Sunday, November 22, 2009

SuperTweet MetaData

Uber-blogger Robert Scoble started a lively conversation regarding his concept of the SuperTweet as a mechanism of monitization for Twitter on his blog.

I had to put in my two cents because I really think he's on to something -- but WAY beyond just advertising. Here's my response:

First, the meta-data association is BIG --- way beyond just advertising. Tagging, geo-location, and parent/child info (providing the ability to piece together entire conversations and trends – REAL-TIME), just to name a few, would be enormously useful to Twitter and 3rd-party developers. It would create a mechanism that does not mess with the magical 140 characters, while providing an extension that embraces really useful things today and things that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Addressing the monetization issue, clearly the integration of (multi-tiered) SuperTweet MetaData would benefit any advertising strategy Twitter pursues, and offer an affiliate opportunity for Twitter clients and developers. Twitter has every right to place whatever ads they want within any context they chose, just as the user has every right to ignore them or abandon the service. Twitter’s responsibility for long-term happiness (for all) is to find a balance.

It wasn’t so long ago that nobody would conceive of paying a subscription for the right to push out messages 140 characters at a time. But that was before the phenomenal growth and success of the Twitter ecosystem. There is absolutely a class of Twitter users today that would pay $2.95 per month for additional value add – whether that be no ads, higher control over ads, or premium service/content.

For everyone else, SuperTweet MetaData could help target ads in ways not otherwise available. The problem with web-based ads (a la Google), is that there is too much anonymity for them to be really useful (this is separate from privacy). If I visit a website, the context for ad delivery is the website I am visiting. Twitter, on the other hand, knows the context of the message, the conversation in which the message occurs, the originating sender, distributed recipients, relational association at each step (including location of all), plus any meta data that I may have inserted via preferences, priorities, filters, patterns, and trends – all of which occurs in real-time.

I do not believe the case for SuperTweet MetaData is about advertising, though it certainly has relevance. No, I think the real case for SuperTweet MetaData is that it reinforces Twitter’s position as the center of its universe, extends 3rd-party opportunity by an order of magnitude, and provides Twitter with numerous monetization options – including advertising and subscription revenue.

Read the full article and discussion over at

Picture credit:

-- Steve

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The "Personal" Server in My Everyday life...

[Dave Winer started a great conversation about "Personal Servers" over at his site. My comments:]

(Personal Servers have) become part of my environment – part of my “operating system”. It’s an extension whose always-on real-time availability lets me host services, communications, aggregators, consolidators, syndicators, and so much more.

I have been living daily with “personal” servers since the mid 90’s. There is one running in the background on my laptop (and most of my other machines) as I write this comment (actually, it is running multiple server instances – port 80, 7070, 9090, and 443 [ssl]. This is ALWAYS present for me. The power of dynamic content generation and JIT compiling/execution is infinitely more useful when it exists real-time in your actual environment. I can modify a file, and simply by saving it the change is instantly available on the web. Likewise, via localhost, I can develop without the burden of FTP. Code, refresh, code, refresh. When I’m ready, and need more (such as the business/commercial aspect) then after I’ve locally fine-tuned, I upload to an offsite hosting rack.

But it’s not just for development. It has become part of my environment – part of my “operating system”. It’s an extension whose always-on real-time availability lets me host services, communications, aggregators, consolidators, syndicators, and so much more. I, for one, cannot imagine my environment without this power and flexibility.

+1 for Personal Servers

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Is the Droid Love Affair Over? Absolutely not, but…

I love my Droid. Simple as that. But a serious flaw has revealed itself that has the potential for catastrophic consequences for my new little buddy. It’s a problem so obvious that at first I couldn’t believe it and hoped it just went away – but it is a critical problem that could cripple the Droid, and therefore needs to be addressed.

First, let me say that I have never owned an iPhone, Blackberry, or any other Smart Phone – ever. I have been a loyal Motorola phone user for years (my phone previous to the Droid was a Razor) and I WANT the Droid to be successful for so many reasons.

The problem is with the physical keys of the keyboard. This is not an issue of whether you like the keyboard or not, or think the keys could have been laid out better (for the record, I like the keyboard, but also believe it will be refined as the Droid evolves). The problem is the keys themselves -- under a very specific circumstance.

So, when I was at the Verizon store when they opened yesterday (the first day of availability of the Droid), I got my Droid, all the accessories, and a big smile on my face. Of course I got the car charger, the car mount (for GPS mode), and the Verizon-recommended rubber protective “Bra” – this latter accessory consisting of two-piece rubber that attaches to the top and bottom of the Droid. And it is this “protective” accessory that has the potential for catastrophic interaction with the phone. The problem is that is seems the “face” of the keys on the keyboard are glued on to the keys – no big deal, except when you slide the keyboard open and the rubber bra catches on the keys – in my case the edge of the DEL key caught and started to peel up. At first I didn’t realize why the slide was “sticking” but then quickly determined that if I opened the keyboard all the way up, it would rip the face of the DEL key right off. CRAP!

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the corner of the DEL key pulled up. For now, I have used my fingernail to push it back down and I removed the top piece of the rubber protective “bra” and everything is working fine. But I can no longer use the top piece because it will rip the key face right off. I’ll be visiting the Verizon store tomorrow to seek a remedy, but in the mean time, I would caution everyone not to use the rubber bra thingee on top.

Has this experience soured my excitement for the Droid? Hell no. I told you, I love the little guy. I struggled with even raising this issue, but it was clear to me that this is a problem that will continue, and maybe the next guy who writes about it will use this flaw to slam an otherwise fantastic device. For me, I’m sticking with the Droid… quirks, flaws, and all -- but my Droid will go topless without the rubber bra.

[UPDATE: It runs out that the BRA has a small tab on three of its four sides. It must be installed so that no tab is on the bottom side where the keyboard slides open. Regrettably, neither Motorola or Verizon provide any instructions in this matter.]

Friday, November 6, 2009

My New Droid...

So I bought my DROID today...

No line for me, but the Verizon store was crowded at 7am. I was out of there within 30 minutes with my new Droid. First observations: (1) the only ladies in the store were sales personnel, (2) Verizon did not have the software to convert my existing contacts, (3) even with 2 days of training, the staff was still on the learning curve. But, everyone was smiling, everyone was nice, and after swiping my credit card I ran home to play. 2 hours later --- I still love it! It’s HEAVY, but it is soooo cool. One note, I bought all the accessories and when the Droid is outfit with the rubber protector sleeve it does not fit in the GPS car mount.

Still, I connected it to all my email accounts, enabled universal inbox, moved a ton of pictures and music onto the SD card (via simple USB drag and drop) – and barely put a dent in the 16GB memory. I synced all my contacts from Outlook (via gmail import) and then enabled the Facebook connection. Contacts started automatically populating with their profile pictures and now I’m off and running. Call quality is awesome, the speaker phone rocks, and music sounds great (plus there’s a headphone jack). Certainly it’s not perfect, but the triad of Google + Motorola + Verizon is highly incentivized to keep things fresh. And, did I mention it’s heavy (could be used as a self-defense weapon in a pinch)? In any case – no buyers remorse here!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Love the Founder's Fund -- even when they put their foot in their mouth....

So, I was happily minding my own business --- coding away on the next greatest thing – when I was rudely interrupted by the most ridiculous statement I have seen in a while. Kudos to TechCrunch for running it, and Google Alerts for instantly bringing it to my attention – distraction and all.

I for one believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and if Sean Parker over at the Founder’s Fund wants to use words like “red-herring” when describing data portability – well, he is entitled to that comment, just as I am entitled to vehemently disagree! Here’s the full article that raised my ire, and here’s my response:

“To be clear, he thinks Google will stay huge and relevant, but it’s dominance will go down because collecting data is less valuable than connecting people, he said.”

Uh… that’s assuming we can FIND the connecting people – and it is for that very reason that Google has a phenomenal opportunity to encroach on the Facebook’s of the world. Google is trying to be the 411 of ALL information – and they are aggressively moving into the world of real-time integration — how long is it before searching Google for your friends yields status updates with links in and beyond Facebook and Twitter?

As for Data Portability being a “red-herring” – WOW! Data Portability is not just about technology, but about process, rights, and mindset. Without that so-called red-herring, the investment you make in creating, refining, updating, and enhancing all of your data would be “owned” by someone else.

@sean: grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

-- Steve.

Monday, August 31, 2009

OpenAjax Hub 2.0 Released, xWinLib and Scrapplet provide advanced integration

Today, the OpenAjax Alliance ( formally announced the new version 2.0 of the OpenAjax Hub. Their press release even included a quote by me:

"The new OpenAjax Hub 2.0 provides a comprehensive enterprise-grade solution for secure widget interoperability," said Steve Repetti, CEO/CTO, RadWeb Technologies. "OpenAjax Hub 2.0 is the glue that binds distributed objects and applications together in a trusted environment."
For those of you not familiar with the OpenAjax Hub, it is a powerful collection of technologies that enables secure interaction and communications between widgets, applications, and mashups. It's a great way for web objects to co-exist in this increasingly dynamic and real-time web. Both xWinLib and Scrapplet have OpenAjax Hub integration.

xWinLib (, the cross browser windowing and web application library, includes enhanced support of the OpenAjax Hub by adding direct integration with all xWinLib-created browser windows and objects. This lets web elements automatically discover each other and communicate using the Hub. For example, RSS feeds can automatically update reader panes, even though neither has direct knowledge of the other; likewise text links can automatically render map and database information in separate widgets, panels, and web pages with their only association being interaction via the Hub.

An added level of advanced support is also provided. xWinLib uses the standard OpenAjax Hub communications engine as a delivery mechanism for extended messaging within the windowing environment. This includes the automatic delivery of enhanced messaging information thereby making real-time distributed communications even easier.

Scrapplet, the social aggregation website (, includes OpenAjax Hub support and goes a significant level further by adding a powerful yet simple interface to the standard and extended implementation. Web objects can easily “publish” and “subscribe” to each other and automatically share events and other information over the integrated Hub. Check-box simplicity is combined with automated code generation and a host of other tools, pre-defined objects, and other resources.

For more details and to play in the OpenAjax Playground on Scrapplet:

- Main OpenAjax page
- OpenAjax Playground
- Documented Examples

Here’s the press release that just came out:

- OpenAjax Alliance Delivers Software for More Secure Enterprise Mashups

--Steve Repetti

Friday, July 24, 2009

Here's to those mean and despised open source nut-case curmudgeons!

Open Software advocate Chris Messina pondered the other day if he was getting too harsh in his old age (yeah right!) in a post entitled “When all I seem to do is bitch, bitch, bitch”
He was caught up in an interesting debate regarding, what else, open source, and said:

"It would seem as though I’ve become one of those mean and despised open source nut-case curmudgeons with nothing nice to say. How soon we forget the lessons our mothers taught us."

The post is awesome, heartfelt, and insightful; and the comments themselves are quite revealing. Here was my response:

"Bitch, bitch, bitchin is our God-given right! But it doesn’t always get us the results we intended. Sure, we may feel better about it at the moment, but all too often it invokes regret and two aspirin in the morning.

"Yet sometimes that is exactly what the world needs — smack-down, called to the mat, black ‘n blue upside the face, called-me-out-cause-I-deserve-it bitchin’!!!!
Still, that crazy balance of life often let’s us accomplish even more with tact and being polite; or better yet: tactful politeness.

"Balance. I suspect as time goes on that you, Chris, will increasingly weild that balance like a sword — to all of our benefit!!!! Bitchin’ included!

"Keep on rockin’ dude!"

Bottom line: don’t stop what your doing just because you stir up the muck. All too often it needs to be stirred, and we always need people willing to step knee deep in the mire for the benefit of the masses!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Yesterday, social aggregator POWER.COM filed a countersuit against Facebook that raises some thorny issues for Facebook and adds some interesting defenses for the case of data portability and personal data ownership. It is not yet clear from reading the pleadings whether either party will win in this escalating case (there are some key issues and concepts on both sides that a Court will have to wade through), but it is clear the issue of Data Portability comes center stage.

Jason Kincaid over at TechCrunch released an interesting article on the subject, “ Countersues Facebook over Data Portability,” along with a copy of the counter-suite.

In their opening salvo, Power steps up to the soap box and discusses “a borderless Internet where users have the right to own and control their own data” and goes on to present their recently adopted “Internet User Bill of Rights:”

This is great stuff for users and data portability, and in many ways mirrors much of our work over at the Data Portability Project (, however it has little to do with what Facebook is doing in the context of their site or their lawsuit. It does, however, place Facebook in a position of having to answer why it does not agree with these principals.

Thus far, Facebook has tread cautiously as it relates to user data and rights therein. They do not wish to give away the store or proprietary and competitive advantage, nor do they wish to (further) incur the wrath of its users by inflicting too many restrictions. Many of us hoped that a number of Facebook’s recent initiatives signaled their willingness to explore a leadership role in this highly important area. Unfortunately, the pleadings conflict with this hoped for direction.

From Facebook’s perspective, violated Facebook’s stated terms and conditions; the contract that establishes the relationship between the parties for the use of the site. Every Facebook user has agreed to this (or they wouldn’t be using the site), but, like virtually every other “terms and conditions” document, it is overly broad, highly protective, filled with legalese, and generally ignored by most actual users. It is merely the lack of enforcement by the provider (in this case Facebook) that keeps these things out of court more often. (The standardization and simplification of this topic is also the subject of much work over at Data Portability and other advocacy organizations). counters by saying they are doing nothing that Facebook isn’t already doing themselves, and, besides, theirs (they believe) is the right way anyway. It is clear that Facebook does not agree with this position but now is in the difficult position of explaining why many of the good points that raises are not valid within Facebook.

Still, Facebook is a privately held company and they get to decide what is allowed or not. No court, other than the one of public opinion, can force them to do what they do not want to do – unless the legal line is crossed.

And while I do not believe that has a leg to stand on when trying to win based on how much “screen scraping” of data is allowed (Facebook’s terms and conditions say none), they have raised some interesting issues that could inspire both the court of opinion and the hollowed halls of justice.

At the very least, Facebook is highly conflicted. It does not own the copyrights associated with all of the information available on its site; it does use some of the very techniques with 3rd-party sites that it accuses of using against Facebook; it has moved in the direction of providing greater access to its data; and it is party to litigation that potentially represents a PR quagmire.

More significantly for Facebook, raises the issues of “Restraint of Trade” and “Restraint on Competition” regarding data portability which both lead to the dreaded “M” word: MONOPOLY. Specifically:

“Facebook’s conduct restricting users’ ability to access their own data constitutes an unlawful restraint of trade under Section I of the Sherman Act.”

“Facebook’s conduct constitutes monopolization (or attempted monopolization, ed.) of the market for social networking website services in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.”

With all of the issues at hand, I predict that there will be chest banging and posturing by both sides, some “interesting” press conferences, followed by a negotiated settlement that washes the issue aside and lets both parties (partially) save face. Regardless, Facebook will likely take a PR “black eye” over this.

But I submit there is another, better, solution: Facebook should not only continue its current efforts of data portability and accessibility, but become the leading player on how to do it right! Users would benefit, Facebook would be crowned a friend to all proponents of Data Portability, and the lawyers would find something else to do! In absence of such, Facebook risks becoming the view in the rear view mirror for the company that actually does get it right.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Google OS: “For Developers, the Web is the Platform” (Yeah Baby!)

Last night Google announced what many have been suspecting for some time, the creation of a Google Operating System (OS) based on (what else?) the Google Chrome Browser! This is not something that (initially) directly competes with Windows, however the Google OS could easily take a lead position in the NetBooks category, an area defined by simplicity and specificity of task. More so, this “OS” has the chance to provide the single most requested feature sought in an operating: instant on!

Image attributed to Daryl Caggle at MSNBC

The title quote to this post, most recently by Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch, reinforces what we’ve been saying for some time: “the browser is the delivery platform for modern application; it is OS agnostic, ever present, and increasingly robust.”

The problem, of course, is that browsers are not necessarily compatible with one-another, even from one version to the next. What’s needed is a browser-based abstraction layer that “normalizes” this exciting platform and allows web apps and web sites to act, interact, and display the same across all of the browsers. Our solution to this is called xWinLib; a JavaScript library (with server-side interaction via Ajax, OpenAjax, and other web services) that provides a powerful platform for the creation, delivery, and operation of complex web applications. From the xWinLib site:

"The xWinLib library is a JavaScript framework optimized for the creation and execution of sophisticated browser-based applications and advanced web pages. xWinLib provides a self-contained client-side platform that integrates windowing, events, ajax, user interface, drag and drop, web 2.0, data portability, and more within a single cross-browser platform."

It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out. Google will innovate their way into new spaces and force Microsoft to compete, evolve, or give way. Along the way, the web as a platform will be good for all! What a great time to be a web developer!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Scrapplet’s Variation on the Square World

HTML is square; everything fits in tight little boxes that butt up against each other. Now, Scrapplet introduces the ability to add images to your pages and then rotate them 360 degrees in any direction. Add as many images as you want and rotate them to your hearts content!

Simply drag or use the wizard to add an image to your page, then access PROPERTIES -> ROTATION and specify the number of degrees to rotate the image!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kwicks Concept Extended and Enhanced in xWinLib, Support for Floating Menus Added

I really like the Kwicks menuing system that is available for MooTools and JQuery, but I wanted even more flexibility and the ability to integrate it into the xWinLib windowing library. So, an exercise in 176 lines of code got me the following:

  • Support for horizontal and vertical menus
  • Sliding menus can be absolutely or relatively positioned
  • Support for floating sliding menus
  • Multiple menus can co-exist within a single page
  • Menu "tabs" can be different sizes
  • Auto-scale within specific width or height
  • Customizable animation settings
  • Auto-open to any tab
  • Tabs open by rollovers or clicks
  • Override custom class and style attributes
  • Works with Firefox, IE, Safari, Opera, Chrome
  • Requires Javascript
  • Less than 1.5k gzip payload

Here’s the link to the demo page with full source code provided:

Microsoft's BING Receives Enhanced Drag and Drop Support from Scrapplet and xWinLib

BING from Microsoft is the latest product to challenge Google’s control of the search market. Initial reviews were mixed but it does introduce a number of interesting features and it seems to be gaining some traction (not the least of which as the result of its automated integration with existing Microsoft searches!).

In any case, Scrapplet/xWinLib has added enhanced drag and drop support for images found using the BING search engine. Just search for an image and then drag it onto a Scrapplet or xWinLib-enabled page!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Google Web Elements Come to Scrapplet

Last week, Google announced the release of a new collection of gadgets, Web Elements. Quoting from the official Google website: "Google Web Elements allow you to easily add your favorite Google products onto your own website."

These include: calendar, conversation, custom search, maps, news, presentations, spreadhsheets, and YouTube News.

With this release I couldn't resist implementing them in a "friendlier" format within Scrapplet. It took me all of a couple of hours to create drag and droppable objects with customization wizards. Here's an example:

And now anyone can embed them with drag and drop ease via Scrapplet and the underlying xWinLib technology. Access your Scrapplet account and go to OBJECTS -> OBJECT REPOSITORY -> WIDGETS to try them out for yourself!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Don't Fear Data Portability...fear the LACK of it!

[This was in response to an article over at Internet Evolution by Nicole Ferraro]

Data Portability, Privacy, and Ownership are three completely separate things that are nevertheless intimately related. Regarding data portability, if you are away from home and suddenly the local doctor needs to access your medical records, wouldn’t you want them to be able to do that quickly and securely? Unfortunately, without data portability, he may very well be able to get the data – but not be able to use it because it is in a format his systems are unfamiliar with.

The concept of single sign-on (OpenID, Facebook Connect, etc.) is a great example of Data Portability, though it only scratches the surface in terms of overall usefulness. Nevertheless, single sign-on allows information to “talk” to other systems in ways that are defined by concepts rooted in data portability.

People should be scared of unbridled access to information without constraints, accountability, and security. But, data portability is not something to be afraid of. It is an empowerment that operates transparently and provides options without limiting choices. And, with any luck it will be a core component of data solutions that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Steve Repetti

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twitter takes a bullet and we should all say thanks to them and others!

This weekend, Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb wrote an awesome article entitled: “How the OAuth Security Battle Was Won, Open Web Style” wherein he described a critical real-world issue that was confronted and resolved by real people working together in extraordinary ways. The story is timely, frankly amazing, and demonstrates the power that a few dedicated individuals can have over things that are important to us all.

One of the principals of this story, Chris Messina, said to me:

“@Steve: would love concrete proposals on how to improve the process. As this was the first time many of us had to respond to something like this, we're looking for solid ideas on how to make improvements. I'll look forward to your real-world advice!”

My response to this was:

“@fatoryjoe, aka Chris M. : for “making this up as you go” everyone did awesome! Identify the problem, contain the damage, embrace assistance, hunker down, envision a solution, execute the plan, communicate strategically, implement, follow-up, and then cross your fingers! (and be prepared to do it all again!) DAMN IMPRESSIVE!”

“The trick going forward will be how to timely include those that can help without jeopardizing the confidentiality and time-sensitive nature of the (next) issue at hand. In this most recent incidence it is hard to imagine how things could have been handled better, but there are also lots of folks that would help on a moments notice…and that provides a powerful resource not often found in the commercial world.”

“Open platforms continue to blaze new trails and I look forward to the continued conversations that reinforce the leadership position that these technologies and supporting communities deserve.”

If you take a few minutes to read Marshall’s story about all of this, you will quickly realize how much so few contributed to the well being of so many -- and how important Twitter's role in all of this was. This is a trend this world can and should embrace, and I for one look forward to lending my hands to these good folks and worthy causes in any way possible.

Oh, and, by the way, if you ever felt/feel frustrated about Twitter – just remember, they took a bullet for all of us this past week and that earns their respect in my book!

Steve Repetti

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't miss the most human story on the net...

I almost missed the most human story on the net today, possibly ever – and it’s still going on. Sitting on the couch next to my beautiful wife Angie, coding away with the world a blur, I would every now and then look up and see her entranced by a blog – alternately smiling and welling up with tears. And thus I was introduced to the world of MckMama and Stellan.

Stellan is a six-month old baby, and he’s sick – really sick. MckMama, Jennifer McKinney, is Stellan’s mother from Minnesota, and she has somehow found the strength to blog about all of this in real-time, and in the process the world has become captivated by this heartfelt story. Her blog’s site counter is currently approaching 10 million visitors – I know my wife is there every day.

Tonight, the world holds its collective breath. Six-month-old Stellan had heart surgery in Boston earlier today, and we do not yet know the results. In a world of distance and disassociation, where technology is all too often accused of anonymity, the story of Stellan has brought together the thoughts and prayers of the world.

If you believe in prayer, then Stellan is deserving of your messages to a higher power. If not, then Stellan is that compassionate deserving individual that makes you hope that the concept of prayer could make a difference. In any case, Stellan, MckMama, and the whole family are not alone in this ordeal. The world watches, and prays, and hopes. And none of us will be the same for the ordeal.

Visit MckMama’s blog at:

Response to: Plaxo Bids for Relevance in Portability Era

Nicole Ferraro over at Internet Revolution just released an interesting article on Plaxo and Data Portability. Here's my response:

Data Portability, as a topic independent from all of the other issues, has the potential to be extraordinarily useful to both the user and companies (including the Plaxo’s of the world). It’s not a loss to the companies if they provide value beyond simply hosting yet another digital persona.

In a world of data portability, information seamlessly and securely moves between services subject to the wishes of the user and the negotiated relationship entered into by the user and companies, usually defined by the terms of service (EULA/TOS: another important topic!). Innovative companies thrive in this environment because of the substantial value-add they provide to the user – and, as a result, have the opportunity for exponential growth due to the seamless integration of their services with the larger world.

Users benefit because they get to focus on what they want to achieve with the information, rather than having to create yet another set of activity streams, friends lists, groups, security settings, etc., and having to worry about integration, access control, and synchronization. Or more worrisome is the danger of the provider “deadpooling” with your data locked in their vault.

Overall, data portability is good for everyone. It does not seek to reduce options or competition, rather it provide options and secure, comfortable means to a highly sought end.

Interested more on data portability? Visit and join in the conversation

Steve Repetti
Board member:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oracle, Sun, and IBM dancing the dance...

While IBM danced around Sun doing the “maybe we’ll acquire you mambo”, Oracle cut in and announced this morning they are acquiring Sun in an all cash deal valued at $7.4B and that Sun’s board has already approved the deal. Who says deals are dead in the valley!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Response to: Facebook and the Future of User Generated Governance

It’s been a big day for news related to Facebook and its user base. I already blogged about a great article by Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb, and now I’m adding to the comments of Brian Solis who addresses this issue from a completely different perspective:

“I for one am excited about bringing the user directly into the governance process. In Facebook’s instance, I believe this has been happening reactively in increasing measure over the last 12 months. Facebook acts, the user reacts, and the process refines and moves on – probably not in the way Facebook originally thought, certainly subject to loud vocalization, but definitely in a direction that is ultimately good for the user base.

A more involved user base can change the reactive nature of this beast to a proactive partnership – good for all. However, this same principal applied to technological leadership and innovation can have an adverse effect. Any good developer will tell you that it is foolish to ignore the target audience, but every great developer will also espouse the benefit of solitary brilliance. Ultimately, the best solutions from the technological perspective find that balance between good and great, between audience participation and singular inspiration.

Hopefully, Facebook will find the balance in all of these areas. I for one am hopeful.”

Steve Repetti

Response to: Facebook Management Has Lost Its Grip on Reality

Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb just published a significant article about Facebook and its increasingly evolving policies. Here was my response:

“Great article, Marshall!

The big message that all Facebook users should take away from all of this is that they can make a difference. Facebook made an announcement, lots of folks registered their opinions loudly, and Facebook’s position moved. Where it moved to, I think the jury is still out on that one – and it’s still moving.

Regarding Data Portability, remember it wasn’t so long ago that it was inconceivable that Facebook would make as much progress as they have, and, as trail blazers, they’re still trying to figure it out. And, that’s were all of us, the users, still get to make a difference. Now is the time for advocacy, for everyone to speak their minds about the issues and register their two cents.

Steve Repetti

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Scrapplet and xWinLib Announce Support for Apple’s New Safari Release

Apple computer today released a beta of their terrific browser, Safari, for both Windows and the Mac. Jason Biggs over at TechCrunch talks about it in his article “Safari 4: finally a reason to come back” and references the significant feature list and press release from Apple.

In my opinion, this is a really big deal and hopefully a sign of things to come. This is more than an incremental release and brings to Windows users a powerful and sexy alternative to IE, Firefox, and the other browsers. My initial reaction to the new Safari is: WOW! And. I say this for a couple of reasons: first, it really is sexy and follows the Apple mantra of easy to use. But, more importantly to me and the users of Scrapplet and xWinLib technologies, it works great and is fast!

As many of you know Scrapplet and xWinLib are extremely advanced browser-based applications/technologies that seek to normalize the complexities of the different browsers available today across a variety of platforms. As such, I am always interested in new developments in browser products and technologies and in particular I want to know if compatibility is seamlessly tied to innovation. I am delighted to say that the engineers at Apple have done a terrific job in both areas as Safari 4 works flawlessly with both Scrapplet and xWinlib-based applications. It installed easily, fired up, and in seconds I was dragging and dropping content, mashing up everything from all over the web.

Now, if Apple could just implement a world-class plugin infrastructure and object repository…

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Scrapplet integrates Facebook's new Comment Widget

Scrapplet releases support for Facebook’s new comments object. Just select it from the Scrapplet object gallery (objects -> object gallery -> Comment- Facebook) and click or drag it onto your page. Seamlessly integrate with Facebook’s messaging system via Scrapplet integration with Facebook connect.

Now that Facebook’s comment widget is an integrated object within Scrapplet, it automatically inherits all of Scrapplet’s object properties, including appearance options, extended event handling, and even OpenAjax hub interaction.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Data Portability User Bill of Rights

The following is provided in response to a request from the Data Portability EULA/TOS task force. The intent is to provide the basis for conversation related to identifying and quantifying the specific elements that might make up a user’s DP “Bill of Rights.”

[There is a great related discussion entitled “A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web” originated by Joseph Smarr, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington; and signed by more than two dozen leading individuals]

More specifically, to me, when I go to a web site I should have a reasonable expectation as to what I can and cannot do with the data that I bring, create, or reference within the site. And, I should also have reasonable understanding as to what the site owners can and cannot due with this collection of data related to me.

On the on hand, it doesn’t really matter what those boundaries are – provided they are disclosed up front and upheld throughout my relationship with the site. In this manner, I can make an informed decision as to whether or not I choose to continue. On the other hand, there must be disclosure, transparency, and accountability for this to work.

Ideally, I would go to a web site and there would prominently sit a Data Portability badge that identified the points of compliance in these areas that I am most concerned about. Display of the badge would provide the disclosure and transparency that I seek allowing me to make an informed decision. Likewise, display of the badge would also demonstrate accountability since the TOS identifying allowable usage of the badge would require compliance.

Further, the badge would not likely simply state compliance or non-compliance, rather “degrees” of participation. In a well structured user bill of rights, it is not likely that every site I choose to participate in will fully support every core tenant of Data Portability. I should be able to quickly identify which of the core elements that most interest me relevant to the site are in fact supported by the site.

Some of the key elements in this matter are directly related to privacy, usage, and control. From this we can then extrapolate a series of compliance statements that hopefully begin to take the shape of a user’s “bill of rights.” Specifically:

Key concepts:
- Data I bring, I have the right to take away
- Data I create, I have the right to share
- I have the right to choose who can and cannot access my data
- I have the right to access my data internally and externally

Specific questions:
- User personal data is private (y/n)
- Private data is secured (y/n)
- Personal data is fully removed upon request (y/n)
- Personal data is not sold or reused without permission (y/n)
- User data is accessible outside of the website (y/n)
- User data is available using industry standard formats (which ones)

Fringe thoughts:
- Public posts can be retracted (y/n)
- Public posts can be anonymous (y/n)

There is certainly more thought required in this area, both from me and others. Love to get everyone else’s opinions on the matter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Facebook does about-face, shows true colors – and we like the aura!?

Having previously put its foot down regarding the proprietary nature of its instant messaging (see: Facebook bullies IM-provider Meebo), Facebook has demonstrated its desire to open its world to the masses by now embracing Meebo and their support of instant messaging via Facebook Connect.

Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch points out that this has been a contentious relationship with anyone’s bet as to the outcome. Yet here we are barely 30 days after a public smack down and Facebook is touting the very company they were previously dissing. So, what’s really going one here?

Meebo tried to provide a valued service that real-world customers craved. Facebook pointed out that such effort violated its terms of service and wielded the big hand of the giant (meaning, if we don’t provide it – you can’t). Meebo said, “yes --- but can’t we all just get along?” And then…clarity set in. Facebook affirmed that they were in fact the giant, but realized that the giant is not necessarily the enemy of the populous; and that life shared was life to be enjoyed – by ALL.

More importantly, the giant has revealed that it can dance to popular music and stay in step with the desire of the masses. This is an important precedent (one that Microsoft and Yahoo should pay more attention too), and one that we can only hope is an indication of things to come. Data portability is the enabler that allows these things to happen, and acceptance of such need is the vehicle that drives evolution, revolution, and enlightenment of the giant.

To me, Facebook has always been that elusive idea that always avoided the mainstream, that was happy living in the fringes of my vision, and that survived by not intruding on my day to day. But, particularly recently, Facebook has elevated itself to a position of leadership – of showing the way that, while not perfect, nevertheless demonstrates movement in the right direction. To quote Herbert, “The Sleeper has Awoken” -- and we all do really wish that it is everything we hope it can be!

But is this really enough, or is it just baby-steps in disguise of innovation? Opening up to another service is one thing, but embracing open standards and providing integration leadership is another thing altogether. This announcement lacks the embracement of existing and open methodologies in favor of proprietary solutions provided at the direction and discretion of the giant.

Even so, is this a step in the right direction? Absolutely. Is it enough? Not a chance. On the one hand users should smack Facebook for ignoring the entrenched standards that form the pillars of openness, on the other, they should applaud them (and encourage them) for finally moving in the right direction. But we should ALL remind Facebook that this is a work in progress and to not stray from the path. We encourage the effort and look forward to the next steps on the path to enlightenment – and ready the whip for deviation.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Facebook’s Move to “Openness” Setting de facto Standard?

Yesterday, Facebook took a further step in opening its network by introducing enhancements and new features to its developer APIs. Facebook’s new APIs make it easier for applications to update user statuses, links, and upload videos from outside of Facebook. This effort will likely generate a flurry of activity in the developer community as new applications are created and existing ones enhanced to take advantage of these new capabilities.

[Add to this the earlier announcement of Facebook’s support of OpenID and things are definitely starting to get interesting]

But beyond the power and convenience of integration and data portability from external sources, the real story lies just below the surface. Facebook is striving to become the ultimate repository for all of your social-media information and this is another step along that path. Their platform is becoming a global data-store and their APIs are empowering developers and users with standardized methods of interaction.

On the one hand there is very little about this that is open. Facebook controls the data, its access, and its availability. Facebook defines the integration, they determine the protocols, and the APIs, and even who can and cannot use any of this. This “openness” is all under the oversight, control, direction, and whim of the giant.

Yet, when you think about it, Facebook has made huge strides in extending its world beyond the looming walls of their garden. And, while I don’t think this was their original intent, they have nevertheless listened to their user base and observed the opportunity the market presents.

Some may call it baby steps, others an attempt at world domination. But the winner today is the user (and yes, it’s pretty good for Facebook too!); and the benefits continue to evolve. Along the way, these initiatives will provide new and innovative methods for interaction with users and data that may lead to de facto standards for data portability. Will that actually happen? That depends on Facebook’s “real” position on openness, the user’s tolerance and acceptance of that position, and the response from the other great giant seeking dominance in the global data-store market – Google.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chris Messina just pointed out an awesome blog post regarding microformats in 2009 (thanks Chris!) -- this has EVERYTHING to do with Data Portability, your rights, and the web. Check out the post from Ben Ward in the UK and see for yourself!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

xWinLib and Scrapplet announce enhanced drag and drop for Safari users

RadWebTech today released advanced drag and drop functionality for Safari users on the xWinLib and Scrapplet platforms -- no plug-ins required. Safari users now join IE, Firefox, and Mozilla users with the easiest and most powerful drag and drop capabilties on the web. Drag images, text, widgets, gadgets, music, video, websites, and more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twitter Hacked, Reactively Eyes Solutions, Tweets on the Edge of Data Portability

The recent meltdown of Twitter security raises important issues related to Data Portability, most notably issues of security, integrity, and responsibility, that are relevant to all users. It also serves to demonstrate the need for prioritization by data stores.

Had Twitter simply said, “we will take your data and do whatever we want with it – including giving your login credentials to whomever we want” then no one would have had a problem. Of course they would probably have a lot less users.

But that is not what they said – and that is not the expectation that users had. In fact, in addition to the specific “terms of service” agreement that everyone accepts when they become Twitter users, there is an implied relationship that is created that defines the expectations of both sides. One of those is the reasonable expectation that your login information (including password) would be private and protected.

Now, obviously this is a dynamic world and there are lots of bad guys out there. And it will never be perfect. But there are straight forward solutions to many of these issues – especially in this day and age -- provided their implementations rate the necessary priority in the eyes of the Twitters (and other data stores) of the world.

To Twitters credit, their response has been quick -- and still in process. But more folks need to be proactive, not simply reactive.

Elias Bizannes, a fellow DataPortability board member, talked about this at length over at the official Data Portability blog, as did DP board member Christian Scholz here.

OAuth by itself is not the answer – but it is an important part of the solution. Ultimately the solution involves technologies such as OAuth and OpenID, but it also requires a mindset, commitment, and acceptance of responsibility in proactively keeping the rights of users always in the forefront. This is a main tenant of Data Portability and is an issue likely to dominate the headlines for some time to come – one way or the other. Companies will increasing be called out – or praised --- on this issue depending on their policies and priorities.