Nintendo Contract Employee Fired Over Blog That Was “Not Work Appropriate”

20070927a.jpg Jessica Zenner, an employee of Parker Services (a technical recruitment contractor for Nintendo) was fired on the 31st of August by her employer following concerns expressed by Nintendo about posts on her blog “Inexcusable Behavior“.

On the blog, where she talks about herself, her friends and co-workers (none of whom are mentioned by name), Zenner used the identity “Jessica Carr” but did not explicitly refer to her employers. The entries leading up to the firing have since been removed from the site, and there have been many requests to have the archives restored (one of the original posts is quoted at techdigest.tv).

A comment on her blog by Orin O’Neill is extremely critical of Nintendo and the move:

Having survived five years at Nintendo, and having looked at your blog, while I could see no reason for them to fire you because of the blog, I’m not surprised because Nintendo is a top-heavy, bureaucratic organization populated by humorless, grumpy old geezers. That it remains in business is truly remarkable, especially given how completely out of touch it seemed to be with the market it was trying to reach.

The firing follows on from the recent dismissal of Paris-based Catherine Sanderson, AKA “La Petite Anglaise“, from accountancy firm Dixon Wilson for “gross misconduct”.

Sun launches SNS to help reduce other’s environmental footprint

20070926a.png Sun has launched a social (and organisational) networking service called OpenEco.org, which is aimed at helping companies and organisations to improve their environmental footprint through best practice sharing.

The site was launched at a New York event attended by members of the Carbon Disclosure Project, and a presentation was given by former US President Bill Clinton.

Normally, organisations must calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with custom or proprietary tools, requiring significant internal resources or external consultancy. Now, GHG data can be created and shared using OpenEco.org‘s “free, open and secure online tools for visualizing and managing carbon footprints”, enabling organisations to benchmark against each other, to set achievable footprint reduction goals, and to share best practices to reach these goals.

Dave Douglas, Sun’s vice-president for eco-responsibility, linked Sun’s history of community building with the new social networking service:

Working together drives progress faster than working alone. Sun was built on the philosophy of openness and building communities to solve problems, which we’re now applying to the environment. When we share, sustainable business can be more attainable – and prosperous – for everyone.

Social network news: MS Facebook and Orkut API

Here are two news stories of note related to social networks during the past few days.

Firstly, rumour has it that Microsoft is cosying up to Facebook and wants to negotiate some small stake in the site for around $400 million.

Secondly, and certainly more exciting from my POV is the story that Google is thinking about providing an API to social graph data from its social networking service orkut, which could potentially be used by any third-party applications or even by other social media sites such as Bebo, Twitter, etc.

Intel releases mashup extension for Firefox

Developers at Intel Corporation‘s research lab at Berkeley have created the Mash Maker extension for Firefox.

The blog post about Mash Maker says that the extension enables mashups to become part of your normal browsing experience – the aim being that mashups can be used by anyone, not just techies. The Mash Maker toolbar displays buttons representing appropriate mashups (from a shared community database) that the service thinks you might want to apply to your current page. Clicking on one of these buttons then applies that mashup to your page.

From the product overview page:

Intel Mash Maker is an extension to your existing web browser that allows you to easily augment the page that you are currently browsing with information from other websites. As you browse the web, the Mash Maker toolbar suggests Mashups that it can apply to the current page in order to make it more useful for you. For example: plot all items on a map, or display the leg room for all flights.

Intel Mash Maker learns from the wisdom of the community. Any user can teach Mash Maker new mashups, using a simple copy and paste interface, and once one user has taught Mash Maker a mashup, this mashup will be automatically suggested to other users. Intel Mash Maker also relies on the community to teach it about the structure and semantics of web pages, using a built in structure editor.

You can view a demonstration of Mash Maker at the Intel Developer Forum on YouTube, as given by the project lead Rob Ennals.

Edit: Some videos with usage examples are available here.

Dual visitors to MySpace and Facebook spend more time on site than exclusive visitors in US teen bracket

According to comparison figures from August 2007 released today by Nielsen//NetRatings, US teenagers aged 12 to 17 who visit both MySpace and Facebook spend more time at each site than those who visit just one site or the other. During that month, teens who visited both sites spent on average 20% more time on MySpace (than visitors to MySpace alone), and on average 26% longer at Facebook (than exclusive Facebook visitors).

20070920a.png

From the graph above, it appears that US teens are spending at least four times longer on MySpace than on Facebook. According to Jason Lee, media analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings:

Teens who enjoy social media are intensive users and highly engaged. They are venturing onto multiple networks to experience new features and broaden their connections. This demographic is typically drawn to what’s new, and since they are growing up online, they are not afraid of learning the latest Web technologies. MySpace introduced a lot of people, especially young people, to social networking, and that forum continues to be overwhelmingly popular. But Facebook’s innovative features, many born out of partnerships with third party developers, are driving user growth. Teens continue to interact with friends on MySpace, but have not hesitated to follow their peers to the latest social networking brand. At this point, each site has a unique offering, and teens are happily visiting both.

Here are a few more interesting statistics from this survey:

  • Facebook’s total unique visitors grew by 117% from August 2006 to August 2007 (from 8.9 to 19.2 million visitors).
  • Facebook’s number of visitors aged between 12 and 17 grew by 122% during the same timeframe.
  • 80% of Facebook’s visitors in August 2007 also visited MySpace.

“Social Media” extension for Firefox

20070919b.png 97th Floor, a US-based SEO firm, have recently released what they call their “Social Media” extension for Firefox, which adds a new toolbar to the bottom of your browser window for fast posting of URLs to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and del.icio.us. The toolbar can also display stats if a page has already been submitted to some of these social bookmarking services.

20070919a.png What makes this extension interesting is that when browsing one of the aforementioned sites, icons beside each story title will show how popular the story is on each of the other three sites. You can then post the URL to any of the other sites with a low or zero rating and thereby boost your account towards “power user” status. The screenshot shows some examples of the embedded icons and remote ratings for each article on various sites.

A tale of two Atoms: AtomPub and Atom Interface

Two articles about two different technologies both bearing the name Atom caught my attention recently.

20070918a.gif The first was a blog entry on the 24th of July by Tim Bray on the approval of the Atom Publishing Protocol as an RFC standard by the IETF’s Internet Engineering Steering Group. You may already be familiar with the Atom Syndication Format, which is an XML format similar to RSS commonly used for syndicating web feeds (e.g., from Blogger.com). The Atom Publishing Protocol (APP or AtomPub for short) is related to this, being a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and modifying web resources, and the specification was edited by Joe Gregorio and Bill de hÓra.

20070918b.png The second (unrelated) technology is called the Atom Interface from DERI, and presents an interesting approach to visualise and navigate through tree structures and graphs. The name was chosen as it is based on the metaphor of electrons, atoms and molecules. There is a interesting demonstration of the Atom Interface on YouTube. It uses a “compact radial layout” to organise items around their parents in a circular fashion within a single atom. Although radial layouts and menus are not a new idea and have been around for some years (e.g., Maya’s marking menus, Mozilla’s RadialContext pie menus, Neverwinter Nights’ radial menu), the Atom Interface is novel in that: “(i) it is focused more towards exploring and browsing small and large trees by collapsing/uncollapsing paradigm (as opposite to visualizing the overview of the entire tree or graph), (ii) is more compact in order to emphasize relationships and ease learning and understanding the structure, (iii) preserves full context”. I can imagine this being very useful for visualising one’s bookmarks and tag hierachies, and for navigating the connections to other users’ content (via their atoms).

Unexpectedly large turnout in Dublin for day of Web 2.0 related events

Dublin, Ireland saw one of its largest web technology and business gatherings last Thursday evening (September 13th). At least 200 Web 2.0 professionals from all over the country and Europe, plus others interested in the web application industry, converged on Ely HQ in the docklands area of the city for a series of events.

To coincide with the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) Road Trip (a meetup with FOWA conference organiser Ryan Carson), Fergus Burns and Conor O’Neill organised a number of co-located Web 2.0-related events. These were:

20070913a.jpg The Paddy’s Valley pitch training session took place on Thursday afternoon. Seven or eight Irish startups including Relevant M, TouristR / TripPlanr, Benchd, UseAMap / JustRoutes, and Toddle gave their pitches to the expert panel. Itineraries for Paddy’s Valley were discussed and arranged, meetings and visits scheduled, contacts swapped, and various aims and aspirations for the week in Silicon Valley were formed.

20070913b.jpg Pre-selected startups gave their product demonstrations in the DemoBar room, which was very busy (and hot). Louder Voice, GlowDay, MySay, PutPlace, and PollDaddy were among those who presented their innovative web applications. But the majority of people networked and enjoyed the open bar and nibbles outside the room, making contacts, putting faces to online nicks, and giving interviews to Conn from Intruders.TV Ireland.

20070913c.jpg The FOWA Road Trip Dublin event was one stop on a tour of 11 European cities by Ryan Carson of Carson Systems (the previous stop was the night before in Edinburgh). The forthcoming Future of Web Apps event is a major conference being held in London at the beginning of October, with many high-profile speakers from Web 2.0 companies and investors including Ross Mayfield (SocialText), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress.com), Jyri Engestrom (Jaiku) and Michael Arrington (TechCrunch).

20070914a.jpg Friday morning saw a smaller but nonetheless impressive gathering of Web 2.0 folk at the Dublin OpenCoffee Club in the Morrison Hotel, where the main topic of conversation was undoubtedly the energy and buzz of the night before.

There were an estimated 200 to 300 people at the evening event on Thursday. Just some of those I got a chance to chat to on both days were (with full names I remember first): Walter Higgins, Niall Larkin, Jan Blanchard, David Lenehan, Barry Alistair, Ryan Carson, Derek Organ, Martha Rotter, Conor Power, Conn Ó Muineachain, Adrian McMahon, Mark Taylor, Conor O’Neill, Fergus Burns, James Corbett, Joe Drumgoole, Gareth Stack, Vinny Glennon, Alexia Golez, Alan O’Rourke, Eamon Leonard, Conor Wade, Ed Byrne, Paul Campbell, Anton Mannering, Jessie Roy, Eoghan McCabe, Nicola Byrne, Maryrose Lyons, John O’Shea, Fergal Breen, Mike Kiely, Brian Fitzsimons, Darragh Curran, Diarmuid Wrenne, Colm Ó hEocha, Clare Dillon, Bart, Peter, Patrick, Fintan, Dervla, and Charley.

The success of this day and the enthusiasm shown from both the developer and commercial sides bodes well for the future of similar events in Ireland. I hope that this critical mass can be maintained and built upon, and that those who had ideas just germinating in their heads will be inspired by the others who have started to put their plans into action. Hopefully that new batch of ideas will be demonstrated at the next Web 2.0 Ireland event, whenever it may be and whatever form it may take…

Discussions on portable social network profiles for use across systems

A problem exists with most social networking services (SNSs) in that they usually do not work together and therefore you are required to re-enter your profile and re-define your social connections when you register for each new site. There have been a lot of complaints about these so-called “walled gardens”. Although many of the most popular SNSs would not exist without the walled garden approach, some flexibility would be useful.

Users may have many identities on different social networks, where each identity is created from scratch. A reusable profile would allow a user to import their existing identity and connections (from their own homepage or from another site they are registered on). If data about a person is aggregated from various social networks and linked together using a common representation format, a single global identity can be formed with different views and associated reputations / histories.

Semantic Web vocabularies such as FOAF and microformats like hCard and XFN can serve as useful platforms for linking or reusing the diverse information about a person from heterogeneous social networking sites and for performing operations on such reusable / linked data. This can then be used to provide an enhanced view of an individual’s activity in a distributed social network (e.g., “show me all the content that Alice has acted on in the past three months”).

“Social network portability” is a term that has been used to describe the ability to reuse one’s profile across various social networking sites and applications. The founder of the LiveJournal blogging community, Brad Fitzpatrick, recently wrote an article (with comments here) from a developer’s point of view about forming a “decentralised social graph”, which discusses some ideas for social network portability and aggregating one’s friends across sites. Dan Brickley, the co-creator of FOAF, has also written an elegant discussion (entitled “the world is now closed“) about how SNSs should not define your relationships in absolute terms and that even an aggregate social graph cannot be so clearly defined.

In parallel with this, a social network portability mailing list was established which has seen over 400 posts on this topic since August 17th. Activity on the list peaked soon after (see graph below), but many interesting topics have been discussed including centralisation versus decentralisation, FOAF, XFN, hCard, OpenID, Bloom filters, ownership of your published content, categorising friends and personas, the OpenFriendFormat, SNAP, aggregation and privacy, and XMPP. You can read more on the list or join it to post your own thoughts.

20070914b.png

Skyrock blasts away the social networking competition in France

20070914a.png French site “Skyrock Network” has lived up to its name and held onto its place at the number one spot in France’s list of top social networking sites, based on recent statistics from ComScore gathered since the start of 2007.

The site, which currently has over 9 million total unique visitors a month, has had a moderate 1/6th increase in visitors between January and July 2007.

Second-placed Windows Live Spaces, with 5.7 million visitors, has been losing visitors over the same time frame, dropping by about 6%.

Blogger from Google, in third, also increased by a 1/6th, with 4 million visitors in July.

Relative to their placings in January, Dada.net and Facebook both increased their numbers of French visitors substantially, with Dada.net up by 725% (from 60,000 to 495,000 visitors) and Facebook increasing by 642% (from 45,000 to 331,000 visitors).