Archive for the ‘Boring Stuff’ Category

Facebook Pro – Facebook’s Revenue Stream

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, social media and new websites that had a technological edge. I read quite a few of the tech news websites and love to get in on early beta and beta offerings from companies. One of my recent favorite betas that I was invited to was On the surface, it seemed to lack a certain finesse, but, the biggest feature it had was that it was extremely quick, lacked the application spam and let me see 99% of what I was interested in.

I’ve loved Google Voice and was a fairly early adopter. I had tried Grand Central, but, it didn’t replace enough functionality with what I had currently set up with the local phone company. Google Wave and their Sandbox is another product that I find very intriguing. I have worked with Wave Federations and I think once someone develops a killer app for Wave, it’ll gain wide acceptance.

But, this isn’t about Google, this is about Facebook.

I was an early adopter of FB Connect. I’ve written a number of applications that I’ve not released to experiment with their API and have been generally impressed by their openness. Some of the information an application is able to access is a privacy nightmare. People complain day in and day out about Google and Privacy – perhaps because Google has to collect all of its market intelligence based on your surfing habits, and then Facebook finds a way to have you spend hours customizing your profile – giving Facebook precisely the information that makes their advertising system 10x more intrusive than Google could ever be. Back to the point.

In August I received an email from Facebook asking if I would participate in another beta project. I was warned that this one would entail a purchase from their store, but, in exchange, I would receive credit towards advertising. It makes perfect sense to test the payment system ahead of time on a major release – something many new electronic stores fail to do. I clicked the link saying I would be a part of their beta and waited.

And waited.

Last night, a very cryptic email arrived with a link to follow to read about this exciting new product Facebook had to offer. As I read the page, I was already pulling out my wallet to get my credit card because the service seemed perfect for me. Having to maintain a LinkedIn profile and a Facebook Profile has always been an exercise in duplication. Facebook doesn’t ask enough questions to really be useful in business and I suspect if they put their heads together, they could develop a new angle.

It appears they listened.

The page was very basic, it talked about the benefits of a ‘Facebook Pro’ account, pricing hadn’t been established but they had set a test price of $29.95 for a 6 month recurring membership.

Some of the benefits listed included:

* Ability to store Work History
* Ability to write Recommendations on profiles
* Tighter control over Profile Security
* Additional Contact Method fields
* Certification badges
* Digital Business cards

facebook pro beta

Once you get in, there is a small NDA that prevents screenshots of the interface, but, it is obvious that there are hundreds of people in the beta. Even as I have set up some business interests, it is listing profiles in a ‘Business Network’ that are staggeringly accurate. A refreshing change from the People You May Know lottery.

So far, the new options are quite intriguing and if the quality of the business contacts I’ve made in the beta are indicative of the trend, I think Facebook has a real winner here.

I found it interesting that the beta was released which allows tighter control over privacy the day after they release new privacy options that the masses are hailing as anti-privacy. Perhaps this is why Facebook chose this week to release the beta.

Social Gaming Design Requirements

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Over the past few years, social gaming has become very popular. Many of the games don’t encompass the elements I believe should be present to make your game a larger success.

* Easy to learn. A game that takes minutes to learn the simple mechanics will attract clients. Design the game to have a moderate progression that can be sped up with the addition of virtual cash. Alternatively, the game can be a blitz version of a full-length game that can be purchased.

* Visibly show friend’s scores on the playscreen. Having a list of the top 10 Friends ordered to make it plainly visible where the player is compared to friends is a must.

* Long Tail Game. A game that is very engaging at the start, but, requires less time to maintain as time goes on. This can be done through game or item upgrades that take longer to obtain as the level increases. A penalty for abandoning their empire — even something as fatal as making the player start over after seven days of inactivity is enough to keep a somewhat casual user engaged. Don’t overdo it as someone that loses everything is unlikely to return. 90% of your revenue is earned within the first week of the player joining the game. However, in the event your game has multiple rounds, a player might play for free, learn some of the strategy and then make a purchase for the second round. A player that doesn’t understand the rules early on and makes mistakes also has a much higher chance of purchasing in-game currency now that they’ve figured out the game.

* Friend linking. Prevent progression without spending virtual cash or recruiting more friends. Limiting gameplay to a subset of the entire game or giving bonuses based on the number of friends recruited allows new players to be brought in which bring more potential income. Those new players have the same limits and must grow their pyramid in order to advance. Encouraging social play grows the game much more quickly. If you allow a solo player the ability to advance at an increased cost, you might entice them enough to invite friends.

* Make it easy to invite friends. Some games require you to link your real account with ‘friends’ in order to grow your social circle. While this appears to be beneficial, your real goal is to bring in the total number of users. Some people aren’t comfortable adding friends just to grow their social circle and will remove them. If you have a number of games, it might be advantageous to require the friend connection so that you can see other games that your ‘friends’ are playing. The downside to this is when a player cleans up their friend list and removes the friends they added specifically for the game.

* Notifications. Letting a user’s friends know that they have gained a level or gained some special item or promotion instills a sense of competitiveness when someone obtains a rare loot item or achievement while the friend hasn’t been playing.

While there are other aspects to Social Gaming, designing your game with these six points in mind will enable you to monetize your application more easily. Unless you’re building the game purely as a hobby, your goal is to make money by engaging users to purchase the in-game virtual currency. It’s a numbers game. A small percentage of your users will actually pay to play and you need to cater your game to increase that percentage as much as possible.

When you first deploy your game, you will need to know many things about your visitors. You want to know how many people hit the front page, how many hit the join page and where they came from. You want to track the number of people that actually sign up, how much activity each one has, and which people convert to a paid subscription. Track your adbuys, track views/impressions, clicks, and click to signup/click to paid subscription. Understand those numbers and learn how to manipulate them by changing your signup process, modifying the game or adjusting how your in-game currency is used.

Writing the game is a minor piece of the battle. Building marketshare without thinking about revenue is a fairly fast way to go into debt and leave yourself in a situation where you quickly grab any VC/Angel money and give up too much of the company. Think about how you will monetize it and start charging early on. If your clients are used to a ‘free to play’ environment and you suddenly switch, many of your clients will abandon the game. proves I am not human

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

I must not be human as I failed a request.  I like using technology for good purposes and I understand how recaptcha works.  The folks at actually turned it into a service that provides a great deal for the public in that your recaptcha response is used to correct the Optical Character Recognition problems that they had while scanning books to put them online.

So, any human readers out there that can solve this one?


nerlu emitted?

nehig emitted?

nerlD emitted?

Admit it, you’re not human either and Carnegie Melon has stolen the last bit of humanity you thought you had.

Hiding Data in Plain Sight

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I had a breakfast meeting today with a company involved in forensic reconstruction of data after a possible crime had been committed.  Somehow the conversation shifted slightly and we talked about the process and one of the people said, “You know, it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to wade through all that spam and not find anything worthwhile in the email messages that showed how the person communicated.”

At this point I said, have you ever thought that they could be using Spam Steganography?  Eyebrows were raised, the conversation paused and I was met with a blank stare for about 30 seconds.

The assumption is that encrypted data needs to look like encrypted data or a string of numbers and letters that are unintelligable.  While this system doesn’t really produce well hidden data, the premise is valid.

Dear Friend ; Thank-you for your interest in our publication
. If you no longer wish to receive our publications
simply reply with a Subject: of “REMOVE” and you will
immediately be removed from our club ! This mail is
being sent in compliance with Senate bill 1816 ; Title
3 ; Section 304 . This is not multi-level marketing
. Why work for somebody else when you can become rich
within 45 days . Have you ever noticed more people
than ever are surfing the web & people love convenience
! Well, now is your chance to capitalize on this .
We will help you SELL MORE and use credit cards on
your website . You are guaranteed to succeed because
we take all the risk ! But don’t believe us ! Ms Ames
of Montana tried us and says “I was skeptical but it
worked for me” ! We are licensed to operate in all
states . We implore you – act now . Sign up a friend
and you’ll get a discount of 80% ! Best regards . Dear
E-Commerce professional , Especially for you – this
breath-taking news . We will comply with all removal
requests . This mail is being sent in compliance with
Senate bill 1626 ; Title 1 ; Section 301 . This is
different than anything else you’ve seen ! Why work
for somebody else when you can become rich in 38 weeks
. Have you ever noticed most everyone has a cellphone
plus people love convenience ! Well, now is your chance
to capitalize on this . We will help you decrease perceived
waiting time by 200% plus use credit cards on your
website ! You are guaranteed to succeed because we
take all the risk . But don’t believe us . Mr Jones
of Georgia tried us and says “Now I’m rich many more
things are possible” ! This offer is 100% legal ! So
make yourself rich now by ordering immediately ! Sign
up a friend and you’ll get a discount of 60% . Best
regards !

The above message decodes to: This is a test message

I now wonder if they will be redoing that investigation looking for stegonagraphically encoded spam.

print “Hello World!”;

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Hello World!

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