ChatVille: Chatroulette meets Facebook

ChatVille: Chatroulette meets Facebook

Today when I opened my favorite instant messaging client, Digsby greeted me with an announcement: “We’re excited to announce the launch of ChatVille, a brand new Facebook game we created for discovering cool new people! ChatVille let’s [sic] you video chat with random Facebook users in a safe environment while earning compliments, unlocking badges, and leveling up in a race to become ChatVille Champion! http://bit.ly/ChatVille_Release PS: First one to unlock the Digsby Badge gets a free iPad!”

Naturally I tried it and quickly discovered a lot of bugs. Most of the time I click Next I get an error message: “Everyone is engaged in conversation. Chat with one of your Facebook Friends or click Next to try again.” That’s not fun! The only 10 people I’ve been able to connect to so far were all men. That’s also no fun, but not unexpected. I couldn’t figure out exactly how to improve my score and couldn’t find a guide anywhere.

Soon Adobe Flash Player began to crash my web browsers. All 3 of them. This problem persisted after uninstalling and reinstalling Flash Player and rebooting my PC. Now I can’t play the game at all because Flash Player crashes the browser immediately when the game loads, while Chatroulette still works just fine.

If this game worked, it could be the solution to the booming industry’s pervert infestation. Inappropriate conduct can get Facebook users banned from ChatVille quickly and permanently. But could this be enough of a difference from Chatroulette to achieve a lower male-to-female ratio than CR’s 9-to-1?

Try it yourself: http://apps.facebook.com/chatville/

How to Enable Facebook Connect on a WordPress Blog

How to Enable Facebook Connect on a WordPress Blog

Do you ever find yourself excited to respond to a news or blog post, but dread the registration process? I often begin the process and then leave the site when I discover how much info it wants from me, or when I remember that I’ll have to verify my email address and log in after I fill out 10 forms of ID.

Facebook Connect solves this problem. With it I can log in to more than 80,000 websites simply using my Facebook login credentials. It’s safe, fast and very easy to use, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. More than 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook Connect on external websites every month. According to Facebook’s Developers Wiki, you can expect a 30-200% increase in user registrations after enabling Facebook Connect, and see a 15-100% increase in reviews and other user generated content. The web developer can set up Facebook Connect to prompt a user to cross-post his comment on Facebook after posting to the site, encouraging viral activity. Business Insider speculates that for each story published in Facebook, a site can expect an average of 3 clicks back to the site. The website also gains access to more user demographics, and it can provide a personalized experience by pulling users’ profile pictures and other data to the front end.

Knowing its many benefits, I had to set up Facebook Connect on my own blog. The setup is a little advanced but I figured I’d write a guide to help my fellow APOC students set it up on their blog. The procedure varies depending on your platform but my guide will assume that you’re hosting a WordPress 2.9.2 install through GoDaddy.

First, make sure your server is configured to run PHP5 rather than PHP4.

  • If you can access your server files via FTP, open “.htaccess” under the root directory with Notepad. If you see “AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .php” and nothing referring to php4, skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise follow next bullet point.
  • Log in to GoDaddy Hosting Control Center, and see “PHP Version” under Account Summary. If it already reads PHP 5.x, skip to the next paragraph. If it says PHP 4.x, click on Content, then Add-On Languages. Next to PHP Version, select PHP 5.x, click Continue, and confirm the warning. Click update. Then navigate to Settings > File Extension. If the change to 5.x has been completed, you’ll see at the bottom of the available extensions list, “Extension -> .php | Runs Under -> PHP 5.x” If it’s not there, stop here and come back in an hour or so, and when it is there, you’re ready to proceed. Thanks to ardamis for some of this info.

Log in to your blog’s Admin Dashboard. Click Plugins in the left navigation panel, and click Add New near the top. Search for “WP-FacebookConnect,” and make sure you install the one by Adam Hupp (who works for Facebook and quickly responds to emails, to my pleasant surprise). Install and Activate plugin.

Register a new Facebook application here: http://www.facebook.com/developers/createapp.php?version=new. In your blog’s Admin Dashboard, navigate to Settings > Facebook Connect, and copy your Facebook application’s API Key and Secret into the proper fields and Update Options.

To test whether everything works, log out of your blog, attempt to comment on a post, connect with Facebook Connect and post a comment on your own story. Allow Facebook to publish the comment “story” to your Facebook wall, and then check your Facebook wall to make sure the comment published everywhere it’s supposed to.  Configure more Application settings here: http://www.facebook.com/developers/apps.php.

Microsoft Releases Silverlight Beta Client for Facebook

Microsoft Releases Silverlight Beta Client for Facebook

In early 2009 a very large portion of my day was consumed by checking Facebook for wall posts, private messages, event invites, friend requests, and photo tags. I had a huge group of friends and frequently hosted parties with 100 people or more so I felt obligated to stay on top of it.

I went out searching for a desktop application to run Facebook so I didn’t have to constantly navigate my browser to the home page. I figured I’d probably save more than an hour a day if I could just be alerted when something happened instead.

The best I could find was the Facebook Toolbar. At the time it was very buggy and only gave me info that I didn’t care about, like how many group invitations and app recommendations I had. On top of that it only updated its numbers about once every 10 minutes, and that delay alone was a deal-breaker.

Soon Fishbowl was released, running on Microsoft’s Silverlight platform. I was thrilled at the thought that I no longer needed my browser to use Facebook and even more excited about an attractive new interface. I imagined the desktop app becoming a huge hit until I used it a bit and realized how much it was lacking. It used a ton of RAM, had very quirky window navigation and controls, and lacked much of what I needed from Facebook, like the ability to view and create events. It was fun to impress my friends with a Facebook toy they’d never seen but aside from that I abandoned it immedately.

Then in April Facebook developed its own desktop application called Facebook For Adobe Air (note that it requires Adobe Air to be installed first). I liked that this app was much less resource intensive than fishbowl and could sit beside my browser window as a tall slender bar on the side of my screen. At some point I changed my monitor resolution temporarily, which moved the Air window out of view. When I restored my resolution I could not get FB for Air to appear again. It was still running but there was no way to get it into view, even after uninstalling and reinstalling it and Adobe Air itself. So much for that.

Then just a week ago Microsoft released a beta development of the new Microsoft Silverlight 4 Beta Client for Facebook (note it requires that Silverlight 4 Beta be installed first). The first thing you’ll notice is a brand new, dark and sexy interface. It doesn’t look like Facebook at all, and that’s exciting. It’s simple, fast and fun to explore. It finally lists upcoming events, though viewing the event still requires a browser window to be opened. When you’re reading a conversation in the inbox you can see the person’s lifestream in the right hand pane. It allows you to quickly scroll way back into wall post histories; actually I’m very impressed by this. It seems to be aggregating stories much faster than Facebook itself does in a browser. And it has a cool photo album explorer.

But it still lacks support for my mouse’s back button and keyboard shortcuts, its scrolling lags like it always has in IE, it doesn’t support apps, and its photo viewer doesn’t wow me as much as Cooliris. On top of that it’s using as much as 320 MB of RAM in Windows Vista.

While I do appreciate that MS is presenting the same old FB pictures and stories in a unique new way to bring some excitement back into the experience, I don’t think I’ll be using this desktop client for much other than novelty when showing it off to friends.

Fortunately the new Facebook App for the iPhone finally, as of a couple weeks ago, pushes notifications so I now know exactly when Facebook needs me.

Greasemonkey Scripts for Facebook

Greasemonkey Scripts for Facebook

I’ve always been a fan of efficient website navigation that balances the greatest usability with the fewest clicks and least scrolling. If you spend as much time on Facebook as I do, you should appreciate these efficiency enhancing tweaks I discovered a few months back.

These tweaks are scripts which only work in Firefox, and only after you’ve installed the Greasemonkey add-on. After you’ve installed Greasemonkey and restarted Firefox, browse through scripts at userscripts.org.

My favorite Facebook scripts include:

Facebook Fixer
Description: Enhancements for Facebook: bigger profile pictures and photos, easier viewing of albums, links to download videos, showing people’s age and sign, Google calendar integration, keyboard shortcuts & more. Compatible with new Facebook and fully customizable!
IMO: This is a very powerful script. It requires a little customization but it’s totally worth it. After install, scroll to the top of any Facebook page, open Settings > Facebook Fixer. Read through the settings and experiment.

Description: Larger versions of thumbnails and profile pictures on mouseover on facebook.com.
IMO: Huge time saver. I no longer have to click through to new pages to see the full-resolution version of pictures. This duplicates a feature in Facebook Fixer but I prefer the way this works so I disabled the feature in Fixer.

Facebook Friends Checker
Description: Regularly checks your Facebook friends to check whether anyone has removed you from their friends. When the script detects that someone you used to be friends with is no longer one of your friends, a message will appear informing you about who it was and giving a link to their profile page.
IMO: This works perfectly. When someone is no longer my friend it could be that they deactivated their account or that they removed me from friends. I know which is the case when I click their profile link. If I see their profile with the option to Add to Friends, I know I’ve been removed from friends. If their profile link just reloads my home page I know their account is currently inactive meaning they probably intentionally deactivated their account. It’s kind of sad how often I get removed as a friend, but at least now I know who not to invite to my birthday party.

Remove “Now Friends” Messages from Facebook Feeds
Description: Remove “Now Friends” Messages from Facebook Feeds.
IMO: I don’t care who my friends become friends with. I have 723 friends and they make a lot of new friends. This doesn’t need to clutter up my Feed. Check out the “See also” section of this page for links to other feed hiders you might like, including Remove “Attending,” “Attended,” “Became Fan,” “Joined Group,” and “Now Friends” Messages from Facebook Feeds.

Facebook Show Age
Description: Adds age next to birth date.
IMO: Perfect integration and works great. Age is far more important than birthday and it’s nice not having to calculate age in my head any more.

*ONLY works after you’ve installed this app: http://apps.facebook.com/invisible/
Description: Turn off Facebook Chat and use FBOnlineNow to see who’s online (active or idle friends).
IMO: I was a little confused at first but now i love it. After you install this you’ll see 2 chat pull-up menues next to each other. the original chat menu is between the new one and notifications; it’s confusing because there’s no icon on it any more.

Facebook URL Cleaner
Description: Cleans Facebook URLs that don’t actually take you to a new page.
IMO: It works great. Now rather than http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=569919637#/profile.php?id=725831319, you’ll see http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=725831319

By the way my other favorite Facebook add-ons are Image Zoom and Download Statusbar. Cooliris is cool too but I usually have it disabled. And the most revolutionary, game-changing add-on ever made must be Addblock Plus. ABP deserves its own blog post though so look forward to that in the future.

If you try any of these, please comment and share your experience. Do you love these tweaks as much as I do?

55% Drop in Facebook’s College-Enrolled Registrations in Past 12 Months

55% Drop in Facebook’s College-Enrolled Registrations in Past 12 Months

An article on ReadWriteWeb discusses Facebook’s changing demographics, conveyed in the image below. The article focuses on the changing demographics, as the 55+ user base is exploding while the 18-24 range is growing least quickly. It questions how this change will affect Facebook’s market opportunities and whether its college-aged users – once the exclusive user base – is migrating somewhere new.

I think the site has already seen its explosion into the 18-24 base and is now enjoying a similar explosion in the 55+ area. If it had started out as a 55+ exclusive user base we’d witness the same trend in reverse, with 55+ growing slowly and 13-24 blossoming. This is because there is a finite number of people in each age range and the growth cannot continue to multiply at the same rate forever.

It would be interesting to see another study exploring the seeming exodus of college students. The site is growing in college-enrolled users at half the rate it did last year. Graduation should not be a factor because just as many incoming students can be expected to replace the grads. Are the students removing their college affiliation from their page? Or are college students deactivating their accounts on a massive scale?

I have a GreaseMonkey script installed which tracks my Facebook friends and alerts me when one is no longer my friend. Sometimes this means they deleted me as a friend and sometimes it means they’ve deactivated their account. They each seem to be happening at a rate of about 12 friends per month, out of 723 total friends. This trend implies that 20% of my friends are deactivating their accounts each year, though my GreaseMonkey script does not tell me how many of them reactivate their accounts. That is a surprisingly high number, but it doesn’t do much to explain the overall 55% drop in college-enrolled users.