Alex Barnett blog


November 2007 - Posts

Thank you Facebook

To everyone at Facebook - thank you. Thank you for creating a space where I've been able to re-connect with friends I've lost touch with. That's a big deal for me.

Since moving from the UK to the States a few years ago, I have found email, my blog and occasional IM a useful way of keeping connected to a small subset of friends I've made over the years. However, these technologies and services haven't compared to the amazing power Facebook has to leverage network effects. I love how naturally one long-lost friend has connected me to another, and find it fascinating to observe how certain clusters of friends who have seemed invisible in the Facebook service become suddenly discoverable via a single connection, cascading one after another in a domino effect.

Thinking about it, I've rarely used a service that has brought me so much emotional satisfaction...connecting with good friends is a feel-good thing and it is this emotional value that makes Facebook hard to beat in terms of the gratification other services can provide. So much so, here I am even writing a thank you note to the service (I can't remember doing that for any service...I've written about how "cool" stuff is, or how useful some service might be...but "thank you"? Never).

I created my Facebook account something like 2 years ago (at least it feels like that...) - more out of curiosity than anything else, yet the value I'm getting out of Facebook today seems to be on the up on a daily basis. I was a rare user for most my early Facebook membership and then my sister encouraged me to log back in this thanks to her too :-)

So...I just wanted to say it again - thank you Facebook.

Outing dirty laundry

It's Jay Bazuzi's last day at Microsoft to become a stay-at-home dad. At one point Jay was development lead for the C# editor in VS.

We've not met, and I'm sure he's a lovely chap and all that, but I did catch his parting wave on his MSDN blog, where he's provided some "tips" on software development for his ex-dev-collegues...not too pretty.

I'm not sure what value there is in hanging out your team's dirty laundry "in public", rather than including this kind of info in his internal leaving mail. Each to their own I suppose.

Synctoy 2.0 beta

Well, thanks goodness for that.

Synctoy 2.0 beta has been released, so I can at last start re-using this very useful utility with a 64bit Vista laptop. Have played around with it today and its working just great for me.

Still no interface within Synctoy for automated scheduling in this release, but it's fairly straightforward to do this as a Scheduled Task in Windows.

A bunch of other new features include:

  • Dynamic Drive Letter Assignment: Drive letter reassignment will now be detected and updated in the folder pair definition.
  • True Folder Sync: Folder creates, renames and deletes are now synchronized for all SyncToy actions.
  • Exclusion Filtering Based on Name: File exclusion based on name with exact or fuzzy matching.
  • Filtering Based on File Attributes: The ability to exclude files based on one or more file attributes (Read-Only, System, Hidden).
  • Unattended Folder Pair Execution: Addressed issues related to running scheduled folder pairs while logged off.
  • Folder Pairs With Shared Endpoints: Ability for folder pairs associated with the same or different instances of SyncToy to share end-points.
  • Command line enhancements: Added the ability to manage folder pairs via the command line interface.
  • The SyncToy engine has been rearchitected to provide scalability and the ability to add significant enhancements in future releases.
  • Sync engine is also more robust insomuch that many single, file level errors are skipped without affecting the entire sync operation.
  • Sync Encrypted Files: Sync of Encrypted files works when local folder and files are encrypted, which addresses the common scenario involving sync between local, encrypted laptop PC folder and remote, unencrypted desktop PC folder.
  • 64-Bit compatibility
  • Folder pair rename
  • Sub-folder Exclusion Enhancements: Descendents creates under excluded sub-folders are automatically excluded.
  • Folder Pair Metadata Moved: Folder pair metadata removed from MyDocuments to resolve any issues with server-based folder pair re-direction setup.
  • Removed combine and subscribe actions.

Remember, Synctoy 2.0 is a beta, however...based on my experience so far on two different laptops (both Vista, one 32bit and the other 64bit), I'd say it's good enough to use today - just don't blame me if it breaks on your machine :-)

OAuth Podcast

Chris Messina (aka FactoryJoe), Larry Halff (of Ma.gnolia) and Eran Hammer-Lahav accepted our invitation to join Ted and me and discuss OAuth in our latest Bungee Line podcast.

What is OAuth? From OAuth Getting Started - Part 1, here's the jist of it:

"OAuth allows you to share your private resources (photos, videos, contact list, bank accounts) stored on one site with another site without having to hand out your username and password.

...Users don’t care about protocols and standards – they care about better experience with enhanced privacy and security. This is exactly what OAuth sets to achieve. With web services on the rise, people expect their services to work together in order to accomplish something new. Instead of using a single site for all their online needs, users use one site for their photos, another for videos, another for email, and so on. No one site can do everything better. In order to enable this kind of integration, sites need to access the user resources from other sites, and those are many times protected (private family photos, work documents, bank records)."

Adam Kalsey, summarizes it well:

"OAuth aims to standardize the way in which different consumer systems share data. The goal is to allow a person to give an application access to do some things on your accounts at other sites, but not everything. It’s role-based authorization for APIs."

OAuth is a big idea, but is it a "solution looking for a problem to solve"? I don't think so. The problem for end users today is real, i.e. authorizing one service to access your data by another service for use by the first service, securely and with control. For developers wanting to develop apps and services that create value through the use of customer data stored on other services, there is no standardized means set of protocols to lean on. Instead, developers need to waste time learning a new way for their app to be authorized to do so for each service provider, having to jump through the various specific means and idiosyncrasies of each service.

The current way is broken - too many means to the same end, for end-users, for developers leveraging service APIs and for the service providers themselves wanting to extend their services through web APIs.

OAuth is getting the attention from a number of people and services such as Six Apart and others ("Digg, Jaiku, Flickr, Ma.gnolia, Plaxo, Pownce, Twitter, and hopefully Google, Yahoo, and others soon to follow") have committed to run with it. This is good news, but we need to get the word out there and help make developers' lives easier. So, go listen to first OAuth podcast and evangelize OAuth!

Topics covered:

  • Background on Chris, Larry, and Eran
  • What problem is OAuth trying to solve?
  • What is the current identity landscape - what are the alternatives, and why is OAuth a better way for all?
  • How does OAuth work, who should use it?
  • What's the development experience like?
  • What's the end-user experience like?
  • What's the relationship between OAuth and OpenID?
  • Where is OAuth today?
  • What will it take for OAuth to succeed?
  • Who's backing OAuth - adopters?
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