Driscoll Web Development Blog

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Driscoll Web Development Launches iamguiltyof.com: the social confessional

On February 19, 2009, we launched iamguiltyof.com: the social confessional. As the name of the site might imply, the purpose of iamguiltyof.com is to allow people to make anonymous confessions of guilt and follow others' confessions in real-time.

We're very happy with how our first weekend went: iamguiltyof.com drew over 1,000 visits from over 700 unique visitors in just 4 days. In order to keep the momentum going we've added a Twitter bot into the mix so that users can tweet their confessions and see them posted on iamguiltyof.com AND get updates on their confessions and others' confessions via the bot's timeline (for more information on the iamguiltyof.com Twitter bot, read this).

Some of our users have drawn comparisons between iamguiltyof.com and similar sites, but most (if not all) have cited that iamguiltyof.com offers a distinct advantage with its real-time delivery of confessions to users. That, we believe, along with multiple points of entry to the application and a clean and simple interface not unlike that of Twitter, makes iamguiltyof.com a leader in the social confession / gossip space.

But, don't take our word for it: we strongly encourage all readers to go to iamguiltyof.com and check it out for themselves. Furthermore, we'd love to hear your feedback on the site, either via comments to this post or via the feedback form that is available on iamguiltyof.com

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Piping Up About Yahoo! Pipes

Syndicated content is, in my opinion, the boon of the Web 2.0 age. Both casual and power internet users incorporate feeds into their daily lives - some without even realizing it. Syndication allows us to quickly and easily get the up-to-date information that we want or need with a minimum of effort (given readily available consumption mediums such as desktop readers, mobile devices, web browsers, and email clients).

Of course, syndication does have its downsides. One problem is that of "over-subscription", meaning that a feed consumer is subscribed to more feeds than he can possibly read in a reasonable amount of time. Couple with this problem the fact that many feeds contain the same (or very similar) content, and it's easy to see why the novelty wears off for most users. Add, just for fun, the fact that most people who subscribe to syndicated content do so through different consumption media, and the world of syndicated content consumption becomes a mess rather quickly.

Take my father-in-law, a devout New England sports fan, for example. A recent inspection of his home computer revealed that he is subscribed to several different sports-related feeds, including: 1 feed for score updates, 1 feed for news, and 2 editorial blog feeds. I suspect that my father-in-law has also subscribed to these same four feeds on his computer at work. So, in total, he has loaded eight separate URLs and clicked on a "subscribe" link (or icon) eight separate times in order to get his daily sports fix, which seems like a lot of work.

Shouldn't there be an easier way?

Enter Yahoo! Pipes

If you've never heard of Yahoo! Pipes, you're probably wondering what it is exactly. Put simply, it's a way to aggregate (and/or manipulate) content from multiple sources, and output that content to a single source. Anyone with a Yahoo! account can create new Pipes, and the surprisingly intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it as easy as can be to aggregate content from multiple sources.

For my father-in-law, I fetched the sports news feed from ESPN, scores from totallyscored.com, and his hometown team blogs from the Boston Globe. With the data in hand, I filtered the ESPN feed to include only news for his teams and sorted all of the data by date (most recent first). Then, I simply saved and published my new Pipe, and it was all ready to go. But, to make my new Pipe easy to remember, I used Yahoo's convenient pipe naming feature... so now I can always find it at http://pipes.yahoo.com/driscollwebdev/newenglandsports

So now my father-in-law only has to put one address into his feed reader in order to get caught up on his teams' news, scores, and editorials. Truthfully, though, I haven't even gotten to the part where Pipes shines.

Let's say that my father-in-law decides that he wants to add another blog and another news feed to his syndicated content. Under the old regime, he would have to subscribe to each in all of his feed readers, meaning that he would have to type the URI into his browser and then click 'Subscribe' at least twice (four times if we assume that he'll do it at work too).

But with Pipes, all he has to do is log in and add the URI to the list of feeds already aggregated in his Pipe... and that's it. There's nothing else to subscribe to because he's already subscribed to the Pipe - so the new data will just start flowing in to all of his reader applications!

From a developer's perspective, Pipes is a great shortcut for the kind of work that would normally take up quite a bit of time. Rather than spending time creating the code to filter, sort, and format syndicated content from multiple sources, we can simply retrieve our new Pipe's RSS feed and use the pre-formatted, pre-sorted, and pre-filtered data in whatever manner we choose. This allows us to focus more on building a cool application (a Boston-sports-skinned SpringWidget perhaps), and less time worrying about data cleanliness.

I've only really scratched the surface here of what Yahoo! Pipes can do - I highly recommend that you give it a try for yourself. If you want to see some examples of our Pipes, you can check them out at http://pipes.yahoo.com/driscollwebdev.


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Saturday, February 2, 2008

It's a Web 2.0 World, baby, and you'd better get on the bus now before you (and your revenue generating properties) miss out!

You're a small business owner. Your business has a website. You have children.

You could learn a thing or two from your children about how to make the most of your company's presence on the web.


First, an aside: you've probably heard about this whole "Web 2.0" business the last couple of years. But how many times have you heard it defined? Do you really know what Web 2.0 is? Do you know what it stands for?

In its simplest sense, the term Web 2.0 simply conveys the message that the World Wide Web has come a long way since its humble beginnings. From a developer's perspective, Web 2.0 defines websites that are standards-compliant and optimized for interoperability (there's a lot that goes into both aspects, but we'll skip that for now). From a user's perspective, Web 2.0 defines the ability to create and share content from multiple sources, whether it be a blog, a news feed, photos, music, or just about anything else that can be served up online.

It's probably no big surprise that the 18-24 demographic represents the largest proportion of visitors to Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Wikipedia according to Hitwise, a market data research firm that specializes in internet marketing. Further, research from Avenue A | Razorfish suggests in its Digital Consumer Behavior Study that 55% of online consumers rely on user reviews to determine whether a product or service is worth purchasing.

Of course, many big companies have taken advantage of the opportunities to reach the wide audiences of the aforementioned sites, as well as social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. Smaller outfits that lack the advertising budgets of the retail giants have used sites like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr to their advantage by creating profiles, uploading "soft" ad videos, uploading photos of new products (or even better, uploading photos of people using those products), and creating social groups around their products and services. And, many companies have also managed to attract a following of Friends on social networking sites.

The true advantage of these types of sites is that they allow users to leave comments for other users pertaining to photos, blog entries, videos, you name it... so, it's likely that a user who has purchased a product from a certain company will leave a comment for that company on its social networking profile. And, it's likely that the comment will be an ad-hoc review of the product. With the assumption that the review is positive, this will serve effectively as a public endorsement for your product. Collect a few such comments, and don't be surprised when traffic to your company's website begins to pick up.

Of course, in order to take full advantage of all the marketing opportunities that this Web 2.0 world has to offer, you have to have the time and ability to create your own user-created content on Web 2.0 sites. This is where your kids (or your neighbor's kids) come in: chances are that they are well-versed in the lingua franca of these sites already, and they could probably give you quite a tutorial.

-DWD Staff

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