Monthly Archives: April 2009

Mining your Facebook social network

imageMany months ago, well before the latest Facebook redesign, I wrote an application to explore my Facebook social network in what I think is a fun and interesting way. Leveraging MIT’s Simile Exhibit project I developed SocialMine, an application that surfaces many attributes of your network’s profile information allowing you to filter and otherwise “mine” the data. As this is the hallmark of any Exhibit application, within the genre, I’d consider it to be quite plain were it not for the personal relevance of the data. Still, you can extensively filter the information in a live view including a Google Map.

Since the application relies on user provided profile data there may be cases where it simply doesn’t/won’t “work”. For example, I discovered a little over half of my friends haven’t specified a current location so they don’t appear on the map. On the other hand, I now know who those people are and can bug them to update their profile. 🙂 At any rate, I’ve had fun “mining” my network and thought you might too.

Lastly, having been developed for fun in my extremely limited free time largely after 12AM, SocialMine is by no means complete nor thoroughly tested. There I said it and should it fail utterly under load wouldn’t come as a huge surprise. FYI, if you have a lot of friends rendering the page could take significant time so consider yourself warned. For those interested, it’s written in C# using ASP.NET and based on my FDT Starter Kit. And now for those who find this a necessity a disclaimer…

Disclaimer: I make no warrantees expressed or implied, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk. For entertainment purposes only, accuracy of the rendered data is entirely control by your friends so consult them! Insert here any other relevant disclaimer related verbiage encompassing whatever problem(s) or situation(s) you may encounter while using SocialMine. Should you dislike SocialMine kindly remove it and simply move along. Consider yourself warned!

Now that that’s over, enjoy!

Kindness of a stranger

Weather at OHare April 19, 2009   On Sunday, I flew from SFO to O’Hare (radar on right) on my way to Wilkes-Barre, PA and when I arrived I found my next flight canceled. I headed to the United Customer Service desk which was completely unattended (I so wish I’d had a camera, chairs scattered everywhere) and used a self help monitor and got on the standby list for a 9pm flight then picked up a support phone and talked to a rep who, after telling me I was well down the standby list and that the next available seat was two days later, directed me to talk to a United person at the airport. I asked about alternatives and was informed every other United flight out of O’Hare to PA sold out.

I returned to the gate I’d arrived at having seen the neighboring gate was a flight to Philadelphia, roughly 100 miles from my destination thinking if I could make it I’d drive the remainder. No luck, that flight was booked with a long standby list. I got redirected to another terminal and another United Customer Service desk which had what must have been over 100+ people in line. After waiting for over an hour I spoke to a rep who had no better news and offered only a 6pm flight the next day to Philadelphia. Feeling rather dejected decided to grab some dinner. I got seated at a Chili’s and few minutes later a gentleman was seated next to me and we started chatting and exchanging stories. He’d come from SFO too and his next flight had been canceled and that he was on standby as well. When I explained my situation he said “You can’t stick with that plan, it’s a loser so consider yourself adopted.”

He went on, explaining he was a 300K mile traveler and would help to try and get me a confirmed seat or alternative flight plans. We finished dinner and headed to the United Red Carpet Club, got on the web and started looking for alternatives. He walked me through the process telling me that it was possible to get United to pay for an alternate route. While I was looking for alternatives he called is “special” United travelers number and worked that angle but they couldn’t improve my situation. I managed to get a seat confirmed on a Delta flight to Philly so he called United back and got them to agree to buy the alternative route but at the last minute their flight got delayed sinking the deal. We’d spent over an hour on the phone working on alternatives to no avail. Finally, he said “Let’s go try the desk here in the club.” Given he’d already talked to United on the phone he wasn’t optimistic. We walked up to the counter with my canceled ticket in hand where he explained my situation and the rep took my ticket and offered to review my ticket. Not more than a minute or two later she was printing me a boarding pass for a confirmed seat! She then offered to check his flight and got him confirmed as well! At that point, we returned to the lounge, smiling and laughing over our combined good fortune. By then his next flight time was approaching so we exchanged business cards, I thanked him and he left.

A couple hours later I boarded my flight and made it to PA about 7 hours after my original arrive time. The next morning I had an email asking if I’d made it to PA.  🙂

So, here’s to the generosity of a complete stranger who not only helped me catch a flight but taught me a few travel tips along the way.

Thanks Don!

Facebook’s Disappearing Platform redux

image About a month ago I wrote a post with some thoughts on what I felt the impact was on the platform as a result of the UI redesign. Today, I ran across this post on AllFacebook.com titled Top Facebook Applications See 25 Percent Drop In Traffic Since Redesign. Where Nick O’Neil states:

If you thought the last redesign spelled the death of the Facebook platform, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Last July Facebook released their new design and within a matter of months, widget applications had become a thing of the past. A few of those applications were able to withstand the changes but there’s a grim picture being painted weeks after Facebook’s latest redesign.

He goes on to provide some additional statistics and spells out the fact that it’s not all “gloom and doom”. At present, I’m quite skeptical about the Facebook Platform being worthy of the development time and effort in light of the near constantly shifting playing field.

The graphic I included displays the stats for my Facebook Starter Kit application with March 20th (mentioned in the article) highlighted, where it’s clearly visible even this simple application exhibits a similar drop off though I can’t say for sure this wouldn’t have happened naturally as it is a “Seinfeld” of applications.

Best Buy not quite up to it’s name

Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Cable Modem

Recently, my Internet connection here at the house started dropping roughly every 90 seconds or so, quite annoying as you can imagine. I started trying to debug the problem doing the typical unplug & cabling song and dance but that didn’t work. I have a Motorola SurfBoard 5201 cable modem and the send/receive lights on it were constantly pulsing no, not good. I headed to Best Buy, plopped down $86, picked up a new Motorola SB5101, brought it home, called Comcast and added it to my account and after testing it several but no dice so the rep scheduled a visit the next day. The following day the tech calls to let me know he’s on the way so I hop in the car, head back to the house and call my wife to let her know. She then informs me she’s been surfing the web and “everything’s fixed”. I pull up to the house and the tech hasn’t found anything wrong with our connection and as my wife indicated everything is fine. Thanks Murphy.

Anyway, back to my point, since Best Buy was convenient I bought a modem there thinking I’d return it if that wasn’t the problem. At this point, it appears that the modem was the problem so I get online and start looking for a better deal. Kind of funny, the Best Buy modem helps me replace itself. 🙂 I was a bit surprised to that Amazon had the same modem for nearly half the price ($45.93) with free shipping, it arrives in a few days at which point I’ll return the one from “Best Buy”.

[Update: April 6, 2009] Amazon price has dropped another $2.20. I don’t see any way Best Buy can compete with that.