Archive for January, 2009

I woke up today to find that every single search result, on every computer on my network, comes back with “This site may harm your computer”!


Google search has literally quit working for me and I cannot visit a single search result. Oh well, will have to give Yahoo search a try!

This is not an isolated incident and appears to be happening all over the web:

  • Topics: Uncategorized
  • Doing Ning Right is becoming quite popular. It seems people still want their own social network and what better place to do it than on  After create their Ning account, they quickly realize that in order to stand out and get going they need customizations and custom development. As a result we do some amount of Ning customization, template design and application development.
    Here are three common customization and integration points:

    • Template Customization via CSS
      This involves using CSS to create (or recreate) your own look-and-feel and branding on Ning. As far as social networking platform go, Ning is reasonably customizeable CSS and with the help of Firefox addon-on Firebug and EditCSS, the process is generally straight forward.
    • Customization and App Development via Javascript
      Ning allows you to add a Javascript footer at the bottom of your page (via Manage -> Analytics) for the purpose of supporting tracking and analyics. A while back we discovered a little trick we like to exploit for clients. Guess can put any old Javascript there. This essentially allows to use Javascript to customize your Ning page. can actually remove the Google ads and modify almost anything using some Javascript trickery. Check out a our free test account (shows how you can use Javascript to remove or replace ads). Using this mechanism you can add banners, graphics, iframes and pretty do anything to the page.
    • OpenSocial Applications
      Ning supports OpenSocial applications, but unfortunately users can only add them to their My Page. OpenSocial applications cannot be used (at least right now) on the Main or other primary Ning pages.
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  • Since I get asked this question a lot, here is a quick round up of the more popular widget marketplaces, builders and distribution platforms (at least the ones that matter most):

    Name SDK Builder Sharing Tracking Gallery Ad Option
    ClearSpring Flash,
    No Yes Yes No Yes
    Gigya Flash,
    No Yes yes No Yes
    iWidget No Yes No (1) No Yes No
    SpringWidgets Flash No Yes No Yes No
    Sprout Yes (2) Yes Yes (Gigya) Yes (Gigya) Yes No
    WidgetBox Config Only No Yes Yes Yes No

    1. Widgets to not appear to feature a full range of sharing options
    2. SDK is not publicly available and adds functionality to the SproutBuilder

  • Topics: Uncategorized
  •  springwidgets.png
    Some of our clients ask for Clearspring and Gigya integration, but recently someone requested we build a widget using the SpringWidget API. SpringBox has an SDK awidget engine that allows you to run SpringWidget’s Flash based widgets on both the desktop and the web. The current version of SpringWidget targets Flash Player 7 or 8 and supports ActionScript 1.0 and 2.0.

    Below is an example of a SpringWidget:

    We’ll keep you posted on the pros and cons of the SpringWidget platform!

  • Topics: Uncategorized
  • I predict that 2009 will be the year widget ad networks become a reality. Companies like Clearspring, Widgetbox, Gigya, SpringWidgets, and iWidgets have provided free widget distribution and/or development platforms for a number of years. Expect that to change in the future.  Widget platform providers are externally and internally experimenting with mechanisms to monitize their previously “free” services (ClearSpring announced their widget ad network in Dec 2007, Gigya announced theirs in January). The monitization trend makes senses, Web 2.0 companies have to figure out how to generate revenue, and with where the economy and financial markets are today, there is not better time to start than now.

    Expect to see the following types of ecommerce models being applied to widget distribution.

    • Recommended and sponsored widgets channels
    • In-Widget advertising
    • Mini ad banners within widget sharing menus
    • Trial and premium widgets
    • Premium widget delivery and tracking
    • Paid widget distribution
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  • Clearspring_logo
    There seems to be a lot of confusion about how to get Clearspring integrated into your widget using the In-Widget API model (which is the only way to go if you developing a ‘professional widget’). I decided to outline the basic steps involved

    Adding a Widget:
    First you will need to create a Clearspring widget (this assumes you have already created your Clearspring account).

    1. Click Add Widget.
    2. You will be given 3 options: In My Widget, On My Webpage and Using the In-Widget API. Select Using the In-Widget API.
    3. Enter the informaton for your widget including its name, code type, sharing menu type, colors, sizes and other options.
    4. For Share menu you want to choose Default Menu or Just Tracking
    5. Under What Do you Want to Share enter the embed HTML for your widget
    6. Next, Clearspring will provide you with some sample code for your widget (under Grab your Launchpad advanced code!). The sample code isn’t the most intuitive but its a good start. I will try and share some “actual” code you can use in a future post.

    Editing A Widget:
    Now you can further customize/edit your widget. The primary tabs you’ll work with are:

    1. Template Content
      This allows you to modify the HTML embed content that is generated when user’s share your widget. This is the same content you entered above in the What Do you Want to Share section.
    2. Library Code
      This is were you can get the code (AS3, AS2 or Javascript) for your widget. This should be the same code generate at the end of the Adding a Widget process.
    3. The rest of the tabs can generally be safetly ignored unless you want your widget to appear/live on the Clearspring site.

    Modifying for Flash/Action Script Code:
    There are 4 steps involved in actually implement Clearspring sharing and tracking within your widget.

    1. Imports
      You need to make sure you have correct imports at the top of your code. Common mistake is to forget this step.
    2. Initialization
      You need to initialize the Clearspring Flash API before you can do anything with it. Go head and initialize it in your Flash code. Hopefully you can figure out how to do this using the sample code.
    3. Share Menu
      To call the share menu, you’ll need to create a share button, attach a click event to it, and add a click function that looks something like this:

      function on_share_click(event:MouseEvent):void
      kernel.track.event('ClearSpring Share'); // custom event
    4. Tracking
      When ever you need to track something simple use: kernel.track.event(YOUR_EVENT_NAME_HERE);

    Easier said than done but hopefully this provides a good start and helps you avoid some of the common mistakes (choosing the wrong model, working in the wrong tabs, missing a key step) that many of the folks we do Clearspring widget consulting run into!

  • Topics: Uncategorized
  • I keep seeing this question asked a lot! With the old Facebook API, passing variables as a query string to an application was tricky! It required using the &next parameter and never seemed to work well since developers never seemed to remember if that actual values being passed needed to be run through URLencode or not. With the new Facebook API all of this has changed. Passing variables into your application is as easy as appending them at the end of your query string!

    As long as you are using the Facebook API, simply structure your URL like this:

    In new Facebook, users no longer add applications, they just access them.

    After the Allow Access screen, FB will take you to a URL like this one:

    You’ll notice that the query string test=1 is passed along with the URL.  Presto!

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  • Social Media Marketing Examples

    A couple of weeks ago I did a post featuring some social media marketing examples I found being maitained by enterpreneur Peter Kim. His original post contained a great list of examples of how large consumer brands are using social media in their marketing efforts.


    Some of our clients have asked for more detailed examples or examples specific to their industry so we are in the process of creating an internal database of social media marketing best practices and examples and try to marrying them with performance analytics and commentary (social media is great..but what works and what doesn’t work!)

    We are looking for social media marketing examples, specific to the following industries:

    • Aerospace & Defense
    • Pharma
    • Energy & Utilities
    • Retail
    • Travel

    If know of any, please feel free to post a comment or send us an email at:!

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  • Adobe AIR as a Widget Platform

    The Adobe  AIR  runtime was designed to allow developers to use Adobe Flash and FLEX to build “rich media” applications that run outside the browser on multiple operating systems. Today, a vast majority of web widgets are written in Adobe Flash.  This allows them to run on a broad range of social networking, community and blog sites. Creating Adobe AIR versions of these widgets enables them to function as desktop widgets with very little extra work.  In the past, developers had to package Flash widgets on one of the desktop widget platforms (MacOS, Vista, Yahoo! widgets, i.e.) or use ZINC to create destkop version of their widgets. Some of these options were limited to certain platforms, while other options were cumbersome or expensive.

    Adobe AIR is looking like a very attractive widget development platform. Like the recently updated Yahoo! widget engine, AIR supports WebKit, SQLite, XML, AJAX and Javascript.  Like the Yahoo! widget engine, users have to download and install the Adobe AIR runtime (approximately 15MB vs Yahoo’s 23MB).  Additionally, Adobe AIR runs on Microsoft Windows 2000; Windows XP; Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise; Mac OS X (10.4, 10.5); and Linux – pretty much everything! More to come on Adobe AIR widget development!

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  • There are a handful of URL’s you can use to perform some common Facebook actions by simply calling them using a well formated URL. Here are handful of commonly used actions available via links (subsititue XXXXX with the user’s Facebook ID or YYYYY for other data). These can be used from within your Facebook application to add more utility:

    View a Facebook user’s profile:

    Poke a Facebook user:

    Send a message to a Facebook user:
    – subject and msg are optional

    View a Facebook user’s friends:

    Add a Facebook user as a friend:

    Display what friends a user has in common with another user:
    – XXXXX is the id of the other user

    Access photos a Facebook user’s photos:

    Search for photos of a Facebook user:

    Read or post on a Facebook user’s Wall:

    Read the specified Facebook user’s notes:

    Search Facebook for keyword:

    Search Facebook for People:

    Search Facebook for Pages:

    Search Facebook for Groups:

    Search Facebook for Applicationd:

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