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Getting to know Facebook’s Open Graph

Last week Facebook announced Open Graph, a way for external sites to connect Facebook’s users and services. Open graph takes what was previously called Facebook Connect a bit further. First, it’s based on using OAuth rather then Facebook’s proprietary system. Secondly, it allows tighter integration with Facebook’s data as well as allowing 3rd parties to locally retain user data for more then 24 hours. This is a huge perk to 3rd party developers; on the flip side this is a huge privacy concern for members. Other additions include the ability for any site to embed some Facebook functionality without requiring OAuth or compromising user privacy, this is done through iFrames.

It’s this last one that initially will be Facebook’s biggest win. It includes the ability to add a “like” button to any page with a simple line of JavaScript. For external sites, like this one, the addition of a “like” button allows for a simple way for readers to share the site/page with their (the readers) friends on Facebook. Much like the Digg, Buzz Up, “post to Twitter” and other social buttons previously available. The big difference is access to Facebook’s membership numbers, especially since Facebook users encompasses a broader spectrum of the masses then most of the other services. Granted the “like” button is little more then a marketing/promotional tool for the sites that use it. For Facebook, on the other hand, it provides endless user preference data, which can be used for better ad targeting or be sold to 3rd parties. It also positions Facebook as the go to source trending information.

In addition to the “like” button, Facebook’s Developer’s guide offers a number of other widgets via iFrame/JavaScript for 3rd party sites to connect with Facebook. One widget offers a view of what other pages on the site your friends (and the world at large) “liked.” Almost instantly there was, a site displaying multiple instances of this widget listing what friends “liked” on some of the Internet’s bigger sites. All this is done without ever directly knowing who you are as each instance of the widget is actually an iFrame containing Facebook. I say “directly” because the data is readable via JavaScript post rendering. Facebook also offers a recommendations engine based on all the data collected that 3rd parties could implement. Though I need to learn more about this one myself before I can explain its particulars here.

One thing Facebook is requesting as part of the “like” button spec is the addition of meta data about the page/site that is hosting the button. The more accurate the info included the better you’ll be found within the Facebook universe. This reminds me of the early years of search engines where they relied on the honesty of the poster’s meta data for the integrity of their search algorithms. Regardless of the potential for hacking the system, Facebook has a list of requested meta data fields to be associated with the “like” button. The “type” field is potentially linked to the content listed in the user’s profile. For example, if you “like” a movie on IMDB, it can potentially be added to your profile’s list of favorite movies. Though I believe this type of connection to user data is reserved for OAuth connected clients rather then the JavaScript based “like” buttons.

The OAuth connection allows for more access to user data then ever before. OAuth now has access to profile data and the ability to locally store Facebook user data for periods longer then 24 hours. This empowers developers with the ability to parse through all the user data and make analytical connections that were previously impossible. For example if User X allows access and a week later User Y allows access, if User X is friends with User Y the data is now available to make this connection and any others that come along with the increased dataset. Additionally as an admin for pages that were “liked” you can push page updates to those users.

Overall, Facebook’s Open Graph looks like it’s worth using even if it’s only for the simple marketing benefits by adding a “like” button. Granted the real power lies in the OAuth integration. The biggest winner in all this is Facebook, as all these services places Facebook at the center of it all. As Facebook’s gravity increases they can always switch to a pay system so I don’t suggest relying solely on Facebook for the future of your site/service, but until then no reason not to take advantage of all that Open Graph has to offer.

Facebook: Open Graph
Facebook’s Developer’s guide

Refresh Philly: Part Deux: recap

Dare I say it, the sequel was better then the original. Once again there was a solid turn out and enthusiasm abound.  This week’s speakers were engaging with talk about MiND TV‘s future of “public” television using 5 minute videos.  While the Indy Hall Labs crew talked about how developers and designers can work together for a more successful project.  The kids at Indy Hall Labs also showed off their latest offering, Multiplex, a visual browser for your archive of DVD’s ripped with their Ripper app.

The Refresh Philly Google group has also been active with interest in working together to aid some local townships with their web presence.  Visit Refresh online and give’em  some of your time and your opinions.

Refresh Philly
Refresh Philly on Google
Indy Hall Labs

Refresh: part deux

refresh_febTomorrow is the second official meeting of Refesh Philly. Last month there were nearly 100 people in attendance for a two talks, about tech and user experience (respectively). This months offering should be a be less heavy in the tech jargon with two talks covering: the relationship between design and development by Johnny Bilotta; and Public Television in a new age by Howard Blumenthal.

Outside the confines of the Monday meeting there has been some discussion on the Google group regarding putting the talents of Refresh members to aid local municipalities with their web presence, check it out. Refresh can also use your input on deciding between a few logo concepts. If you have anything you’d like to share with the members of Refresh, post it on the Google groups page.

For more details visit the website:
or  Twitter / Google Groups / Flickr

Refresh Philly
Monday, February 2th, 2009
Comcast Center, 45th Floor
RSVP Required – via Facebook or email (refresh [at]

Refresh Philly Begins

Refresh Philly: January Event DetailsOn Monday, January 12th is the first meeting of Refresh Philly.  It’s a group of Philadelphia area designers and developers that are coming together to with the goal of rasing Philly’s game.  So far there are over 50 people that want to see what and and where this can go.

For Monday’s meet there are two speakers:

For more details visit their website:
or  Twitter / Google Groups / Flickr

Refresh Philly
Monday, January 12th, 2009
Comcast Center, 45th Floor
RSVP Required – via Facebook or email (refresh [at]

MAX 2008: a recap

It’s now been two weeks since MAX 2008 opened, as it ran from Nov. 17 – Nov. 19, with some pre-opening events on Sunday.  In those 3-days, there is so much information coming at you that it can be overwhelming at times.  Overall, it was solid showing of what can be done (using Adobe apps) without being a three day sales pitch.  Since the majority of attendees were already using the apps, there was a bit of preaching to the choir, but I digress.

A view of the audience and the presentation displays for MAX 2008 Opening General Session

Day One:
Started with breakfast and opening ceremonies. Here they just spoke briefly about CS4 and some of the work that was done using the suite.  One of the showcased pieces was for the Remarkable Women Trail, as part of California Museum’s legacy trail series.  They brought out Maria Shriver (Gov. Arnold’s wife) to introduce and talk about the project’s goals.  Then it was time for the first official round of sessions, lunch and then more sessions.

My big take away for the first day was from the “Designer/Developer Deep Dive,” here Doug Winnie talked about how these two disciplines are not as separate as one would assume.  Even a quick show of hands demonstrated the overlapping of skill sets.  He used a simple polar grid to map one’s skills and suggested knowing where you overlap with others on the team could aid in team dynamics.  He has posted the concepts from the session along with grid templates on his blog.

Day Two:
Tuesday was a long day, with the first session starting at 8:30am and continuing non-stop into the night with the Customer Appreciation Event.  Also wrapped into this day was a second general session, award showcase and sneak peaks into Adobe’s R&D projects, that may or may not make it to production.  These last two had the geeks gasping at one point or another.  All this wow factor to easily be out done by the night’s main event, the appreciation party.  Everyone boarded coach buses and were chauffeured over to Golden Gate Park’s Art and Natural History Museums.  Here we were greeted with an endless assortment of bite size foods and a great environment to roam at will for the next few hours.

I had a number of good sessions on day two. One session that I think everyone could have benefitted by attending was covering usability errors.  Errors that are caused by confusion created (unintentionally) by the designer/developer of the site and how we can improve the situation.  For humor and effect they showed a number of similar usability confusions that occur in the real world (example: doors with both push and pull facing the same way, here’s an example on Flickr ).  One session that I wish my Photoshop only co-workers could of all been at showed off Firework’s design strengths in working with both bitmaps and vectors.

Day Three:
After the big event the night before they kindly started the first session an hour later.  They closed out the conference with a full day of sessions.  Everything seemed a bit calmer on Wednesday.  Not sure if this was due to everyone taking it easy from a late night or that some some of the attendees starting to head back to where they came.

For me, the day started with a session talking about the benefits of bringing play into the design/development process.  They first showed off the biological reasons for this, but also covered the more humanistic benefits and provided some suggestions on how to effectively use play to a productive end. Another session should have been called “The Pimping of Dreamweaver CS4”.  They wowed the audience with some of the new AJAX focused features in DW-CS4.  It’s clear that Adobe is looking to make even the least JavaScript savvy developer be able to take advantage of AJAX with ease.

I’m glad I was able to attend, there was much learned (some forgotten already :P) and I look forward to getting all these learnings together and present them to my teammates that didn’t attend (especially the stuff on Fireworks).  I also had a good time, which is just as important in getting people to return year after year. Till next year…I hope.

Remarkable Women Trail
Doug Winnie’s Twitter
Doug Winnie’s blog
Push/Pull on Flickr