Spam, Damn Spam

It appears that tonight I will be breaking through a dubious milestone: 200,000 spam comments caught by Akismet. On average I log about 1,300 spam comments a day, which is almost 1 per minute, but what is strange is that there will be random days where practically no spam is logged. Check the widget at the bottom of the right sidebar for the running total.


Plane to Nowhere

AN INDIAN entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off. All they want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.

What can you say, ignorance is bliss. Link via Megan McCardle.

You have to admire the resiliency of the entreprenuerial spirit in a country where for decades the yoke of socialism dragged down the lives of those already down. It’s easy to visit a tech park filled with foreign companies in Bangalore or Mumbai and think you are seeing India when in fact you are seeing a small corner of a big country.

Facebook Apps vs. Widgets

The GSP conference yesterday (I’m back here today, but only for the afternoon) brought to light the amount of confusion that exists about this entire generation of technology and services.

Facebook is first and foremost a social network, on top of which they have exposed a set of developer functions that enable applications to be developed that run inside of Facebook AND take advantage of Facebook’s inherent social network functions. Facebook applications are designed to run inside of Facebook and depend on specific Facebook functions as part of the application’s functionality. Here’s NewsGator’s recently developed Facebook application, NewsFriends:

This is far more advanced than hacking a widget to run inside of Facebook, which is exactly what developers have to do to deploy an app to Myspace. Also, on Myspace developers don’t have access to any of the functions that Myspace itself depends on to run their service.

Facebook applications are not trivial to design, build or deploy. On top of the effort required to acquire knowledge about how Facebook’s developer platform works, there’s the other non-trivial issue of designing a compelling application. This is surprisingly difficult because the UI is constrained (space and functions) and more significantly the designer has to think about the dynamics of a social application from the beginning as opposed to attempting to simply layer on the social dimension after the fact.

Simply put, this is why many Facebook applications suck, they haven’t been designed to be inherently social. When we, NewsGator, developed NewsFriends we had conservative goals; while it would have been great to deliver a million deploys in a month the fact is that we focused on learning the essentials, understanding viral loops, and lastly, making mistakes that we could learn from.

Speaking of widgets, yes widgets can run inside of Facebook but they are not the same thing as having a Facebook application. Widgets by definition are self-contained and typically have many deployment options, here’s an example of a Newsgator widget that USAToday is running, flip the widget over and you will have multiple options for where you want to put it:

The above is kind of important with regard to Facebook because there is a subtlety between using Facebook to develop and host and application OR using Facebook simply as a mechanism for distributing an app (which would in this case be a widget). Facebook application developers are hitching their wagons to Facebook in a significant way, while widget developers are using Facebook as one of many deployment options.

The tradeoff between the two strategies are that the Facebook app developer is incurring a lot of risk by being exclusive to Facebook but benefits from the social dimension they provide and the boost to application adoption it can provide. Widget developers are spreading their risk by accommodating users on any platform they are on, but they are giving up the social aspects and depending on non-Facebook viral loops to drive adoption.

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Sometimes I Feel Like a Foreigner Here

I really loved this quote, it epitomizes the absurdity that SF often falls victim to:

“People have realized they can hate George Bush but still not want people crapping in their doorway.”

This was in response to a survey that revealed that affirmed once again that people really do find the behaviors of aggressive homeless people objectionable. But instead it being a simple quality of life issue for people who are paying an awful lot of money to live in SF, well it has to become, sigh, a liberal/progressive vs. conservative issue.

UPDATE: on a serious note, one of the really cool things that Chronicle has done is allow readers to comment on stories. I’m impressed by how many comments these articles can generate. This article has 800 comments, which is obviously too many to read, so I’m wondering how we can get that comment feed and put an analytics dashboard on it to parse for sentiment, language, location, etc.