Friday, April 10, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, Google Reader: Update with FB feed information

I've been experimenting with Facebook and Twitter again.

The net result is I find Facebook oddly interesting and Twitter still puzzling. Facebook in particualr is proof that usability is not a requirement for critical success. I see the point of this NYT Magazine article:

... Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive...

I suspect the Lesser Depression is a powerful tonic for social networking sites. In my case the Twitter retry was triggered by a (voluntarily) departed colleague who does Twitter and the FB reboot was motivated by a critical mass of friends and acquaintances on FB. Both experiments have been aided by solid iPhone app clients.

Some quick comments and potentially useful references ...
  • Tech for Luddites: Read, Send, and Share Tweets on Facebook: showed me how to get Twitter posts to show up on my FB wall. My impression was that it would also enable FB to Twitter posts but that hasn't worked (either my error or a security setting or a bug). The author of this blog is a few steps ahead of me so I'm learning a lot from her current and past posts.
  • I added the Google Reader Share app to my FB page, but it was posting unpredictably. Sometimes it would concatenate my shared items into a paragraph of many links (good), sometimes it woudl create individual wall posts (bad, too much volume). I had to remove it.
  • I experimented with the RSS app, but it generated "notes" which don't seem to fit the current FB sharing model
  • I turned off the majority of the FB email notifications, instead I subscribe by feed to Events and Friends updates [1 - the friends updates subscription is gone]. So my mail is not interrupted, and I pick up FB activity when I use Google Reader. (I found a FB bug -- if I turn off too many email notifications at once FB doesn't save my preferences. I had to turn them off in 3-4 sets.)
  • I've reviewed and played with the copious privacy configuration options, but I treat anything I post to FB as though it were going to my kids, my friends, the FBI, my parents, my boss, my company's customers, etc. So not super bland, but my pseudonymous blogs are much more interesting.
  • LinkedIn is my corporate identity, Facebook is my personal "face", and the blogs are my alternative identity. So far, a reasonable balance and an interesting experiment.
  • Facebook is very big on "data lock". So I don't put anything there I want to keep. So I won't be putting photo albums, etc on FB. I treat FB as an information black hole -- data goes in, but can't be extracted. (Yeah, I know this is bad physics, it's a metaphor!)
  • I don't get the groups and events features on FB, it feels like they've been deprecated.
Update 8/26/09: Facebook has removed the status update feed. The feed I have in Google Reader still works, but it's no longer possible to create a new status update feed. The notification feed is still available (see bottom of the All Notifications screen). Yelvington has published a workaround to reproduce the old status update feed URL. Like him I wonder how long this will work ...
Here's how to get your status as an RSS feed.

1. Log into facebook.
2. Click on "Inbox."
3. Click on the "Notifications" tab.
4. Find the RSS link under "Subscribe to notifications" and copy it. THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT LINK but it contains essential information.
5. COPY the link URL arguments -- everything to the right of the "?" in the URL. This should looks something like id=563407515&viewer=563407515&key=1234aa32e7&format=rss20.
6. Attach the string you copied above this URL:

You now have a feed URL that will deliver YOUR status updates. You should TEST THIS URL using a browser that is NOT logged into Facebook. If you get an RSS feed containing your updates, this is valid...
I assume FB removed this to keep Facebook as closed as possible, and, importantly, this feed bypassed FB's access controls. I really miss it though and I'm glad it still works.

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