Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adventure on Kid's Social Networks Land

Yesterday night my casual stop by my daughter's bedroom to steal a kiss turned out into a fascinating and then scary experience.

My daughters Nicole (10) and Angelina (7) have been into kid's social networks for around 3 years.
While my older daughter Nicole was obsessively pursuing Club Penguin's cheats, my younger daughter Angelina, 7, was all about having boyfriends and of course later breaking up with them.
Recently they switched to, as Club Penguin is totally "boring", according to them. On the new site they continue with the same pursuits. Nicole is playing games, accumulating points and building her own games. In the meantime, Angelina is taking the dating scene to the next level.

Back to yesterday night! Apparently, Angelina, also known as "roGirlsRock" just broke up with "Amit...", her boyfriend from the last two months to be with "Xenergy...".
"Xenergy..." suggested Angelina would get an iPod app called Text Plus (not the first one that appears on the search, but the second one) which allows kids to text each other from any iOS device from ficticious numbers (as the phones and internet separation line gets blurry, a kind of cool concept, freemium, pay $2 a year if you want to chose your number). So, we did install the app. Then, we tried to send the fake text plus number to her "boyfriend", and roblox acted as if it was doing that, but indeed it was actually completely blocking it and never sending the whole line to the other players.

Letting the experiment continue ... we launched the Text Plus app.
First thing I realized launching the app is that text plus, as opposed to most kid's networks does allow you to publish your picture. So glad I was there! We take a pic of her roblox character and add it to her profile. Next thing I see on the incoming text is instructions on how to take her own pic. Then, the kid sees that Angelina uploaded her character's pic and asks "ro" as he calls her:
- Send me a pic of you.

At this time I'm completely stressed out knowing that Angelina is having a super rush with her new boyfriend but this is potentially and absolutely wrong. All sort of scenarios appeared into my mind: could this be a kid's predator? would this be just a normal teenager doing their normal thing? after all texting and interchanging pics, is what teenagers do! Either way, this is way too much for Angelina, even with her social smarts she is only 7! Actually, she just turned 7 today!! I instruct her to tell the kid she can't post pics of herself, she's only 7. At that point, even she gets scared and writes:
- "I'm breaking up with you".
The kid goes:
- "Ow. why?".

Then, we both decide she could be friends but no pics, you've got to realize all of this is happening super fast.
So he's sending pics of some tiger in the snow and all seems back to pretty naive.
A second later there we go again, Angelina is sending pics of our office (not including herself) and that instant I remembered that some day I read that's the way they do it, they ask kids to send pics of anything and once they get into the habit and comfort they go back to the personal pics request. Paranoia! Paranoia!!

I really have no way to tell if this is a total pervert or a completely normal teenager and I keep thinking this is nuts! There should be a way to know who's who in the net, which brings me back to my previous post on Digital Identity through Social Networks Algorithms.

Anyway, we both knew we had to stop just around the same time my husband become aware of the situation and his common sense was luckily stronger that my curiosity to understand how things work ... so that's the end of "Xenergy...", I guess Angelina will have to go back to "Amit..." who didn't ask for a pic in two months :)

New rules:
1. No communications outside roBlox except with real world friends. At least inside roBlox most communications between kids are public.
2. No pics exchange until she's 10, to be continued ...

It seems amazing to me that a kid can save so much "real life" pain and learn many lessons online in "test mode". On the other hand I find myself and my daughter completely un-prepared to handle all the new situations that arise with this new culture.

Suggestions are welcomed!!!!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Are Social Networks the new Digital Identity?

Digital Identity is one of the Holy Grails of out time. Back in 2007 I was wondering and blogging about it. It was a valid question, but the answer I found at that time is (at least in the short term) being prooved wrong. I thought that more traditional identification ways (such as institutional national and international digital ids) would be eventually needed for the net. Only in the comments area of that blog post there is a glimpse of vision: "Because the net is a new media new solutions might arise" ... and they certainly did!

We're witnessing an emergent property of social networks: the Social Identity is becoming the new Digital Identity.

Let's see how social networks play a determinant role on three key aspects of Digital Identity:

1. Login connection. Facebook/Google/Yahoo/Twitter connect is increasingly the "de facto" login for websites and mobile apps (Google and Facebook on the top of the chart).

2. Persona search. Google anybody's name and when it comes to personal information social networks such as Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn will become one of the main sources (depending on privacy settings).

3. Personal connection. If you meet someone in real life or via the net, and you're attempting to connect with them in a personal or professional level chances are you will be looking for them in Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn.

4. Contact Information. In the past if you wanted to give someone your contact information you probably would give them your phone number or your email. Nowadays, in a tendency that might over time be replacing personal cards, you just tell people friend me on Facebook, or follow me on twitter, or connect to me in LinkedIn.

One of the main issues with Digital Identity is Authenticity, and Social Networks have intrinsically built an authenticity mechanism: your social connections and social activity!

Of course Social Networks are also subject to identity fraud and false identities but it should be possible to detect and fix these within the Networks themselves.

I propose that Social Networks should provide an Authenticity Index (SNAI) to each person. The purpose of the SNAI is to determine the likability of a person to correspond with a real world physical person.

The SNAI of each person could be calculated based on the addition of the following factors:

1. The aggregated SNAI of their connections. This is the simplest one. For each connection I have my SNAI would increase proportionally (or on an scalated way) to the SNAI of the connection. If I have connections that have a higher SNAI that will increment my SNAI in turn.
2. The aggregated in-network level of activity weighted by their interacting connections' SNAIs. This factor is an attempt to measure and pound the person's interaction with their connections. Reciprocal Interactions between people are a factor to increase the person's SNAIs. In this case the weighted SNAI of the contacts the person interacts is a factor too in an attempt to prevent farmed activity that would provide fake rankings.
3. The aggregated out-of-network level of activity weighted by the organization's connections' combined SNAIs. This factor is included in an attempt to allow people to choose their preferred networks as far as activity and still reflect that activity across the networks. In this case the weight of the organization combined SNAI is a factor too in an attempt to prevent farmed organizations that would provide fake rankings.

I now, it is a very recursive algorithm that could easily get into a deadlock. I'd try starting with everybody's SNAI being 1, always taking the last iteration SNAIs in any calculation and build it up with multiple iterations and some people's SNAI's should be incrementing greatly while other's will remain pretty low. After a few iterations most people should reflect their authenthicity or their "fakeness". It obviously should be scoped and refined but as a start ...

Facebook seems to be the company that would be in the best position in the market today to implement something like this and that would place them at the core of the Digital Identity solution.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

GeneXus Smart Devices Generation: GeneXus X Evolution 2 Beta

ARTech released on Friday night the first bits of the GeneXus X Evolution 2 Beta which can be downloaded here.

As the GeneXus Community is very aware, GeneXus can and will be of extreme importance at moments like the present time, when there are software paradigm changes, as it can accelerate the adoption curve for any new computer software or platform.

Right now, GeneXus is riding the wave of Smart Devices full speed with multiple strategies and converting it on a turning point in its market development.

With the launch of the GeneXus X Evolution 2 Beta (find in twitter as #gxev2beta) GeneXus customers will have the opportunity to generate applications for Smart Devices starting with Android OS and continuing with iOS and BlackBerry OS, with the same easiness as always.

The process, as described in the GeneXus wiki to have an emulator demo up and running is super simple. Just create couple transactions, a Ruby model (for the moment the data services model is generated in Ruby, future versions will generate for .net, java), apply the "Work With Devices" pattern, change couple properties and voila!

We'll be expecting some level of automatic cloud deployment of Android applications on the next beta most likely. GeneXus already has a good grip of this technology as it's part of their SDX product (more information coming soon).

There are many more features we'll be expecting to see on the Smart Devices Generator, with the one on the top of the list being Multi-tenant applications, followed by including regular non-pattern generated web panels and some level of access to device sensors especially GPS which is at the core of mobile technology.

I can't help but thinking that when you have a well designed extensible platform with a state of the art architecture like GeneXus X does, changes can stack up with great speed. We are witnessing an exponential growth of the GeneXus Platform in regards of the Smart Devices Market. The company is indeed taking all opportunities to make the implicit advantages of their unique platform count and make a difference to their customers.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Android App Inventor Hello Purr

My first application with App Inventor is the Hello Purr.
Download it using this barcode:

This tool is just awesome!

It's a mix of Scratch (programming language for kids) and lego mindstorms programming environment. It packages the app for you and produces a codebar code so you can publish it for download from any android.

Only one thing was a little annoying in the operation, the integration on Chrome between the designer and the blocks editor is a little sketchy.

I can see the Genexus community building extensions for App Inventor so that with a few clicks we're building amazing android apps connected to our favorite mission critical databases.

According to this Techcrunch post it will be possible to extend the App Inventor.
As far as Google documentation so far I only found this, talking about extensions in three levels: create components, add to the library and interoperate with webservices.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Priority Inbox as a Software Pattern

Once in a while an idea emerges that changes the way we do things profoundly.
I believe Priority Inbox, by Google (view note below) is one of these little things, beyond email, it will change the way we program and the way users interact with the systems we develop.

Particularly in the software world, this kind of reminds me of the emergence of the auto-suggest feature.
It started with Google search if I'm not mistaken and continued with all of us adopting it as a best practice, including smart tools like Genexus generator, making it standard properties into their objects and simple click programming.

The future of priority handling might be the same. We might see in the near future that when we're looking at our customer or product list, there are some customers and products that have a whole different level of relevance than others, and I as a user might want to star some customers, products, cases, transactions, invoices, etc that I'm working with at the moment and visualize them with higher priority.

Google Email deserves to be called a mass product by now. Therefore, regular users will incorporate priority email as a natural thing that software does for them and sooner or later we'll have to implement it for them. I say, let's be ahead of the curve, let's make the priority standard behavior for grids now! This might be a job for a Genexus component or maybe more so for the Genexus Pattern Generator Tool ...

It appears that there are patents filled by Microsoft for similar priority emails sent to mobile devices as far back as '99 ... read more here.

Mobile: sliding pages expand the house

A week ago I found myself day dreaming about increasing the visual real state in my iPad and my Droid. Once you use the iPad desktop, where you can discover new magical rooms by sliding right or left, there's no way back. You have to have the same thing in applications and it finally is starting to arrive.

It reminds me of the time when my grandparents decided to downsize, sell the big house with backyard and move to the 2 bedroom apartment. I totally remember that I even had dreams where new rooms would attach magically to the apartment for my amusement and amazement.

The difference is that when it comes to mobile, we're in a virual world, and new rooms can magically appear and dissapear!!

Some of the pioneers out there:
1. Facebook app for iPad, allows you to to select your main options from the main menu and you can slide right or left to add new options [via @mcanziani]
This app seems to have copied the concept of sliding pages just for the exact same use that the iPad has for it, desktop management. They didn't seem to connect the dots and go one more step, using sliding screens for apps.
2. TweetDeck for Android, allows you to have one column per page, it has a great denotation for pages with a title on top and the now standard dots.
3. Twitter for iPad, this one not only got the sliding screens idea but it also innovated as far as how to handle those screens. I don't think the innovation replaces 100% the simple full screen slide, but it's a great, creative innovative way of handling screens and it will ripple.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm sold on Android 2.2

Hard as it is to admit, I was about to give in to Apple and the iPhone/iPad after years of maintaining myself on the other side of the fence.
After watching the Google Developer's Conference tonight, I'm completely in awe, sold on the Android 2.2

. faster browser
. cloud to device API
. voice recognition/translation
. sharing your wi-fi from one android device
. automatic application platform
. HDMI output

But what is more fundamental open platform, open device, open source, which means that we might finally get to have a platform across the board for all devices.

It looks like finally there's a good shot at Platform Convergence.
Innovation is around the corner, I can imagine the applications and uses that the intent to device will inspire.

Also, looking forward to the non-proprietary platform for the impending TV Box:

Can't wait for the first device implementing Google/Tv.