December 2009 – Stay N Alive

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

In these hard economic times, we all need a little reboot on what’s really important.  Christian, Jew, Muslim, or none-of-the-above, this video produced by my church, while from a Christian’s perspective, really sets things straight – it’s the little things!:


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from me and my family.

A Christmas Story: OpenID, OAuth, My Home, and Your Privacy

905450_merry_christmasHere it is, Christmas Eve, almost time to celebrate Christmas in all the traditions it brings in our household.  We usually go visit my wife’s family, and then follow it up with telling the Christmas story out of the Bible and then we sing Christmas songs and each of us opens one present from another sibling or family member.  In our household, Christmas is all about spending time with family.  It’s all about home.  It’s all about spending personal time with those you’re closest with and maintaining the traditions you hold private and dear.

Thinking about home and family and Christmas, I realized today there’s a disconnect on the open web right now.  The privacy I mention is available in forms on the web such as Facebook, Gmail (to an extent), and in various forms amongst other web services throughout the web.  However when it comes to real life, there is a missing link when it comes to maintaining the privacy of where you are physically, and sharing that on the web so only your close friends and family know where that exact location is.

For instance, let’s say I want to have a Christmas party for just my immediate family, and maybe some close friends that I know follow me on Twitter or Facebook.  Right now the only way to do that is to either e-mail them each individually and reveal my exact location to each one, or blast it out publicly, potentially compromising the intimate experience we were trying to create.  At the same time I would be putting my family at risk by allowing unknown people to know where they are.

Another example is mail.  Let’s say this Christmas I want to arrange an easier way for my friends to send me gifts.  I publish some of the things I want for Christmas (I’m of course not that greedy to actually do that), and then I need a way to have you send me those gifts.  Or let’s take a more humble approach – perhaps I want to arrange sending money to a friend in need.  Or let’s say it’s my wedding and I want all my friends to know where they can send wedding gifts.  Right now there is absolutely no way you can blast that out publicly without compromising your physical location in some way.

Paul Carr of TechCrunch wrote about this exact issue several weeks ago.  He cited examples of people coming to his apartment for parties or get-togethers (on Halloween in this instance), and all checking in on FourSquare.  Immediately the exact coordinates of Paul could be made available to the world, all without Paul’s permission.  This is dangerous, especially to a writer of a publication whose employees and writers have been known to get constant threats and even death threats on a regular basis!  There has to be a solution.  Let’s move on to a few technologies I think could solve this.

DNS – the Router for the Web

DNS is the technology that pretty much powers the web from you, the user’s perspective.  I mentioned earlier that we are about to see a “war” at the same level as the browser wars of the late 90s and early 2000’s where companies like Google and Microsoft and others are all going to be fighting for a piece of the DNS pie.  Here’s how DNS works: with DNS, you type in a domain name, and that domain name gets translated through a sequence of various “name servers” throughout the web that eventually tell your browser the IP, or location of that content on the web.  Once your browser knows the location, it knows where to retrieve the content it needs to render to you.

The advantage of DNS to you as a user is that you do not need to know where each server is located.  You simply have to know an easy-to-remember name that the web “just knows” how to translate into an actual location (or IP).  You type in and it just knows how to find the servers that are producing the page you are reading this on.  In fact, many domains actually map to multiple locations, so having a single name to remember is advantageous, and provides a routing layer that can easily be changed.  I actually do this with my e-mail address. points right now to my Gmail account.  Because I own the domain,, I can easily point that to just about any e-mail provider I like, and I completely control where my mail gets routed.  You the user only have to know the e-mail address though – it doesn’t matter where it ends up.  The web takes care of that based on how I set it to work.

There’s one problem with DNS though – it’s too anonymous.  Right now it’s all or nothing.  If you put something on the web, anyone can find out your location on the web, and in return, anyone can gain access to your content.  At the same time, there’s no way with DNS alone to identify actual people.  Your website just maps to a location, and anyone can see that location without any other measures in place.  Right now if you want to prevent a certain user from accessing your site, you’re stuck guessing just their IP, which they can technically change if they like.  It’s not a real person visiting your site – it’s just an IP – it’s just a location mapping back to your site.

Solving the Identity Problem Through OpenID

To solve the anonymity problem there had to be another layer added.  A protocol called OpenID was invented, which you, the website owner, could “identify” your website with a specific identity provider using just your DNS identifier (or Domain).  With your website linked to an identity provider, you can now use that specific domain (which remember, maps to a location or IP), to actually identify you as a real person.  By simply typing in your domain on participating OpenID-supported websites, they can automatically verify with your identity provider that it is in fact you logging in as the owner of that website.  Now, every website can also be associated with an actual individual, perhaps even more than a location.  Now you know with close certainty that the content my location is producing is actually coming from me.

There’s still a problem with this though.  You can know the content is coming from me.  However, there’s no way for me to control who’s seeing my content.  Sure, with OpenID I could in theory identify each and every person that visits my website as an actual person (assuming I provide the means to do so), but how do I filter that traffic so only those I want seeing my content are seeing it?

This goes back to the exact same problem I was mentioning with real-life locations – privacy.

The Future of the Open Web is Open Privacy Standards

The web still needs better ways to protect user privacy in an open, standardized way.  Facebook has built this into their API but they haven’t standardized it so others can integrate it into the traditional web experience.  You have to be a Facebook user to get full privacy from Facebook.

Currently there are several open standards in the works that are trying to attack this head on.  One of OAuth’s successors, WRAP, which Facebook is very involved in at the moment, strives to do this.  It is also in the vision for OAuth 2.0 (if I understand correctly), another successor to OAuth.  The success of the future Open Web, ironically, lies in privacy.  It lies in customized roles and authorization.  Ironically we’re going right back to the same problems Novell was trying to solve with the Enterprise market back in the 90s, but this time on a much larger, global scale.


Now, I’d like to take a step back to my little Christmas story, and where especially around the Holiday season, I’d like to maintain a little privacy.  It’s time we stop thinking about just the web itself, and now start looking towards the future where the web, and our real lives are all going to be meshed into one.  Privacy is critical in this not-so-distant future of a world.

For the Open Web to succeed, it needs to be ubiquitous.  It needs to stretch far beyond just the browser and into our every day real lives.  When I was visiting the Kynetx offices last week Craig Burton shared a vision he has, where he sees people being able to go from room-to-room in a house, and having each room identify who the individual is.  Once identified the room can provide a contextual experience in the room itself for that user (adjust the lights, turn on the favorite TV channel, adjust the chair comfort, etc., etc.).  This is another reason I like what the Kynetx team is working on – open technologies must stretch far beyond just the browser!  You will see this in the next 5 years or less, by the way.

My hope is that we can keep in mind privacy, in not just a browser context, but real-life context as the Open Web is growing and being discussed and architected.  I want to be able to give the Post Office my OpenID on an envelope and have them immediately be able to verify my identity and know where to route my mail.  I want to be able to, on a whim, change where that mail is routed without changing the OpenID I give the Post Office.  I want to give certain close friends and family permissions (which I could revoke at any time) to look up my physical location, based on my OpenID if I choose.  I want to only provide my OpenID to apps like FourSquare and have them also respect that OpenID and not reveal my physical location to people I choose not to share it with.  OpenID and at the forefront, DNS, should be the routers, and at the same time, protectors of our physical locations and our real-life experiences.

This Christmas I want a web that thinks beyond its borders. I want a ubiquitous web that travels with me and gives me full power, not just on the web, but in my real life regarding the context I choose to receive.  I want the limits of DNS to go far beyond IP and into the walls of my own home.  Most of all I want all this to happen with open standards.  I want a web that protects my family.

My hope this Christmas is that you can be inspired.  May you spend a little more time thinking about how you can contribute to this effort.  How can you understand these technologies a little more?  How can you sacrifice a little to make the world a little more open?

May you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.  Hopefully in 5 years I’ll be able to even tell you where I’ll be and where you can spend it with me and not worry about it getting in the hands of the wrong people..  Even in an Open Web, it’s all about Location, Location, Location!

FriendFeed Turns on the Twitter Firehose (Again)

friendfeed-logo.jpgIt seems that some time today, the FriendFeed team has just re-enabled their live Twitter stream (using Twitter’s “Birddog” API) for real-time updates from Twitter.  I noticed the update when posting a cool bookmarklet by Kynetx, and re-tested it again – sure enough the update to Twitter hit FriendFeed almost immediately after I posted it to Twitter.  Looking over FriendFeed, I learned that Paul Buchheit, one of FriendFeed’s founders now working for Facebook, confirmed this earlier today.

Long before many were embracing Twitter’s real-time stream, FriendFeed was one of the first Real-time Twitter stream consumers to take advantage of the platform.  Shortly after the Facebook acquisition the FriendFeed team turned off the real-time updates, others speculating that it was the beginning of the end for FriendFeed.  FriendFeed’s Paul Buchheit assured users that the FriendFeed team was simply working out details with the Facebook lawyers to ensure the real-time stream met up with Facebook’s stringent legal policies.  Others remained skeptical.

Tonight it appears they’ve turned that live stream on for good, and boy is it fast!  FriendFeed continues to remain one of the most powerful Twitter clients and Social Management tools out there.  I think this continues to prove that FriendFeed will continue to improve even after the Facebook acquisition.

If you’re not yet, you can follow me on FriendFeed at

Cinch Enables On-Site Recording of Audio for the Stream

CinchEarly this morning Rob Blackin posted a Cinch, debuting finally the ability to record audio straight from’s own website.  Until today users could post photos and status updates on the micro-podcasting network, but its core service, audio, could not be recorded from the site itself.  Today they fixed that, enabling you to hit record, and save audio from any audio input on your computer.  I’m sure there will be many podcasters and audiophiles rejoicing.

BlogTalkRadio’s, up until recently, has had an iPhone app to record audio, along with an API, and the ability to just call a number on your phone and record audio straight from any phone.  The service enables anyone, no matter where they are, to record audio even without an internet connection, and it gets added to their stream of Cinch updates on  Each stream has its own RSS feed which can be fed into your favorite reader or feed aggregator as well. (I feed mine into FriendFeed)

This move should enable podcasters and those that want to use more professional audio equipment to also post high quality audio shares to the site.  For instance, let’s say you’re a musician and you want to share a quick, live, bootleg preview of a song you just released.  This enables such capability straight from the desktop and any sound equipment you have.  Or perhaps you’re just sitting at work at your computer and just want to record some thoughts.

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 10.44.27 AM

It will be interesting to see what new types of Cinches get produced from this.  Currently, the company is already broadcasting short audio snippets from Bill Cosby, and tech bloggers Robert Scoble and Louis Gray, along with many others are using it to post short interview clips from the conferences they attend and companies they visit.  I’m using it as a daily personal journal as well.

Cinch’s focus on audio brings some interesting use-cases for a social media stream that text and video simply just don’t satisfy.  I can’t wait to see what comes next for the company.  You can follow me on Cinch at

Disclosure: Cinch and BlogTalkRadio are clients of Stay N’ Alive Productions, LLC, my consulting company

Make Your Facebook Page Fly With the FBFoundations Facebook Chicklet

facebook-wordpress-twitterMost guys (and girls) who love Facebook like I do probably have a Facebook Page where those wanting to get a scoop of the latest in our professional lives can come learn, chat, and converse with each other.  I consider a Facebook Page (some call them “Fan Pages”) the equivalent on Facebook to a Twitter Profile, as it enables a public, anonymous way to express yourself without limit to the number of people that “follow” you.  Pages are powerful, and can build strong engagement for you and your brand in ways Twitter or even a regular Facebook Profile can’t.  I was surprised that with all the little “chicklets” out there displaying anywhere from the number of readers on your blog to the number of followers you have on Twitter that there wasn’t anything for blog owners to display the number of Fans they have on Facebook. That’s why I created the FBFoundations Facebook Chicklet for WordPress blogs.

The premise of the chicklet is simple.  It uses Facebook Connect (something I argue is even more powerful than a Facebook Page, but requires someone with at least HTML and Javascript knowledge to implement) to go out and get the number of fans for a Facebook Page you specify, and share the number of those fans right on your blog.  In addition, it hyperlinks the chicklet back to your Facebook Page.  Displaying this chicklet on your blog can be a great way to encourage readers to click through and become fans on Facebook as well, where more conversations can take place and your blog can spread even further.  You can see the Facebook Chicklet for this blog up above this article next to the subscribers and twitter followers chicklets.  Go ahead and click on it and become a fan and I’ll send you more updates!


To implement the chicklet, you’ll first need to download the FBFoundations plugin (download here) that I wrote and can be downloaded here.  This just makes it so that it can access Facebook to get the number of Fans for your Page.  It will also add an additional meta tag or two to make sharing your blog a little prettier when it’s shared on Facebook.

Once you’ve downloaded and activated FBFoundations on your blog, just download the FBFoundations Facebook Chicklet plugin, extract it into your WordPress plugins directory, and activate it.  You’ll then want to configure it to point to your Facebook Page in your blog’s admin (if not, it will point to mine!).  Now, go to either the sidebar widgets section in your administration if your blog is widgets-enabled, or go into your Blog’s theme files, and place the following code anywhere you want the chicklet to show up:

Once that’s in and the plugin is activated, the chicklet should start showing with the number of Fans on your Facebook Page.  It’s that simple.

Again, be sure to enable the FBFoundations plugin on your blog for this to work.  Also, if you want to also enable sharing for each blog post on your blog to Facebook, along with the number of people that have shared the post, be sure to also check out my FBShare plugin for WordPress!

I guess this is kind of my Christmas present to you all.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Chanukah this season!

You can download the plugin straight from WordPress right here.  Here is the WordPress plugin page:

Image Courtesy Robb Sutton from

Kynetx Launches Chrome Extension Support for Their Platform

Editor’s note: Kynetx is something you have to use to fully understand!  If nothing in this article makes sense, please skip down to the bottom and at least try out the extensions these guys have built in their app directory and you can see the power of what this platform can do!  This is very powerful technology – I really believe this is the future of the web!

kynetxFriday afternoon Kynetx launched support in their developer platform to build extensions for the Google Chrome Browser.  The company, which provides a standardized, open framework for building web browser extensions (among other supported technologies such as Action Cards), became the first extension-building platform that supports all 3 of the top browsers on the web.  The move is unprecedented, as now with Kynetx in comparison to GreaseMonkey, possibly their closest comparison in this instance, you can write code once, and immediately have extensions and plugins that work in Firefox, Chrome, and even IE with the click of a button. Kynetx makes customization of the user experience in the browser a cinch with their platform.

I visited Kynetx on Friday for their weekly Kynetx developers lunch (which they invite the public to, just asking that you let them know in advance), and they were hard at work getting the final quirks worked out of the Chrome extension.  Developers like myself are now rejoicing, as Chrome is very quickly, with the backing of Google, proving to be one of the most responsive, most extensive browsers on the internet.  It also has an integrated development environment so extensions such as Firebug for Firefox don’t even need to be installed.  They all come with the browser, providing a much smoother and faster experience for the developer.

Kynetx is positioning themselves to become the ubiquitous controller for user experience and context on the web.  With their technology, users have the potential to fully control what they allow and don’t allow to be displayed on the web.  At the same time businesses are each given the opportunity, with the user’s permission, to change the experience for that user on the web.

Kynetx recently launched a tool with the Better Business Bureau enabling, with installation of a simple extension (in any of your favorite browsers now!), display of BBB accredited business seals in Google Local search results.  When a business has been approved by the Better Business Bureau a little seal appears next to their name in search results, enabling a more educated experience for users in the browser.  All of this is done without any need to form a special relationship with Google to customize those results.  Because of the ease of development and broad install base for extensions like the new Chrome extension launched Friday, any business has the potential to customize the experience for the user in a similar manner.


The new Chrome extension works across all versions of Chrome that support extensions.  While the official Chrome for Mac does not yet support this yet, the PC version does, as do developer builds of Chromium for Mac.  It is rumored that Chrome for Mac will be supporting extensions very soon.  The other advantage Chrome brings to the Kynetx environment is the availability of Jails for each extension.  With Chrome, developers can enable extensions to not be able to talk with each other or affect each other.  This introduces some interesting and secure identity and authentication/authorization implications which I’m sure we’ll be seeing from the Kynetx team in the future.

If you’re a developer with some knowledge of the DOM and Javascript, you should really check out the power of what the Kynetx platform can bring to your company and business.  This goes way beyond the browser, and makes context-aware applications a user-controlled standard that goes with that user anywhere.  Be sure to check out a little glimpse of what this stuff will enable in my previous article.  You can get started developing for this platform immediately on their AppBuilder site.

Just a user?  Be sure to check out their App Directory here, download the extensions and try them out in your favorite browser!