Google’s Living Stories – WordPress Plugin

I’ve been searching to try out a developer version of Google’s Living Stories for a while, and thanks to Google they just created a WordPress plugin.  Thankfully, this blog is built on WordPress so I had an available site already to try it out on.  The documentation is pretty good and I was able to get it going in about 20 minutes. (If you don’t know what Living Stories is, see health care example.)

It was neat to try, though it really complicated the WordPress admin screen.  But, it did was it said it would, so I can’t complain.   I am not convinced of the UI, but I haven’t really seen a real commercial implementation.

I am guessing you are all expecting a link now to my example?  Sorry, I had to turn it off.  The theme required to use Living Stories is the WordPress default, and although it looked easy to add it to my theme I didn’t want to be troubled.  Living Stories is meant for news agencies with lots of content, so it was kind of wasted on my small site.

Cool stuff though if you think it might enhance your site.

Facebook “Friend” Problem

I read some where that there was a problem with using Facebook friends as actual friends.  Many people have well over 200 “friends” on Facebook, and in some cases they may not have even have met the person.  Definitely a problem when determining social relevance.

I was looking through the JSON API results from the photos feed and I realized something.  Now please excuse me if this is a pretty common technique (I haven’t read this before), but I realized you can use the photo tagged results to match “real” friends.  If you and a friend are tagged in the same photo, it’s a pretty good guess you two actually know each other.   You could probably even find likely “best” friends by using the frequency of tagged photos in the result sets.

I’m guessing Facebook has already taken advantage of this obvious technique, but it’s neat to know these new APIs make that possible for us.

Sample of JSON tags ouput:

         "tags": {
            "data": [
               {
                  "id": "820125496",
                  "name": "Kurt Jarchow",
                  "x": 24.4444,
                  "y": 31.9328,
                  "created_time": "2010-02-14T16:09:27+0000"
               },
               {
                  "id": "539581074",
                  "name": "Craig Jarchow",
                  "x": 61.1111,
                  "y": 32.7731,
                  "created_time": "2010-02-14T16:09:27+0000"
               }
            ]
         },

Facebook Hype

I’ve had about a week now to digest the new Facebook Graph APIs and play around with them a bit.  As a developer, I’m excited, as a user, I’m “meh”.

Making the web more social is really exciting to me, and something that I’ve wanted for many years, but having one company control all our identities?  I think that is a scary thought, and an unrealistic one.

To me, “one social graph to rule them all” is a silly concept.  There are lots of things I do socially online that I don’t necessarily want to inform my Facebook friend’s about (mainly because they don’t care, not that I am hiding something).  At one time I had my Twitter feed publishing to Facebook, but then I found out a lot of my friend’s muted my status!  I need a professional graph, a hobby graph, maybe even a “good friends” graph.

Could Facebook create options for creating your own special graphs?  I suppose so, but if they were, why haven’t they already?  And even if they did, I’d be worried of my world’s accidentally colliding (A George, divided against itself, cannot stand).

Another thing I have noticed: no one is using the Likes externally.  I know it’s early yet and I am just one account, but I have about 150 Facebook friends and… I haven’t seen 1 Like.  I’ve been watching closely and… not a one.  NHL.com was one of the early adopters of Facebook Likes.  How many people have Liked Sydney Crosby? 1,682 people.  That’s it?  Maybe people just haven’t gotten used into it yet, but until they do let’s stop the hysteria.

I was going to include my opinions on the potential of iGoogle being a competitor, but I’ll save that for another post.

EDIT: I saw my first “Like” on an external site, The Globe and Mail.  I liked the experience, but made me realize how polarizing it could be.  This particular “Like” was about an anti-abortion stance the Canadian government is right now fighting.  Could that start an unwanted argument back in Facebook world?  Also, “Like” is not a good word to use, I like CNN’s use of “share” much better.  I might not “Like” something, but want to share it.  Hopefully people will understand the use of “Like” might not actually be liked.

Hating Computers

I Hate Computers – this really needed to be reposted.  I’ve argued this with my friends for years, and it’s absolutely true.  Computers are a means to an end for most people, and it’s a needlessly frustrating journey.

This is a great quote from the comments of that post illustrating the other opinion: “I think users expectations are so high of the people like Microsoft and others that they don’t educate themselves since computers should “just work”, well the real world doesn’t work that way”.  That is just a horrible way to treat customers.  When you watch TV, drive a car, or use a blender it should just work.  I think we in technology has just become complacent with things not working that we expect everyone else to think the same way.  Technology is supposed to my our lives easier.

We need to make computers “just work”.  Period.

Tablets Will Be About Identity & Communication (Digital Home Phone)

I’ve  just read through John Gruber’s *very* complete iPad review and I had a few thoughts I wanted to share.  I’ve been lusting for an iPad since the mostly positive reviews starting flowing, but in my head I know the right thing to do is wait.

My idea of the future is in some ways represented by the iPad.  It’s trim operating system can do things quickly using less hardware.  It’s easy to use.  And… it’s native software is locked down (I’ll try and duck a few tomatoes for that one).

Now what is the iPad lacking?  Two key requirements: identity and easy communication.  The iPad really doesn’t know who I am.  Sure it has my credit card number thanks to the app store, but that is just about it.  The key thing Gruber noted in his post was Google’s advantage with the Nexus One.  As soon as I log in, it knows everything about me.  Make no mistake, this is fundamental.

A tablet should be to the home phone what the smart phone was to the cell.   The internet is fundamentally about communication, and that’s where the iPad failed.  Sure, you can load up a chat client, or you can check your email, but I’d argue (and other would too) that the iPad is made for consumption.

My vision of the future electronic household is replacing every home phone with a tablet.  Too expensive? I doubt it.  Think Android.  Now think Google Voice.  Starting to see the picture?  Small screens and camera prices are dropping like a brick.  When will we see sub $100 tablets? Sub $50? (I’m sure advertising will also subsidize some prices like Google already does with Android phones)

What’s even better is that these tablet’s will carry my identity and online “state” from tablet to tablet.  (Hey maybe those built-in camera’s will even add facial recognition in combination with a password for extra security.)   If my wife took the nice new tablet, no problem (deep breath), I can pick up right where I left off on my older one.

I’m not dismissing high-end, luxury “computers”, I still think we’ll have those, but that’s not what I want my tablet to do.  I just want something I can read, browse the internet, and communicate with.  I don’t think this will come from Apple though, and they’ll miss a big chunk of the industry because of it (but I guess commodity items really aren’t Apple’s bag anyway).

I still might be interested in an Apple tablet that was nice and big and played the next edition of the Civilization game and played nice movies, but I’d want the screen about twice as big (accelerometers are lame btw).

I am also in the camp who believes app stores are a fad.  I think we just need web application distribution to behave more like the app store.  If I designed a web application to look exactly like an iPhone app and put an icon on the iPad, would anyone notice?  Not really.  HTML5 will hopefully put the app store to bed.  We just need to create better web applications.

Thoughts?