f8: Facebook Platform developer conference: thoughts and ramblings.

I ended up spending half a day at Facebook's f8 developer conference. First the completely unnecessary random, rambling thoughts as I walked in just in time to attended the keynote
  • Huh, its got a cool feel to it; dark lighting; couches, bold (but not Googley) colors marking the different areas; might be fun
  • mascot in a gorilla suit blocks my way (seriously!) I smile awkwardly till he moves out of the way; he's dancing now and does the same thing to someone who looks genuinely panic-stricken by the simian.....I wonder if anyone will punch him by the end of the day.
  • looks like the entire Facebook staff turned out here; I'm wondering if the ratio of attendees:employees is in the 2:1 or 3:1 range.
  • The keynote is about to start: its kinda hot and I'm feeling drowsy at 1:30 in the afternoon
  • Zuckerberg is about to speak: he seems to be kinda nervous: he starts with a cheesy opening line...hmmmm; this could be bad.
  • He seems a little over-coached and nervous: the writing is spotty, and he's looking at the teleprompter too much
  • He's much better when he goes a little off-script and just talks; I'm still feeling really drowsy though..and I'm not the only one.
  • Overall: solid keynote, reasonable announcements, I'm a fan of the re-design and they do a good job thinking through these things; Facebook connect seems super-solid
  • Ben Ling comes on stage to talk more about the Platform. By this time, its really, really hot and he's really perspiring; he's sweating even more than Zuckerberg and much more nervous...aww.
  • He starts with a similar opening line; ok...your company may have gained a Corp Comm division, but you may have lost some personality in the bargain
I'm just being snarky now and I feel like I have another post coming on presentations in general, but I'll stick with the actual substance at the conference on this one:

Facebook Connect: We ended up seeing demos of how this would work on various other platforms (Digg, iLike etc.) I like, I like a lot! The idea has been around a while and it looks like they've done a good job implementing it. What is it? Basically its an single sign-on system. Giving Facebook the right to man your gates, gives you the ability to pull in people's friend and personal data from Facebook and allows you to enhance your site. Its actually a really good deal for most sites, and will actually make things more "social"

App Qualification and a Certification Program: Facebook announced both a "Great Apps" badge and a way to be certified by Facebook. As a good friend of mine once saids, "when a company announces a Certification program, that's when you know it growing up."
Overall, if implemented well this'll definitely be good for users so ..yay!

Facebook has a mission/vision now:: "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”....oookay then..moving on.

I sat in on 3 sessions and 1 quick workshop after that.
I really liked the guys running the workshop/code-lab (really young, frank and helpful Facebook engineers), but honestly they should have done a better job. They went a little too fast, didn't leave enough time for the participants to do anything in between and well...it was much more a presentation with code snippets than a workshop. Having helped with code-labs that the Google teams have put on before, I know they can be much better. For example, starting with:

"Oh, by the way if you don't have a server you can't do anything at this lab" is a bad idea!
Set up a test server and environment for people to log in, dammit!

The three sessions were a little better though most people couldn't hear anything it at the first session. Open-roof+traffic outside = noise -> hard to hear.
It was "Business track" session though, so most people in the audience just nodded sagely and everyone left feeling happier.

The three tracks at the conference were Technical, Business and UX. I jumped between the three based on the actual panels themselves. Jokes apart, all the three panels were of a high-quality and I came away with quite a bit. Raw notes from the panels below:

Notes from "Building a Business on Facebook"
  • A lot of different models: games have the most room to innovate with virtual gifts, subscriptions, ads etc.
  • A lot of desire by brand to build facebook apps (one of the panelists had a service model that did just that.)
  • Advertisers still buy on a CPM basis, though they know that interaction is really key in a social model
  • Direct sales is better particularly if you have a targetted audience. Flixster was able to get CPMs 100x the ad networks were able to offer
  • The non-gaming apps see ads being their primary revenue source for a while
  • The new re-design is great because it offers more ad space, though Facebook's own ads continue to compete with the apps

Notes from: "Building Great Applications on Facebook" (my favorite panel; great panel and the panel had a lot of "real" examples, where "real" meant a screenshot)

  • Meaningful (has to do something!)
  • social
  • useful
  • expressive
  • engagining

  • Trustworthy (these are real people)
    • Secure (don't be stupid!)
    • Transparent
    • Respectful
      • how people represent themselves, their info, their interaction
      • don't scream for attention.
  • Well-Designed
    • clean
      • intuitive, free of mistakes
    • fast
      • fast, this is what people are used to
    • robust
      • doesn't go down

Had a great panel
  • Tripadvisor (Ashley Randall)
    • Bunch of apps (Cities I visited )
    • Local Pick (restaurant finder)
    • Travel I.Q: game
  • iLike (HAdi Partovi)
    • music app.
    • adding a feature where you can add full-song streaming to other apps
      • Apps helping other apps, nice!
  • Causes (Joe Green)
  • Playfish (COO/Co-founder Sebasiten de Haileux)
    • Woohoo....Big fan
    • they are killing my personal and professional productivity though.

Integrating into FB : Why do it?
  • iLike:
  • getting people to sign-up is hard
  • getting people friends..
  • look like FB feeds. have exclusives artists deals who post
  • mix in friends stuff
  • TripAdvisor
    • generic reason about finding people
  • Playfish
  • design game as a way of promoting interaction.
  • the game becomes more interesting when your friends get inolved; they start competing/sharing etc.
  • Causes:
  • people are used to the idea of tapping into their friends.
  • friends working together to meet a certain fund-raising goal.

Take-way: App experience gets better as more people get involved. Design your apps in that way

Playfish gave a lot of great example and thinking behind how they designed the game to be fundamentally social!
  • Look at their leaderboard
    • compete for top spots in different networks
      • compete in a metagame.
    • the goal is to create a social meta-game
      • people competing for trophies, bragging rights etc.

Respecting users:
  • offer stuff in multiple languages..
  • get to game immediately
    • do it well and keep ads at a minimum
    • massive Play button
    • no registration etc., start fun right away
  • give users lot of granular controls to users to set stuff up.
  • add an "Are you sure"...don't trick people.s

  • the virality may be bad
    • exercise self-restraint, don't go out there.
  • self-impose limits on amount of times/week people can message.

Should your app look like facebook or distinct?

  • A/B testing proves make it look like its inside facebook as much as possible
    • even making submit buttons like FB
    • Keep it simple
Notes from: "Design and UX at Facebook"

Why keep re-designing ?

  • Focus on the goal (what are people trying to do?)
  • Simplicity and Consistency
  • Move fast and iterate often

Focus on the goal (give people power to share and make the world more open and connected)
  • Social

Simplicity and consistency
    • reduce clutter (things should be intuitive)
      • run tests
      • ask people
    • re-use

Iterate like crazy
  • sample tests
    • how much time, what they're clicing on
  • a/B testing.

  • bring people in
  • people send feedback

2004 -> it looks really cluttered
2007-> looks simpler at first glance/ split navigation and put applications on the side

Design values in Practice (as an example used Photos)

Goal: make it social
  • Added Photo-tagging (so its a game/ like a conversation)
  • how can we share it efficiently?
    • best distribution mechanisms: but don't overload them
    • notifications for 1-to-1 notifications
  • let users control what they share
    • added tihs later, because this would drive usage
  • Add speed and fluidity
    • added the streams views and next links
  • consistency of UI components
    • everything looks the same..makes it easier for users (e.g. the pencil is a pencil, no matter where you use it.)

Over the five hours, only one person in the entire conference tells me "We're looking for smart people at Facebook. If you're ever...." ...aww...I feel bad. I feel like any Googler walking around there would average more. :( :)

They had a party after that apparently was a lot of fun, but I had to head out and catch up on half-a-day of missed email. :(


Josekin said…
How do I complain to Facebook and its apps? (Read my blog for more information)
Satyajeet said…
Lol. I read that; that particular FB quirk has annoyed a lot of people.

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