purchase by others? Facebook just today announced the 11th annual Hackathon for their internal developers. Who cares about that news though. What’s most important about the announcement is that as part of that they’re offering the opportunity for outside developers and users to offer suggestions for their developers to work on. The top 10 suggestions earn free Facebook T-Shirts.

Dave Morin or David Swain or others there at Facebook, does this mean I’ll be able to purchase myself a Facebook T-Shirt soon??? Please? Pretty Please?

What’s On Removed From the iTunes App Store

whats-on.jpgZdnet is reporting that apparently, i.TV‘s competition, What’s On, has been removed from the Apple iTunes App store. Searching for the iPhone App returns a listing, but clicking on the listing returns an error saying the App couldn’t be found. There is no word from What’s On, and it’s unclear the reason for the dead links.

This news of What’s On, having recently pushed their 1.5 version to the iTunes App store, comes on the Heels of the number one Free App in the iTunes App store, i.TV. Both applications provide TV Listings and customizable TV lists for users, i.TV with much more content. i.TV also provides a movie listings and Theater search service which What’s On does not provide.

i.TV is a client of mine, so I have to admit I have a bias, but I’m very curious to know what’s “going” on here. I have no inside knowledge on this one unfortunately. I can only wonder if Apple discovered something that was in disagreement with their Terms of Use policies.

WordPress and Intense-Debate Take First Steps Towards Integration


A few of the Automattic developers are announcing a new beta program for WordPress.com blogs in which blog owners can enable Intense-debate and Disqus-style e-mail replies to comments on a blog (this blog uses Disqus comments). Such an announcement comes on the heels of Automattic’s purchase of Intense-debate, and according to Joseph Scott (one of the developers), the feature was actually co-written by one of the Intense-debate developers, Jon Fox.

According to the various posts, soon users will be able to comment on WordPress.com blogs, and when they comment, the blog owner will receive notice of the comment via e-mail. The blog owner can then respond straight from the e-mail without having to go back to the website to comment.

This integration seems to be just the first step of Automattic integrating with Intense-Debate. Other competitors that provide similar offerings are Disqus, and JS-Kit. Disqus doesn’t seem to be worried however, claiming that only 5% of Disqus blogs are based on WordPress (I personally, am a big fan of Disqus). Such a unified effort should worry the competitors however – where so many blog owners are now seamlessly integrated into a hosted commenting solution, every reader of those blogs will now also be required to integrate. It will be interesting to see what the response from the competition will be.

The beta is for WordPress.com users only. No word on if self-hosted blogs such as Stay N’ Alive will be provided an update.

LDS Church Ranks Top Among Churches on Alexa

Picture 3.png

An article on the website, LDSMediaTalk, pointed me to an interesting statistic today. It appears that the official website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS.org, ranks at the top of all organizational Church websites on the internet. In fact, at #3,095 and having peaked at near 2,500 at the beginning of October, it is one of the most visited websites on the Internet.

Looking at the rank, and the current membership of near 13 million members worldwide, one would wonder if it’s not just members visiting the site. Could it be mere curiosity about the Church, activity of members themselves, or does the Church itself have a more technical background than others? As a practicing member of the Faith, I have to admit these numbers were surprising to me, and I don’t have an answer to those questions. It isn’t too surprising though, in that the Church has pioneered many technologies around Family History and recently has encouraged its members to blog and use the internet for good. The church has also created a Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/LDSPublicAffairs.

Amazingly, the church’s other main websites, FamilySearch.org (a website for Genealogy enthusiasts), and Mormon.org, at 11,342 and 63,314 respectively, also rank fairly high when compared to other religious websites. Here are the Alexa rankings of other large Religious organizational websites:

Catholic.org – 25,990

NOI.org (Nation of Islam) – 576,153

SBC.net (Southern Baptist Convention) – 204,346

Watchtower.org (Jehovas Witnesses) – 19,072

Venganza.org (The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – just for the non-believers) – 70,560

Being not as centrally organized, I had a difficult time finding a single source for Hinduism, Buddhism, or Judaism. I also realize that Nation of Islam is only one sect of beliefs within the Islamic faith – I would be interested to see any other major Church websites out there you may be familiar with. It would be nice to see a greater presence on more Church websites like this. What other Churches rank high in Internet visibility and traffic?