Alex Barnett blog


October 2007 - Posts

Facebook export - WTF????

On hearing the news over at TechCrunch that I'm able to export my social network data out of Facebook as a .CSV file using the FriendCSV app, I did exactly that.

I have 74 contacts on Facebook but I managed to export 144 records. That's 70-odd people's "social data" including education, work experience, current location, hometown, affiliations, date of birth of people I don't know. Like Justin over here, I seem to have more "friends" than I bargained for. And I've now got their data.

This is not good. Facebook - wtf is going on????

Update: Dan Birdwhistell, developer of the FriendsCSV app, commented below soon after I posted to explain the issue I described above was NOT the fault of Facebook but an issue with the FriendsCSV data processing side of things:

"Hey Alex.  I just posted this on Techcrunch as well.  WTF is right, but this very unfortunate glitch has been fixed.  Here's what happened:  After valleywag, techmeme, digg, etc. all picked it up, the server got overwhelmed and we had around 25 dumps that were in queue.  FB times out after a few minutes, so to speed up with the dump, we added some threading to the libraries, which pushed the exports through in an instant, but also misplaced some of the data in what we now know to be at least four separate csv dumps.  When we were alerted to this, we removed the threading and all was right again; however, the error did occur and it was our fault.  We'll continue to test the app during the night just to make sure this doesn't happen again. " 

Deepest apologies that this happened."

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly Dan. Here's the thing though - you have shown how easily all this data can be extracted - that's a good thing, and well done for bringing our attention to that, but you have also shown how wrong it can go - that's the bad thing. It's small scale in this case but you've highlighted how this can go bad in a more general sense.

I've been very supportive of the "my data" efforts, however my support has been based on the presumption that I'm actually talking about "my data", not somebody elses. This real-world example has opened my eyes to the fact that opening up social networks / social graph will be a complex business and fraught with possible downsides.

At large scale, the ability to extract all my social graph data - as opposed to "my data" which I provide permission to an application - begs the following question: who's data is my social graph data? It is each individual's, or is it mine once Jo Smith has allowed me access to it?

Part 2 - Interview with Jeremy Zawodny

Part 2 of the interview podcast with Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! is now published. Lots of ground covered again. Actually, I think the the better half of the interview...a bit more free-floating:

Topics covered

  • How would we feel about your friends being able to edit your profile on a social network? Scary? Well, that's what Mash lets you do. (Mash is currently an invitation-only beta service...I could do with an invite...nudge, nudge)
  • When Jeremy wrote about Hadoop and Yahoo!'s formal involvement, it got plenty of attention from the open source community. According to Wikipedia, Hadoop is a "Free Java software framework that supports distributed applications running on large clusters of commodity computers that process huge amounts of data." When the news broke, Tim O'Reilly considered Hadoop to be an important open source project since:

"Web 2.0 software-as-a-service applications built on top of the LAMP stack now generate several orders of magnitude more revenue than any companies seeking to directly monetize open source. And most of the software used by those Web 2.0 companies above the commodity platform layer is proprietary. Not only that, Web 2.0 is siphoning developers and buzz away from open source."

O'Reilly went on to write that Yahoo!'s support of the Hadoop effort indicates how open source is becoming an increasingly key component of Web 2.0 players' competitive strategy - build your own and spend gazillions, or support an open source project that does what you need and get dev-cred along thw way. Jeremy shared his views on the announcement.

  • Next, we went on the the topic of the WebOS meme, something Jeremy feels strongly about :-) That was fun. Watch out for the discussion on "Meta-API Providers"...
  • More APIs...From b2c APIs to b2b APIs
  • 'dem Pipes and democratizing the mashupshpere

Big thanks again Jeremy for his time.

SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP

Who woulda thunk it? The CTP for the SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP will be available October 11:

"The SQL Server Driver for PHP is designed to enable reliable, scalable integration with SQL Server for PHP applications deployed on the Windows platform. The Driver for PHP is a PHP 5 extension that allows the reading and writing of SQL Server data from within PHP scripts. It provides a procedural interface for accessing data in all Editions of SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000 (including Express Edition), and makes use of PHP features, including PHP streams to read and write large objects."

CNET reports...

 "Microsoft revealed some fruits of a partnership that that was announced a year ago with Zend, which develops and commercializes the open-source PHP scripting language for creating dynamic Web pages. Bill Staples, a Microsoft product unit manager, announced four moves at the ZendCon conference here:

• Microsoft is releasing a preview version of a software connector that lets PHP run atop the SQL Server 2005 database. "This is a Microsoft-developed and supported PHP driver for accessing SQL Server data from within a PHP application," Staples said."

Ah...stat time now...(my bold):

"About 70 percent of PHP developers use Windows, said Andi Gutmans, who along with Zeev Suraski are Zend's co-founders and co-CTOs. But when it comes to deploying the applications for use, customers use Linux in about 80 percent to 90 percent of cases, Suraski said."

I don't know why, but this cracked me up.

I don't know why, but this cracked me up.

Posted: Oct 07 2007, 10:25 AM by alexbarnett | with 1 comment(s)
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The ROI Analysis: Starbucks vs. Espresso Machine at Home

I like Starbucks coffee. A lot. But after doing some math (encouraged to do so by Kate), we realized I was spending a ridiculous amount of money on Starbucks coffee.

After some deliberation, research and ROI analysis, we took the plunge and bought our first espresso machine this week. We're now saving big and drinking much better coffee. 

The ROI Analysis: Starbucks vs. Espresso Machine at Home

Pros of Starbucks: Someone else makes it.

Cons of Starbucks: It costs a lot considering what's in it. Miss out on the Starbucks "Experience": including queues (three of them: one to order, one to pick up the drink, one for "condiments"; Attempts at upselling and crosselling ("would you care for a Cinnamon-whatever-cake with that?"); Tip expected. Irritated spouse.

Pros of Espresso Machine at home: Big savings (see below). No travel required. Tastes a lot better than Starbucks. Happier spouse.

Cons Espresso Machine at home: Having to make own coffee and cleaning up after.

Starbucks - Money Down the Drain

  • cost per grande latte: $3.20
  • lattes p/day: 2
  • $ per month at Starbucks: $194.7
  • $ per year at Starbucks: $2336
  • OMG factor: very high indeed.

Great Tasting Home-Made Lattes with Espresso Machine

  • cost per home-made latte (double shot): 60 cents
  • home-made lattes per day: 2
  • $ per month on ground coffee: $37.5*
  • $ per year on ground coffee: $450

The Bottom Line

Savings per year: $1,886**

Bottom Line ROI = 17 weeks, inc. cost of espresso machine*** and ground coffee beans.



* 25 double shots per 1 lbs coffee, at $15 per pound of coffee. 2.5 pounds per month @ $15 per lb (high-end est).

** Does not account for initial outlay on espresso machine, milk, saved gas, nor days away from home travelling on business.

*** Cost of espresso machine + misc. equipment + tax = $500

Playing with Zoho DB

Via Read/WriteWeb, I heard of Zoho DB this morning. Am playing around and I like it.

I've uploaded my LibraryThing book catalog into a new Zoho DB and can publish one of the views I've defined as an embedded view into this blog post, providing some basic interaction - see below.

Within Zoho, I can create views based on SQL Queries over the data - there is support for Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, Sybase, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Informix and ANSI SQL dialects. Very nice. However, what I'm trying to figure out is the web API story for Zoho DB....I can't seem to find the documentation for it, but will keep looking.

Update: Raju Vegesna, evangelist at Zoho, got in touch to let me know there are no APIs today, but the team is planning to provide these.

Podcast with Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! - Part 1

The latest Bungee Line podcast is up - this time an interview with Jeremy Zawodny, an 8-year-veteran of Yahoo! and currently a member of the Yahoo Developer Network team.

Lots covered, so much so that we had to break up the interview into two parts, Part 1 and er, Part two.

In Part 1 we discussed:

Part 2, we talk about about some of the recent topics Jeremy's been covering on his blog...will let you you know when it's up - in a week or so.

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