OSS – Page 2 – Stay N Alive

Announcing Follower Messaging and Follow Statistics for SocialToo.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web 2.0 – A Strange New World

Luke StayLuke Stay is my younger brother, and fellow geek like myself. I like his writing style so I asked him to start guest-blogging on Stay N’ Alive. You can follow Luke on his blog at http://lukestay.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/afrowhitey, or FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/afrowhitey. –Jesse

About 6 months or so ago, my brother, Jesse, would not quit talking about some crazy new service he was using online called Twitter. One day, I got bored enough and decided to check it out. Little did I know, that service would serve as some sort of wormhole, propelling me helplessly through cyberspace into a strange new world, referred to by its own inhabitants as, “Web 2.0.”

I suppose I should start off with a little background on myself. I primarily work as a Stagehand in Las Vegas, NV for the local branch of IATSE. My area of expertise there is as an Audio/Visual Technician. As an A/V Tech, I am paid to install large screens, large digital projectors, large plasma screens, and many other audio/visual components for the various conventions and conferences that come to town. Sadly, I still use a 32” analog TV as my primary source of entertainment at home (yes, I did already get my free digital converter box, thanks for asking). I am an A/V geek, an A/V geek with debt that can’t afford any of the high-end components he installs on a semi-daily basis. It’s a sad existence, I know.

That being said, I am no stranger to computers or the Internet. I grew up trying to get my family’s ancient computer to do things it shouldn’t have been able to do and crashed it many times in the process. I learned computers by trying to get the family computer back up and running before Dad could come home to find out what I had done … again. I took programming courses in High School and Java in College, but ultimately decided programming was not for me. Instead, I chose to study film and have aspired to the life of a screenwriter ever since. I can’t write my own code, but I can understand most code and manipulate it to do what I want. In summary, I am a computer geek with a pretty lame disguise.

I started using Twitter mostly out of curiosity. At first, I just followed Jesse and watched, observing this strange society for a month or so. Then, I started to contribute, replying to some of Jesse’s tweets. This got his attention, and in turn, got me some more followers and a much larger society to observe. Things were pretty quiet at first, mostly Tweets about what people were doing, or what people were reading, or what new technology Apple was about to release, but then came a sort of uprising. I was witnessing a revolution.

These were the days of the infamous “Fail Whale.” Twitter was down and the natives were getting restless. The few tweets I saw actually come through were mostly complaints about their ruthless Twitter overloads. “Where did @replies go?” and “Why isn’t Twhirl working?” and “Can’t anybody do anything about this?” and “Will somebody PLEASE think of the children?!”

Just when things were looking the grimmest, new services began to pop up. Some began to move their discussions to FriendFeed, but that didn’t seem to work as a Twitter replacement. Others seemed to drop off the face of the planet, or at least the Web 2.0 planet. Others still stuck to their guns, pledging their allegiance to Twitter despite all its faults. Then, a new alternative emerged, Identi.ca.

Identi.ca billed itself as Twitter for the people; by the people, and quickly amassed an army of rebels set on taking down the evil, unreliable Twitter Empire. Among its strongest advocates were @JesseStay, @MarinaMartin, and @ThomAllen, and a majority of the small group of people I followed on Twitter. I decided to switch. My name is Luke after all, and Luke would never let himself be seen cavorting around with the supporters of the Empire. Not even Uncle Owen would do that.

In one month, I saw more activity and more of a community on Identi.ca than I ever had on Twitter. People were coding furiously, tapping into the new open-source API that Identi.ca offered. Bridges were built, new friendships were formed, manifestos were written, and new blogs emerged to welcome in the new recruits. Then, almost as quickly as it started, the revolution ended.

I came home from vacation and began to notice a lot of decreased activity on Identi.ca. Only one or two of the people I followed were posting regularly. I turned on my old Twitter account and there they were. The revolution had ended. The rebel army had lost. There would be no triumphant Ewok songs to welcome in the new era.

I learned a lot during my time on Identi.ca. I learned how to track certain terms. I learned how to find more interesting people to follow. I saw a lot of interesting conversations. Most importantly though, Identi.ca served as a sort of microcosm to the way this Web 2.0 world worked. There was a problem on the web, a shiny new service with lots of great features arose, and the masses followed like a swarm of hungry locusts. Then the old service, still much larger than the new one, fixed a lot of its problems, and the swarm came back home.

Since then, I’ve branched out a little on Twitter. I began to get my own followers and have my own little network of videographers, editors, and film geeks. I’m even following Dave Matthews (@DaveJMatthews) and Stefan Lessard (@SLessard) from the Dave Matthews Band (who are surprisingly active). My observations shifted somewhat to FriendFeed as I begin to utilize Twitter more and more, and I see the same sort of Identi.ca cycle on a much smaller scale almost daily. The Web 2.0 world finds some new product or feature, rushes out to play with it, review it, love it, or hate it, and then drops it completely as some other new product or feature is announced.

I remain a somewhat casual observer. I learned my lesson. In this strange new world, it’s better to wait out the flurry of hype that comes with the latest new web gadget to see if it actually takes root. If the locals drop it after a month or less, I don’t bother. Who knows, it may be the next Empire Strikes Back, or it may just be another Star Wars spin-off; a Star Wars Christmas Special in hiding.

I am such a geek

WordPress Passes 4 Million Blogs

wordpress.pngJoseph Scott, developer at Automattic, posted that WordPress.com has recently broken 4 million total blogs. He further mentions that it took just 4 months to go from 3 million to 4 million. Assuming the rate isn’t exponential, it will just be end of December when they hit 5 million blogs. What would be even more fascinating is to know how many self-hosted blogs on WordPress are currently running. (This blog is a WordPress MU install)

WordPress seems to be no Facebook, but perhaps as projects like BuddyPress take off and people begin to virally create blogs and content with their friends it will get to that level. Where WordPress still has left to compete is with microblogging sites like Twitter – perhaps, with the large user base that they currently have we could see this happen in the near future.

The "Community WordPress Facebook Plugin" – Why You Should Contribute

facebook_pic.pngThere are rumors that Facebook has been working on their own WordPress plugin for Facebook. This is troubling for those of us developers that are developing for Facebook Connect, as it shows that Facebook could in one sweep, wipe any developer writing for the Facebook Connect platform out without any advanced notice. It only appeared that in the past, this type of thing only happened on the Facebook website itself, as Facebook has a right to, but I’ve seen it myself with my own development on Facebook Connect today.

Fair enough. I like competition, although I’d love this to be a community effort. So, since we know Facebook is working on their own WordPress plugin for Facebook, and we know Facebook isn’t willing to divulge their code yet. Since I’ve already devoted 20 or so of my own hours to the exact same project with no knowledge from Facebook, and am just now learning that Facebook was working on this behind the scenes incognito with no involvement from the community, I’d like to release my own plugin to the public, under the GPL v2.0 today, in the hopes the public can help with development and further building of this plugin, as a community, not just under Facebook’s roof.

It’s very troubling to see Facebook develop on external apps outside of Facebook like this – it only shows that Facebook is not afraid to encroach on other developers’ projects and that any one of us is at risk of having a useful project, our time and effort (I had no intentions on making money from this), wiped out in an instant. Sure, Facebook has every right to compete, but the least courtesy of notifying developers it already knows would be competition. With such a WordPress plugin this also encroaches on Six Apart’s announced integration with Facebook Connect, and puts Facebook in direct competition with Six Apart instead of making it Automattic’s problem.

It’s my sincere hope that Facebook decides not to continue such projects internally, but instead contributes to existing projects if they must do so. Facebook should in no way be competing with the developers that use their platform without warning, or risk us not being willing to contribute such things in the future. Let’s work together on this Facebook – how about a “we need help” board, or an “internal projects” board so we can know what you’re working on in advance. In this way we can work with you instead of parallel to you and hours spent doing so won’t be wasted. Or how about a little nudge to people like Six Apart saying, “we may just have to compete with you on this in the future” so their own time isn’t wasted with the integration.

Why should I keep building external web apps that integrate and send users to Facebook if Facebook is just going to replace my web apps in the end anyway?

So, I’m going to release my code here right now in hopes we can make this a community project – it requires you to set up your own app for your blog under the Facebook Developers site (just set your callback URL to your own website’s URL), and you must take your application key and enter it into the admin section. Only developers of the Facebook app itself can login through Facebook Connect until Facebook launches (one more advantage Facebook has over us developers – they know when they are launching, and therefore know how much time they have to develop these things, another reason to leave it to us developers in order to keep it fair). To install on your blog after doing so, just unzip the folder in your plugins folder, and activate your plugin under the plugins section in WordPress. After that, any Facebook user will be able to leave comments, under their own authentication, Facebook avatar, and name without having to re-enter it each time. We’ll be integrating this more in the future – if you can help please let me know! My project is a community project, not owned by Facebook, completely owned by me and you for the benefit of the community.

You can download it here.

You can see it in action on my test site, http://socialmediacast.staynalive.com – check out the Hello World post to see the existing comments. Note you will not be able to log in to Facebook Connect on that site because you are not a developer on the app for that site.

Now, I know I ranted a bit – it’s late, but I hope this makes some sort of sense. Am I out of line here? Should I just scrap my code completely and let Facebook do this? Is it a wise move for Facebook to keep making external apps like this that integrate with Facebook? What’s the best way for Facebook to approach this? I welcome your comments below.

I’m Changing Gears

Picture 1.pngI mentioned earlier I was going to announce a big change this week. I’m “on the move“, as Jeremiah Owyang would put it. Today was my first day working full time at a new Silicon Valley startup with offices here in Utah, where I will be leading their Social Product strategy moving forward. I am phasing off my regular consulting, and moving to this new Entrepreneurial effort in helping them grow.

At the moment, I can’t reveal much more, other than the fact that we’re building the next era in Interactive Entertainment on the iPhone. The company I’m working with right now started out as a client of mine, and I liked their product so much I decided it would be worth helping them out full time. I believe fully that we are going to change much of the way you watch TV today. We will be launching most likely next week, and you can follow the Twitter account @MediaMyWay to catch our launch announcement and follow our updates (I’ll also point you there from my Twitter account when we launch – we’ll announce it there first!). Other Twitter accounts you can follow for updates and “clues” are @JustintheWhitt, @Romay, and our CEO, @BradPelo.

How will this affect the other stuff I do? In reality, not much is changing, other than what I do full time. I have received permission to keep SocialToo.com going part-time, as it has, unless it takes off. Expect some very cool things to come from SocialToo in the near future – we’re working on a completely new design and a really cool new feature that will be released in the next couple weeks.

As far as my blogging and book-writing is concerned, I see nothing changing, and I intend fully to continue blogging regular, unbiased articles that I feel inspire and educate. I will disclose where necessary if I feel my current employment has any influence in what I am writing. I still hope to continue writing in other capacities as well, as long as speak as I’m asked to do (I’m speaking in Dallas next week to the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, in fact – come see me speak!).

So, keep watching the @MediaMyWay Twitter account, and you can also follow this blog and I’ll be sure you’re aware of the latest of our happenings (we’ll have a company blog here shortly, which I’ll let you know about). In the meantime I’ll keep posting regular, educational, and original content as I always have and always will. “Stay” Tuned!

Why Do I See So Many Open Source Advocates Using Twitter?

opensource_logo.pngAs I am speaking, Utah is having their yearly Open Source conference. If you’re in Utah or outside Utah (most of my audience is outside Utah), it is well worth the trip with some great topics from ssh tips and tricks to WordPress Performance and Scalability by Utah’s own Joseph Scott from Automattic. I would be there myself but I have deadlines I have to meet this week (I have a big announcement to make next week which will explain my lack of time this week). However, as I was tracking the updates from the conference, I noticed there seem to be way more people updating from Twitter vs. the Open Source-based blogging tool, Identi.ca. In fact, I notice many Open Source proponents even outside Utah embracing Twitter over the Open Source-based Identi.ca and I wonder why.

Now, I wasn’t paying attention during OSCON so I don’t know if it was the same there, but I’m willing to bet there was a lot of activity going on within the Twitter network there that really should have been happening over on Identi.ca. I’m wondering if it’s just lack of education about Identi.ca, or if our views of the principles behind Open Source have changed.

I remember a day where in each company I worked for I would do all I could to try and get them to let me run Linux on my desktop. I still run vim and I still run open tools like Apache, MySQL, and Perl. In some (remember Red Hat 5?), I was making a sacrifice by doing so, because I knew I had complete flexibility to make the changes and configurations necessary to make it do what I wanted to do if it did not yet do it.

When I was an Engineer at Backcountry.com we thrived on this principle. It actually made us more productive as a company because when we used Open Source software, we could configure it the way we wanted when it wasn’t working the way we wanted it to as a company. This would have costed us hundreds of thousands of dollars in custom software changes if we used a shrink-wrapped solution. Not only that but we could give back to a great cause if it didn’t meet our needs, and in fact we gave back quite a few changes to the Open Source community because of this principle.

Now, if you are not one of those types that went out of your way to use open source software for the principle, and because of the reasons I mention above, then I’m not talking to you here. However, I’m calling each and every one of the Open Source advocates out that are on Twitter and have not yet tried, nor use Identi.ca on a regular basis. This is no different than running Linux on your desktop as in the examples I mentioned above. If Identi.ca is not working the way you want it to, as an Open Source Advocate and promoter, you have a responsibility to jump in and contribute the areas you don’t have access to. That’s the true spirit of Open Source, plain and simple! Here are the reasons why you can feel good using Identi.ca, or build your own Laconi.ca instance that can communicate with Identi.ca:

  • You own the content you post – All posts through a Laconi.ca instance are published under the Creative Commons license, meaning the publisher cannot own the content of its users. This is very much in the spirit of Open Source.
  • Identi.ca is based on open source software – as already mentioned, Identi.ca is based on the Laconi.ca source code. You can even set up your own instance and have it talk to other Laconi.ca instances. If you don’t like what Identi.ca does, then fix it, publish your own instance, or give back to Identi.ca!
  • Identi.ca talks with an Open Protocol, OpenMicroBlogging Protocol – Not only are you given source that talks this protocol, but you can write your own software that talks this protocol, and it will communicate with any other software that speaks this protocol. See my post on OpenMicroBlogger for an example of this in action. This is called “Federation”, and IMO it’s the essence of Open Standards and communication.
  • Identi.ca has almost all the same features as Twitter, and more – as I’ll explain in a minute, this probably doesn’t matter, but the only features it lacks are direct messaging and SMS. SMS is expensive, and most likely won’t last on even Twitter – it costs too much! Direct messaging can be resolved by means such as e-mail or text messaging in a much cleaner fashion, although there are rumors of some working on even that. What it has that Twitter doesn’t though, and this is powerful, is that all Laconi.ca instances support XMPP out of the box, which means live-streamed updates straight from users, in real-time. Not only that, but you can track those updates, as well as any update on any Laconi.ca instance via Track functionality. Also, via OMB protocol above, you can subscribe to users on other services other than Identi.ca, and vice versa.

Let’s not get me wrong here – I’m not telling you to abandon your network on Twitter. I’m saying if you support and promote Open Source standards and refuse to use an open service like Identi.ca that is based on Open standards, you are living a double standard. You can still use Twitter in the meantime. I still use Windows and Mac for functionality I don’t get on Linux until me or someone else is able to replace that functionality for something better. The concepts are the same. I still use Twitter occasionally.

Also, many are giving the excuse of, “my network is bigger on Twitter”. I’d first like to point you to my listening/follower ratio article on LouisGray.com as to how strong your network really is on Twitter, but in addition to that, let’s pull in the Linux example again. How many Linux desktops are there in the wild? How many Windows desktops are there? We use Open Source because it allows us to configure it to do what we need it to do, and often we can get the job done better because of that. We don’t care if the majority of the population is using another closed tool because we can do much more with the open tools we’re a part of.

I’d really like to see some more Open Source proponents using Identi.ca as their primary posting platform. If you would still like to use Twitter that’s fine – there’s a bridge to enable you to do that, but it’s time we stood to our principles and why we’re using Open Source in the first place. Please don’t consider this a criticism, but rather a Bearhug to come help us out in this cause.

You can find me on Identi.ca at http://identi.ca/jessestay.

Facebook Rumors, Religion, and the LDS Faith

telephone.pngIt all started with this post today. A supposed “employee ‘close to the deal'” told blogger, Zach Klein (who doesn’t seem to allow comments on his blog) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History division had made an unsolicited bid to purchase Facebook. Nothing else – no other background, no other resources to confirm the deal. Soon after, ValleyWag, the first to the scene and first large blog to publish anything about it, was blogging rumors they are well known for spreading. Soon after, Venturebeat and the Industry Standard were blogging about it, quoting Brady Brim-DeForest, who ironically was claiming this as news, not a rumor at all – I’m unaware of where he got it, but his news broke after Valleywag’s. TheInquisitr, while I’m sure had no ill-intentions, even made fun of the manner with some very radical and somewhat inaccurate claims that I know have offended some members of the LDS Faith that read the blog. The blogosphere seems to be a mess today in regards to regard for religion, faith, and respect for one another’s belief. It appears the LDS Church has become the punch-line of the blogosphere’s Jokes and I’m getting really tired of it.

Now, let’s talk about rumors. The blogosphere is known for spreading rumors – I’ve hated them from the get-go, but let’s face it, it’s a part of many blogs out there, and it may not be going away any time soon. (I think I could do an entire post about rumors in and of itself) I expect an occasional rumor about Microsoft trying to buy Yahoo, or Facebook employees leaving the company because they are mad with Executives, or even a crazy one like the iPhone 2.0 coming with 2 cameras and iChat video support. Frankly, I never share those (well, rarely), but they are fun to read because, well, they’re funny. But rumors like an entire Faith buying a huge company like Facebook are ridiculous, unfounded, and frankly offensive to me that anyone would take such a rumor seriously when the Faith is my own. It’s a religion, people – tell me one reason a religious Faith would need a social network like Facebook to further its mission. Do you seriously believe any religion would be so stupid as to try this? People would leave Facebook in droves if that were to happen, and a network like Facebook has no good way of building up the members of the Faith itself. The claim is absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t believe established bloggers are taking this serious enough to share with others! There seems to be a serious lack of understanding between the blogosphere and the LDS Faith and I’d like to figure out a way to put an end to it.

Let’s go back to earlier this year. You may remember my “Shame on You TechCrunch” post I wrote awhile back, calling out the writers at CrunchGear for an extremely biased, and very misunderstood and inconsiderate interview of Penn Juliette, in which he claimed Mormons had “magic underwear” (as a Mormon, I affirm to you, that my underwear is not magic), and went on to encourage him as he talked about how easy religious women were, degrading women at the same time. While I still will not read CrunchGear because of that, I have lifted my boycott of TechCrunch (just because there is no way to avoid it – I also did not know Arrington at all at the time), but as you can see, there is a blatent misunderstanding of the LDS Faith in the blogosphere. CrunchGear still stands by their article and has refused to make any statement to the contrary.

Now, to give credit to those that have blogged about this today, Eric Eldon (of VentureBeat) does have a great point in that the LDS Church does actively invest in stock to retain and increase the value of its members donations through Tithing, and Facebook employees are selling stock. Like Louis Gray, I too give 10% of my wages in the form of Tithing to the Church, and I sincerely hope they invest it wisely and don’t just waste it away. I know their investments are wise though, and even the “widow’s mite” is considered and cared for. The Church itself never publishes these investments and it would be impossible to know if some are in Facebook or some are in Microsoft or some are in Google. They take these donations as sacred, and every effort is taken to maintain the sacredness of those donations. However, an outright acquisition of Facebook would be proposterous and completely out of line with the Church’s history.

Every one of these bloggers could have done a simple Tweet in fact, and quickly gotten a response from Mormons on how ridiculous the claims are. Or they could have shot Louis Gray, or me, or Matt Asay, or Phil Windley, or other Mormon bloggers an e-mail asking us if the claims were true. It took me about 5-10 minutes to send an e-mail to the LDS church and get a response back (which, btw, said the claims are not true and unfounded), and in fact, the LDS Church CIO is even on Twitter – an e-mail or even simple dm to him may have done the trick.

Now, I’m not necessarily trying to call out these specific bloggers, but rather point out the problem in general – I respect most of them in fact and really enjoy their regular blog posts. I’m just trying to make a shoutout to the blogosphere that we’re here if you have questions! Let’s start an open dialogue about the Mormon Faith – do you have questions? We’d really like to answer them before you assume and blog inaccuracies in the first place. Please, don’t hesitate to contact me, Louis Gray, or any other Mormon blogger if you have any hestitancy before posting an article. It’s time we put an end to this nonsense, once and for all.

With Threaded Replies, Do We Really Need the ‘@’?

at-sign.pngI broke news last night on LouisGray.com about Twitter enabling a new API feature, “in_reply_to_status_id”, to allow developers to tie replies to their original reply source. Immediately afterwards Evan Prodromou of Identi.ca added the same functionality to the Laconi.ca source code, making two of the most popular microblogging platforms, Twitter and Identi.ca, along with the already supporting FriendFeed, supportive of threaded comments. Immediately we saw Dave Winer implement a proof of concept example, and YooPlace also implemented it into their own code. Loic Le Meur of Seesmic, the owners of the Twhirl Twitter client responded as well saying he was reading the article and looking into it.

So a big question has become evident now that we can threaded replies. Is the ‘@’ really necessary in your replies to friends on your favorite microblogging service any more? A comment by Steve Gillmor on Identi.ca got me thinking about this earlier, and I think he has a strong point. In fact, I’ve briefly touched the subject before here.

The ‘@’ is mostly a Twitter-invented custom brought to the service by its users with some slight roots in bulletin boards and forums where threading was not possible. Users decided the Twitter service made a great communications tool and began replying to their friends’ posted statuses with the ‘@’ symbol. There was no other way because Twitter wasn’t expecting to be a communications tool. The popular Twitter clients like Twhirl and TweetDeck and even Twitter’s own web-based client started catching on, and separating those posts with usernames prepended by ‘@’ as “replies”. What’s odd is that the only thing they recognize as a reply is if the username is prepended by an ‘@’ – they take no thought as to the actual username itself, which really is the actual substance of who the user was replying to. In fact, FriendFeed users are starting to do this as well since it only has one level of threading and users can’t comment on other users’ comments. (Twitter and Identi.ca are actually one-upping Friendfeed with their recent announcements)

So while the “@”‘s were a custom, they really aren’t necessary to determine if a user is replying to another user. In fact, even today you can use an XMPP tracker like Twitter Spy and Laconica Spy and track your username and get notified when a person mentions your username, exactly the way “@” replies work. It was silly that the “@”‘s were required to be recognized as a reply in the first place.

Now, considering you can now actually track on the back end the entire hierarchy of a conversation via the API “@”‘s are even less necessary as before. I’d like to see the various microblogging clients start to ignore the “@”‘s and allow users to simply type usernames when replying to another individual, assuming threads aren’t in place. Then, once threads start to show in your favorite microblogging clients, even the usernames shouldn’t be necessary.

I’ve mentioned before that IRC works this way and most IRC clients will look at the existing list of users in a room and automatically detect the username and notify the targeted user if the message is directed at that user. Not only that, but the IRC clients actually keep a cached version of the users in a particular room and will even auto-complete usernames if you begin typing in the username and hit “tab”. That’s what I’d like to start seeing microblogging clients do so long as they’re going to be supporting a communications platform, and it should start with Twitter and Identi.ca themselves on their own web interfaces.

Then again, all this may now be moot with threading available. Oh, and don’t even get me started on hashtags. (Those should be handled by the API, not in the content of the message!) I think I’m going to try a new experiment of just not using the “@”‘s like Steve Gillmor does – anyone else want to join me?

Laconica’s Not the Only Cool Kid In Town – Introducing OpenMicroblogger

omb.gifThere’s a new kid in town in the microblogging space, and no it’s not just “another microblogging site”. I talked to Brian Hendrickson, the lead developer behind OpenMicroblogger.org and its accompanying service OpenMicroblogger.com today and he may just have something to scare both Twitter, and Evan Prodromou of Identi.ca in their tracks. What’s amazing about it all is Brian has actually taken the OpenMicroBlogging protocol that Evan established and implemented the protocol in Brian’s own, non-laconica-based implementation of the protocol that would communicate with any other OpenMicroblogging protocol supported site, similar to the way I mentioned on LouisGray earlier. Yes, OpenMicroblogger.com and the accompanying open source software it is based on will talk to Identi.ca, and on a completely different code base. That means you can follow anyone on Identi.ca within the OpenMicroblogger.com service and vice-versa, and they were written from the ground up by two entirely different developers!

What’s even more amazing about this new platform is that while not a WordPress implementation, Brian seems to have made the platform almost entirely compatible with the WordPress plugin and theme API. So, basically, if you are a WordPress developer, you can write your own extensions to the code, implement your own versions of the code, and write your own themes, all in the same way you do on WordPress. Brian wrote the code from the ground up using a framework he built and calls “dbscript”, and it contains no WordPress code whatsoever. He felt WordPress was too bulky to handle a full Microblogging platform (do I smell a potential acquisition by Automattic?). In fact, adding in integration with the OpenMicroBlogging Protocol was as simple as just adding a simple PHP plugin to his dbscript implementaion. The look and feel of OpenMicroblogger.com, his own implementation of the codebase, is all just an implementation of the WordPress Prologue theme that my friend Joseph Scott at Automattic wrote.

Picture 3.pngBrian tells me that while Laconi.ca‘s codebase is very good technology (he had very good things to say about Identi.ca, Evan, and the Laconi.ca codebase, especially when compared to Twitter), the technology underneath OpenMicroblogger and DBScript is even stronger and more scalable. According to him, “dbscript is an advanced ‘Restful’ framework with sophisticated features that are not found in the WordPress code base, it shares features with Ruby on Rails (ruby) and Django (python) — things like MVC, ActiveRecord, Routes, Content-Negotiation”. Because the underlying code is Restful, an API is almost inheritently provided for other developers to interact with your implementation of the code-base and write their own applications for it.

OpenMicroblogger and DBScript are based on an open source MIT license similar to the license Ruby is under. Brian says it took him just 8 weeks to write this advanced implementation, with other client projects going on at the same time and 2 kids, which shows how simple it is to implement the Openmicroblogging Protocol. It also shows his devotion to the work.

OpenMicroblogger.com, the service that shows off his code, has some really nice features (also available in the code) such as sharing links and pictures with friends – definitely a little more advanced than Identi.ca in that manner. He fully supports the OpenID standard (he actually wrote his own OpenID host using his framework!), and is very big on OAuth and other standards and open protocols so you can expect to see much more around that with the site.

This one simple and amazing example goes to show that we have only hit the tip of the iceberg here on microblogging technology. Now that a Protocol has been established, you will see more and more sites and developers write their own extensions of the protocol to implement their own creative microblogging solutions and layers. This very creative and innovative solution could just be a more advanced option than Laconi.ca to consider for Microbranded solutions in the future. Brian has taken “viral coding” to heart.

You can download the code, try out, learn more and help out the OpenMicroblogger.org project over at http://openmicroblogger.org. I’ve created an account at http://openmicroblogger.com/?jessestay, and you can actually just go there, follow me, and follow my OpenMicroBlogger.com updates right on Identi.ca! Or, you can go over and create an account for yourself.

UPDATE: Brian corrected me about it being more scalable than Laconi.ca (see the comments below) – according to him, “Actually Laconi.ca is the more robust code and is more scalable. dbscript is a meta-object framework and runs some extra queries to “learn” about the db schema — it is currently not very optimized for performance, but is geared towards being programmer-friendly.”

Identi.ca Will Succeed Because Its Technology is Viral

logo.pngYesterday I guest-posted on LouisGray.com about how the technology behind Identi.ca, Laconi.ca, could pose as the launching platform to brand many smaller microblogging services. Today I’d like to share one more power of the service – its working API. Identi.ca/Laconi.ca seem to have introduced a new ideology to Web 2.0 with this code, viral software.

Now, when I mention “viral software”, I’m not necessarily mentioning software that can make things viral. I’m instead meaning software in which the underlying code itself is viral. This could change the face of the way developers write code in the future, and open source is only part of it.

Picture 1.jpgToday I noticed (through Steve Gillmor on identi.ca) another new interesting thing that I knew was coming – Brad Williams (@williamsba) wrote a bridge that essentially allows you to post on identi.ca and have it automatically post to Twitter, prepended by “identi.ca:”. Interestingly enough, “Hippy Steve” (@exador23) pointed out now one of the top trends on Twitter as of today, according to http://search.twitter.com is “identi”. Now, many of the posts you see on Twitter are going to become posts prepended by “identi.ca:”, and many more are going to feel pressured to join identi.ca where they are seeing all their other friends post from. I guess you could consider it competitive micro-advertising, created and distributed on purpose by the users themselves (as Charlene and Josh would put it, we’re seeing a “Groundswell“).

It should be noted that you can remove the “Identi.ca:” from being prepended, but as long as you’re on identi.ca and want those on Twitter to know you’re posting from there and not Twitter, why remove it? You are posting from the competing team, after all. Would anyone want to pretend they’re not posting from Twitter? I’d like to know where my friends are posting from.

Now, onto the viral part. Why did Brad Williams implement this bridge? I’m sure there are preferential issues of trying to get his network onto identi.ca, but the fact of the matter is, from a development standpoint these applications like Brad William’s bridge are simply easier to write for Identi.ca. The lack of limits and plan to keep off those limits on Identi.ca are just one more thing that make the software behind Identi.ca viral. Developers want to develop for Identi.ca. With an API that also supports Twitter (I mean literally, it is simply a change in the hostname for your Twitter code), developing for Identi.ca is just too easy! Again, developers jumping ship could very well mean the demise for Twitter.

I can only hope that developers of the future learn from this experience – in a social era such as today, even your software has to remain viral and easily shareable and distributable. Laconi.ca is the prime example of this – completely open source, based on open protocols, and your software should be able to talk to other instances of itself in some way, preferably using standard protocols. In addition to that, a completely open API is a must – the minute you start closing your API you begin to lose your code’s virality. Brad William’s bridge is only the start of apps that make the transition to Identi.ca much easier. I imagine you’ll see many more of these things in the coming days and weeks.

Looking to learn more on how to make the jump to identi.ca? Check out my friend, Marina Martin‘s site, ohidentica.com for some great howtos and tips all in one place. You can find me at http://identi.ca/jessestay.