It’s Festivus – Time to Air Grievances

It’s that time of year and as Frank Costanza famously said… “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people…”

This years list is a large one so bear with me.

Google Chrome and every other company that decided to release their own web browser – I love you, but you’ve added yet another browser to test web applications against. You should therefore be required to all contribute to an agreed upon suite of tests (ACID is fun, but isn’t real in the least) and test harnesses that web developers can run to validate their applications look identically pristine in all browsers.  I also hate  you because you remind me how much I despise the market share IE6 still enjoys and the 35% development tax that must be paid to support it.


 Social Media Experts that grow on trees. You people are as useful as the so-called SEO experts you all used to be and the talking heads on 24 hour cable news channels.  I’m glad I’m not on any of these lists.  You can game social media just like SEO, but the crimes are going to catch up to the poor companies who bought your advice. 

The immutable laws are now that the web is social & that people will go where-ever the best conversations and content lives.  If you don’t have something worth talking about and good content to seed discussions with then it doesn’t matter what else you do. This goes for your companies intranet as well. Twitter has a spam problem it’s ignoring. I’m sure a social media expert has a strategy bullet for it, but I call it thread hopping.  Just about every post I make earns me a public reply with someone offering their services, asking me to try out schmap-it-a-ma-gass, or (not kidding) buy an official festivus poll from their site.  Don’t create an inbox you want people to check if you aren’t going to prevent spam from getting to that inbox.  Don’t get me started about the # of spam followers I have that get to send messages directly to my real inbox.



I’m sorry that, like the underpant gnomes, you haven’t figured out what step 2 is on your 3-step plan for profiteering and world domination.  That does not, however, excuse you from continuing to dupe users into making their content public so you can serve more pages.  I suspect a lot of them starting using your service because they believed (wrongly) that it was more private than posting everything to flickr and public blogs. 

The message I received logging into facebook one day was “We think you may have set your privacy settings incorrectly…” because I had locked down a lot of content.  Trust me, if a user found their way to your security panel… the action was very intentional and they do not want to open up their lives.  I accept that if I post something online there is no place that’s really private but I don’t accept the assumption that your users were dumb and really meant to do something else.


People that don’t realize they can change the channel. These are the app developers that complain about the App Store approval process and the lack of one for Facebook apps.  The solution is simple… don’t play.  Write a mobile web app or go build an opensocial widget instead. 


image The SQL Express management console installation process. Have you done this lately?  There is nothing “express” about it.  It’s easier to install the operating system. At least it asked less questions.  Yes, this made the list because I did it today.


Anyone that confuses Excel with Infopath or a documentation tool. Excel is awesome for spreadsheets, graphs, calculations, etc.  Word is awesome at word processing.  Excel is a terrible word processor and Word is a terrible spreadsheet.  Lets all agree to use the right tool for the job.  How the heck to you enter a line break in Excel anyway?  Bullets?  Sometimes I think the worst thing Microsoft did was make the office products work so well together that people think you only need one of them.  Yes, I had to do this today too. 


Fairy tales sold as business books. I may agree with your concepts and will implement any good advice I receive regardless of the source.  But I want you to come back to me when you have case studies, hard data, and real success stories.  Until then you should have stop your analogy at the level of a long blog post.  It would have been just as insightful. (Perhaps even more so as a manifesto)  But there is no need to stretch out a storyline in a non-fiction book.


image Major League Baseball is broken.  I don’t know how you are going to fix it, but when one team can command a payroll of 5 other teams combined and 6 umpires can blow a foul ball call by 1 foot there is not competitive balance. And I’m not just a whiney Red Sox fan.  They enjoy the same unfair advantage that the Yankees have in terms of relative payroll… the Yankees just did a better job exploit
ing the system this year. Every other sport seems to have solved this problem and now it’s your turn. 

If you’ve read this far I hope you can see this post for the humor it was intended to be.  I really do love Baseball, Chrome, Facebook, Twitter, etc… but there will always be a list of grievances. And it’s no fun to complain about things you really do hate.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Treat existing site members better than new ones

Your ROI may be based on new member registrations, but you can’t forget about treating your existing members better.  They are going to be your strongest advocates. 

Done poorly… Linkedin – Requires new page loads and extra clicks for existing users.


Done well… Facebook – Login options for existing members right on home page.


They Came from Facebook

Your next customers. They are coming from Facebook.  You need to welcome them with open arms, make it easy for them to sign-in, and bring all their friends to your community. 

Which brings me to news that was too cool for me to just tweet.  Telligent’s friends at 4-Roads have developed a Facebook Connect module for Community Server that you can implement on your Community Server site today!  The module is Nexus and it’s pretty cool.  Here is my own crude visualization:


And here is a video that illustrates the results you can expect…

On a more serious note.  Facebook is going to remain a central location for users, a starting point online, and essentially represent the mainland of the online world… but you have these cool islands you want people to visit.  People do all sorts of cool things on your island they can’t do on facebook… but you need to build them bridges to the island.  This lets you do just that. 

Check out for more information.

Developer wants to make money? No way!?!?

If you’ve been spammed by a Facebook app then chances are you’ve experienced one of the Slide applications.  Yes, these are the people behind Funwalls and SuperPokes.  Turns out that they aren’t seeing the ROI they’d like from these time wasters. 

Slide Says It’s Done Releasing New Facebook Apps – Silicon Alley Insider

Slide, the company that makes Facebook’s most popular apps, says it’s done making new ones for the social network. Keith Rabois, VP of strategy and business development, told us this week that the company wants to concentrate on making the existing apps like FunWall and Top Friends better — and ultimately figure out how to generate real money from them.

I admire the desire to improve existing apps, but I also think this should serve as a bit of a wake-up call that you need more than a catchy gimmick to profit off of social networks. 

Bring me a hotfix for the weather oh, and the Internet noise

What a wild weather pattern we’re in out here.  Seriously, I pitched in the snow today at our baseball game.  It looked something like the picture to the left… except replace real fans with homeless people that wandered by on Capitol Hill in Seattle. 

Today’s post is another grab bag of my recently shared items.  Enjoy!

I’m glad they’ve found an even better home for hotfixes. Brian is a great high level guy at Microsoft that continues to push the envelope for his customers. 

A new home for Visual Studio Hotfixes
Weve been publishing hotfixes for general download for a year or so now. Via bharry’s WebLog

Ad volume?  This same thing happens with web ads.  Do people really click on bright, flickering ads like a collective of bugs being zapped over and over again?

How Advertisers Shoot Themselves In Their Collective Feet
The biggest challenge for advertisers today is to get people to watch their commercials. Via Blog Maverick

As much as I love how Twitter provides me, as a remote employee, with the opportunity to have “water cooler” conversations it really does up the noise a level on the interwebs.  I help I turned off of audio and visual notifications like I’ve done for Outlook over the last few years. 

Web 3.0 Will Be About Reducing the Noise—And Twhirl Isn’t Helping
It’s my own damn fault. Via TechCrunch

Not a bad attempt… this “offline client” tries to piece together structure from web pages & RSS feeds for web forums.  

Web Forum Reader: Desktop app for reading… well you know
Filed under: Internet, Windows, Commercial Spend a lot of time reading web-based forums? Wish there was a way to sift through new articles without visiting umpteen sites every day and hitting refresh a few hundred times a day? Web Forum Reader is a desktop application that lets you keep read postings from a wide variety of internet forums. Via Download Squad

OpenID for Community Server 2008 is pretty cool. 

OpenID 2.0 for .NET now available
The OpenID open source project for ASP. Via Rob Howard’s Blog

I loved this new twist on a dating site.  Sort of like a combination of your friends + dates + american idol.  This link goes out to my peeps at

Avoid Online Rejection, Get Your Friends Involved
Unlike dating in the real world where friends and family provide introductions and serve as wingmen, online dating is usually a very solitary experience. Via TechCrunch

I knew the interwebs loved Obama, but there is a serious online divide.  Know what this means… still more wild Internet growth to be had… unless it’s just more old people voting for Hillary.  Maybe Barack needs a Wii channel to get the old people in between bowling games. 

Stats: Obama Still Winning On the Web
We all know by now that if you could vote on the Internet, Barack Obama would already be president. Via TechCrunch

Crazy Idea of the week… Connect your web forums to twitter and let forum members answer support tweets.

How to Get Customer Service via Twitter
There has been a lot of talk lately of companies monitoring social media, be it Twitter, blogs, or social networking sites, for mentions of their company name and responding to customer service issues. Via ReadWriteWeb

I like the Telligent promotes & gives back to the shared open source world.  

Graffiti CMS Blog Extensions now in Google Code
Earlier this week we published the Graffiti CMS Blogging Extensions. Via Rob Howard’s Blog

You are only going to see more and more web analytics built into web sites in the future… some of those coming from Telligent. 😉

YouTube Updates Layout, Now With Tabs And Statistics
YouTube has quietly launch a new layout on video pages with a new tab focused layout and video statistics (pic above). Via TechCrunch

Will the discoverability of RSS matter or will everyone be aggregating through facebook & friendfeed?

32 Unique RSS Icons usage
Almost all the blogs contains at least one small RSS Icon, which sometimes create nerves to us, if we can`t find it to subscribe. Via WPZOOM

I’m not sure if the post or the south park episode was more timely.

AT&T: Internet to hit full capacity by 2010 (Andrew Donoghue/CNET
Via Techmeme

Defining user perception of social applications

image I’ve been thinking about the differences between developing social and traditional applications. What’s the difference, for example, between developing Word and Facebook? The obvious difference is that one is social and one isn’t. But what does that really mean?

It means is that the user experience in social applications is defined, in large part, by the combination of the user themselves AND the network they keep around them. To elaborate on this thought… If both you and I use Microsoft Word we experience almost same thing. Sure, we each have our “lenses” that effect our perceptions of MS Word (user history, similar apps used, etc) and our experiences may be slightly different, but are still consistently defined by one persons perceptions as shown in figure 1 where arrows represent the inputs and outputs that feed the interaction.

Figure 1: Traditional Application


But your experience using a social application is defined by a combination of the application design, your personal lens, and the social network defined within the application.  Adding the social network has several effects:

1. Application design is magnified because interactions pass through multiple user lenses on their way to you.  Lets call this the “social lens”.  This partially explains the rise in popularity of “Simple first” design of systems like Twitter that has a simple single purpose. That single purpose doesn’t get as watered down the interactions pass from user to user.  This changes the above image to look something more like this. There is now a lot more IO defining one users experience as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: The Social Lens


2. The user experience is defined by the nature of the relationships with the people in their social network. Your experience is going to be different based on how you relate to the people around you and how those people choose to relate to you.  In life this is nothing new, but when it comes to application design it really forces you to think more carefully about user personas and personality types.  An everyday college student and their friend group are experiencing very different things than an Internet celebrity with 10,000 5,000 friends that all want to get on their good side.

Figure 3: The Social Lens + Relationships


3.  A users network size also defines their experience. Does the user loosely or tightly couple? If the user is someone that slowly collects a low number of really close friends the interactions are going to be less flighty and more intense because that’s how they, and likely their social network defines them.  Twitter is a great example of this. With 10 friends its a tremendous presence application. At 100 friends it’s the modern AOL chat room.  At 5,000 friends it becomes your personal soapbox and network computer.  The same application with a different network size is perceived very differently by it’s users. 

That this means, for anyone that works in the “Web 2.0” space, that a whole new set of complexities were introduced that you have to consider when thinking about designing systems that are dependant on each users social graph.  It seems obvious, but if it was important when building classical applications to think about user personas then it’s just as important now to think about the personas + the effect on perception when interactions are filtered through a users social network. 

Time to leave networks on Facebook

I probably just noticed something that’s been going on for a while. I thought I’d check out the Seattle group on FB. It’s a 200k audience being fed daily spam like this:


Facebook needs to find a way to deal with this problem because it’s only going to keep getting worse. 

Design the little things that stand out

image Good products tend to pay attention to the little details. Not all the details, but enough to make you notice. Lately I’ve noticed that the list of supporters or fans or whatever you want to call them on Facebook pages seems to always show a few people that are in your social circle, or friends of people in your circle if needed. 


This way, when you are browsing the page it says to you “It’s ok, look, your friends are here too!”.  They could have chosen a random set of people here, but I think it’s a nice touch.