11 – Stay N Alive

Jesse Stay is Now an OpenSocial Developer and Consultant! – My Orkut Hackathon Experience

OpenSocial Hackathon, San FranciscoThe past 2 days I had the opportunity to join the Google OpenSocial developer team, along with other Silicon Valley and nationwide developers to celebrate the soon-to-be launched Orkut release to the public of OpenSocial apps at the Googleplex in San Francisco. The event started with an overview of OpenSocial, and went over some of the resources available to OpenSocial developers as well as a quick, “Hello World” example of an OpenSocial app on Orkut.Following that, it was up to the developers to code away, chat and meet with each other, ask the Google OpenSocial development team questions, and move forward, very fast on their apps. The goal was that by the end of the day, your OpenSocial application would be in a state, with the encouragement and approval of the OpenSocial team to be submitted to the Orkut directory. Those submitted yesterday would be available upon launch of the OpenSocial directory. (yesterday was the deadline for those to be included at launch, but you will continue to be able to submit throughout the launch)

While there, I was able to meet Adam Glickman, notorious for following perhaps the most people on Twitter, at 7000 (Adam, I should note that I have you beat in number of updates!). I also met, and chatted for a bit with Bess Ho, founder of the Silicon Valley Facebook Developers Garage, the Silicon Valley Web Builders, and a very strong evangelist and organizer of Social Media events in the Silicon Valley area. She was there developing her own app. We talked about collaborating further on some events between Silicon Valley and Utah in the future (stay tuned!).

The big buzz around the event was how one could better migrate a Facebook app to OpenSocial. One person pointed me to OpenSocket, which is intended to be code you can install on your Facebook app, essentially making it a container for OpenSocial code. So, in the future, ideally you would write your code in OpenSocial, and when you’re ready to port to Facebook you would simply place it on top of the OpenSocket container. I think you’ll see more things like this as OpenSocial launches. I’ll talk more on my opinions of why Facebook will need to implement OpenSocial in some capacity in a later post.

What I was most impressed with, is that with all those developing applications for OpenSocial, the theme for the hackathon was simplicity. Every single app demo’d that was going to launch on launch day was extremely simple, with plans to build on it further down the road. There were former Facebook developers, Google Gadget developers looking to make their gadgets more viral, as well as people completely new to developing for the social scene which demo’d their apps for the rest of us. I saw a drag and drop “Top Friends”-type app which will be called, ironically, “Facebook”. OpenSocial is really cool in that, because of Caja, you have much more flexibility with your Javascript than Facebook. Facebook (the site, not the app) should really look to implement Caja into their apps to keep security, while allowing flexibility within the app. Another group of guys from Idaho and Utah were developing a “date ideas” app. Some other guys were developing a really cool slide show app with some neat viral twists. It was also fun to see the mashup of different other Google APIs into the OpenSocial APIs. Each presenter got to take home a very cool OpenSocial T-shirt.

The event ended with a really great presentation from the project lead of the OpenSocial team – you might remember him as the Indian guy from the Campfire video at the OpenSocial launch. He showed User Experience and UI from a Google experience, with some really great tips on how to make your apps better. He suggested using the Orkut locality settings to set everything to a different language, and then seeing if you can navigate your app in a language you can’t understand. He also suggested breaking up your app – if it is 2 different ideas in one robust app, he suggested breaking it up into 2 different apps. He had some very interesting tips that I’ll try to incorporate into my own apps.

As for what I did? I wrote an app that allows you to track a group of people geographically close to you, send updates back and forth to that group, organize and collaborate, and find more people that are geographically close to you. I call it the, “Know Your Neighbor” app. I demo’d it at the end of yesterday, and got my cool T-Shirt to take home. Everyone had great response, so I have hopes it could be a hit. Then I submitted the app to the Orkut directory (ironically, Google uses the same “forms” system I talked about earlier for the app submission process. They are just collecting the app submission data in a Google spreadsheet somewhere), of which it will appear on the day of launch.

Look for the “Know Your Neighborhood” app on Orkut when it launches! As the other platforms launch I will be rolling it out to those platforms as well. SocialOptimize, my Social Media Development and Consulting Agency does OpenSocial development too – look us up if you would like some help building an OpenSocial strategy at your company!

My Tour of the Googleplex

GoogleplexToday I got to knock off another one of those “bucket list” items of things to do before I die.  Today I got to tour the Google campus as I attended the final Google OpenSocial Hackathon before it goes live at the end of this month.  I truly learned the creativity of Google as I attended this event.  It started, when I was asked to wait in the lobby for my escort into the Hackathon.  I was asked to “have one of the free juice bottles” over by the wall, and “have a seat in the massage chair”.  It was no ordinary massage chair either – it was a full body massage chair!

From that point on I felt like I was receiving the royal treatment.  Brad Feld would be proud of Google, as even their bathrooms make you feel as though you are receiving the royal treatment, from the heated toilet seats, to the bidet (no I didn’t use it – well, it was broken), to the literature on the walls to read and keep your mind “invigorated”.

As I was there, I had the privilege to meet with my cousin who works on the Google Caja (pronounced, “caha”, btw) team.  He took me to lunch in their gourmet cafeteria, where I had the best lunch I think I’ve ever had in my life, in a cafeteria lunch room!  All the food was prepared by professional chefs, and the cafeteria we attended was only one of the many cafeterias or restaurants they have around campus.  While there, we even got to see a Serge sighting – my cousin had to point him out to me, as he just looked like any of the other engineers there, t-shirt, jeans, messy hair.  Evidently, with as large as Google is this was only the second or third time my cousin had seen Serge Brinn there.

All scattered throughout the Google campus are things just like this.  There are scooters as well as Segways provided throughout campus for employees to get around quickly.  I’ve never seen so many Prius’s in my life, as Google evidently gives a $5,000 credit if you buy one.  Near ever door were bike racks, filled to the brim with bikes, something I haven’t even seen in Utah where things are usually fairly close together.

All around campus there were “mini-bars”, stocked full with drinks, cereal, snacks, food, and whatever you might need to munch on as you work hard for the company.  My wife keeps asking me why I don’t work for Google.  I don’t think she really wants me to though, because if I did, I don’t think I’d ever come home!

With such royal treatment from Google, as even just a visitor they got my attention.  While I run my own business, if I were any of the other developers attending that OpenSocial hackathon I would definitely be thinking how I could get a job at Google.  Google brands itself even down to its headquarters as a place for Engineers, and a place you could live your life around.

While there I met some really great people – I’ll talk more about that, and the hackathon tomorrow as I finish up the hackathon.  Let’s just say Facebook has got some serious competition to contend with now.  Let’s just hope, with the support they have from the developer community, that they can keep up.

Google Releases Spreadsheets Forms – S3 Equivalent Coming?

Google FormsYesterday Google announced a rather interesting, and I believe strategic move, allowing users of Google Docs to put forms in front of their online spreadsheets through Google Docs.  I didn’t realize this until now, but Google really has a dynamic, unflattened data source that they have been providing through their Google Spreadsheets.  Now, with the ability to add forms, in many ways we are seeing another hosted development platform for website owners to use for whatever they would like to collect data for.  This has been long needed – I can’t tell you how many people have asked me at some time to install Formmail.pl for them to send them e-mails of a simple form they have installed on their website.  Now, they can just set up a Google doc, and a form to front that doc, and no e-mail is necessary!

The functionality is very simple right now, but one has to remember this is Google, which at one point was just a simple search engine.  Google always starts simple, and takes over the world with that simple plan.  Imagine if Google were to incorporate their new graphing API into these forms for simple survey-taking capabilities.  Now, add to that the ability for more robust reporting beyond that, ability to include single cells from a spreadsheet, and perhaps a query language of sorts to interface with it.  Google could very soon be competing with perhaps at first the likes of Amazon S3 storage services, but even more, their SimpleDB query engine, at a much more robust level.  This is Google after all.  I wouldn’t put it past them.