Category Archives: Facebook

Two Peoples Separated By A Common Language

I’m in the UK this week, ostensibly for London Online, but have been so busy that I’ve yet to make it to the show. Digging through email this morning, I took a brief break, headed over to Facebook to check for personal messages, and was greeted by the following, hilarious dialog box.

It brought to mind the old George Bernard Shaw quote about the English and the Americans: “two peoples separated by a common language.”

A few technology-related points:

  • While I applaud Facebook’s efforts at translation they clearly should not be trying to “translate” content from US to UK English, however tempting that may be.
  • Language recognition software is readily available, so they could easily have used it to determine that my profile and status updates are all in English
  • If they were really clever, looking at the locations of my friends and the language of their status updates, they could tell that I speak both French and English
  • And if they simply used metadata, they could have accessed the Languages I Speak Facebook application, and see that I speak English, French, and Latin (6 years).

Sometimes the answer is indeed hiding in plain sight.

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Google Launches Google App Engine

Yesterday Google launched Google App Engine, a platform that lets people create web applications and run them on Google’s infrastructure. It’s a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as EC2, S3, and SimpleDB but, unlike AWS, it’s free for small web apps (where small means about 5M pageviews per month) and it seems more integrated as an end-to-end service.

This is all part of a broader trend towards platform as a service (PaaS) which includes AWS, Google App Engine, Salesforce’s Force.com, and the Facebook platform. (Though I don’t think Facebook offers hosting as do the others; KickIt, for example, runs on a server in Mark Logic’s data center.)

In the emergent strategies department, I’m told that Amazon moved into the platform business because of the seasonality of retail. Basically, they built an infrastructure capable of handling extreme load the week before Christmas, but found that infrastructure idle the other 51 weeks of the year. I think Google motivation is different; it’s part of their broad attack on Microsoft who, far as I can tell, hasn’t even thrown its hat into this particular ring.

Here is a video of the launch that explains the offering. It’s about 6 minutes long and well worth watching.

Related articles

10 Things You Need to Know about Facebook

Check out this article in Information Today entitled Facebook 101: Ten Things You Need to Know about Facebook.

If you’re not in the primary Facebook demographic and you’re not spending time using it despite that, then you really need to read this article. You’ve got to understand Facebook, and more importantly the concept of the social graph, going forward.

The social graph will simply be another piece of context that applications will leverage to help people do things. And the question then becomes (1) how many times do you want to store your social graph and (2) how do you avoid social graph train wrecks. On (1), do you really want to tell Yelp, Flickr, Spock, LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, YouTube, BlueCollarOrDie, Classmates, Match, SlideShare, Scribd, Twitter, and DocStoc that you’re friends with Sara Jones? Can’t you just do it once or twice? On (2), how do you prevent your LinkedIn associates from meeting your stays-in-Vegas friends from Fling? How can you prevent a Facebook app from asking you to compare a board member’s body with a customer’s?

I realized in chatting with a young Mark Logician that the day Facebook announced its application platform strategy there were two types of people:

  • Type 1: Those who immediately went wow, this is going to change the world
  • Type 2: Those who went, huh, what does that mean?

Sadly, I was type 2 but I was intrigued enough to try and figure out what it meant and am happy that I did. Here are the 10 things you should know:

1. Who is using Facebook?
2. What can you find on Facebook?
3. Why are people using Facebook?
4. What kinds of 3rd party apps can you add?
5. What are advertisers doing on Facebook?
6. Who else is joining?
7. What groups are now on Facebook?
8. Why is Facebook so popular for photo sharing?
9. How do you find old friends?
10. What about privacy?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that I get quoted at the end of the story talking about KickIt, our (rather experimental) Facebook app. Here’s the excerpt:

Mark Logic, Inc. recently joined Facebook with its Kick It application, according to Dave Kellogg, president and CEO. “We launched it because we saw an opportunity to build a nice, simple example of the power of XQuery and XML search,” he says. But the app was created quite by accident (who said “Necessity is the mother of invention”?) by David Amusin, a new staffer at Mark Logic and a recent engineering graduate from the University of California–Berkeley. Amusin had an extra ticket to see the Dave Matthews Band and wanted to find a friend to invite to the concert. Facebook’s existing search wasn’t very helpful in searching for friends by interest category, so Amusin built the Kick It (aka “hang out”) app with the Facebook API. The result was a new way to help find people to “kick it” with and learn more about their friends.

Kellogg reports that bloggers who have found the “neat little app” have responded quite positively to it. But the company isn’t making a big push to drive traffic and doesn’t plan on making money on it. “In the midterm, I think more and more publishers are going to want to link with the social graph and associated information in building their products,” says Kellogg. “They will want to use content platforms that show demonstrable Facebook integration and to work with suppliers who understand how to leverage the Facebook API.”

Kawaski Interviews Balmer at Mix08

Check out this post with notes from the Guy Kawaski keynote interview with Steve Balmer at the Mix08 conference this week in Las Vegas.

In the interview Balmer talks about Google, the Yahoo! deal, Apple, his three types of day [see below], Silverlight, the Facebook investment, Fast Search & Transfer [see below], the number of emails he gets per day (~60), and he even gives out his email address: steveb@microsoft.com.

On his three types of day:

  1. With customers. From 730 AM to 800 PM and then get on [private] plane to next city.
  2. Doctor in office. Wall to wall meetings all day. “Exhausting.”
  3. Think, write, and research.

On Fast Search & Transfer:

Fast is company had internet and website/corporate products. Sold off web search. They have great for high end search on enterprise and engines that can search web sites. Tech fantastic and team is great. Anxious to build both ways. Love company/people. Great integration plan – more to say.

This is consistent with my thesis for why Microsoft bought Fast (to fend off the Google Appliance in high-end enterprise search, aka, the best defense is a good offense). However, I’d not previously heard the message that they want to build Fast out “both ways” — i.e., in enterprise search and in their Internet search offerings.

The only part of the acquisition that continues to amaze me is the ~8x revenue-run-rate price. That kind of multiple is in-line for high flyers, i.e., for healthy, high growth enterprise software companies. But Fast was in the midst of unwinding a world-class accounting mess, complete with lots of AR write-offs and a revenue restatement. I’d think companies in that situation are usually lucky to trade for 1-2x revenues.

Much as the the price SAP paid for Business Objects wasn’t surprising until you noticed that Business Objects was about to announce a quarterly miss, nor is Microsoft’s price for Fast surprising until you consider the not so easy to overlook financial mess. Personally, I would have guessed a sale in the $300M to $500M price range, proving that I’m not always right.

My current speculation is that there must have been a bidding war for the price to get so high. The fun question then becomes who else was bidding, why did they want it so bad, and what are they going to do now that they’ve lost?

Facebook News Parody Video

Making the point that messages don’t always carry well across media, check out this video parody of Facebook, translating it from webpage to live TV news show. Enjoy.