Tech stuff I’ve been learning about lately

I haven’t done one of these lists in quite a while, so I figured it was time for an update. Here are some of the geeky tech things I’m currently playing with/learning more about:

Facebook Connect
I’ve added support for Facebook Connect to ShareEdmonton, and was surprised at how straightforward it was. Little bit of a learning curve initially, but nothing major. I’m impressed with the way it works.

OAuth
Looking into this one for use with Twitter and Brightkite. I’m not very far along yet, but it also seems fairly straightforward. Check out this ReadWriteWeb article on how a recent OAuth security flaw was addressed by the community.

MSMQ
I’ve been using this since January, actually. It works great, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again. I want to explore some of the more advanced uses now.

OpenCalais
You might consider it a semantic web service, because Calais is all about giving meaning to data. I came across it via bit.ly, which uses Calais to automatically extract names, places, and other metadata from the links you shorten.

Google Maps API
Again, this one is fairly straightforward. Lately I’ve been looking into the non-visual services it provides. For example, geocoding and reverse-geocoding in the background, without necessarily having a map on the page.

Public Data Sets on AWS
This one I’ve looked into the least so far, but I’m keen to check it out. In particular, I’d like to explore working with the Freebase data dump. It’s still amazing to me that you can tap into such a vast amount of data with relative ease.

As you can probably guess, almost all of these are related to work I’m doing with ShareEdmonton. I should have an update on that soon.

Facebook Connect gaining momentum

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m a big fan of Facebook Connect. It’s easy for end users to understand and use, and relatively straightforward for developers to implement also. I’ve been working on adding Connect support to ShareEdmonton, and haven’t run into any major roadblocks yet.

Recently, I started looking for information about other sites that have integrated Facebook Connect. Here are some highlights:

And most recently, I found this very interesting post about Citysearch, one of the first websites to integrate with Facebook Connect:

In the four months the site has been testing Facebook Connect, 94 percent of reviewers have published their reviews to Facebook, where an average of 40 people see them and 70 percent click back to Citysearch. That has translated into new members: daily registrations on Citysearch have tripled.

That’s fairly impressive – every item shared through Facebook generates 28 unique visitors! Though I’m not quite sure how they got those numbers, so take them with a grain of salt.

I fully expect Facebook Connect to keep gaining momentum!

Happy 5th Birthday Facebook!

Today is Facebook’s 5th birthday. Hard to believe it has been around that long, actually. Over 150 million people have joined since launch, and Facebook is now a household name. I remain a regular user of the site, though I’m not nearly as active there as I once was. I guess you could say the buzz eventually subsided for me.

I am continually amazed at how many people have Facebook accounts. Almost my entire family does – even my Grandma, who just joined last week! And it’s more than just having an account. My parents are very active on the site, far more active than I am. This is important.

Why? Because of Facebook Connect. I’ve been playing with it recently, and I’m impressed with how easy it is to integrate into a website. Essentially Facebook Connect is a single-sign-on service. Instead of creating a new account at a website, you can just login with your Facebook credentials. Additionally, the site can publish stories to your feed if you allow it. It’s pretty slick.

Facebook Connect needs lots of active users to be successful. It also needs participating websites. Though there aren’t very many yet, I expect adoption to pick up. It’s easier to decide on Facebook Connect than on something like OpenID because you don’t have to explain what it is, and chances are your users already have a Facebook account anyway.

It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook changes over the next five years. I’d bet that Facebook Connect will play a big part in any changes.

For more on Facebook’s 5th birthday and some up-to-date statistics, check out Hitwise and VentureBeat.