Today’s Thoughts and Links

Today’s post covers the following:

  • Security
  • iPads
  • Finances

Enjoy.

Security

A lot of my time awake lately has been dealing with Information Security. Some ponderings:

Privacy 2.0. You’re only as secure as your friends allow you to be. [link]

Interesting and very scary thought. Especially with what I’m seeing with Google’s Social Search. This is fairly disturbing to me. Friends: Please let me know if you see anything from my account on this and I’ll work on getting it removed.

The more interesting part of this is the derivation attacks that can occur with something like Google Social Search or Facebook.  In the 2008 election, Sarah Palin’s email account was hacked. From a Wired article:

As detailed in the postings, the Palin hack didn’t require any real skill. Instead, the hacker simply reset Palin’s password using her birthdate, ZIP code and information about where she met her spouse — the security question on her Yahoo account, which was answered (Wasilla High) by a simple Google search.

With regards to secret question/secret answer and sharing of gobs of data, according to how “friendly” I am with someone on Facebook, this is worrisome.

  • What was the first school you attended?
  • What’s the name of your first manager?
  • What’s your first born nephew’s name?

With a little bit of elbow grease, some reasonable attempts could be made on almost every one of these answers. The problem is that Social APIs enable programmatic gathering of this data and focused attempts. Solution: Put in complete BS for secret questions & social networking; hope that you remember the BS and still have friends.

iPads
Long time readers should know that I was a fan of the tablet form factor six years ago. Pics here. It’s nice in niche environments but doesn’t really fit into everyday use.  The major change is that they’re using a touchscreen UI. All of the other “innovations” are just normal evolutions of software / hardware that happen over time (e.g., screen resolution, usability, better software).
See, in order for a device to be worth something it has to add more value than cost. Not just a status symbol or a cult mentality, but actually make life better without breaking the bank. Just like the already existent Windows based tablet PCs, the iPad is not going to be a value added experience for most people.
Things that a iPad/Kindle/eReader will have to do to REALLY add value:

For about a year, the iPad should bring some good competition to the tablet industry for user experience and price. That’s A Good Thing™.  After the first year, the industry’s competitive reaction will depend if they’re making money.

Finances
I wanted to get tax out of the way. What are the readers using for taxes? I’ve been a Turbo Tax customer for many many years, I was wondering if there were any better choices out there.

Sync Google Calendar and Facebook Events

Step 1: Go to Events on Facebook.

Step 2: Click to ‘Export Events’ at the top and Copy the URL.

Step 3: Log in to Google Calendar, Select Add, and Add by URL.

Step 4: Paste the URL into the Public Calendar Address Box and Press Add.

Enjoy.

IDEA: Deflowering the so-called Walled Garden

If anyone knows if this is possible, please contact me immediately: hillad AT gmail DOT com. Thanks.

I want to make an application for Facebook’s F8 Platform called Elsewhere. What’s preventing me? I don’t think Yahoo! Pipes has an API.

The concept is simple: collect usernames for other sites. Myspace, Livejournal, Blogger, Typepad, Youtube, Xanga, delicious, Last.FM, virtually ANY site that has you create a user profile.

But how to make this information useful? Yahoo! Pipes can cosolidate all of the RSS feeds that these sites generate and create one RSS feed that can be read by the elsewhere application. The of it like a lifestream but for each Facebook user, updated daily on their profile.

I’m so ready to write this it isn’t even funny… but can Yahoo! Pipes be automagically created?

Push != Pull, or Why You Should RTFM

My first idea for an F8 app has tanked. I should have read those docs a little further…

I was making a simple countdown, because lot of friends of mine used their status to count down to an event.

From the FAQ:

Is there a way I can avoid pushing content individually to each user?

You can specify default FBML in your application settings, but if you want the boxes to look different for each user, you must manually push to those users. The content rendered in the profile at the time of display must come entirely from our servers to ensure speed and privacy and some level of design sensibility (hence, this is a “push” and not a “pull” model). You can make dynamic content in response to a user’s interaction with your module (via “mock ajaxv or flash). If there is content you want to share across multiple people’s profiles, consider using the tag.

Well… damn. The countdown won’t update itself upon every profile view.

So I thought, I know… I’ll use a PHP generated image, just like I have on my blog… Nope. From the FBML docs:

img tags will also be handled specially. At publish time, any URLs given for images will be requested by our servers and then served by our own image servers. The src attribute of img tags will be rewritten. This protects the privacy of our users and allows us to better control quality of service of images.

The only other way I can envision doing this is pushing out FBML updates via Cron daily or at a specified interval… think the users would go for that?

Help Me Test First F8 App

Last night I started making my first application based on Facebook’s F8 Platform.

It’s a simple countdown application – designed to just show up in your profile like this:

Here’s a screenshot of the main screen:

Help me test it. PM me on Facebook.

5 Applications I’d like to see on Facebook’s F8 Platform

Facebook released The Platform last week. This post isn’t intending to break the news or provide anything but a few of my ‘hopeful’ apps I’d like to see with F8.

It’s interesting to note that according to the Developer Documentation Facebook is not offering ‘hooks’ into their Marketplace, Notes, Video, or Posted Items applications. Currently they only allow you to leverage their users, events, photos, and groups. I wonder if this is going to change in the future.

5) faceBulletin. Facebook has some discussion features, but it’s no full fledged message board. I’d like to see vBulletin integrated into the platform. Think – a vBulletin forum for each of your Facebook groups. One thing Facebook seems to lack is a “what’s changed since my last visit?” for their discussion area — akin to vBulletin’s “New Posts”.

4) Google Calendar integration. Have Facebook events that you’re attending automatically add to your Google Calendar and vice versa (with privacy, of course). Also, be able to set calendar sharing up through Facebook friends. Let’s say you’re in a group on Facebook called “Wednesday Poker Games” with the integration, a Google Calendar entry/Facebook event could be set up to occur every Wednesday at 7:00 pm. You could leverage Google’s SMS reminders with Facebook’s large user base and social graph. You would also be able to check against your work schedule if you entered it into Google Calendar.

3) A Better Last.FM. TechCrunch slammed Last.fm for being too slow when I’m willing to be they’re trying to make something actually useful to Facebook users instead of my last N songs showing up. The current unofficial Last.fm facebook application is also fairly restricted because it depends on the last.fm XML feeds which are not updated very frequently. Leverage the friends on Facebook that use last.fm! For example, I have maybe one friend on last.fm… and over 300 friends on Facebook. I hope last.fm is taking the approach of full integration into F8.

2) X-box Live/XBLA integration. I don’t even own an X-box but I can see the possibilities. Imagine logging into X-box live and seeing all of your Facebook friends that use the service showing up on your list. Imagine a little Guitar Hero Addicts Support Group having each members’ top scores for each song included. Apply thoughts like this to any game.

1) A better Monster/CareerBuilder/Job Site. Imagine being notified of a Job opening at a friends company that is related to your college major/work history/interests. I would personally like to see this go to 2 levels of friends. A friend of a friend has a job opening at company XYZ. It’s not always what you know, but who.

Facebook 12 Step Program

For the fellow addicts…

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Facebook—that the number of friends and stalkees in our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to pre-Facebook life.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our producitvity over to the care of Mark Zuckerberg as we understood Him.
  4. Tried MySpace. Something about “Unexpected error”s.
  5. Admitted to Zuckerberg, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact context of our inside joke “favorite quotes”.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Mark Zuckerberg remove the News Feed.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our News Feed.
  8. Made a list of all “questionable” photos we tagged, and apologized via Private Message.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, if we did not get a response from the PM we wrote on their wall.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we pointlessly changed our status promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through private message and poking to improve our “real life” contact with Zuckerberg as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of a scarier News Feed for us and the power to carry that out without another PR disaster.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Facebook addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.