41 posts categorized "Applications"

My FIR Report for October 3, 2011

Shel and Neville were recording Monday's "For Immediate Release" podcast episode over the weekend, so my report has already been sent in. This week I covered:

Of course, to hear all of that, you'll need to tune into Monday's edition of the FIR podcast after Shel or Neville posts it. Enjoy!

Google+ App Finally Comes to the iPhone! (But Not The iPad)

At last, we iPhone owners who have been watching our Android-owning friends play with Google+ for the past couple of weeks, particularly with uploading photos, can now play, too! The iOS app for Google+ is now available.

A couple of quick screenshots:

Googleplusiphone1 Googleplusiphone2

The app worked great, too, for uploading photos to my G+ account. It also has some interesting features like the ability to swipe with two fingers to switch between your main "Stream" and the "Incoming" and "Nearby" streams. I have only started using it, so we'll see how well it works in repeated use.

Sadly, though, the Google+ app will NOT install onto an iPad, even in just the reduced-size iPhone mode. When I go to the iTunes URL for the app, the iPad flips over to iTunes, and then gives this error message:

Gplus on ipad

A couple of other folks commented (on Google+ naturally) that they were unable to load the app onto an iPad through other means.

Too bad, really, since the Google+ browsing experience on an iPad is so miserable. :-(

Regardless, it's great to have an iOS app available for Google+ ... I'm looking forward to using the service more!

P.S. And of course you can find/follow me on Google+...

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Want to Build Twitter Apps? Recording, Slides and Source Code Available For My Webinar


If you missed the free webinar on Tuesday were I spoke about how to scale your usage of Twitter and social channels, Serving the Social Customer: Scaling Your Support For Twitter, Facebook and More, a recording of the webinar and the slides I used are now available from:


Additionally, all the source code for the Twitter apps referenced in the presentation is available for viewing and download and can be used with a free Tropo account. Additionally, you can download a free copy of VoiceObjects to try out the integration with IMified to link Twitter to your VO application.

Have fun with it... and I'll be writing more on the topic in the future!

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How To Get Notified via SMS When Someone Mentions You - And a Keyword - On Twitter

twitterlogo-shadow.jpgWould you like to receive a notification when you are mentioned on Twitter? Or more importantly, would you like to receive a notification when someone mentions your Twitter ID (or your company's ID) and uses a keyword like "fail"?

Over on the Tropo blog, my colleague Chris Matthieu wrote up how you could do this in literally one line of the Ruby programming language. You need a free Tropo account, naturally, and you need a Twitter account you want to monitor. Chris shows the steps you need to go through to set up an application and connect it to a Twitter account.

While it's cool to be able to get text messages of mentions (something Twitter doesn't support directly), what I personally think is more interesting is the ability to send a message when certain keywords are found in a tweet. For instance, what if someone started tweeting:

Just had a major #FAIL with @company services.

Wouldn't you like to know when that happens right away? Easy to do if you are sitting there with Tweetdeck open (or some other client)... but not so easy if it is some time when you are away from Twitter.

Chris shows you could do this easily in Ruby:

if $currentCall.initialText.index("fail")
     (autorespond or send sms or place call etc.)

Putting that together with his first example of sending a SMS, your code could look like this:

if $currentCall.initialText.index("fail")
     message "Mention: " + $currentCall.initialText, {
     :to => "tel:+14805551212",
     :network => "SMS"}

That's it!

For more info, check out Chris' post and then sign up for a free Tropo account to try it out yourself. Sending and receiving SMS messages, Twitter messages and phone calls are all free for folks developing apps on Tropo.

Full Disclosure: Yes, this post talks about a service (Tropo) ultimately from my employer, Voxeo. I do write about such services from time to time. :-)

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"The Traveler's Guide to the iPad" - a great list of apps and tools

ipadtraveler.jpgOver on the Socialized Software blog, Mark Hinkle came out today with a great post called "The Traveler's Guide to the iPad." He also included the great graphic I'm including here on the right. I love to see pictures like this that so aptly capture the intent of the post.

Anyway, Mark's post contains a solid list of apps that any iPad traveler should definitely consider. I'm actually quite partial to the Apple case, but that's just personal preference. I like his suggestion for the Verizon MiFi hotspot - I'm eligible right now to upgrade from my current Verizon data card to a MiFi and am definitely considering doing so.

I do like his app suggestions... DropBox and Evernote, in particular, are two that are now critical parts of my iPad routine. I also love the fact that an e-book reader allows me to read books on a plane that would be too bulky to carry in my already-space-optimized carryons. One addition that Alec Saunders recently turned me on to was "Rocket Taxi", an app that uses your iPhone GPS to find the nearest taxi companies to call for a cab. It's an iPhone app, but presumably would work great on the iPad as well.

There are a couple of other apps on his list that I'll be checking out...

I don't know about others of you who use an iPad while traveling, but for me the iPad has definitely become a key part of my travel routine... so it's great to see lists like this offering suggestions for other travelers.

If you use an iPad while traveling, what apps have you found useful?

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ProgrammableWeb.com acquired by Alcatel-Lucent

programmableweb.jpgIn one of those strange cases that makes we wonder if I should really be merging this blog with Disruptive Telephony, the folks over at Programmableweb.com announced they had been acquired by Alcatel-Lucent. I've long been a fan of the ProgrammableWeb site and their long lists of APIs and mashups, so I'm thrilled for them that they have found a way to keep the site going and evolving.

Still, the marriage with ALU just seems a bit... odd... I'm admittedly still trying to wrap my brain around it a bit. The reality, though, is that the "real-time web" is one in which it is all about APIs, and making data accessible to people and developers through open APIs. To that end, it does make a certain amount of sense for a communication company like ALU to look at how it can gain more prominence in "the API game". Perhaps this is a way to gain access to a developer community and, over time, help familiarize them with ALU products and services. We'll see.

I hope for the ProgrammableWeb folks that it does work out like this:

This milestone is a great opportunity for ProgrammableWeb and our community to work with a global organization who gets what open APIs are about, who value the independence of ProgrammableWeb, and who want to grow the open API ecosystem both in the world of telecommunications and beyond. In the end this step will bring PW to a whole new level in terms of fulfilling our mission to be the go-to place for open API developers.

Congrats to the whole ProgrammableWeb team, and, for the sake of the "open Internet", I do wish them all the best continuing to promote open APIs!

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Webinar tomorrow - Unified Self-Service - one app for voice, SMS, IM, web and Twitter

unifiedselfservice-200.jpgAre you interested in how you can service customer requests across all the different communication channels they might use? Do you want to give your customers a choice in the way they interact with you? Rather than requiring them to call in to a customer service phone number, do you want to let them send you a text message? Or an IM? Or use Twitter?

If so, you may be interested in a free webinar I am giving tomorrow, Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 11:00 am US Eastern time titled "Unified Self-Service: Creating multi-channel communications apps using Voxeo tools". You can register for free.

I'll be talking about this concept we call "Unified Self-Service" where you can create a single application that interacts with customers across multiple communication channel (but not necessarily using the exact same user interface). It's a topic I blog about on Voxeo's site and mention in our various presentations.

Perhaps obviously to long-time readers, I have an interest in the "social" side of the communication, particularly as we talk about "Social CRM" and engaging with customers through social channels. You can naturally expect to hear me talk about that tomorrow as well.

Registration is free... and if you can't attend, the session will be archived for later viewing from our Developer Jam Session page (and if you register, we'll let you know when the archive is posted).

It's a fun topic... and I'm looking forward to the conversation we'll have tomorrow.

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The final day of Diaspora's funding drive - will they hit $200,000?

diaspora-june1.jpgToday, June 1, is the final day of Diaspora's funding drive over on Kickstarter. I love the exquisite irony of the graphic I've included on the right side of this post... "This product will only be funded if at least $10,000 is pledged by Tuesday Jun 1, 11:59pm EDT." .... given that the four guys are closing in on $200K in pledges!

As I wrote about before, the promise of Diaspora is an exciting one for advocates of the "open Internet". There are many challenges that they face in building a distributed, decentralized social network. There are some aspects of privacy and security that can be easier in a centralized model... but for our own long-term future, it's great to have some folks out there looking at this issue.

I wish the Diaspora team all the best with their work and will certainly be watching and looking at how I can help. Already, their concepts and ideas have increased the discussion about what we want the "social networking" part of the Internet to look like. They may not succeed... but if not they will certainly help us all in their trying. And in the best case, we'll have a new service to use that will let us have a bit more control.

Will they hit $200,000 in pledges today? 14 hours left... it doesn't matter, really... they've already received way more than they ever expected!

P.S. And yes, in full disclosure I should state that I am one of those 6000+ backers.

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Ning's Phase-Out of Free Services - Smart Business Move? Or Utter Betrayal?

ning.jpgMuch has been made in the social media part of the blogosphere about Ning's recent decision to end their free services. In a post to their Ning Creators Forum titled "NING UPDATE: PHASING OUT FREE SERVICES", the company posted an email from their CEO that said most importantly this:
So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.

The post outlined why they need to make the move - and disclosed the fact that they were laying off 69 people.

Some 700 comments later, they closed off comments to the post. The comments seemed to be a great number of very upset users of the free Ning service mixed in with a few folks defending Ning along with Ning employees who seemed to be trying to be genuinely helpful.

The comments across the blogosphere and Twittersphere raged quite strongly. ReadWriteWeb had a post listing alternatives, as did Mashable. TechCrunch reported on sites "welcoming Ning refugees".

While the news sites may have reported it matter-of-factly, many other sites were full of passion. Many nonprofits and educational institutions wrote about how the were going to have to find some other home because they couldn't afford fees. My friend Shel Holtz wrote a blistering post called "Ning reneges on its core promise, shatters customer trust", which included this line:

But the word that keeps repeating in my mind is “betrayal.”

Strong stuff.

Betrayal? Or sound business decision? I understand the arguments on both sides.


If you go back in time, Ning was launched with great fanfare in October 2005, a new startup by Marc Andresson of Netscape fame. Per the RWW article I just linked to, Ning's FAQ (now gone) was:

"Our goal with Ning is to see what happens when you open things up and make it easy to create, share, and discover new social apps."

I remember the launch... many of us tried it out. I think I even created a Ning network... although I can't find any email or evidence that I really did. I know I joined a couple. The idea was cool... now anyone can create their own social network!

Over the years Ning raised over $120 million from investors and at one point was valued at over a half billion dollars. Mashable reported one year ago that there were over 1,000,000 networks created on Ning. Ning was one of the early supporters of OpenSocial and rolled out "Ning Apps" to Ning's 1.5 million networks at that time. I know of many folks in the social media/marketing space who recommended Ning as a platform for people to build communities. I did to several groups. I was even considering using Ning as a platform for a community around my upcoming book like Steve Garfield did for his Get Seen book. (I opted for a blog and a Facebook page instead.)


It now seems rather clear that something was broken with the business model. $120 million dollars and 1.5 million networks later... they chopped 40% of the staff and dropped the free service that brought them so much attention and undoubtedly investment.

It sounds like from a company perspective they had little choice. As a recent Mashable post said (my emphasis added):

We’re not sure how pricing will change over the next few weeks, but what we do know is that the dotcom-era free-for-all of apps, services and content for end users is not-so-gradually coming to a halt. In the light of economic reality, nothing is free. Someone — be it an advertiser, an administrator, an investor or an entrepreneur — is footing the bill for every one and zero that’s electronically transmitted across this great Internet of ours. And at some point, most of those folks expect to see a return on their investment.

"And at some point, most of those folks expect to see a return on their investment."... indeed. And $120 million of investment is a lot to seek a return on. I can understand that they didn't have many great choices... and were undoubtedly running out of time.


On the other hand, I completely understand the anger, sadness, frustration and passion of all of those who built communities on Ning. Ning offered a great service ... all you had to do was bear with seeing the ads that were displayed. In return you had powerful tools to build your own community.

You put your trust in Ning that they would provide this service for free - and now Ning has betrayed that trust.

I don't envy all the nonprofits, schools, churches and other groups that used Ning as their community and built their communication infrastructure around that site. Sure, there are alternatives, but switching is a pain... you ideally want to move some or all of your content... and you have to bring all your users over with you... It is a lot of work.

It's easy to say, as I've seen many commenters do, that "you get what you pay for"... and to chastise users of Ning's free service to be so naive to think that it would be around for the long term. But why not? That was the promise made by the company. Build your community here and we'll make it easy for you to maintain and grow - and so many networks did prosper there.


As Shel wrote in his post, I have this issue with "single points of failure" (SPOFs). I've written at great length about how Twitter and Facebook violate "The Internet Way" of distributed and decentralized services. I would add Ning to that list as well. It is a centralized service under the control of a single company... and a startup company at that.

The problem in relying on a single company/service/platform is that if you are locked in to that company/service/platform, you have a single point-of-failure.

They die... you die.

Compare the Ning situation to, say, garden-variety web hosting providers. You can get web hosting pretty much anywhere for an inexpensive amount of money. Upload your HTML files, point your domain there... ta da... your website is up and running.

Don't like the web hosting provider? Or have too many service problems? Or have the web hosting provider fail as a business? No problem... sign up with another web hosting provider... upload your HTML files (you do have a backup, right?)... point your domain there... and ta da... you're back in action. You have many, many, many choices for web hosting providers... it's all distributed and decentralized.


With a web hosting provider... or even an email provider... there is a fundamental feature:


If you don't like the provider, you can move. You aren't locked in. Sure, it may be a pile of work... and moving your domain may be a hassle if you didn't retain control of it... but it's relatively straightforward to move. Even if you use PHP or other scripting languages, odds are that you can move your web site to another provider, because...

Web sites are portable as they are based on open standards.

Usually... unless, of course, the web hosting provider found some way to make your administration "simpler" and subsequently lock you in to their services.

When using Ning, though, you sacrifice that control and portability in the name of simplicity. It's easy and simple (and free!) to set up a Ning community. It can be a lot harder to set up your own software on your own server - and it will probably cost you something. The same can be said of Facebook and using a Facebook Page or Group... or using any of the many other services out there that let you build communities.


Sadly, hundreds of thousands of actual users (perhaps millions) are learning about control and portability in a bitter and harsh lesson. They will soon learn about what pricing Ning will be offering... and they will have to make their choices. Pay some fee... move their community... or simply shut it down. I already know that one of the ones I am a member of will be moving. I expect many others will move as well.

I can only hope... and that is what it is - "hope"... that as Ning community administrators look at alternatives, they will ask those providers the tough questions, like:

  • How do I know you will be around in a while?
  • How can I trust you not to screw me like Ning just did?
  • What is your business model?
  • How easy is it for me to move my community OFF of your platform if I choose to do so?

And so on...

As for Ning, I wish them luck... I somehow think they're going to need it.

UPDATE: John Cass has an excellent post tracking many good posts involved in the conversation about Ning's changes.

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Video explanation of Hadoop, MapReduce and other cloud database trends (Scoble and Cloudera)

As you learn about "cloud" services, even just services like Twitter and Facebook, those of us with a technical bent may hear terms thrown around like "Hadoop" and "MapReduce" when it comes to the underlying technologies and the massively distributed databases being used for these services.  In this video, Robert Scoble interviews Cloudera CEO Mike Olson about the changes that have happened in database technology and while the video of course touches on what Cloudera does, I found it to actually be a really good primer on what Hadoop, MapReduce and other new database technologies are all about. If you want to understand the underlying technology behind "cloud services", it's well worth the 30 minutes in my opinion: