11.3.08

Amazon.com: Help > Shipping & Delivery > Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging FAQs

Shared by Moah

Amazon is Finally getting rid of excessive and frustrating packaging style. Not sure when it came out but this is awesome. Good for earth, good for my hands.

The Frustration-Free Package (on the left) is recyclable and comes without excess packaging materials such as hard plastic clamshell casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties. It’s designed to be opened without the use of a box cutter or knife and will protect your product just as well as traditional packaging (on the right). Products with Frustration-Free Packaging can frequently be shipped in their own boxes, without an additional shipping box

11.3.08

Patent Court: You Can No Longer Patent Thin Air

In what could be seen as a victory for doers, and a bit of a setback for thinkers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has made a rather significant ruling on what is and isn’t patentable. The court ruled against a man who was attempting to patent “a method for hedging against weather-related effects on businesses.” As a result, infamous patents like Amazon’s “one-click” shopping concept may no longer be valid, because they don’t either “involve a particular machine” or “physically transform anything.”

In essence, the ruling means that business ideas in and of themselves aren’t patentable. In addition to Amazon’s “one-click” patent, which is the concept of purchasing something via credit card by just clicking a single website link, Friendster’s patents on social networking also come to mind as being unpatentable based on this judgement. That patent covers a “system, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks” and a “method of inducing content uploads in a social network,” amongst other claims.

To me, this all sounds like a pretty reasonable ruling, although two judges offered dissenting opinions. While Friendster so far hasn’t tried to enforce their patent by going after competing social networks – all of which would seemingly be in violation based on their patent claims – you can imagine the type of drama and disruption of innovation it would cause in our space if they did. For some more in-depth analysis of the ruling and its legal ramifications, check out Mike Masnick’s coverage at Techdirt.

Imagery provided by iStockPhoto/ ftwitty


Related Articles at Mashable | All That’s New on the Web:

In a Boring Turn of Events, Google Gets Sued for Patent Infringement Again
Amazon’s One-Click Patent Finally Rejected
Friendster Patents Social Networking
Another Weird Patent for Amazon: Error Pages
Google Sued for Patent Infringement
“Groundbreaking” Social Networking Patent at Auction
eBay Wins Round in Court over ‘Buy It Now’ Patent

11.3.08

Slow Feed Movement: 7 Tools to Filter the RSS Flood

For the last couple of days we’ve been asking people: how do you cope with all the info that bombards you through your RSS feeds, Twitter and similar services? When you’re young and eager to soak in as much info as you can, you’re happy to be flooded with the stuff. But, it can’t go on forever. So, how do you make sense of it, and filter out the junk?

It’s not an easy task, I can tell you that. As a journalist, I’m basically forced to go through everything; but sometimes I wonder whether it’s smarter to accept some collateral damage and heavily filter everything that comes in, because the signal to noise ratio is awful, and it doesn’t show signs of getting better. Just like junk food, some of us keep eating against our better judgment; the junk in our RSS feeds and tweets requires its own slow feed movement. Let’s take a look at what can be done about this and how you guys and girls are coping with the flood.

1. Yahoo Pipes – if you’re crafty and willing to put some time into battling the surplus of information in your feeds, Yahoo Pipes is the tool for you. When you delve a bit deeper into Pipes, the whole thing might start looking like a quite complex logic game, but trust me, there’s little you can’t do with this tool. Filtering feeds for specific keywords, mashing up several feeds into one, extracting chunks of data from feeds and matching those against other feeds…the possibilities are endless.

2. TweetDeck – when we asked our Twitter friends what they use to make sense of Twitter’s relentless noise, they responded almost unanimously: TweetDeck. It’s an Adobe Air desktop application, currently in public beta, that lets you split your main Twitter feed into meaningful chunks of information. Essentially, it’s the group feature everyone has been requesting since the dawn of time. The word on the street is that it’s best used full screen on a separate monitor; does it mean I have to buy another monitor (I already have two and I totally lack screen real estate) and call it TweetMonitor? Yes, it does.

3. Best of FriendFeed – FriendFeed is the information junkie’s favorite tool, and this little option can be a really nice way to quickly glance at what’s really good on a given day. It’s almost hidden in the upper right corner, under the view option; choose “best of” and you’ll get the post most liked (bookmarked, commented on) by your friends in the period of a day, week or a month.

4. xFruits – if slicing and dicing your RSS feeds in every way imaginable is your goal, the most elegant way to do it is xFruits. Instead of offering one tool that does everything, they’ve created several simple tools that can aggregate feeds, turn RSS into PDF, turn e-mails to RSS and a lot more.

5. Postrank – previously called AideRSS, this is one of our favorites. The main premise behind it is audience engagement; the better engagement ranking something gets, the more important it is. Postrank lets you set up RSS feeds based on this and filter them into channels. The best way to understand how all this works is to check out the video tutorials which explain the four main ways of using Postrank.

6. Techmeme – although a purely algorithmic affair, in the sense that you can’t filter feeds yourself or choose what you get in any way, Techmeme works so well it’s probably the best way to completely replace all your tech-related RSS feeds if you’re so inclined. Quick and relevant, Techmeme somehow manages to find the best news out there, with the number of reactions from blogs focusing your attention on what’s really important.

If you’re into technology, Techmeme is definitely an indispensable tool that saves your time. It also has a gossip news counterpart called WeSmirch, political news is handled by memeorandum, and you can find the best of baseball news on BallBug.

7. ReadBurner – similar to Techmeme in appearance, this service gives more weight to news items which are shared more often on Google Reader. This works surprisingly well, and the front page almost always brings you a great selection of current and interesting news. Disclosure is in order, as this project is Mashable’s Chief Editor Adam Ostrow’s baby.

So, have we convinced you to join the Movement? If nothing else, try one of these tools for size and see how you like the world with less feeds and more relevance. Most importantly, don’t forget to list your favorite tools for slowing down feeds in the comments.


Related Articles at Mashable | All That’s New on the Web:

A Conversation with a Green Girl (video)
Blackout At Mashable Towers
Stalkers Rejoice! Facebook Updates News Feed
Mashable to Base! Feeds Not Working!
Apple Lands Deal with MGM
The Mashable Reshuffle
Facebook: So Do We Post to the Mini-Feed or Not?

11.3.08

New York Times Visualization Lab – Collaboration with Many Eyes

Shared by Moah

this is big news for interactive data visualization going main stream. Many Eyes is established and respected within the field but nowhere near main stream. And NY Times is respected by experts as the media company with strong visualization talent. Now they collaborate and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

It was just a little over a week ago that The New York Times announced their Developer Network i.e. Campaign Finance API. Yesterday, they announced something more – the Visualization Lab. In collaboration with the Many Eyes group, the Times has rolled out a Many Eyes for data used by Times writers. You can visualize, explore, and comment on data posted at the Visualization Lab in the same way that you can at Many Eyes.

Today, we’re taking the next step in reader involvement with the launch of The New York Times Visualization Lab, which allows readers to create compelling interactive charts, graphs, maps and other types of graphical presentations from data made available by Times editors. NYTimes.com readers can comment on the visualizations, share them with others in the form of widgets and images, and create topic hubs where people can collect visualizations and discuss specific subjects.

A Few More Steps

I said the API was a good step forward. The Visualization Lab is more than a step. No doubt The Times heard what I said about their API and decided to roll with it since I am the head authority on everything. Yes, I’m totally kidding, in case that didn’t come across as a joke. Come on now.

I’m looking forward to seeing how well Times readers take to this new way of interacting.

[Thanks, William]

11.3.08

Learning from Harley-Davidson's comeback

Shared by Moah

who knew Harley was among the first in cultivating a loyal customer community.

From 1973-1983, Harley-Davidson’s market share went from 78% to 23% as Japanese manufacturers flooded the market with high quality, low priced bikes. Unable to compete on price against the Japanese producers, Harley had to establish other market values and improve quality. A Case Study of Harley Davidson’s Business Practises looks at the management, marketing, and manufacturing techniques that brought the company back.

The company started to use an emotional appeal that hooked into something bigger than just technology/features:

“The real power of Harley-Davidson is the power to market to consumers who love the product.” Harley-Davidson’s President and CEO, Richard Teerlink says the bike represents to America, “the adventurous pioneer spirit, the wild west, having your own horse, and going where you want to go – the motorcycle takes on some attributes of the iron horse. It suggests personal freedom and independence” (Executive Excellence 6). Brand loyalty for Harley-Davidson is emotional. They are considered more than motorcycles-they are legends. It is an American icon brand. The Harley-Davidson symbol is based on a pattern of associations that include the American flag and the eagle; reflective of the passion and freedom Americans enjoy…

A desire to escape the routine and become anyone you like. While their competitors base their advertising on product technology and features, Harley promotes: a mystique appearance, individualism, the feeling of riding free, and the pride of owning a legend. With Harley, you can live out your fantasies, as well as experience camaraderie with fellow bikers.

Telling a story makes such a deeper connection than a feature list.

HD
_No feature list here._It’s also interesting to see how Harley chooses not to compete on price and intentionally fails to meet demand:

Harley-Davidson quickly learned it could not compete with the foreign manufacturers on cost. Not only did Honda have a low priced product, it was able to defeat Harley in advertising 40-1. Therefore, Harley developed a strategy of value over price. This was created through the development of mini-niches and the heavy construction of the parts. Japanese manufacturers used plastic while Harley used steel, which is able to be rebuilt and rebore. Harley was careful not to exceed demand in production of their motorcycles. Currently, people must wait six to eighteen months for a new motorcycle and the price for a year-old Harley is 25% to 30% higher than a new one. By not being able to meet demands, an attitude of must-have has developed. Therefore, Harley has plans to double capacity to 200,000 motorcycles annually by 2003.

Harley Shifts Gears [Fast Company] discusses the company’s success and how Harley tries to build a life-long relationship between the company and its customers.

Harley extends its learning to its family of owners: the Harley Owners Group, or HOG. A 15-year-old initiative to build a life-long relationship between the company and its customers, HOG is the world’s largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club, with 325,000 members and 940 chapters. Harley offers HOG Seminars, sessions for the club’s 7,000 chapter officers to help answer questions on whether and how to incorporate, how to draw new members, or how to organize an event.

The company’s CEO says watching real customers use the products is the most important way Harley gathers information.

The company’s most important intelligence gathering comes at Harley-sponsored events such as the Daytona Bike Week, where dozens of company volunteers — ranging from Rich Teerlink, chairman, president, and CEO of Harley-Davidson Inc. to factory and office workers — interact with customers.

“This is real-time market research,” Teerlink says. “Our engineers see what our customers are doing with their motorcycles, and they come back with things we could improve on or new ideas we could try.”

We’re thinking of trying something like this too. Stay tuned.

11.3.08

Windows Live is now an OpenID Provider

Shared by Moah

OpenID is starting to get traction. Athought the UI still needs to be improved, I hope it takes off.

The second most interesting announcement out of PDC this morning is that Windows Live ID is becoming an OpenID Provider. The information below explains how to try it out and give feedback to the team responsible.

Try It Now. Tell Us What You Think

We want you to try the Windows Live ID OpenID Provider CTP release, let us know your feedback, and tell us about any problems you find.

To prepare:

  1. Go to https://login.live-int.com and use the sign-up button to set up a Windows Live ID test account in the INT environment.
  2. Go to https://login.live-int.com/beta/ManageOpenID.srf to set up your OpenID test alias.

Then:

  • Users – At any Web site that supports OpenID 2.0, type openid.live-INT.com in the OpenID login box to sign in to that site by means of your Windows Live ID OpenID alias.
  • Library developers – Test your libraries against the Windows Live ID OP endpoint and let us know of any problems you find.
  • Web site owners – Test signing in to your site by using a Windows Live ID OpenID alias and let us know of any problems you find.
  • You can send us feedback at:
  • E-mailopenidfb@microsoft.com

This is awesome news. I’ve been interested in Windows Live supporting OpenID for a while and I’m glad to see that we’ve taken the plunge. Please try it out and send the team your feedback.

I’ve tried it out already and sent some initial feedback. In general, my feedback was on applying the lessons from the Yahoo! OpenID Usability Study since it looks like our implementation has some of the same usability issues that inspired Jeff Atwood’s rants about Yahoo’s OpenID implementation. Since it is still a Community Technology Preview, I’m sure the user experience will improve as feedback trickles in.

Kudos to Jorgen Thelin and the rest of the folks on the Identity Services team for getting this out. Great work, guys.

UPDATE: Angus Logan posted a comment with a link to the following screencast of the current user experience when using Windows Live ID as an OpenID provider experience

Note Now Playing: Christina AguileraKeeps Gettin’ Better Note

11.3.08

In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs

I wish I had written this. Sasha did. Check him out.

I’m sick of apologizing for being in charge of raising money. 

I work at a great nonprofit organization (1) that is doing great things in the world, one that’s attacking daunting problems in a powerful new way.  I believe in what we do, and think that we may be catalyzing a shift in how the world fights poverty.

So why did one of my mentors – someone with a lot of experience in the non-profit and public sector – tell me not to take this job?  “Be careful,” he said, “You’ll get pigeon-holed.  Once a fundraiser, always a fundraiser.”Â 

He misunderstood what job I was taking.

Look around you at great leaders who you know or respect.  What do they spend their time doing?    They are infused with drive, passion, vision, commitment, and energy.  They walk through the world dissatisfied with the status quo.  They talk to anyone who will listen about the change they want to see the world.  And they build a team and an organization that is empowered to make that change.

How good is your idea?  How important is your cause?  Important enough that you’ve given up another life to lead this life.  You’ve given up another job, another steady paycheck, another bigger paycheck to do this all day long, every day, for years if not for decades, to make a change in the world and to right a wrong.

How much is your time worth?  Start at the low end: if, instead, you had worked at a big company or started your own company or worked at an investment bank or a consulting firm, how much money would the world pay you for your skills?  A few hundred thousand dollars?  A few million dollars? 

That’s your baseline.  Now ask yourself: how important is the problem you’re trying to solve?  Are you trying to make sure that women have a safe, affordable place to give birth?  Creating a way for people to have clean drinking water so they and their children don’t fall ill? Protecting refugees from genocide?  Providing after school tutoring for at-risk kids?  Giving people with chronic disease a place to come together and support one another? 

Sounds pretty important.

Our political system is mostly broken, but the fact that candidates have to go out and convince millions of people to get out and pull a lever for them matters.  This communication defines the terms of the debate; it defines what issues will and won’t get addressed.  And it defines accountability.  If Barack Obama really becomes President of the United States, don’t you think he’ll be just a little bit more accountable to the one million people who donated directly to his campaign?

What’s your theory of change?  How much change happens through the services you deliver?  And how much change happens by convincing the rest of the world that the problem you’re trying to address, and the way you’re trying to address it, is worth paying attention to?  It’s both, it’s not either/or.

Breast cancer has an unbelievable level of awareness in the United States, definitely ahead of all other cancers.  Yet breast cancer is actually the 5th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, behind lung, stomach, liver and colon cancer.(2)  So why does it get the most attention and the most funding? 

It’s because of Nancy Brinker.

Nancy’s older sister Susan Komen died of breast cancer in 1980, at the age of 36, three years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  In her sister’s memory, Nancy Brinker created the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which has since raised $1 billion for breast cancer research, education and health services – and promised to raise another $2 billion in the next decade. Breast cancer research is the best-funded of all cancers,(3) and that is because of Nancy Brinker’s leadership.  Nancy decided that fighting breast cancer was worth fighting for.  Because of her efforts, drastically more resources (public and private) are in play to find a cure.

This is not about competition for resources, this is about increasing the size of the pie.  We’ve seen an unprecedented growth in global wealth in the last two decades: there are currently 95,000 ultra-high net worth individuals in the world – people with $30 million or more of investable assets.4    On top of that, there are more than $60 trillion worth of investment assets in the market today, with an increasing amount of this money thinking more long-term about the big problems facing the world: energy and water scarcity, greenhouse gases, global commodity shortages, healthcare and education delivery, poverty alleviation…you name it. 

The allocation of these resources matters. 

Convincing the most powerful, resource-rich people you know that allocating some of their capital to the issues you’re addressing matters. 

You’re devoting your life, your spirit, your energy, your faith into making the vision you have of a better future into a reality. 

So why are you so scared to ask people for money?  Why do you feel afraid to say: “This problem is so important and so urgent that it is worth your time and your money to fix it.  I’m devoting my whole life to fixing this problem.  I’m asking you to devote some of your resources to my life’s work too.”Â 

Maybe it’s because:

1.    People think that asking for money is all about asking for money.  It is and it isn’t.  Most of the time it is about inspiring someone to see the world the way you do – with the same understanding of the problems and the same vision of how it can be overcome – and convincing them that you and your organization can actually make that vision into a reality.  The resources come second. 

2.    People think that storytelling is a gift, not a skill.  Learning how to do this – to be an effective storyteller, to consistently connect with different people from different walks of life and convince them to see the world as you do and walk with you to a better future – is hard, but it’s a skill like any other.  It’s true that some people are born with it.  But it still can be learned and practiced, and if your nonprofit is going to succeed, you’d better have more than one or two people who can pull this off. 

3.    Money = Power.  Our society has done a spectacular job of creating enormous amounts of wealth.  At the same time, wealth is associated with power, and not having wealth can feel like not having power.  So going to someone who has money and saying, “You have the resources, please give some of them to me” doesn’t feel like a conversation between equals. 

How about this instead: “You are incredibly good at making money.  I’m incredibly good at making change.  The change I want to make in the world, unfortunately, does not itself generate much money.  But man oh man does it make change.  It’s a hugely important change.  And what I know about making this change is as good and as important as what you know about making money.  So let’s divide and conquer – you keep on making money, I’ll keep on making change. And if you can lend some of your smarts to the change I’m trying to make, well that’s even better.  But most of the time, we both keep on doing what we’re best at, and if we keep on working together the world will be a better place.”

4.    I’m terrified you’ll say ‘no.’ We all hate rejection.  Being rejected when asking for money is a double whammy.  You were already scared to ask, and then the person said no.  They have all the power.  You walk away, head down, empty hat in hand. 

Get over it.  You’re still devoting your life to this work.  You shared an idea with someone.  You didn’t convince them today, but you probably got their attention.  Maybe you’ll convince them tomorrow.  Maybe they’ll tell a friend.  Maybe you learned something that will make your pitch better the next time.  At least you got your story out there to the right person. 

You made a change – you just didn’t get any money in return.

I’ve met too many nonprofit CEOs who say “I hate fundraising.  I don’t fundraise.”Â  If you’re being hired as a nonprofit CEO and the Board tells you that you won’t be fundraising, they’re either misguided or lying. 

Tell them they’re wrong.  Tell them that your job as a CEO is to be an evangelist for your idea and to convince others about the change you want to see in the world.  Tell them that if this idea is worth supporting then they should jump in with both feet and support it with their time and money and by telling their friends it is worth supporting.

Spending your time talking to powerful, influential people about the change you hope to see in the world is a pretty far cry from having fundraising as a “necessary evil.”Â 

Do you really believe that the “real work” is JUST the “programs” you operate?  (the school you run; the meals you serve; the vaccines you develop; the patients you treat?)   Do you really believe that it ends there?  Do you really believe that in today’s world, where change can come from anyone and anywhere, that convincing people and building momentum and excitement and a movement really doesn’t matter? 

Of course your programs or investments are real work.  But so is evangelizing, communicating, sharing, convincing, cajoling, and arm-twisting.  So are videos and images and stories and ideas.

If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them?   If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?

In the for-profit world, nothing happens if you don’t have a compelling product with a compelling story that wins out in the marketplace of ideas and gets people to act.  People get so excited about Apple’s products that they blog about the next release, scour the Internet for registered patents, spread ideas and rumors about what is coming next, and convince the people around them that Apple = cool.  Do you think this would happen without Steve Jobs living and breathing the brand each and every day?

So how is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent this kind of energy and engagement? 

There’s this unspoken idea floating around that “fundraisers” can go about their work in a vacuum, having quiet, unimportant conversations with nameless, faceless rich people, while all the while the people who do the real work (the program folks) can go about their business, separate from and unconnected to this conversation. 

What a waste. 

Don’t you think that creating a tribe5 of connected, engaged, passionate evangelists for your cause will create a positive feedback loop that will amplify the change you hope to see in the world?  It doesn’t matter if that tribe is 300 powerful, smart, wealthy people or 3 million regular folks who believe in you and the change you hope to make.  If they are passionate and engaged and you give them a way to help, you will amplify your impact.   

If nothing else, then, we need a new word.  Fundraising is about a transaction – I raise funds from you, you get nothing in return. 

I’d rather be an evangelist, a storyteller, an educator, a translator, a table-pounder, a guy on his soap box, a woman with a megaphone, a candidate for change.  I want to talk to as many people as I can about my ideas – whether in person or in newsletters or on Facebook or Twitter or in the Economist or at the TED conference or at Davos – and capture their imagination about the change I hope to see in the world. 

Don’t you?

—-
1 It’s called Acumen Fund (www.acumenfund.org or http://blog.acumenfund.org).
2 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/index.html
3 http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/NCI/research-funding or http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/cancer-funding-does-it-add-up/
4 http://www.us.capgemini.com/worldwealthreport07/State_of_the_World_Wealth_2007.pdf . Though the October 2008 crash may have affected these numbers somewhat, there is still a lot of wealth out there.

| Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
11.3.08

10 Ways To Know If You’ve Got A Healthy Professional Network

Whenever the economy gets shaky, it’s a good idea to revisit the makeup of your professional network. This is true for two reasons. First, you might get canned. Down economic times lead lots of companies to lay people off, so you better be ready. Second, you might get promoted. As the underperformers get cut loose, you may have an opportunity to take a new role with expanded responsibility. So again, you better be ready. Here’s how to know if your professional network is ready to help you.

1. Is someone in my network an executive?

It is not a matter of what you know; it is a matter of who you know. You’ll never get to the top unless you know people at the top. It is best to have an executive in your personal network because then you have an opportunity to really learn from their experience. However, having an exec as part of your professional network is a good place to start.

2. Have I built a relationship with someone from another company or industry in the last 30 days?

A healthy professional network is one that is continuously growing and evolving. If you are in sales, you meet new people all the time so this should be easy. However, sales is the exception. Most jobs have you insulated and you see the same people every day. This is a recipe for stagnation. Go to events. Meet your friends’ friends. Try going to a Jelly event.

3. Do I have a mentor?

Having a mentor is the top-down approach to network development. It is a good way to learn from someone else’s experience at basically no cost. Your mentor doesn’t have to be from your company, it could be someone from your personal network like a friend of one of your parents. You could also try something more formal like SCORE, which is basically retired executives who volunteer their time to help small businesses and young entrepreneurs.

4. Am I mentoring anyone?

Being a mentor is the bottom-up approach to professional networking. Find someone younger than you and show them the ropes. You’d be amazed how much you can learn from the next class of professionals behind you. I guarantee they are going to have better ideas for monetizing Twitter than we are.

5. Do I have a champion at my current company?

If a position becomes open, will there be someone at that meeting to recommend you for the job? A champion is typically one or two levels above you in the org chart. You need someone like this to advocate on your behalf for new jobs that come open, or even to recommend the creation of a new job that is custom tailored to you. Essentially, you need to be “on the radar” of someone who makes staffing decisions.

6. Do my current connections know what I’ve been up to lately?

Think of a your professional network as a living thing. If it is inactive, it will die. LinkedIn.com is a great tool for keeping your network up to speed on what you are doing. Your connections will get little alerts and one of those alerts might find someone who is looking to hire someone with your expertise.

7. Have I checked with my personal network (friends and family) about career opportunities?

Most jobs get filled without ever being posted. So if you want a job, you better be an insider. The quickest way to get “inside” other companies is to know someone there. I bet your immediate family and friends represent at least 10 different companies that you have access to.

8. Have I updated my LinkedIn profile in the last 30 days?

In my opinion, LinkedIn.com is THE tool for managing your professional network. Almost 100% of my professional network uses it, so I will rely on it heavily the next time I make a job change. I repeat, your network can only be considered healthy if you are actively working it. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s setup wizard, which forces you to jump certain hoops before it considers your registration “complete” … I’m still only at 95%.

9. Are my references recent?

Check your resume. If you haven’t spoken with your references in more than 18 months, find some new ones.

10. Is someone in my network a professional recruiter or head-hunter?

You probably never want to meet a mercenary, but in a time of war … I’d bet you’d be glad to have one on your side.

11.3.08

PHOTO: brassica_romanesco.jpg

Shared by Moah

life imitating art, almost! what a sculptural piece of vegetable. Would you not eat this cool looking broccoli when your mom had served you this with her usual “eat your vegetables”? maybe I was just a geeky kid.

brassica_romanesco.jpg

Fractal food: Romanesco

11.3.08

Some Thoughts on OpenID vs. Facebook Connect

John McCrea of Plaxo has written a cleverly titled guest post on TechCrunchIT, Facebook
Connect and OpenID Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”
, where he makes the
argument that Facebook Connect is a competing technology to OpenID but the situation
is complicated by Facebook developers engaging in discussions with the OpenID. He
writes

You see, it’s been about a month since the first implementation of Facebook Connect
was
spotted
in the wild
over at CBS’s celebrity gossip site, TheInsider.com. Want
to sign up for the site? Click a single button. A little Facebook window pops up to
confirm that you want to connect via your Facebook account. One more click – and you’re
done. You’ve got a new account, a mini profile with your Facebook photo, and access
to that subset of your Facebook friends who have also connected their accounts to
TheInsider. Oh, and you can have your activities on TheInsider flow into your Facebook
news feed automatically. All that, without having to create and remember a new username/password
pair for the site. Why, it’s just like the vision for OpenID and the Open Stack –
except without a single open building block under the hood!




After the intros, Allen Tom of Yahoo, who organized the event, turned the first
session over Max Engel of MySpace, who in turn suggested an alternative – why not
let Facebook’s Julie Zhuo kick it off instead? And for the next hour, Julie took us
through the details of Facebook Connect and the decisions they had to make along the
way to get the user interface and user experience just right. It was not just a presentation;
it was a very active and engaged discussion, with questions popping up from all over
the room. Julie and the rest of the Facebook team were engaged and eager to share
what they had learned.

What the heck is going on here? Is Facebook preparing to go the next step of open,
switching from the FB stack to the Open Stack? Only time will tell. But one thing
is clear: Facebook Connect is the best thing ever for OpenID (and the rest of the
Open Stack). Why? Because Facebook has set a high bar with Facebook Connect that is
inspiring everyone in the open movement to work harder and faster to bring up the
quality of the UI/UX for OpenID and the Open Stack.

There are a number of points worth discussing from the above excerpt. The first is
the implication that OpenID is an equivalent technology to Facebook Connect. This
is clearly not the case. OpenID just allows you to delegate to act of authenticating
a user to another website so the user doesn't need to create credentials (i.e. username
+ password) on your site. OpenID alone doesn't get you the user's profile data nor
does it allow you to pull in the authenticated user's social graph from the other
site or publish activities to their activity feed. For that, you would need other
other "Open brand" technologies like OpenID
Attribute Exchange
, Portable
Contacts
and OpenSocial.
So it is fairer to describe the contest as Facebook Connect vs. OpenID + OpenID Attribute
Exchange + Portable Contacts + OpenSocial.

The question then is who should we root for? At the end of the day, I don’t think
it makes a ton of sense for websites to have to target umpteen different APIs that
do the same thing instead of targeting one standard implemented by multiple services.
Specifically, it seems ridiculous to me that TheInsider.com will have to code against
Facebook Connect to integrate Facebook accounts into their site but code against something
else if they want to integrate MySpace accounts and yet another API if they want to
integrate LinkedIn accounts and so on. This is an area that is crying out for standardization.

Unfortunately, the key company providing thought leadership in this area is Facebook
and for now they are building their solution with proprietary technologies
instead of de jure or de facto ("Open brand") standards. This is unsurprising
given that it takes three or four different specs in varying states of completeness
created by different audiences deliver the scenarios they are currently interested
in. What is encouraging is that Facebook developers are working with OpenID implementers
by sharing their knowledge. However OpenID isn't the only technology needed to satisfy
this scenario and I wonder if Facebook will be similarly engaged with the folks working
on Portable Contacts and OpenSocial.

Facebook Connect is a step in the right direction when it comes to bringing the vision
of social
network interoperability
to fruition. The key question is whether we will see effective open
standards emerge that will target the same scenarios [which eventually even Facebook
could adopt] or whether competitors will offer their
own proprietary alternatives
? So far it sounds like the latter is happening which
means unnecessary reinvention of the wheel for sites that want to support "connecting"
with multiple social networking sites.

PS: If OpenID
phishing
is a concern now when the user is redirected to the ID provider’s site
to login, it seems Facebook Connect is even worse since all it does is provide a pop
over. I wonder if this is because the Facebook folks think the phishing concerns are
overblown.

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Made Up (feat. Daz, Method Man & Redman)
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