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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Facebook Developers Garage

Last week I attended the Facebook Developers Garage in DC. I'd pictured it as a room with a bunch of developers at tables, laptops open, showing off the ways they'd managed to build useful tools using the Facebook Platform or API. Instead, it was largely a presentation by folks from the Facebook Platform team - Ami Vora and Ezra Callahan. The evening made clear the excitement, both inside and outside Facebook, that the open platform is generating, as well as the general confusion about what would constitute a truly useful Facebook app and how a developer would monetize it.

Facebook's rate of growth alone make developers want to be associated with it. Currently at about 45 million users, the service is adding about 250,000 users each day. Half of all Facebook users visit the site every day. And despite Facebook's origins as a university-based site, these new users are predominantly older. To attract the developer community, the vc's associated with Facebook have created fbFund, which makes small seed grants ($25K-$250K) to help development groups get a project launched.

Success with the Facebook framework brings its own challenges. TJ Murphy of Freewebs spoke about the experience he had with the Warbook game he wrote. It rapidly picked up 87,000 users, half of whom played ever day. Third party developers are required to host their own apps. So TJ found himself scrambling to scale up: currently the game is hosted at Amazon.

It's the chance of getting in front of audiences this size that is attractive to organizations trying to build their brand. How to do it is the open question. Most third party apps to date have been social entertainments: tools to share music, or book reviews, for example, or utilities to enhance the poking and posting functions of the site. Some of these are quite nice: I really enjoy Christain Montoya's Social Tags application.

But when a member of the audience took the mike to ask how many of the developers in the room were thinking of using the platform to develop a customized presence for individual client organizations who wanted to leverage the popularity and stickiness of the site, I saw no hands but mine. And the people I chatted with at the event seemed to be primarily developers... I met only one representative of a non-profit who was there to explore the possibility of extending the presence of his org via Facebook.

Despite the confusion at this early point, I think it is clear that social networking is going to play an increasing role in non-profit strategies in the near future - and that Facebook, with its developers platform and huge user base, will be a focus of this networking.

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Comments on "Facebook Developers Garage"

 

Anonymous Lisa said ... (October 15, 2007 at 12:14 PM) : 

Hi Michael,
The question may have been asked to the wrong audience. Ask the same question to a group of marketing folks and I bet you'll see all hands are going to be up.
Lisa

 

Blogger SkipperMJ said ... (October 23, 2007 at 9:17 PM) : 

I would agree Michael, you asked the wrong audience - at CBF our web team is exploring ways to explore these same tools to further our call to action. We know from our work with multiple web services that they are also looking to implement API links that allow applets to live in a Facebook environment that would then feed back to the eCRM.
Take care - Michael

 

Blogger Dave said ... (October 29, 2007 at 6:30 PM) : 

It's time we started compiling a list of use cases for the ideal nonprofit Facebook app. A lot of folks (myself included) are thinking about the API in a nonprofit context; I think if we put our heads together and listed possible user stories, it'd be easier to see what we each might want to work towards, and possibly collaborate on.

It might also make it easier to see which use cases could be abstracted a little, and which ones would belong to an organization-specific Facebook app. Maybe a skeleton for a nonprofit FB app would emerge, possibly a little different from existing not-nonprofit skeletons? Much to think about, and possibly a good topic for discussion at a conference.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (November 15, 2007 at 10:28 PM) : 

Dave:
Interesting. The immediate question to me is: is the ideal non-profit app on a for profit website?

The use-cases (user scenarios for any non-geeks around) really are different for for-profit (get as many as you can to read our ads) as they are for cause-based organizations (first hand:get as many people to clean up coast-side trash as you can).

There's a take on social-based information - from tagging to blogging - that tends to take the goals of the organizer as benign. This can be as mistaken in a for-profit as in a non-profit. Social networks can be organic, evolved, engineered and manipulated. Yeah for one and boo for the other - take your pick on where the particular set of networks on Facebook you may have joined line up.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (November 15, 2007 at 10:29 PM) : 

Dave:
Interesting. The immediate question to me is: is the ideal non-profit app on a for profit website?

The use-cases (user scenarios for any non-geeks around) really are different for for-profit (get as many as you can to read our ads) as they are for cause-based organizations (first hand:get as many people to clean up coast-side trash as you can).

There's a take on social-based information - from tagging to blogging - that tends to take the goals of the organizer as benign. This can be as mistaken in a for-profit as in a non-profit. Social networks can be organic, evolved, engineered and manipulated. Yeah for one and boo for the other - take your pick on where the particular set of networks on Facebook you may have joined line up.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (November 15, 2007 at 10:33 PM) : 

Social engineering indeed. I just left a rather long post, but the blogger's auth is required.
I wonder if Michael would approve it Facebook needed to authorize every "Michael is" change.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 15, 2007 at 9:33 PM) : 

Here's a fact I found surprising - you can not sign off of Facebook. The best you can do is disable your profile. Technical help of Facebook confirmed to me that everything you did there stays there, and will be reactivated as soon as you re-enable your account.
Glad I got out after a few weeks - only a few messages and interest that are in Facebook's domain.
In all the excitement, privacy and security are clearly left behind. The current policy clearly violates the EU's laws about information self-determination - but the sites like Facebook are outracing law enforcement.
Keep in mind that what you say on Facebook is not your information but becomes Facebook's to divulge as they see fit to make a profit.

 

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