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Facebook Patents RSS-like Technology – Is That a Joke?

First thing first, Facebook did not patent RSS but their news feed on their site!!! I have to admit, this is a quite neat feature and what would be the point of  a social (networking) site if you did not know what your entourage were upto. So Facebook included a friends activity log (news stream) to make it easy for people to find out. Thats a good feature but it’s by no means an innovative technology. DZone, a developer social “networking” site provides a log about news that users have posted, commented on and rated. This is to show that there’s nothing innovative about that feature but a convenience.

I have been very busy lately and did not have time to check my Google Reader but I did today. And voila! I see the news flash from Mashable – Facebook Secures Patent for News Feed. My first reaction, based on the title before I even read the article, was WOW!!! Facebook managed to patent RSS or ATOM or anything else on that scale. Then came the joke when I started to read the article specially the abstract of the patent:

“A method for displaying a news feed in a social network environment is described. The method includes generating news items regarding activities associated with a user of a social network environment and attaching an informational link associated with at least one of the activities, to at least one of the news items, as well as limiting access to the news items to a predetermined set of viewers and assigning an order to the news items. The method further may further include displaying the news items in the assigned order to at least one viewing user of the predetermined set of viewers and dynamically limiting the number of news items displayed.”

I don’t know about you genius guys but I could not make much sense of the abstract but I did pickup a few keywords such as:

  • News Feed
  • Social Networking

That’s it! Everything else is just pure jibberish. I can summarized their abstract as follow:

We know about RSS/ ATOM which are real news feed. RSS provides real-time (depending on how often you poll) updates; can that be classified as a site master activity update. It also includes links and media about the site or users generating the feeds. That’s a cool feature and we copied the idea and implemented in our site, now we are the biggest community site in the western hemisphere so we are telling not to use any RSS or derivated technology when building a community site (social networking).

Let’s face it, I feel sorry for the smaller community sites but I do not think that patent will affect Twitter or Google but watch out MySpace. I did not even know you could patent someone else already patented technology. This is not a new way of doing something but more like patenting the environment where the technology is applied. To be very geeky about this, Facebook News Feed are just a bunch of SQL queries displaying latest records on a User Interface. I did not know you could even dare trying to patent that. To be frank, I am not sure that they could have patented that in Europe. I am looking forward to seeing how to will now exercise their new POWER. What would happen to Ning, BuddyPress and Elg, those are software and platform used to create social site but what about Youtube and UStream. Anyway site operating within the US and implementing the patent features of Facebook will have to pay them. But outside the US territoty, those company would be free to operate. How to you control access to the Internet without censoring like China and Iran?

Anyway, this is just my opinion but you are welcomed to share yours with the rest of us. For now, why not read about RSS here and see exatly what I am talking about.

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Happy New Year Techies!!!

I just wanted to say happy new year to the community, without you guys, we would still be living in the dark ages. Here are a few that I am looking forward to in the new year:

  1. Oracle Sun merger:- The untold future of NetBeans, MySQL, Swing and every open source that Sun has been working on in the past. What would happen to Sun Open Source (SOS!!!) Movement.
  2. Looking forward to JavaFX1.3 release, Authoring tool and improved Composer plugin.
  3. Android uprise against iPhone (not because I can easily write Android based application) and hopefully with Visual XML builder to build Android UI. JavaFX running on Android, anybody????
  4.  Looking forward to seeing real-world JavaFX application and possibly a showcase linked to the JavaFX.com site.
  5. Java EE 6 support in Google App Engine
  6. Google Wave open to the public and how well it does against Twitter and Facebook
  7. Java Store open to Europe (well this is where I am based and want to sell applications not just provide free).
  8. My new video blog ( well that’s me trying to be more Armel 2.0 – the sequel) to better engage with the community.
  9. looking forward to networking with fellow developers and techies.
  10. looking forward to the new buzzwords (old technology, new name)

Well, 2009 is was good year for Java and tech scene. I hope that you all enjoyed the year as much as I did. Why not share what wish list with me (comment box). Subscribe to follow my blog as I will try to bring more interesting articles in the new year.

Happy 2010 New Year, wish you all; success, properity, fame (yup) and fortune. Don’t forget, if you need a server-side, UI, Android or JavaFx developer, just mail me.

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Firefox IE8 Chrome Opera Safari – best browser for Java?

Initially, I was not going to write up about browsers until I had to download all the known web browsers to test a project front-end. I already had Firefox, IE8 and Chrome installed therefore all I had to do was to download and install Opera and Safari. There might be other browsers outthere but this what I am working with for the moment. So what’s the problem? You might ask. Well, I decided to see how simple it would be for a normal user without much computer experience to view a Java-enabled application embedded in a web app or simple HTML page.

Before I go on about what I think, first let me give you an idea of the PC I am currently using:

  • Dell PC with a dual 22″ screen (customised version of Inspiron 530)
  • 4Gb of RAM
  • Intel Pentium Dual 1.80GHz (looking to upgrade this after xmas)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate (how rubbish is that?)
  • Java RE version 1.6.0_17
  • and a few other hardware and software.

So as you can see, my personal PC is quite simple in settings. Ok, for some reasons, I decided to launch all the browsers at once and load the JavaFx homepage (http://www.javafx.com) and all I wanted to do was to compare which one loaded the fastest. Here are my findings, in brief:

Firefox
This is probably the best browser outthere but lately it has been crashing on me. And btw, it does not cope well with Google Wave. Anyway, here is what Firefox gave (see screenshot):

As you can see on the above screenshot, the JavaFx homepage loads in its entirety. To be quite honest, the page was loaded without any fuss but bear in mind, I already had Java installed. The “Demos & Samples” box in blue requires Java to be installed as it a JavaFx applet. As I already have the JRE installed, the browser did not ask me for any plug-ins ( I could be wrong feel free to share your experience).

Internet Explorer 8

I am not a great fan of IE in general, but for this simple test; IE8 loaded the page faster than Firefox. Also, it did not ask me to install a specific plugin in order to load the JavaFx portion of the page. IE handles Google Wave much better than Firefox, so this is the browser I use to interact on the Wave.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome, like Firefox and IE, did not cause any problem and it was the fastest at loading the JavaFx page including the Java applet. So far, it is the best performing browser but it is not my personal choice so I rarely use it. Also, I like the fact that Chrome scales the page to fit nicely in its window.

Opera

As you can see in the above screenshot, it seems as if the applet was not fully loaded. Indeed, Opera has loaded some portions of the JavaFx applet but I do not know what is happening here now. This page has been the same since I loaded the browser until now. Again, Opera did not ask me for any plugins to be installed nor did it ask for anything else. I suppose this is not an issue from Sun 😉 but something that the Opera team should look at. I know Opera can find the JRE on my system (see screenshot below) but it seems not to be a big fan of Java. In the screenshot below, you can see the JavaFx splash screen but this is all you will see and nothing else. Off-subject, I really like the user interface and I might start using it for a bit longer just to see if it can convert me.

Safari

Ha! what the hell happened here. I have my JRE installed, the previous four browsers did not ask me to install Java (again!!!). The demo applet did not even load, this is Safari running on Windows machine not Mac. So I did what it has asked me for the thousandth time. I clicked on the provided link, takes me to the Java RE download page and I did all the required and look!!!!

Java!!!!! This is the confirmation that I already have the software installed so what’s the big idea? The Apple team are not doing a good job to support Java but I can browse to Youtube and watch video without installing Flash player (it recognises that it’s already installed). Well I do not think I will be using this browser again anytime soon.

Final words
When it comes to browser to support, you have to test your application on multiple browser ( and OS platform too) to make sure it will not affect the expected user experience that we are so accustomed to.

I do not know why Opera and Safari have issues with the JavaFx site, it could be anything from the site designers to the respective browsers’ team. I believe that Java is probably the best Cloud computing platform currently outthere (when it comes to high performance applications) and that browser providers should make sure that at least they do support the platform.

I have a question:

Who should be to blame if Java or any other plugins such Flash is not supported in the browser? The plug-ins developer or the browser developer?

I believe the plug-ins developer should be to blame as they can be a million plug-ins on the net and you cannot possibly cater for all of them. But on the other hand, as in Java ‘s case, the plug-in is supported without any major issues by the top 3 which accounts for 93.9% percent of the market (based on November 2009), should you as the plugin developer care? I say yes at least for the Mac users’ sake. We can overlook opera for now but I am sure that all the Apple fans still use Safari as their prefered browser. Do not try to leave them out, they brought us the iPhone.

Anyway, based on my simple test, I think the best browser for Java applet is (in order of best performance):

  1. Google Chrome
  2. Internet Explorer (make sure you do support this browser as a priority)
  3. Mozilla Firefox (this should also be supported right after IE)

The other two browsers are not included as they did not even successfully launch the applet. I am not saying that you guys are going to have the exact same issue as me and therefore looking forward to your comments.

The Anatomy of Twitter Automated Mass Direct Message

So Twitter is the new web phenomenon and it is still shy of its third birthday. Since it has come to the scene, we had heard much about it in the media; about its popularity and security breach. So what is twitter? This is how I define it:

  1. It is a social (networking) site J where users can send short messages to each other in the same manner as SMS (short message service) and mainly targeted to the mobile market; but a lot of people still use the web to twit messages including myself.
  2. It is a “PUSH” application where when a user publishes a message all the registered interested parties will automatically receive a copy’ this is almost similar to RSS feeds. When using the Application Programming Interface to develop third-party client, it then becomes a “PULL” based broadcasting system.
  3. It is also a marketer best friend ( but I do not see how Twitter as a company can monetize on it), people on Twitter are more likely to click on a URL link, due to the fact that only 160 characters are allowed, either by curiosity or in hope to find out more about the subject of the twit.

The popularity of Twitter is a funny one. When the web first surfaced, technologists were discussing its lack of multimedia and its static type, then came Youtube and Facebook among others. Twitter on the other hand is based on text and that’s all! Takes much of its features from SMS but it does not even allow for smillies L
J but I am sure that they are probably working on that and hopefully it will not cause any problems to Twitter current internal commands.
Anyway getting back to the subject at hand (see blog title), let me explain how to implement automated direct messages on the Twitter platform.
Twitter has some cool functionalities but it has a lot of restrictions. First, there are two types of messages available on the platform:

  1. Public Messages – this type of messages can be viewed by anyone with an account on twitter.
  2. Direct Messages – these messages are private messages that you send to people and hidden from the public stream. They are a good of making sure that the recipients notices (not sure they will read it but that’s a start).

The platform allows you to monitor (tracking) words in the public stream which is very useful if you are running an automated Mass Direct Message campaign. So how does the mass message works?

  1. You can only send DM to people who are friends define by Twitter as:
    1. Friends are those who follow you and reciprocal meaning you need to be following them as well.
  2. Mentions and Replies messages are very useful for automated messages and will be of greater value if you do not have many friends.

To have an automated mass Direct Message, you need to do the following:

  1. Setup a (ro)bot which tracks certain words on twitter.
  2. Every time a track word is flagged, the bot should send a public reply to the originator.
    1. A public reply will make your message available in the public stream.
    2. A mention of the message originator will bring your message to his attention thus a very good marketing tool.
  3. Use a bot to send a DM messages to all your followers to make sure that they have a look at what you have to say.

Nothing is guarantee but when I run a test for a friend online shop, he was getting at least 100 visitors a day when he usually only gets about that a month or so. They are tools that can do the job but there is a chance of you getting banned by Twitter.
I have written a working prototype in JAVA, so it should be able to run on any platform, get in touch with me for a copy. It is free but I do not want to post it online in case it against the Twitter terms and conditions. You can also DM me on @armelnene.