Let’s Get A Few Things Straight

All this talk about Facebook, Apps, Open Graph, and Timeline, has my head spinning. Let’s pause for a moment to get some much-needed clarification.

Earlier this year Facebook debuted about 60 Timeline apps. Today, there are 84 timeline apps available. These apps are broken down into 9 categories: Entertainment (18), Fitness (2), Food (5), Giving (3), Music (12), News (17), Shopping and Fashion (12), Travel (5), and Other (10).

What is the difference between a Timeline app and a regular Facebook app? 

Well, simply put, Timeline apps publish Actions to your profile. Timeline apps are “meant for the activities you want to share with friends.” Other applications may be considered social, but they do not publish information about you to your profile. Both Timeline apps and regular apps on Facebook can use Open Graph.

Since Facebook is making a permanent transition to Timeline, will that make all apps Timeline apps?

Yes, no, and maybe. Not every app will post Actions to your Timeline. But, Facebook does want apps to take a more prominent role in your profile. Apps were originally used to access content. The next generation of Facebook apps are meant to reflect what you do in the real world: what you eat, buy, exercise, cook, listen to, etc. Basically, Facebook wants your Timeline to be a convergence of your “real” and “digital” lives.

What are the advantages for a company to use a Timeline app?

Facebook is already publishing success stories about Timeline apps. Content discovery, increased website traffic, time spent on site, new users, and overall “engagement” are areas where companies have seen benefits. 50% of eCommerce site visitors are loged into Facebook so there is a lot of potential for companies who want to increase online sales.

Zukerberg’s “frictionless sharing” business model means “permissionless sharing.” Since users will have to opt-out rather than opt-in, markets, and your friends, will now have access to vast amounts of data they would not have had before.

What’s up with the ticker on the right-hand-side of home page?


When you use games and apps, the ticker on the right-hand column shows your friends’ app activity in real time. The ticker may include Sponsored Stories that may or may not be about games.



The potential of open graph facebook health apps

So, in looking at the latest wave of open graph Facebook apps, there is an obvious window for health companies, such as WebMD, to introduce a health app that would require minimal manual input on the part of the user.  Traditionally, health apps have required users to input data in order to really make use of the apps, but I’d say that the open graph is an opportunity to not only require less of users, but also give them more of what they want/need in the process.

As we discussed in class, open graph Facebook applications are becoming a great way for company’s to get more website and Facebook traffic and interaction.  Here’s the article on the success of early open graph apps that we talked about in class.  As you can see, the health category has nothing. Zilp. Zinch. Nada.  Another article I found talks about a whole slew of media companies that are jumping on board with the open graph Facebook app movement.  Again, there is no mention of a health-related website or app out there taking advantage of the open graph.  In looking again on Facebook, however, I did find one health-related category: fitness.  There are currently two open graph apps available to users: MapMyFitness and RunKeeper.

I also searched around online and found many, many mobile apps about health.  While most of them focused on food and nutrition, wellness and fitness, they require a lot of from users.  A user must actively want to log in and input information to gain anything from using these apps.

So why is there a delay in getting any sort of health app, beyond the fitness category, out there for users?  It seems like common sense to me.

The Facebook Developer’s website says this about what makes the original apps on the open graph worthwhile for users:

These apps have a few things in common. They’re built around something people care about and identify with, they enable people to share things they want their friends to see, and they provide easy ways to control the social experience.

This gives me a lot to think about in terms of a WebMD opengraph app.  Action words are the key and there are plenty out there to make use of. ConnectedHealth has this to say about the recently released fitness apps and the future of health apps via the Facebook open graph:

The MapMyFitness CEO gets it: “So, whether it’s to boast, find like-minded friends or just share your passion for fitness with your nearest and dearest, we think it’s great that MapMyFITNESS has been so quick to integrate its offering into the new Facebook Timeline, developing an app that makes sharing, collecting and monitoring health and fitness information easy. Just make sure you tailor your settings as soon as you start using the app, if you’re a fitness fanatic even your closest friends might not appreciate 20+ updates a day about your work-outs…!”

On another note, here’s a look at some links about mobile health apps.  Some of the apps are very specific, catering to just one specific health/fitness/wellbeing goal.  I think WebMD has the potential to do something a little more inclusive to “whole health.”

USDA “Let’s Move” Campaign Mobile App Contest

VitalClip: This is an app that actually monitors your health. So cool.  What if this was a Facebook open graph app?

ConnectedHealth: Here’s a list of apps compiled by ConnectedHealth.  There’s some really neat stuff on here.  And I think a lot of these apps will be better utilized using the open graph.

The Weather Channel

“Fair weather weddings make fair weather lives.” – Richard Hovey

My name is William Wickey. I majored in advertising at The University of Georgia, graduating in 2009. I am currently in the second semester of a two-year mass-media studies masters program, working as a graduate assistant for Dr. Shamp, the director of the NMI. Academically, I am focusing on online and social media advertising. In between undergrad and my masters program I lived in Jackson Hole, WY. I worked at JH Weekly Newspaper, Jackson Hole Community Radio, a social media start-up called Surf the Tetons, and for the marketing team at Grand Teton Music Festival. I also started a small LLC that purchases wine for restaurants [BombSomm.com].

This semester I am digging into Big Data.

The purpose of NMIX 6200 is to explore ways that organizations can leverage permeable data sources to improve their services. The newest vein in the data gold rush is Facebook’s Open Graph. For a reasonably social-media-savvy company such as The Weather Channel, the next step is developing a Facebook application.

There are two reasons why The Weather Channel needs to develop an Open Graph application. First, a Facebook app adds to the diverse catalogue of media properties already available to Weather users for accessing their forecast. Right now, Facebook users must go to The Weather Channel’s page and search for weather information. An application improves this process by making the user’s homepage a weather dashboard. Moreover, adding Facebook Connect – which is transitioning into Open Graph – to weather.com will crate an easy way for people to log in and stay logged in. Second, and more importantly, an Open Graph application adds value for The Weather Channel’s advertisers.

Picture Jim: a 44-year-old working professional from Austin, Texas. He and his wife took their daughter Amy, now 10-years-old, and their son Hunter, now 7-years-old, to Disney World in Orlando, FL a few years back. Hunter was a little too young to really remember the trip and Jim never got to play Disney’s Osprey Ridge golf course, but the family had a great time. Jim has been thinking about making fresh vacation plans for a while now, but he just hasn’t been inspired to pull the trigger.

Taking a break from his spreadsheet, Jim clicks over to Facebook and his eyes catch an item in his newsfeed: the forecast for Walt Disney World Resort that reads 88 degrees and sunny, with 5 smiling sun icons running through the end of the week. Accompanying the forecast is an offer. “Returning visitors save 20% on a 4-night stay. Plus, one free greens fee at any Disney golf course.

The ad knows Jim. I knows he is ready for a vacation. It is enticing without being intrusive and is presented in his newsfeed as information, rather than off to the side as a banner advertisement. And even better, it is automatically generated based on information Jim is already providing Facebook through his wall posts, check-ins, likes, geo-location and more. There is even the ability to market a similar vacation package to Jim’s friends who shares similar characteristics. The ability to personalize these offers are endless. Weather plays a key role in marketing for vacation destinations but an Open Graph application offers similar advantages to a variety of advertisers.

The Weather Channel is the most trusted name in weather. Moreover, mobile TWC apps have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times on a variety of devices. Encouraging users to connect with Facebook should be a relatively easy proposition. This is not necessarily the case for other companies.

I am not a programmer or a mathematician capable of coding this application or it algorithms. I am, however, able and willing to create a blueprint for building such an application. I will spend a minimum of six hours a week for the next two months doing so.

To accomplish this goal, I will need speak with an individual at The Weather Channel who can make decisions about digital marketing over the phone. Over the coming weeks I need to correspond with that individual through email no more that 5 times. I will present my finished blueprint at our NMI Spring Show-Off on 5/5/12.

I look forward to this opportunity and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you. Have a great day.

Permission to Share, Please

As an individual without a background in programming, here is my [admittedly feeble] attempt to dig into how Open Graph accesses information.

I spoke with Dr. Aldridge today about how information is retrieved. He told me that information can be pulled in 3 different ways: FQL (Facebook query language), Java Script and php. Most apps will use a combination of these programming languages based on their needs.

The data must then be pulled, processed, then conceptualized. Actions logged by 3rd party apps are not necessarily logged by Facebook. The potential is there to monitor what kind of data a given app is pulling, but Facebook does not have the explicit ability to observe or track what third parties then do with the information they pull.

In terms of visualizing Facebook’s Open Graph, I found Facebook’s Graph API page, the most helpful resource out there.

Public information for any user can be found at https://graph.facebook.com/ID.

Here’s what my public information looks like:

   "id": "4928378",
   "name": "William Wickey",
   "first_name": "William",
   "last_name": "Wickey",
   "username": "williamwickey",
   "gender": "male",
   "locale": "en_US"

Pretty basic.

Any additional information about an individual must be retrieved through the use of an access token generated when a user accepts a permission request. Depending on the permissions of the app, that token may also allow that app to perform action on behalf of the user such a post things.

To access additional information, an app must ask for specific permissions from the user. Permissions are then divided into “Auth Dialog” and “Enhanced Auth Dialog” on two different screens. The first permission screen grants access to basic info such as user id, name, profile picture, gender, age range, locale, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information they have made public. The second screen (Enhanced Auth Dialog) must be used to access additional information about the user or their friends. One interesting aspect of Enhanced Auth Dialog is that these permissions are non-revocable; i.e. once users have allowed your application from the Auth Dialog, they cannot be revoked [by a user].

Permission Screen 1:

Permission Screen 2:

Here is a more extensive list of the information that an app can potentially access and the permissions required. This also includes actions that can be performed on the behalf of a user by an app possessing the necessary permissions such as create and modify events, create and edit the user’s friend lists, perform checkins on behalf of the user, etc. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/api/permissions/

If you’re curious, you can check out the apps you have already granted permission to here: http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=applications

Some websites that Facebook has specifically partnered with, like the ones listed below, access public information automatically in order to personalize experiences the moment you arrive.

While this list is small for the time being, Instant Personalization will doubtlessly grow rapidly. Essentially, the services listed above are trusted partners who have already been grated the initial stage of permissions to access user’s information. This is all part of Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” plan that aims to phase out the Like button in favor of automating the sharing experience. As more organizations partner with Facebook we may see the permission screen slowly phased out under the assumption that you want to share everything you do, unless you explicitly specify otherwise.

Netflix, I Have a Confession to Make…

Dear Netflix,

I have a confession to make.

I have a subscription to your streaming content. I watch History Channel documentaries on my laptop before I go to bed. Occasionally, I watch episodes of The Office on my Kindle Fire in between classes. Once in a while I will check out a “Critically-acclaimed  Comedy” or a “Mind-bending Suspenseful Action & Adventure” on my roommate’s Blu-Ray player that is linked to my account.

Here’s the thing.

Browsing Netflix’s selection delivers a good user experience. The large scrolling cover display looks great and is reasonably easy to navigate. Moreover, I have rated 192 items and the “Suggestions for Me” category will consistently  turn up interesting selections. Your algorithm pairing taste preferences with genres is definitely doing something right.

However, your streaming selection is limited. You know it and I know it. And while the selection is getting better all the time, I have to go into Netflix to discover things I am satisfied with watching, rather than find something I already want to watch.

For example, the other day I wanted to watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Upon searching, I learned that movie is DVD-only, so I had to settle for Dirty Harry. This happens all the time. I feel like a get my money’s worth in content, but more often than not, I end up scrolling through movies for 30 minutes before I find something that I am willing to settle on that is in Netflix’s limited streaming catalog.

Recently, I discovered a place on Netflix to find selections that almost always turn up Watch Instantly movies and TV shows that I am interested in watching: my Recently Watched list.

So here is my confession: I’m not the only one watching.

Before you get mad, it’s not like I have just been handing out my password. Every once in a while, I will log-in from a different location: my old roommate’s XBox 360, my buddy’s iPad, my girlfriend’s laptop, etc. These aren’t public devices so I am never making a point to clear the browser cache. My password ends up getting saved and they take the liberty of watching a movie here and there after I am long gone. There are about 8 people who regularly log into my account – many times simultaneously – and there has never been any kind of multiple log in error preventing this. Believe me, if I was unable to log in because someone else was already using my account, my password would get changed real quick.

But, since there has never been a problem with service, I am content to let these people keep using my account. Why? A: because they are my friends. If it’s not negatively affecting me, I don’t have an immediate reason to change my password once I find out they are logging in. And, B: I am interested in what they are watching.

They do the browsing for me, and I see what they ended up picking. None of these people rate movies, but I can see how much they watched. If they watch 4 minutes of The Listening Project, I assume that it’s not worth my time. If they watched all 164 minutes of Breaking the Maya Code, I want in. Every week there are new items in my queue, and while I do not have an interest in everything that is in there, a much higher percentage is relevent to me. Additionally, since all the picks are logged in as me, I have to play a fun little game guessing whether it was Caroline or Steven who watched Mrs. Doubtfire last night. All the guilty pleasures are recorded along with the all-time favorites. No actual vs. ideal self discrepancy here. Richard may say on Facebook that Patton is his favorite movie of all time, but I also know that he’s the one who knocked out the entire Wonder Years series in less than a week.

Being the new-media-savvy grad student that I am, I was just thinking about how Netflix needs to start leveraging Facebook’s new Open Graph technology to make watching a social activity, when this little guy popped up in my feed.

This looks like it was simply shared by Brad, but I hope that the rest of his activity is being used to make my picks better. Like I said, the algorithms you are using are good, but this is an opportunity to really dive deep. I’m not saying everyone’s activity should be public, or even available to all his or her Facebook friends, but I would like to see Netflix do what Spotify is doing with playlists. I can do without Spotify popping up in my news feed every 3 seconds, but I do like to go in and see published playlists. There are certain people whose opinion (and behavior) I put a premium on. Netflix should allow users to opt-in or out of sharing their 10 most recently watched items. That is information I [we] want.

(In light of this full confession and my invaluable insights and suggestions, please don’t cancel my account. I just started watching Parks and Recreation.)

Open Graph: The latest and the greatest

This week for our Big Data class, I was asked to write about Open Graph. What is it? How will it be useful? What are the drawbacks? And what’s the latest and the greatest in Open Graph news?

A simple Google search for open graph brings up myriad posts related to application development for Facebook and, most importantly, a breaking news story about new open graph applications allegedly being implemented this week.  So what is open graph? And why should be we care that new applications for Facebook will be using it?

To answer this question, I found this video to be quite helpful in explaining what open graph is and what it means for companies and marketing.  It’s a 20-minute video, but provides knowledgeable insight into the future of marketing for companies on facebook.

To boil it all down to a single point, open graph on Facebook is a means by which to keep up with everything you click “like” on–whether you’re viewing it through facebook or viewing it on another website.  It integrates all the things you like, lets you know which of your friends like it and serves as means not only for Facebook, but for companies to make money in a new kind of marketing. Just as celebrity endorsements have been used for years to recommend products, Facebook’s open graph now give you the opportunity to get recommendations not from celebrities, but from the very people you know.

Previously, the open graph allowed users to like links to articles and content.  Here’s a quick video about Open Graph that was made when the idea was first introduced in April 2010.  Beginning tomorrow, users will be able to share their actions and activities.

According to this business insider article:

Until now, we’ve only had our hands on a few Open Graph apps like Washington Post Social Reader and Spotify. These apps let friends know when you’re listening to or reading.

Here’s how it’s going to look:

facebook open graph timeline

Each Open Graph app gets its own “verb” like ran, listened, cooked, watched or read. These verbs show friends how you’re interacting with something in your digital life.

If you spy a friend listening to a song, you can even hop in and start listening with your friend, at the same point in the song as he or she is.

Want to know more?  Here’s a few more links for your perusal:

Here’s Zuckerberg’s reveal in September 2011 of changes coming to Facebook.

Here’s Facebook’s page on Open Graph.

What tomorrow’s changes are.

Did I explain that well enough?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts and questions.