Hope springs eternal

March 23, 2005

With the change of seasons comes a new crop of sites springing up. Here is a list of sites I’m looking forward to checking out:

  1. Backpack
  2. Odeo
  3. 360.yahoo.com
  4. EVDB
  5. Jobster
  6. Trumba
  7. jotspot

What sites are you looking forward to?

43 Things back online …

March 17, 2005

We’ve completed our maintenance—5 minutes under schedule. It may take a bit more time for the DNS to propogate so just keep checking back if you’re not yet seeing 43 Things. Thanks!

43 Things outage 1:30 to 2:30pm PST

March 17, 2005

We are going to be down for a bit today to do some required maintenance. We should be offline from around 1:30 to 2:30 pm PST. Go outside and do one of your 43 Things and check back soon.

43 Things API

March 16, 2005

Erik ran off to SXSW and Etech to talk up the 43 Things API but forgot to give us a link to it! Luckily, we found a pointer on Josh Lucas’s blog to our own API.

We are just getting started with the API – so be gentle – and we’ll add more documentation soon. If you have a question drop us a line.

Identity: toward an internet publicity policy

March 15, 2005

If internet 1.0 was mostly about making the internet work for business, internet 2.0 seems to me to be more about making it work for people – and part of that shift means some tectonic changes in the relationships between individuals and the corporations that earn their custom. The Cluetrain told us this was coming: markets are conversations. So, I’m interested in adding to a conversation around the shift from privacy to publicity and hearing from you what you think about the idea of a “publicity policy” that helps inform users how sites like 43 Things operate.

A great example of the shift I’m thinking about can be seen in comparing the first generation photo sites (Ofoto, Snapfish, etc) vs. the second generation photo sites like Flickr or Fotolog. When Ofoto debuted, the experience was 95% commerce and 5% community. The focus was on ordering prints, with a secondary user experience that would let your friends and family see your photos online (and of course, order more prints). The site was built around private transactions – your photos and your credit card. The onus was on the company not to share your information with anyone you didn’t authorize and “privacy policies” became de rigeur on commercial sites.

Flickr stood the Ofoto model on its head. The site is organized around public displays of photos and the emergent community of enthusiasts who admire, congratulate and encourage each other. The site isn’t built around keeping your photos private (though the option is there) – it is built around helping you make them public – and in doing so, publicizing who you are and what you care about. Through the emergent interactions of tags, comments, profile pages and social networks, publicizing your photos can lead to finding other people who are sharing their photos and a meaningful sense of community can emerge. The first generation concern about safeguarding private transactions has largely been transformed into a second generation invitation to meet the neighbors.

This pattern can be seen all over Web 2.0. Is there a privacy concern at Meetup, Audioscrobbler or 43 Things – where people can actually meet you in the flesh, learn what you are listening to and even discover your personal goals? I don’t think any of these sites are about privacy – they are about publicity. They are about how when you disclose bits about your personality and interests, you can start to connect with others (in person or virtually) who share common experiences and interests. Part of what is happening on the web today, through folksonomies, blogs, social networks, link sharing and photo sharing are new ways for people to disclose their personalities in public and new ways to develop a digital identity that might augment who we are as people, offline.

There’s an old New Yorker cartoon that shows some dogs at a computer with the caption “on the internet, no one knows you are a dog”. It’s a Web 1.0 joke about privacy and anonymity. But today, with the rise of blogs and websites like Flickr, del.icio.us and 43 Things, the joke is, “offline, no one knows you are a talented photographer, that you want to learn Italian, that you discover great links or know some great people”. For now, “The Real World” still requires you to check your virtual aspirations and accomplishments at the edge of the internet. You can’t convert your whuffie just yet. But millions of people are building online identities and reputations that are accumulating meaning and value. That value gets created as we build an online reputation, as we move our private knowledge into the public domain. The issues that this brings up get lost when the only policy folks have to reference is a “privacy policy”. Perhaps we need a “publicity policy” for 2.0 websites.

A publicity policy could make clear that information on 43 Things is public: that the site is about sharing your goals with others; that using the site is voluntary and that you shouldn’t use it if you don’t want to; that by sharing information on 43 Things, you aren’t sharing anything private that we promise to safeguard, but rather you are making your information public and it will show up in the Google index, cache and internet archive.

Privacy policies focus on what happens to your private information. But a publicity policy could make clear what the implications are of sharing information in public. Maybe it needs to be pointed out that you don’t have to use your real name or that you can get a free email account to separate your pseudonym from any other account? Maybe we should scrap the email requirement so that no personal information is required at all to use 43 Things? Maybe we should add Creative Commons licenses to all the content to make it remixable with attribution and do away with the idea that the data is “owned” by anyone in an exclusive sense?

Now surely a part of this concern about privacy is about the fact that The Robot Co-op is funded by Amazon.com and that the facts of that funding emerged in some sensationalist press before either company had issued a press release on the deal. Live and learn on that front. But perhaps we could put the matter to rest by making it clear that no personal information is required (or desired) to use 43 Things and that Amazon.com would have no access to any information that isn’t already available to the rest of the world, through an individual’s decision to publicize that information.

It’s kind of crazy to think that people want to publicize their goals but maintain complete privacy, but we are willing to help! We are kind of into kind of crazy. What I do think we need is a new awareness about how publicity works in an era when sharing what was previously private can lead to new forms of identity, reputation and community.

What do you think?

SXSW and Etech

March 10, 2005

I’m going to be in Austin for SXSW Interactive through Sunday night and then over in San Diego for the Emerging Technology Conference to participate in a tutorial on Web Services (at 8:30am on Monday, yikes!). If any of you end up making the tutorial or spot me in the halls, definitely come up and say hi. I’ll be around for the rest of the Etech conference as well.

43 Things on tour with Maktub

March 6, 2005

43 Things can’t afford a tour bus so I’ve decided to take us 43T users along for my band Maktub’s April/May tour. We’re releasing a new album called Say What You Mean on April 12th. My hope is that I’ll be able to give away 5 free tickets to 43 Things users in every US city we play (currently 31 cities). If I’m lucky I’ll be able to meet 43T people at Maktub shows, share some 43 Things stories, snap a user picture or two and post the whole experience to 43 Things.

I’ve got plenty of tickets for the following dates—let me know if you’re interested:

  • Fri Apr-08 Seattle, WA Neumo’s (all ages)
  • Sat Apr-09 Seattle, WA Showbox
  • Tue Apr-10 Aspen, CO The Belly UP
  • Wed Apr-13 Denver, CO Lion’s Lair
  • Thu Apr-14 Boulder, CO Trilogy Wine Bar
  • Fri Apr-15 Salt Lake, UT The Velvet Room
  • Sat Apr-16 Boise, ID Big Easy
  • Fri Apr-22 Spokane, WA The Big Easy
  • Sat Apr-23 Pullman, WA Beasley Coliseum WSU
  • Wed Apr-27 Minneapolis, MN TBA
  • Thu Apr-28 Chicago, IL Martyr’s
  • Fri Apr-29 Louisville, KY Uncle Pleasant’s
  • Sat Apr-30 Indianapolis, IN The Patio

There appear to be only 4 cities that 43T users haven’t yet adopted as their own. If you live in one of the following places enter your city and put it on the map.

  • Aspen, CO
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Ashville, NC
  • Solano Beach, CA

Getting started with web services

March 1, 2005

With Yahoo announcing some pretty cool web services today, it’s a good time to mention that we’re also in the process of adding some super simple web services to 43 Things pretty soon. We’re hoping to debut at the Emerging Technology Conference (in particular, at the Web Services Mashup Tutorial that I’m participating in with Alan Taylor and Cal Henderson).

As with many things, we looked to flickr for inspiration on how to do things right, and also spent a lot of time reading up on the many varied blog APIs. I tried to follow as many of the design principles that came out of work on the Atom API as possible.

A couple lessons learned along the way:

No need for a SOAP API. First of all, almost nobody uses them (85% of people use Amazon’s REST interface over the SOAP, and almost nobody uses flickr’s SOAP and XML-RPC interfaces over the REST interface). I learned the same lesson when I offered SOAP and REST interfaces to All Consuming a few years ago. Second of all, we can always build alternative interfaces later. Therefore, the first version of web services that we’re offering are REST-based.

Make it easy to get an API Key. We’re requiring people to get an API Key before they start using the services so can limit access to people who abuse the system. But it’ll be easy for anyone with a 43 Things account to get a key (or three), and they’ll be approved by default. At some point it’ll be easy to also display a list of people who are using the service in interesting ways.

Make authentication easy. Many web services don’t require authentication because the methods offered are read-only. In fact, 27 of the 34 methods we’ve implemented so far don’t require authentication. But web services become more interesting when you can use them to write as well as read. For example, posting photos to your flickr account, adding something to your Amazon shopping cart, or adding something to your 43 Things list all require authentication. The Atom API actually has a pretty slick way to authenticate that’s secure and that isn’t so complicated that it becomes impossible to implement. This is proven by the fact that so many people have been able to implement the API in various posting tools during the short time that it’s been out there. So I figured we’d use that same system for our web services. There’s a good article about it here. And for people that don’t want to implement a secure way to authenticate but still want to play around with adding goals and entries to 43 Things, we’re also supporting simply passing usernames and passwords via GET in the URL. That way you can get it working first, and then make it secure later, if you want.

Don’t duplicate work. Because we’re using Ruby on Rails to power our site, all of our code has been abstracted into controllers, models, and views. It only took a few days to build the webservice because it was as simple as writing a single new controller that used all of the same models and then displayed results using XML views rather than HTML views. When we update the way the models works on our website, it’ll also update the way the model works in the web service, without requiring any changes to the API.

All that said, we’ll be offering quite a full set of methods to query everything from goals, people, entries, teams, cities, and tags, and you’ll be able to add goals, remove them, update them, and post entries to them. 34 methods in total so far. I’m really excited about them personally. If anyone is feeling really adventurous and has some extra time on their hands to help test the service before it launches, let us know.