August 2010 – Stay N Alive

Now You Can Check in on Twitter Through Facebook Places

This post is syndicated from the SocialToo Blog – please check it out! I think this feature’s pretty cool:

Recently Facebook launched the ability for users to checkin to any place with their mobile phone, sharing with their Facebook friends where they are and what they’re doing, but what about their Twitter friends?  Services like FourSquare and Gowalla offer the ability for users to share their checkins to Twitter as well as Facebook (or just leave them on Gowalla or Foursquare).  Facebook, with the exception of Pages, has seemed reluctant to include Twitter syncing for Facebook status updates.  That is where SocialToo comes in.  Starting today, you can now sync your Facebook checkins automatically from Facebook to Twitter using SocialToo.

The feature is completely free for anyone on Twitter and Facebook. To enable the feature, just log in to SocialToo through your Twitter account, click “Settings”, and click “Associate a Facebook Account”. Once you have both a Twitter and Facebook account linked in SocialToo, go back to the “Inbox” tab, and check the box next to “Facebook to Twitter” in the upper-right. You can now check the boxes next to the things you want to share, including, “Autopost Places” to automatically post checkins from Facebook. Once checked, any new checkin you post on Facebook will now go to Twitter.

In addition to checkins, you can also automatically post links and status updates. Any checkin with a note attached will show the note as the text of the Tweet and a link back to the checkin on Facebook. To exclude the checkin from Twitter, just add a “-” after a space at the end of your note and it won’t go to Twitter. The same goes for status updates and links that you post to Facebook.  We are also considering the potential for an opt-in “+” in the future (let us know in the comments if this is interesting to you).

Hopefully some of you find this feature useful.  We think it’s a powerful way to let others know, now on both Twitter and Facebook, where you are and what you’re doing, and has the potential to generate some interesting conversation.  Let us know how you plan to use it!

More about SocialToo:

SocialToo provides features to complement the experience people, businesses, and brands, have on the social networks they participate on. We’re a utility providing tools to help automate the process of managing a brand image, while at the same time enabling users to clean up spammy messaging, track followers and friends, and manage those friends and followers in the process. Here are some of the features we provide:

  • Auto Follow – follow back the people that follow you or your brand, providing potential discovery and networking opportunities, opening up communication channels, and giving those that follow you a sense of belonging in your community

    • Auto Follow is a one-time $10 fee.

  • Automatic DM and Stream filtering – do you get spammy DMs on Twitter? We’ll delete them automatically for you. Set up simple filters with keywords in DMs you don’t want to receive, then set rules, such as “unfollow”, “delete”, or “ignore” to get rid of them. Turn off Twitter’s DM e-mails and turn on ours, and we’ll also respect your rules with the DM e-mails we send, meaning if you say “ignore”, we won’t send you the DMs that match your rules. In addition, you can filter out people that say certain things in your stream, or that Tweet from specific (and some times spammy) applications.

    • DM filtering is free up to 4 filters. Stream and Application filtering comes with the monthly SocialToo Premium plan. The monthly SocialToo Premium plan is $29.95/mo, and includes every feature we offer, including support for unlimited Twitter accounts (and all features for each). There is a 7-day free trial.

  • Bulk Unfollow – need to start over on Twitter? Unfollow all the people you’ve ever followed at once. Set a whitelist under “Friends” and you can exclude specific people as you do so.

    • Bulk Unfollow on Twitter is a one-time $35 fee.

  • SocialToo Stats – one of our most popular features, you get a daily e-mail with all the people that followed you and stopped following you the previous day on Twitter. We try to organize them by the Tweets we detected at the time of the unfollow or follow. We also provide additional information about each person and the ability to unfollow or follow them straight from the e-mail. In addition, for our monthly Premium users we provide an organized interface, showing a timeline of all your new follows and unfollows in a graph, your number of Tweets, and if you click through to any day it will show you the new followers and unfollowers for that day at any point we’ve tracked, along with your Tweets for that day.

    • The daily stats e-mail is a one-time $20 fee. The monthly SocialToo Premium plan is $29.95/mo, and includes every feature we offer, including support for unlimited Twitter accounts (and all features for each). There is a 7-day free trial.

  • SocialToo Surveys – a “Social” way of posting quick polls to your friends on Twitter and Facebook. Create a quick poll, and share it with your friends on multiple networks. Your friends can take the poll, share it with their friends, comment on it, or create their own!

Come Learn the Secrets to Facebook Integration at Facebook Success Summit 2010

FBML’s dead. I’m saying it right here (and yes, I wrote the book).  Facebook recently announced that they are moving away from FBML and more towards iFrame-based applications and Social Plugins for integration on your website and internal hosted applications.  Does this mean the Static FBML app is going away?  What will you be able to do in order to customize your Facebook presence both on and off Facebook with these newly announced changes?

On October 26 from 2:30pm to 3:30pm Pacific I’m going to be speaking at Mike Stelzner and Social Media Examiner‘s Facebook Success Summit.  The Summit is packed with superstars in the Facebook world such as InsideFacebook’s Justin Smith, Mari Smith, “the Pied Piper of Facebook”, ProBlogger‘s Darren Rowse, Brian Solis, author of “Engage”, Paul Dunay and others including major Brand managers for brands like Intel, Cisco, and Xbox (too bad we’re not on a panel – would be a good discussion).  All the speakers have real world experience making people very successful using Facebook as a major tool in their arsenal.

My topic is going to be “From Fishers to Farmers – Bringing Your Brand to Your Customers Using Social Technologies”.  I’ll be covering all the tools you need to both “Fish where the fish are”, and then bring those customers back to your brand by building “Your Farm” on your own turf.  We’ll discuss Social Plugins, custom tabs, and maybe even geek out a little with some new and interesting stuff you can do on your own website and on Facebook itself to integrate actual technology to empower you as a marketer.

I’m excited to present in October – judging on previous events by Social Media Examiner this will likely prove to be one of the highlights in Social Media-related conferences for you to attend.  I hope you can add this to your calendar and at a minimum come see me talk about some of the most important things you can do as a marketer, spoken by a true Geek who understands this stuff.  Check with the company you work for – it’s all virtual so there aren’t any travel or hotel costs to worry about.  It’s very worth your company’s time and money to send you to this.

You can sign up here, or on the link on the right of this blog.  I do get a commission on anybody who signs up through this site (I’m not getting paid for the conference), so please use these links and send others through here if you can.  Can’t wait to see you there!

Here’s a great video by Michael Stelzner, founder of the Conference, introducing the Conference:

Facebook Kills Connect, Makes App Creation Easier, Simpler

As I’ve been writing Facebook Application Development for Dummies (now available on Amazon for pre-order!), there has been one thing I have been noticing: Despite all the new focus on Facebook’s Graph API, Facebook has still had a lot of conflicting focus on their old, more complicated, Connect APIs, making it a fun thing to try and explain in a Dummies book.  That confusion was evident especially in the application creation screens, where Facebook had page after page of options to fill out that they were no longer focusing on, “Widgets” to configure (which Facebook doesn’t even link to any more), and odd terminology that just doesn’t make sense any more.  Add to that the fact that, just announced, Facebook is killing the FBML versions of apps in favor of the iframe (and FBML itself in favor of Social Plugins), a lot of stuff just didn’t make sense in their app creation process any more.

Some time recently it appears Facebook finally fixed that.  Now Facebook has just 5 categories to fill out when creating your application or Facebook-integrated website, and there are no confusing terms such as “Connect”, or “Widgets”, or “Canvas”.  Facebook is focusing on 5 things: “About”, “Website”, “Facebook Integration”, “Mobile”, and “Advanced”.  I think from the titles of the sections these things are obvious, and it also shows that Facebook is putting an increased focus on external use of their applications on websites and mobile and less on Facebook itself.  We also see this with the removal of custom tabs on personal profiles (they will still be available for your business Page, have no fear!).  In addition, Facebook has removed the long Application key, and is now putting focus on just the Application ID and Application Secret – this is a move they have been pushing towards since the launch of Graph API at their F8 developers conference earlier in the year.

The new Facebook Application Screen is simpler and easier than the old

In addition, Facebook has added 3 experimental new features you can turn on, to focus more on their new OAuth 2.0 authentication process.  One of my biggest frustrations in trying to document all of this in my book has been the lack of consistency.  Getting graph API to handle authentication on a app in the past has been a horrendous experience, pretty much forcing developers back to the old way of authorization.  Now it should be easier for developers to fully focus on the new Graph API methods, both in and out of Facebook.  It is completely clear that Graph API is the future, and Social Plugins are replacing FBML (unfortunately for my second book).

Facebook also added 3 new features, making OAuth 2.0 easier to manage on Canvas pages.

While frustrating as I try to adapt my book, these changes are welcome, and should make creation and configuration of apps much easier for developers in the future.  Especially with the future removal of the need to configure FBML or iFrame, along with Profile tabs, setting up an application should be a piece of cake for both novices and experienced developers alike.  I’m sure it also makes the support process for Facebook a lot easier as well.

I hope other app platforms can take Facebook’s lead on their API.  Out of all of them, Facebook’s new focus is dirt simple and easy for the most novice of programmers to learn.

Are you working on a Facebook app?  How does this affect your development on Facebook platform?

Facebook Questions as a Strategy – Answering Questions for Your Brand

Facebook logo
Image via Wikipedia

In the last few weeks Facebook has been slowly rolling out a feature that, while not exactly new in concept, I think gives businesses and brands another opportunity to think strategy surrounding their Facebook efforts.  The feature is Facebook Questions.  The feature is pretty much a re-release of Facebook Polls (see my previous article on in 2008 where I discussed this as a business tool), with even greater viral potential.  In fact, it makes even more sense today than ever, with the increased focus on Facebook Pages, something Facebook has chosen to focus on with the new Questions feature.

Facebook Questions, in many ways is like my SocialToo Surveys, with a pure Facebook focus (on SocialToo we have Twitter and Facebook integration, with more Social Networks coming soon), and the ability to completely take the poll out of the question (no pun intended).  Facebook Questions focus on one question that the user can ask to his or her friends, and those friends can answer anything they want to (something you can do in SocialToo’s comments for each SocialToo Survey).  The difference is that on Facebook you can vote up or down each answer, and the most popular answers get pitted at the top in a more prominent position.  This puts it at more of a competing stance with Yahoo Answers, or Quora, or Aardvark.

With each Facebook Question, the person asking can also add a poll, allowing other Facebook users to answer a set of pre-defined answers, allowing the person asking to see what the most popular of his or her own answers might be.  All this while allowing users to also add their own answers and vote those up or down.  I admit, it’s a pretty cool implementation, and something I’ve long wanted to do with SocialToo Surveys (and hopefully we will).

Here’s where you should get involved with your brand though.  With each Question, the person asking can assign “Topics” to the Question.  Each “Topic” is essentially just a Facebook Page somewhere.  It can be any Facebook Page, and doesn’t even have to be one the person asking has even liked or administers.  Assigning a Question to a Topic ensures that the Question has the potential of appearing in the list of Questions on the side of other users’ News Stream who have “liked” the Pages listed in the Question.  So, in essence, you have the potential for a targeted, free, Facebook Ad if the Question is pitted right (albeit with much fewer customized options for targeting).

Businesses and brands ought to be taking advantage of this.  Ask interesting questions to engage your audience, and tag Pages you think have people that might be interested in that question and your brand.  Keep in mind though that Facebook currently has no way to moderate (or delete) the answers to the Questions you ask, so be prepared if a Question happens to turn against you.  You can create Facebook Questions as an individual user, or as a Facebook Page.

In addition to asking and essentially tagging specific audiences with your Questions, there is another great strategy surrounding answers that you can utilize.  I actually saw this with Facebook’s own “Facebook Pages” Page on Facebook.  A user asked a question about Facebook Pages, and “Facebook Pages” answered the question for that user.  I’m sure this brought more attention to that Facebook Page, and the user was even more satisfied as a result.  Not only that, but future users will be able to see the “official” answer from Facebook on the issue.  In a way, this also makes Facebook Questions a competitor to GetSatisfaction, as it can be a great Support Channel for your brand.

I wanted to know how Facebook did this, so I asked my own Question on Facebook.  Damien Basille quickly answered with the following: “You must be an admin of the Facebook Page you want to answer as. Then, next to the Publish Answer blue button it will say “as [First name Last name] (change)”. Click on the (change) link and you will be able to answer as any of your FB Pages that you change to.”

So, with a simple click of the “change” link I’m now posting as my own Facebook Page, answering Questions all around Facebook about my brand.  I think that’s pretty useful!

If you’re a brand, you should be carefully looking at Facebook Questions and figuring out a good way to integrate this great tool into your current Facebook Strategy.  We can only hope that we’re given even more flexibility in the future to access these questions via an API.  Hopefully a search API is provided, and we’ll start to see tools allowing brands and others to easily search and find people asking relevant Questions on Facebook.

If you’re not yet seeing the “Ask a Question” link in your status update box at the top of your news stream, have no fear – it will be there soon, as Facebook slowly rolls out this feature.  This is something all brands should be looking at right now.

You can learn more about Facebook Questions at

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Comcast, Where’s the Block Button for My TV?

Around College Football Season every year my family bites the bullet and orders cable for several months in order to both take advantage of the latest Cable deal, and allow us to see my two Cougars (University of Houston and BYU) try to make it to a Bowl game.  Every year we get a digital box, HD service, and occasionally a premium channel or two and some times a Sports Package to make sure we don’t miss a game.  Especially if you’re only doing it for a few months a year, it’s a great deal, and you can often get free DVR, free premium channels, etc. as a result.  Add that to the 50Mbps downstream internet I’m getting and I’m a pretty happy guy.  Comcast’s lineup continues to improve as we go year to year, providing more HD channels, online DVR scheduling, and more.  There’s one piece that never seems to improve though – the ability to remove the channels you don’t want to watch from your line up.  Why?

For instance, today I was upstairs working on the computer when I hear my 10 year old daughter yell up the stairs, “Daddy, JJ (our 2 year old) just ordered Avatar!”  I run down the stairs, and sure enough, Avatar was sitting on the screen (in standard def, unfortunately) on pause, waiting for us to watch it.  My 2 year old was sitting there, proud of his accomplishment.  Before you say, “that’s a smart 2 year old!” (which he is), keep in mind that this same boy regularly steals my iPad and iPhone, and thoroughly enjoys trying to call Mike Arrington every chance he can get when I’m not watching (thus far I’ve caught him every time).  In fact, as I write this, I hear he’s up stairs yelling to my wife, “Computer!”, I’m sure as he hits all the buttons he can on his – er, I mean her – laptop.

So you can see how easy it is for a 2 year old to purchase things on the Cable box (I won’t even get into how my 8 year old can guess our pin codes like any 1337 h4x0r).  Comcast does have parental controls, but, at least in the last on-and-off 3 years I’ve had their service (or more – can’t remember), their parental controls have always just been a series of “enter your pin number to watch the Rated R show”.  I do notice you can hide shows marked as adult, and you can set a pin number on the main On Demand (which by default is free unless you go into the purchase section).  However, there’s no way at all you can completely block an entire channel or completely block purchases on the device.

I called Comcast just to verify.  Their answer was that my only choice was to set up parental controls, something I’m very familiar with.  They had absolutely no way for me to completely turn off a channel, even by calling them to do it.  It simply isn’t possible.  Why?

On Twitter and Facebook we have a simple solution to this.  If you don’t ever want the chance to see something you don’t want to from a particular user, you can just block them and you’ll never see them again (unless you’re really looking).  Blocking a channel ought to be even easier than that.  Why can’t I hit “info” on a channel just like I do to favorite the channel, and hit “block”, completely turning the channel off forever?

Comcast, let’s face it – I’m never going to watch the adult channels.  There are other channels you have that I’m never going to watch.  I’m never going to purchase an on-demand movie from you guys.  I know you want to tempt me to do so, but frankly, you’re just ticking me, and thousands of other customers of yours off by not giving us a way to turn these things off.  Right now Comcast is like a casino, tempting you every step of the way to put your money in and take a gamble, only there are no people watching to see if the kids are the ones doing the gambling.  Let my people go!

Comcast, you have an opportunity here – I know your competitors in the satellite and cable space do the same (if you know of a service that allows full channel blocking, let me know in the comments).  You have the opportunity here to target every single family in America right now and make them feel good about your company.  Be the hero.  Please, let us block these channels, and especially the pay-per-view if we don’t want to see them!  Keeping them in place is ridiculous, and frankly, you risk each and every 2 year old in America being exposed to this stuff by not enabling a simple “block channel” on your service.  It’s time to innovate.  Free the parents across America!

UPDATE: Per the comments, I’m going to list services here that do allow the removal of channels entirely:

"Be a Mormon!" – Making Things Go Viral

I’m sharing this partly because I’m excited Mormons were mentioned (I am in charge of much of the social technology integration and strategy for the LDS Church as one of the many things I do), but also because there’s some truth to it.  As Mormons, we get Marketing and Social Media, but I argue it’s not because of process – it’s natural.  That’s why it was exciting, but no surprise to see Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed and co-founder of Huffington Post, talk with Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch, sharing his “Five Rules for How to Make Things Go Viral“, listing the fifth as “Be a Mormon, Not a Jew”.  Of course, as he said, his statement was a little tongue-in-cheek, and as any good Mormon will tell you they admire and respect the Jewish people and faith (and perhaps more than many Christian religions, we take the Old Testament almost as seriously as any Jew – we love and respect their law, as it sets much of the foundations for what we as Mormons believe). Peretti’s statement was that “Mormons are better at evangelism”.  Mormons are, quite simply, whether better or not I’m not here to debate, but they’re naturally great marketers and it shows by the exponential growth shown since the 50s in the graph Peretti shared.

As a Mormon, I served a mission in Thailand when I was 19 (yes, I speak, read, and write fluent Thai, which I was taught in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for 2 months before I left to Thailand).  When I was a missionary I was taught to teach a message, follow up on that message, and “build relationships of trust”.  As members of the Church we follow Jesus Christ’s direction to “come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-18 in the New Testament).  We love the message we’ve learned, and we feel compelled to share that message.  Building relationships is also something we love doing, again, not out of process, but because relationships, to us, are a core of what we believe in.  We are taught about the origins of God’s family before this earth, and we believe we are all literal brothers and sisters in God’s plan for us.  We enjoy the relationships we have with those around us, and more importantly, we believe most strongly in building a true relationship with God.  It is these “relationships” that, in my opinion, make Social Media, and modern-day marketing a natural fit for every Mormon, whether they realize they are doing it or not.

It’s because of this that the Church tries to enable members to share this message in ways they are capable of doing.  Just to feature some of the highlights of what the Mormon Church does, from my perspective:

  • Mormons send over 50,000 missionaries worldwide to help evangelize the Gospel.  Most of these are under the age of 25.  And when you think, “oh, these are those white-shirted young men (featured in the picture in Piretti’s presentation) going from door-to-door”, we’re not quite even that any more.  While we still have many going door-to-door, you’ll see missionaries sitting in call-centers, answering questions and chatting with you on  You’ll see missionaries volunteering on service missions, helping out the poor and needy in places like Haiti (which efforts you can donate to over there on the right).  We’re even taking some more modern approaches like in New York, where Missionaries are even using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people.  Imagine the potential of those 50,000 people, rather than going door-to-door, using technology instead to share the Gospel in a more modern, less-intrusive, more targeted fashion and reaching those that are truly interested in the message.
  • The Church just launched a brand new, featuring members as the main focus.  The Church wants its members to speak for themselves.  In Social Media this is crucial and necessary for the focus to be on the individual and not the organization.  Now, you can go to, find people of similar race, gender, ethnicity, or even locale and learn what they believe.  You can even follow them on Twitter or Facebook or read their blog.  We’re allowing you to see what a real Mormon is, and not just from a big organization standpoint.  You can peruse articles and share them on Facebook and Twitter via like and share buttons.
  • The Church has Youtube Channels, the most popular being “MormonMessages“, which, no matter what your faith, you can get some pretty inspirational messages encouraging you to do better and grow.  Each of those is embeddable on blogs and shareable on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere.  Mormons are encouraged by leaders to share what they believe, and are provided with the tools to do it.
  • The Church has mobile apps where you can read the Old and New Testaments, as well as The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (3 books that Mormons believe are also Testaments of Jesus Christ and are provided through modern, prophetic, revelation).
  • The Church has Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts that members, as well as non-members can subscribe and learn more about the Mormon Church, gain inspiration, and discuss that content with other members and non-members.  I love reading the comments of these Pages because you hear such great messages of peoples’ lives being changed from this message and the best part is these stories are just coming from every day members (and non-members)!  They are unedited, spoken from the heart and the soul.  That’s what Social Media is about and the core of who we are.  It’s all about technology that allows us as humans to bare our souls.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Technology has enabled Mormons to take the “marketing” Peretti mentions to an even greater level.  I think we’re pretty good people.  We’re genuine.  Social Media and modern marketing have enabled Mormons to share who they are to the world, and they’ll continue to do so.

Mormons are considered a peculiar people.  Maybe it’s because of our history of polygamy (discontinued way back in the 1800s).  Maybe it’s TV shows like Big Love that give that perception.  Maybe it’s the fact we don’t drink Coffee or Tea or Alcohol, or that we don’t smoke and live a generally pretty healthy life.  Maybe it’s because we’re taught not to have sex before marriage, and, at least for active Mormons, we have long and fruitful marriages and we love having children.  I don’t think that’s much different than any other good religion out there.  I’m totally excited and stoked that technology is enabling us, as Mormons, to finally share with the world who we are, on a global and massive scale and we can finally be completely transparent about who we are.

What I do know is that Peretti’s statement is true, but it’s not at all because we teach “marketing” by process – it’s because as Mormons we’ve got a great message to share.  We’re great people to be around, and we’ve got nothing to hide.  I’m stoked that technology is enabling us to show that to the world.

See Peretti’s great video below.  Also be sure to check out his presentation:

Be sure to read more about this on and AllThingsD.

Disclosure: In my day job, I am currently working as the Social Media Architect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While they are currently my employer, this article by no means represents any official announcement, declaration, proclamation, or doctrine on behalf of the Church.  All claims or topics written are solely my own opinion and not the opinions or official word of the LDS Church.  To be clear, regardless of my day job, I am still a member of the Church and I still believe its teachings and will always have beliefs to share surrounding the Church and its teachings.  What I write here should be considered as such.

Mobile, Tablets, and the Need for an Extended E-Reading Experience

Imagine buying a book from the book store and only being allowed to use a yellow highlighter to highlight that book and not being able to add any notes as you read it.  Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Yet we’re forced into that with today’s default readers on devices such as the iPhone and iPad, or even Amazon’s Kindle or many readers on Android devices.  Right now when you read books, you’re forced into the experience the manufacturer of the device you’re reading on has decided they want you to experience.

On the iPhone and iPad, we’re provided with iBooks, a beautiful reading experience and great store to go with it that will even let you import PDFs and ePub-formatted books and documents.  However, for the static content we read on these devices, we’re stuck with only the ability to highlight in the colors they give us, copy, select, and a limited set of features to extend that reading experience.  What if I want to draw a picture on the book?  What if I want to add a text note?  What if I want to share the text I just highlighted to Facebook?  The same goes for other devices like the Kindle, and even Android, and I bet the same for upcoming Windows smart phones.  It has been this way on PDA Readers since Palm and Handspring even.  The reading experience on these readers of static, published content simply isn’t extendible, and it hasn’t evolved much in ages.

We need a Reader that has an API attached to it.  The API should tie into the highlighting, the selecting, the turning of the pages, the rendering of the content, the bookmarking, and more, so app developers can alter the reading experience beyond what comes with the device.  I’m talking about a plugin-type architecture for Reader apps that render static content.

Currently just about all modern web browsers support plugins.  If I want to render a website in a slightly different manner than what the website owner intended for my personal uses, I can do so, and it sticks to my browser and my browsing experience.  Currently, in Gmail I use Rapportive to provide more information about the people who are e-mailing me.  It uses a simple browser plugin that reads, identifies, and alters the content of Gmail in a manner that is relevant to me, in a manner that the makers of Gmail probably never considered (nor did the makers of my browser).

Imagine as you’re reading a book, being able to pull in the relevant Tweets of other people reading that book at the same time.  Imagine being able to share bits about what you’re reading with your Twitter and Facebook friends.  Imagine reading a book, and having it automatically notice your Facebook account, it reads information about you from that Facebook account, and it alters the content of the book based on who you are, perhaps even bringing you into the experience.  Imagine the ramifications of this for Text Books that can learn about you as they present information you can learn from.

Currently we’re reinventing the wheel over and over again as developers create new mobile apps that recreate the reader experience in various ways.  My publisher, O’Reilly, for instance, is creating individual applications in the app store just so they can have more control over the publishing experience for their books (at least I’m guessing that’s why they do it), and their readers get the experience they want to provide. (search for “FBML Essentials” in the app store to find my book)  What would happen if Apple instead provided the basic reader, and O’Reilly could then provide just the extension necessary for that basic reader to customize the experience for their readers.

By extending the basic book reader on mobile and tablet devices, I think we’ll see a new revolution in the way books are published that print books simply cannot provide.  It’s time we break out of the static book reading experience and provide an open, extendible experience that any developer can use to alter the way your books are presented to you, and at the same time you, the reader get to choose the best way you want to read that book.  This is the future.  This is the future with no log in button I talked about earlier.  It’s the Building Block Web, applied to books.

I wonder if Kynetx could power such an experience.

The Art of Ignoring. Why @XboxSupport Convinced Me to Leave Microsoft.

There is such a thing as too much Social Media.  I’m talking about the art of ignoring.  We see accounts such as @comcastcares and @richardatdell and various other accounts on Twitter that do an excellent job at handling customer support and actually gaining, as well as retaining customers as a result, all while maintaining a great PR front for the company.  Such media arms require a fine art that includes customer support, PR, a little technical support, and often a little power to make decisions at the executive level.  When you create a customer support channel on Twitter you are, in essence, exposing yourself, and your customers, to the world when it comes to support.  This is a very delicate line to cross. Some times it means you have to ignore certain irate customers to maintain that brand image.  Today, the @XboxSupport team, to me, showed me how not to manage a customer support channel on Twitter.  In fact, they’ve convinced me to leave Microsoft altogether.  Let me share why.

A few days ago on Twitter I mentioned my frustration (note that TweetBoard didn’t archive that entire conversation for some reason, so some of my responses are missing), after my 4th Xbox 360 received its red ring of death, and after taking it through the Microsoft diagnosis tool, it would soon become the 4th Xbox 360 I owned to be replaced by Microsoft under my extended warranty.  4 units!  (I should note, in full disclosure, that one of those is a separate unit that my brother now owns after I replaced it once, so it would be one unit replaced once, and another replaced 3 times)  I paid full price for the unit, and full price for the extended warranty.

I loved my Xbox 360.  I was okay going through the replacement process a couple times.  It was, as I’ve said here before, my entertainment center more than anything.  No other unit, in conjunction with the Windows 7 machine that I own, can allow me to stream and record live TV in as efficient, cheap, and as powerful and flexible a manner as my Xbox 360.  Not only that but I get great games like Halo, and my kids get great family games like Viva Pinata and others that go with it.  I was getting excited for the Kinect product which had been lauded for years as the next generation controller.

Yet at some point having to replace your console over and over again for similar problems, it starts to nag on you.  It especially nags on me as all my friends are starting to buy the PS3 and are trying to convince me to switch after years of defense of the Xbox 360 by myself.  So I complained on Twitter. Sure enough, the first tweets that come in are from friends of mine, asking me if it’s time I let the 360 go.  Some mentioning the return rates of the PS3 are extremely low.


But after someone pointing them to me, in swoops @XboxSupport on Twitter, suggesting, without my asking, that I try out their diagnosis tool online that I’ve tried a million times.  I told them I wasn’t interested, in fact suggesting the only thing that could make me feel better would be a refund or one of the new Xbox 360s that is supposed to have these Red Ring of Death issues fixed, and they proceeded to argue with me.  It got to the point that I was suggesting that the Wii wasn’t giving me these issues and they were in essence saying that the Xbox produced more heat (yes, that’s the problem) which is why it was breaking and the others weren’t (duh).  In all the messaging I got from them, the message that came through to me was that I was wrong, and they were right.  All this in their public stream for all their followers to see, without me originally asking for their help.  You can see part of the conversation here (again note that a lot of it is missing):

They finally stopped the conversation and we both went on our separate ways.  In fact, I was starting to calm down a bit and was actually considering just buying the new Xbox 360 after I replaced this one and perhaps sold it on Ebay or something (or maybe just destroyed it on Youtube for everyone to see).  It was at the same time MG Siegler, of TechCrunch, was mentioning problems he was having with Xbox Live making him want to kill his Xbox 360 as well.  I pointed him to the @XboxSupport conversation I had earlier, and evidently someone else at @XboxSupport caught wind of that too.

When I woke up this morning, in swooped @XboxSupport again, thinking they could save the day, but this time the 3 tweets I received from them were accusing me of not cooperating, again, in front of all their 35,000 followers.  The latest message being, “We do understand your frustration, but for us to provide the best support possible we do need some customer cooperation”.  This after I had done all they asked in my previous conversation with them.  After that they started saying they had done all they could do “if my console was out of standard warranty”.  Again, i was wrong, they were right.  Even though I had the extended warranty they were assuming I didn’t have.  All in their public stream, to their 35,000 followers.  I then suggested they stop arguing and leave it alone, and then they proceeded to defend why they engaged customers on Twitter. 12 Tweets to their 35,000 followers later, they stopped.  At this point my entire Replies column was filled with arguments from @XboxSupport (and one person telling me the PS3 was superior):

My Replies column full of Tweets, in my perception, telling me I’m wrong

When is enough, enough?  I think when the customer tells you they don’t want to hear from you any more that should definitely tell you to just let it go.  Especially when you’re representing one of the biggest brands on the planet, and potentially damaging or hurting that customer’s reputation in front of all the other people following your brand.  When approaching customer support in a public environment, the rules change.  You absolutely cannot give any hint that your customers are ever wrong. Take it to DM.  Take it to e-mail if you want to do that.  Encourage immediately for those customers to e-mail you or call you when it comes to that.  Assumptions can never be made, because you can be held liable.

Instead, I got to tell my 26,000 followers, and now a blog post that will go out to more, how frustrated I was with Microsoft, over and over again with them only fueling my fire each and every time.  The Twitter XboxSupport account has told me, to their 35,000 followers, that I’m wrong, over and over again.  It’s lose-lose, and nobody wins.

Again, I’m wrong, even though that’s not what they were informing me considering they know I already knew.

Now I’m forced to stick to my decision.  I’ll be selling my replaced Xbox 360 on Ebay, and using the money to purchase a PS3.  Or maybe I’ll save the money and just stick with the Wii I currently own.  Microsoft has convinced me with their continual pressing that I’ll always be wrong in their opinion and because of that I can’t stick with them.  Therefore I won’t buy an Xbox 360 again.  Not only that but their other followers also see that.  Also, as a result, that Xbox 360 was the only reason I was still on Windows 7 – my Windows 7 machine was my media center, and Windows Media Center powered my entire Xbox 360-controlled media experience.  Now I don’t need that any more either.  Unfortunately in a world of interconnected devices, killing one device causes a ripple effect to the others.  All this very possibly could have been stopped by a single support person keeping their mouth shut and letting bygones be bygones.

There is a time when Social Media can be too much.  It’s important you train those representing your company on Twitter and elsewhere to realize this.  Customer Support is no longer just a support role any more.  It’s a PR role as well.  There are legal repercussions.  There are reputation repercussions.  There is much more to this position.

It’s important, as you’re approaching your customer support approach to social media that you have a way to get to the bottom of the situation as quick as possible, and preferably in private.  You should recognize the problem, contact the person individually, and determine if in the end they can ever be right.  If that’s not the case, it’s a moot point to try and convince them otherwise.  The customer is always right.  They should especially be right in public.  To this customer, unfortunately in Microsoft’s public perception, I’ll always be wrong, and that will never be deleted.  That’s just bad support, and the exact opposite of what a social media campaign should produce.  There’s an art of ignoring, and at least Microsoft’s XboxSupport team has proved to me they don’t get that art.  Goodbye Microsoft.  I hope you can sway me back.

So, who’s got a good deal on a PS3?

Facebook-hosted "Pages" are No Longer Necessary – Here’s Why

Social Media Examiner shared some advice I gave on their Facebook Page recently regarding the warning about Facebook “boxes” being removed from Facebook Pages in the next week.  The reminder was met with a lot of concern from subscribers, who had grown attached to the ability to customize the look and feel of their Facebook Pages through the Static FBML app on Facebook and the ability to add custom “boxes” to the Wall of their Page.  The other concern is that Facebook will also be switching to the smaller, 520px Tab format, reducing the amount of surface area for a custom tab to add personalization to a Facebook Page.  I argue all this concern is moot however – there is something better Page owners can be doing that they aren’t, and that is moving their Pages over to their own websites and managing the interface there instead of on, and I think that’s the direction Facebook wants Page owners to go.

At Facebook’s sold out F8 developer conference this year this focus seemed evident.  Facebook launched a series of new “Social Plugins”, and a protocol (called Open Graph Protocol) enabling any website to essentially become a “Facebook Page”.  Right off, website owners could simply put a “like button” Social Plugin on their website by copying and pasting an iframe tag from Facebook’s developer site, and immediately, with some added meta tags added to the section of their HTML, they could have all the functionality of a Facebook Page right on their own website.

Facebook had a great demo at the conference, which Jolie O’Dell (from Mashable) pointed me to (see her article about it here), where they basically took all the content from Lady Gaga’s Page and converted it to its own, customized website with its own look and feel that you could easily change themes., which appears to still be there, enabled customized themes to be applied to profiles, perhaps similar to MySpace in a way, but in a way that website owners themselves could host those themes on their own servers.  All this could be done through simple Graph API calls and some customization on your own server.  See their demo they gave me here:

For instance, if you query in your browser, immediately you’ll be presented with a parseable feed taken straight from my Facebook Page of all the posts put there.  Re-format that in any way you like and you have your own customized Facebook Page.  No login necessary.

It can be even better though.  Rather than letting Facebook host the data, you can handle most of it on your own through Social Plugins.  For instance, let’s look at what happens if I want to make its own Facebook Page (in fact I’ll do it right here so you can try it out when I’m finished).  I simply go to and click on the big green “Add Facebook to my Site” button, then click on the Social Plugins link.  Select the “Like Button” social plugin, and enter in the URL box.  Click the “Get Code” button, and you’ll be given code that looks like this:

Now, if I put that at the top of the website, a like button appears, and my website is now a Facebook Page.  Go ahead and click “like” and you’ll see what I mean.  Now you’re subscribed to my “Page”, you’ll get all the posts I send to your news feed, and best of all, any links to the “Page” go back to my actual website, and not

Becoming an Admin

To get all the benefits of turning your website into a Page and having the full flexibility of customization, you’ll need to make a couple updates to the section of your site’s HTML.  These meta tags follow a standard called “Open Graph Protocol”, and by following it, Facebook will know how to represent your site inside Facebook.  There are different tags that can specify the title of your site, a main image for your site, and more, but the most important tag you need to add to your site’s section is a meta tag that looks like this:

This specific meta tag identifies the user, 683545112 (which happens to be my Facebook ID), as the admin for your website on Facebook.  To get your Facebook ID, the best way I use is to go to your profile, click on your profile image, and look at the number after “id=” in the URL.  That’s your Facebook ID.  You can also specify multiple Facebook IDs in the content attribute of the meta tag by separating them by commas.

Once you specify this, next to your like button that you just installed you’ll see a “Admin Page” link next to the like button that, by clicking on the link, will take you to what looks like a regular Facebook Page on Facebook.  It’s from there you can post updates to your fans and have them see it in their news feed.  Also, once you’re identified as an admin, any link to the Facebook Page in your own Feed will link back to that admin interface on (not to the website itself, which is what all other users will see)

For other meta tag identifiers you can use, view the source of this website and look in the section – look for the “og:” meta tags.  You can also read more about it in the developer documentation here.

The Feed

By using this method, you get all the benefits of any normal Facebook Page on  You just have to install the proper Facebook Social Plugins to get what you want.  For instance, if you want your visitors to see a feed of all items you’ve posted to the feed, install the “Like Box” social plugin, and enter the ID of the Facebook Page you just set up. (to get the ID, go to the “Admin Page” link next to your like button, and it’s the long number in the URL)  Look over on the right of this website to see an example of the Like Box feed.

As mentioned above, you can also post items to your feed.  Click “Edit Page” on your admin Page, and you can set up an RSS feed to import notes into your feed.  I can also post videos, pictures, or anything else, just as I would a normal Facebook Page hosted on

Importing Your Blog Posts

You’ll notice the “Like Box” on the right that has all the posts from this blog on it.  That’s because I’m importing the RSS for this blog and now ever time a new post goes out all the people that have “Liked” via the link above will get all the posts I submit via this blog.  This can be a great alternative to allowing users to subscribe via RSS.

So there you have it – any need to customize a Page is now moot.  We don’t need them any more.  I see no reason for hosting on Facebook itself if you need full customization.  In fact, all links your visitors see in Facebook will now point back to your own website and not  When the user likes your website it will now appear in their interests and link back to your website.  That can be good for SEO.  Search results will link back to your website, and hints will show up for all your visitors’ friends, pointing them back to your website.

This, IMO is the ideal way to set up a Facebook Page now.  The Facebook Page hosted on is not the future.  Your website is the future, and Facebook has made it completely possible for you to own this experience.

Are there any reasons you can think of not to use this method?  What other tips do you have?  I’d like to hear them in the comments and I’ll update this post as it makes sense.

Google Reader is Behind the Times – Here is What They Can Do to Fix That

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m a huge Google Reader user and fan.  Despite users like Robert Scoble and others declaring RSS Readers dead, I still find utility from being able to finely adapt my reading experience by selecting what I want to subscribe to on the web.  As a blogger, it’s one of my greatest weapons – in fact, sites don’t even have to have an RSS feed for me to track their changes.  For instance, let’s say I want to track job announcements at a certain website to know when new features are coming based on the new jobs they’re hiring for. All I have to do is enter the jobs page into Google Reader and it will automatically tell me when it notices new changes on that Page. No coding necessary.

However, while I disagree that RSS is dead, I am worried that News Readers like Google Reader have neglected to stay up with modern news gathering trends.  Perhaps they think remaining simple will win, but frankly, using just RSS and friends suggestions from RSS to find the news just doesn’t cut it any more.  This is why you see Readers like FlipBoard and FLUD and Pulse making a big inroads on devices like the iPad.  They’re ignoring Google Reader and going straight to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, where the news is likely to come from your close friends and family.  I’m concerned Google Reader is taking so long to adapt towards this trend – here are some tips that I think would make it a much better, and more modern service:

Embrace the Dark Side

With the exception of Youtube, Google seems to have a real issue with this.  They seem afraid to embrace their competitors, the sites that currently have the edge, and the sites that their users are most likely using.  Let’s face it – currently the majority of web users are getting their news from their friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  They’re not going from site to site, plugging in an RSS feed to Google Reader, and reading it that way.  I’ve tried to show both my wife and my 10 year old daughter how to do this and they just don’t get it.  Even more experienced users who used to be power users of Google Reader like Robert Scoble are moving in this direction.

There’s a minefield of explosive links out there in public on Twitter and Facebook.  Slap a social graph on top of that and you now have extremely relevant links you could be harvesting, indexing, and extracting content for your users to read in full inside Google Reader.  Google has an opportunity here to pull these users over to their interface and make it even easier for them to read the content their friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites are sharing.  While RSS is certainly not dead, the Social Graph most definitely reigns supreme – embrace it.  Use Facebook Graph API.  Use Twitter’s API.  Otherwise Google is going to get left in the dust by competitors that do.  Users want this.

The Desktop is Not the Future

While Google Reader has built an amazing desktop and web experience, it’s time they move forward.  We have gone beyond the typical, dynamic desktop browser being the interface to the web and have moved towards an app era that leverages the web to build custom experiences tailored for static screen sizes on various platforms.  There’s the iPhone.  There’s the iPad.  There are various flavors of Android and Windows for Mobile Phones.  Every other web developer building a company right now is building for these platforms.  Google seems to be stuck in the web browser, something I argue is a mistake.

True, Google has a custom web experience for the iPad and iPhone, but quite frankly – that experience stinks.  Look at the Reeder app for iPad and iPhone to contrast.  It has a “move to the next unread item” button, for instance, that lets you easily surf through your unread news and skim it as you please.  It has a simple interface for sharing, leaving notes, and even allows you to share to other social networks if you choose.  They’ve built an amazing interface that focuses on mobile and tablets that wraps around the stale Google Reader web interface.

Now look at the non-RSS centric experiences like FlipBoard.  Swipe your fingers and it flips pages similar to a magazine or book.  The experience is magically formatted in a natural way that makes reading the news easy!  Mobile devices were built for reading the news.  They are the magazines and newspapers of the future.  Google Reader should be the ones in control on this front or they’re going to get out-taken by their competitors.

Share! Share! Share!

Google Reader does a little of this.  You can share to Twitter and Facebook and other sources, but quite honestly, the experience is lacking.  This should be at the forefront of their experience – easy to see and obvious to the reader that this is what they want them to do.  Right now to share to Facebook, for instance, I have to click on the “send to” link (or press shift-t), and for any site I want to share to Google makes me leave the site and go to each individual site to share.  This experience should be much more integrated into the UI, controlled by keyboard gestures, without having to leave the site.  Facebook Graph API and Social Plugins should be used.  Twitter’s API or @anywhere should be used.  The links should be in more prominent positions, easy for the reader to see.  The “Send To” should be consolidated with the “share” link and terminology should all be centered around “sharing”.

The entire experience should be much more social.

Streamline the UI

Google Reader used to be top of the line when it came to great user experiences.  They enabled keyboard shortcuts and a very simple UI that was easy to manage.  Since then, they have added all sorts of bloat to the interface, slowing it down and making it harder to manage.  To hide someone or add them to another group, for instance, it takes at least a minute for me to do anything surrounding that.  Refreshing the page takes too long.

Google needs to start fresh and build the UI from the ground up, with these new focuses in mind, and focus on speed, simplicity, and cleanliness.  The entire UI needs to be re-done and targeted towards the new features I’ve suggested here.  It needs to be faster.  No site should take longer than 4 seconds to load.  It needs to have entirely different versions for mobile devices, and most of all it needs to be easier to use.

Be Sure Not to Neglect Your Strengths

In all this I am not suggesting Google Reader become FlipBoard.  Google Reader needs to stick to its strengths – it needs to continue a strong focus on RSS, while bringing in all the other elements I mentioned.  It needs to remain top in its game of strong UIs and easy to organize content reading.  It needs to keep the focus on leaving notes and sharing with other Google Reader users.

I’m afraid Google has stopped innovating in this space.  We’re seeing so with evidence of other strong readers emerging in the areas I have mentioned.  Google has such strong potential to own this space if they chose.  I really hope they take this advice constructively and try to adapt these things.  If not, users, including myself, are going to be forced to bigger and better ways of consuming our news in a way that is more modern and convenient to the user.

In the meantime, you can follow all my Google Reader shares on my link blog at