fbml essentials – Stay N Alive

Twitter’s @anywhere and Why it May Be Too Techie for Their Audience

In just one day, we’ll all be sitting in front of Ev Williams and Biz Stone as they announce Twitter’s new Facebook Connect competitor, @anywhere.  This is Twitter’s big statement in the developer ecosystem, stating that they are shifting from a script and backend-focused model of developer integration, to a very front-end, javascript-centered focus that centers around any brand or developer’s own site.  However, I’m worried that Twitter may actually be focusing too much on developers, considering their audience of large brands.

I wondered, just after @anywhere was announced at South-by-Soutwest in Austin, TX, how similar @anywhere would be to Facebook Connect.  Facebook Connect, a Javascript-focused set of libraries that sits on top of any website, enables just about any brand manager, marketer, or even developer from the new to the very advanced to simply copy and paste a piece of code and have it immediately create widgets that integrate tightly with the Facebook environment.  With Facebook Connect also comes a tag language, called FBML (I wrote the book for O’Reilly about it), which enables HTML-like tags to be placed anywhere on a website and also get similar functionality.  So basically, no Javascript knowledge is required.  Know how to write a little HTML?  You can integrate Facebook Connect into your website.  At least that’s the message Facebook wants to send to Marketers and Brand Managers (and it’s true how simple it is).

Twitter seems to have the same audience in mind for their @anywhere platform.  After just launching an Ad platform, you can bet more Enterprise features are about to be announced very likely at Twitter’s Chirp conference along with developer tie-ins to those features.  Twitter wants the brands just as bad as Facebook does.  Running a site that targets Brands, I know first hands that the Brands are where the money is.  Enterprise, and contractual relationships with big companies and brands is big money in this industry.  Twitter wants to be on each and every one of these major websites – that’s why they’re launching @anywhere.

I’m worried that Twitter is trying too much to please developers in this case though.  In a conversation I had with Ryan Sarver back in March, he asked what questions we had about @anywhere.  I asked if it would have an FBML-like tag syntax.  His answer surprised me:

“@Jesse think more @jquery than FBML 🙂 very developer-friendly”

I’m not going to say how, but I’ve been looking at some pieces of the @anywhere Javascript source recently and he’s right.  It’s a very jQuery-focused platform.  The problem with jQuery is no marketer or Brand manager in their right mind is going to want to touch it.  It’s too difficult to understand.  It’s going to take developers to convince the marketers, and I’m just not sure that’s the right approach.  Working with large organizations I know how it works – a marketer or product manager can’t get past the bureaucracy to bring a developer onto their project, so they try to do it themselves.  With Twitter’s jQuery approach, none of these guys will even try.

We’ll see what actually gets announced, but if I’m right, Twitter should really consider adding on a tag-based language on top of all of this.  Something that looks like HTML is going to be much simpler to understand than jQuery in the eyes of a marketer that just wants to try this stuff out.  I’m not sure this is the right approach, but we’ll see.

One good thing we can say about all this is that jQuery, as a framework, is going to have an amazing day in the sun on Wednesday.  Let’s hope they can get the developers to sell this to the big guys like they hope.

Announcing the Winners of the Static FBML Contest

FacebookOver on Tamar Weinberg’s blog, Techipedia, I wrote an article about how to customize your FBML Page utilizing the Static FBML app on Facebook, along with a few other techniques.  As part of the post we announced a contest.  The 2 best Facebook Pages left in the comments to integrate FBML into a tab using the Static FBML app would win.  I’m proud to announce the winners.  The winners are:

  • HyperArts Web Design – these guys did some interesting stuff with Javascript to enable loading of the different tabs without an entire refresh of the page.  One of the tabs even had a web form on it enabling you to contact them.  The overall experience, use of multiple types of HTML elements, and more, provided a full package that I thought deserved to be one of the winners.
  • Express – this is a very simple one, but very elegantly designed, and they have a very friendly welcome page on their “What’s New” tab.  I like their use of HTML, and well-designed layout.  I also really like that they used bit.ly links to enable tracking of clicks on the Page.  They link to their other outlets such as Twitter and Youtube as well.

I was very impressed with all the designs and the effort put into them.  Consistently, there are a few things that everyone, including the winners, could have done better though:  I would have loved to see you utilize FBML a bit more.  Perhaps you could utilize the tag to implement tabs to look like Facebook’s.  Or I would have loved to see and video – I don’t think any of the entrants had that.  Maybe you could use to produce a form in a pretty, Facebook-like format.  Perhaps a nicely formatted image of the owners using and could personalize it a bit.  Be sure to get to know as well so you can add comments to your tabs if you want to facilitate discussion.

Overall I’m happy to see what came out of the contest.  My hope is that you can continue this and push your Pages even further.  Get to know what you can do with FBML.  Learn what’s possible, and show me what you’ve done!

For the winners, either Tamar or I should be contacting you, but you can also shoot me an e-mail at jesse@staynalive.com and I’ll arrange to get you a copy of FBML Essentials.

If you would like help customizing your Facebook Page please don’t hesitate to contact me and arrange a consultation.  Congrats to the winners!

How to Customize Your Facebook Page

Static FBMLI get asked a lot how to customize your Facebook Page (that’s with a capital “P”, not to be confused with your personal profile).  I wrote an article over on Tamar Weinberg’s (author of “The New Community Rules”) blog showing you what you need to do to get the most from your Page, including how to build your own custom tabs using the Static FBML app.  This can be a great use for my book, FBML Essentials.  If you have a cool design and aren’t sure what to do to customize this stuff this is a service I offer when I consult for my clients.  I would be happy to help you with these efforts.

Check out the article here: http://www.techipedia.com/2009/create-facebook-page/

Oh, and please be sure to share the custom Pages you create with the Static FBML App – I’m doing a book giveaway to the best implementation of what you learned!

Want to Learn How to Write Facebook Apps? Now’s Your Chance

facebook platformOn Thursday morning I’m doing a free webcast for Safari Books Online (moderated by OReilly’s Laurel Ackerman) in which I’m going to go into further detail than I have before on how to get started building Facebook apps.  I’ll take you from start to finish, focusing this time on more hands-on coding, and less introduction and together we’ll build a Facebook app from scratch.  I haven’t figured the time yet, but if we have time, I’ll also show you how in just 3 steps you can integrate a simple Facebook login into your own website and apply the same principles we went over with the Facebook on your own website through Facebook Connect.

I’m going to stick to HTML, FBML, and Javascript for this session – if you have a knowledge of just HTML and Javascript you should be able to follow along pretty well, so this should work well for both the new programmer wanting to get their hands wet, and the experienced programmer just getting started in the Facebook platform environment.  These sessions I normally charge businesses and organizations hundreds per student so this is a unique opportunity for you to come learn on a budget (free)!

You can register for the webcast here – it starts at 10am PST this Thursday (tomorrow!).  Each participant will get a free 45 day registration to Safari Books online’s huge library of tech books, and 10 lucky participants will also win a free autographed copy of my book on Facebook development, FBML Essentials.  Also, I’m starting a thread on my Facebook Page that I’d love to hear your questions and suggestions on what you’d like to hear in the session.  You can comment on that here.

I’m looking forward to sharing what I know with all of you – please hurry and register before it’s too late!

Come Get Your Books Signed! I Want to Meet You!

Shaking handsI hate shameless self-promotion, but this is one opportunity I get to do such.  I hope you bear with me.  For those of you at BlogWorld Expo, I’d like to meet you in person if you’ll join me for a book signing from 3-4pm Pacific near the BlogWorld Expo Bookstore today (October 16, 2009).  The Bookstore has copies of both my books and I would be happy to sign any books you purchase while you are here.

Even if you don’t want to purchase a book, please stop by and say hi!  I want to meet each and every one of you.  Let’s talk about the Building Blocks of the new Web and about Facebook Connect and Twitter and Google’s OpenSocial and FriendConnect, and maybe we can learn a little from each other.  At a very minimum I’ll get to meet you face-to-face and hopefully we can build a real-life relationship out of that meeting.

For those that stop by, I may even do a random book giveaway of my FBML Essentials book while I’m there.  Please, please come stop by and say hi while you’re out here.  This is my chance to meet you!

Facebook Launches Custom Tags, Helps Developers Share Their Code

Facebook just released documentation about a brand new feature surrounding FBML that I think is game-changing. They call the feature “Custom Tags”, and the concept is simple. You create code on your servers that renders Facebook-compatible code. You register that code as a “custom tag” on Facebook’s servers, set it as private or public, and now you can represent that code you just wrote as a simple FBML tag. Here’s the clincher: You can make your tags available to other developers!

So here’s an example, based on their documentation (it looks as though the documentation is still being uploaded so it is limited at the moment):

Let’s say you create some code that generates FBML code that looks like this:

(${attribute_name} will be used to replace any attributes passed to your custom tag.)

All you need to do is register that tag in your server-side code (which in this case would be at http://external.facebook.com/apps/my_movie_app) with the FBML.registerCustomTags method, passing it the name of the tag, and the FBML markup to replace the tag with when it is encountered on the page. In this case, and based on the wiki documentation we’ll call that tag, . Your code on your page (or other developers’ pages that use your code) will look like this:

Through this simple method, Facebook has provided an easy way for Facebook developers to share their code, in a nice, compartmentalized way. It also makes it very easy to re-use developers’ code across applications and throughout developers’ apps. Facebook says this is only for Facebook Apps, and does not yet support Facebook Connect or third-party sites, but they do have plan to support such. As more details emerge I’ll update you here, or on LouisGray.com. In the meantime, check out my book on FBML, FBML Essentials to learn more about developing with Facebooks FBML Tag language.

Presentation Recap

3031057176_0a2290d8e8_o-1.pngI’ve had a presentation every week for the past 3 weeks. I shared with you my Facebook Development for Beginners Presentation, so you have the first week. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak in front of Ignite, Salt Lake City in front of about 100 or so people (so it seemed at least) about whatever I could teach about Facebook development in 5 minutes. It went amazingly well, and I’m surprised I was able to fit it all in within such a short time-frame. Among the other presenters we had talks about anything from photography along the Highway 89 corridor, to stopping an invasion of zombies (by Josh Coates, CEO of Mozy.com), to (my favorite, having lived in Indonesia as a child) Balinese Gamelan music and instruments. Thanks to Jesse Harding, Andrew Shafer of Reductive Labs, Bryce Roberts (who I heard helped get the idea going) of O’Reilly Tech Ventures, Pete Ashdown of Xmission (who treated us to a wonderful speaker dinner the night before), and all the rest (including The Leonardo for hosting it – I strongly recommend them for a conference after this event!) who helped organize this event. Oh, and I got third place in the paper airplane contest! (in the picture above)

I’m including the slides from my presentation below in case you want to see what was presented. It’s much better in person, and if you or your business would like me to present for you I’d love to talk with you about it!

In addition to Ignite Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with Steve Spencer of Twelve Horses and Melinda O’Brien of Acumen Biologics at the first annual Global Entrepreneurship Week Utah Conference. I was amazed at the turn-out and the only regret I have is that we didn’t have more time! In the panel we got to cover new marketing technologies and strategies. As a software developer I found it ironic that I was talking on a marketing panel, but that really shows you where marketing is evolving lately – an understanding of the technologies you need to connect people is crucial! We talked Twitter, blogging, went over creating a blog and Facebook Page, and covered some issues like #motrinmoms and the great campaign Papa Johns is doing right now on Facebook. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to come back next year! One thing I did notice about the conference is it was almost 90% men there – I would have loved to see more women! Hopefully next year the women bloggers of Utah can get the word out and we can get a more balanced group of entrepreneurs there.

My next presentation will be in 2 weeks, December 5 at the UTC PR Event, where I’ll be joining a group of traditional reporters, representing bloggers and speaking about techniques for approaching bloggers and getting your product or service in front of them. It should be a very interesting discussion, as I’m sure the techniques used to approach traditional reporters are far different from that of bloggers.

In addition, I have been recently selected to be a judge for the Bebo “Engage to Succeed Today” developers competition and will be selecting the best from among 250 or so apps (Bebo is my only regret for not including much of in FBML Essentials – the next edition will definitely include more of Bebo’s role in FBML). I’m in great company with Frank Gruber of Somewhat Frank and Dave McClure, Mr. Master of 500 Hats himself also judging the competition. The winner gets a free Lightscribe pen, along with accolades, and probably quite a bit of media attention. You can enter the competition here if you haven’t already. Contest entries will be judged in January.

Here are my Ignite SLC Slides:

Facebook Development in 5 Minutes[swfobj style=”margin:0px” width=”425″ height=”355″ src=”http://static.slideshare.net/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=fb-development-5-minutes-1227159742206508-8&stripped_title=facebook-development-in-5-minutes-presentation” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”355″]

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: facebook platform)

Photo courtesy Michael Calanan, Calanan Photography, LLC

Facebook Development for Beginners

This morning I had the opportunity to present via O’Reilly Webinar on Facebook development. I covered the basics of how to get started in Facebook development, and the resources that would get you going. I mentioned I’d post these slides online, so here they are. I was hoping to get audio attached to them, but we’re still waiting on that. Regardless, if you want me to present this to your organization or group, feel free to contact me.

Facebook Development for Beginners[swfobj style=”margin:0px” width=”425″ height=”355″ src=”http://static.slideshare.net/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=fb-development-beginners-1226133333982294-8&stripped_title=facebook-development-for-beginners-presentation” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”]

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: facebook fbml)

Let’s Meet in Person!

Picture 1.png

The end of this year is turning out to be quite an eventful one for me. This Friday I’ll be doing a free O’Reilly Webinar, “Creating Facebook Applications — A Beginner’s Guide”. The webinar starts at 10:00am PST, and I’ll probably talk for about 30-40 minutes on how to get started in Facebook App development, after which we’ll have a question and answer session where you can ask your own questions about Facebook development. Register now, as attendance is limited! From the registration page:

“In this session you’ll learn how your apps talk to Facebook, how Facebook talks back, where to find the information you need, viral integration points to promote your app, and learn the very basics of creating a fully functional Facebook application. Come and listen in and bring your questions as [I] present this valuable topic towards getting your web apps recognized through the great tools Facebook provides.”

In the meantime, you may purchase my book on Amazon to get a head-start!

November 13, 6pm MST – Ignite Salt Lake City

Next week I’ll be condensing my presentation even more in what ought to be a fun night of fast-paced information, random facts, and hilarious stories at Ignite Salt Lake City. Each presenter is allowed to talk about almost anything – there are just a few rules. Each presenter has 5 minutes, 20 slides, and each slide automatically rotates every 15 seconds. I’ll be doing the impossible and talking about “How to build a Facebook App in 5 minutes”. The free event is sponsored by O’Reilly, and boasts participants such as Josh Coates, CEO of Mozy. O’Reilly does these around the nation, and Salt Lake City is quite lucky to have one of their own. I’m looking for a great evening of informative fun!

November 20 – Global Entrepreneurship Week Utah

Details are still forthcoming, but I’ve been invited to speak at Global Entrepreneurship Week, Utah on the 20th. I’ll share more details as that works out, but mark your calendars!

December 5, 7:30am MST – Utah Technology Council

On December 5, I’ll be on a panel with other traditional media reporters talking to PR and Marketing professionals at the Utah Technology Council. I’ll be “the blogger” of the group, and hope to share some of the ways marketers and PR professionals can get interest from bloggers, and the types of things we like and dislike. I warned them I may have very different opinions than the traditional media reporters there, and they were very open to that – it should be a very fascinating conversation! I’ll share more details about that as I get them as well.

In January I’ll be judging a yet to be disclosed development-related contest that I’m very excited about. The contest will take place in the Bay area, and I’ll be judging entries submitted – I’m really looking forward to this one. It’s fun to see the creative juices of developers and what others can come up within a limited environment.

So, if you’re in the area for any of these (or online for at least one of them), stop on by and say hi! I’d love to see you and welcome any questions or feedback you may bring.

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.