// Internet Duct Tape

How to Explain RSS to Normal People – 2008 Edition

Posted in Building a Community, Facebook, Humor, RSS Syndication, Ruby, Technology by engtech on February 28, 2008

Social Software and You

As a geek who enjoys spending too much time on the internet, I like RSS almost as much as delicious toast. As a blogger, RSS is the shiznitz because it lets you consume a lot more information and it makes it easier for other people to read your blog without having to drop by every few days to see if you’ve written something new.

For something so useful, it’s pretty hard to explain why people should use RSS. Lots of people try to do it. This is my take on it. It’s 2008 and explaining RSS should be much simpler because if you’ve used Facebook, then you’ve used RSS.

RSS for Normal People (who use Facebook)


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Facebook Tip: Broadcast your Facebook status as RSS

Posted in Facebook, Technology, Twitter, Yahoo Pipes by engtech on August 08, 2007

RSS is one of the most useful tools out there for moving information around on the web. Recently the concept of “micro-blogging” status updates has become very popular with applications like Facebook, Twitter and Pownce. The only problem is that it is a pain to update many sites at the same time. It is better to pick one and broadcast RSS to the others. I’m going to show you how to broadcast your Facebook status to Twitter.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Twitter Facebook App now lets you control your Facebook status from Twitter. This tip lets you posts your Facebook status in Twitter. Using them together is a very bad idea.

How to Find the RSS Feed for Your Facebook Status

This is actually the hardest part.

  1. Login to Facebook
  2. Click on Profile tab
  3. Under the Mini-Feed heading click on See All
  4. Click on Status Stories from the right hand column
  5. Right click on My Status and copy the link

facebook rss status

Filtering Your Status with Yahoo Pipes

I’ve put together a Yahoo Pipe that filters your status. This isn’t necessary, but it makes the status updates look a little bit better in other applications like Twitter. It removes your name, and changes the link to go to your profile instead of the individual status. Feel free to clone it and tweak it some more.

Eric is washing his cat.


is washing his cat (from Facebook status).

and the feed link is set to your Facebook profile.

  1. Go to this Yahoo Pipe
  2. Copy your Facebook status RSS feed
  3. Click Run Pipe
  4. Click on Subscribe
  5. Right click on Get as RSS and copy link

You can now put this filter RSS into TwitterFeed, your blog sidebar, etc.

Special Thanks

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Facebook Applications and Privacy – How to Configure Facebook Applications

Posted in Facebook, Online Privacy and Reputation Management, Technology by engtech on July 23, 2007

One of my friends wanted to secure the profile for her 17 year old daughter and she was asking me what the heck all the application privacy settings mean on Facebook. I didn’t have a good answer for her. If I’m asking myself “wtf does that application setting mean?” I figure there’s more than one other person in the crowd with a dim light bulb over their head. Here’s what I could figure out to the best of my knowledge.

Now you too can become one of the 1% of the people on Facebook who understand how their Facebook apps (widgets) are configured.

facebook application privacy levels

Adding an Application

I was surprised that Facebook does not give more information on what these options mean when you’re installing an application. I know that designing “simple” user interfaces is hard, but you are doing something wrong when your users have to go to such great lengths to do something as simple as adjust your privacy settings.

Know who I am and access my information

This option has to be checked in order to install ANY application. This is Facebook’s way of covering their ass.

cover your ass
(photo by ambergris)

Put a box in my profile

If this is unchecked then the application won’t show up on your profile at all, but may still spam your mini-feed and news feed.

(photo by ugandan giant)

Place a link in my left-hand navigation

On your left hand menu under Search there is a list of your application that only you can see. Clicking on these links usually shows you cool stuff like recent updates from your friends who use the same apps. This setting controls whether or not this app shows up in that list.

facebook application privacy left hand menu link settings

This setting only affects how you see your applications.

Publish stories in my News Feed and Mini-Feed

This is the “spam the crap out of your friends” feature. TURN THIS OFF FOR MOST OF YOUR APPLICATIONS! The mini-feed is that list of things you’ve been doing on your profile page. The news feed is the list of things you’ve been doing that shows up to all of your friends when they log into Facebook. Do you really want to spam them with every single thing you Digg, Stumble or save to Del.icio.us?

facebook privacy application mini-feed newsfeed

You can adjust the mini-feed and the news feed individually by editing your application settings later.

Place a link below the profile picture on any profile

Underneath your profile picture there is a text list of your applications. These links can display additional information like the number of songs you have added, pages you have bookmarked, etc. If you have a lot of applications this list can become unwieldy, so try to limit it to your five favorite applications.

facebook application privacy profile

Adjusting the Privacy Settings

Some applications (particularly the ones created by Facebook) have application specific privacy settings that you can adjust from within your “application privacy options” or by editing your application settings. I don’t know why they didn’t make it consistent for all applications.

Editing the settings of an application will give you the following extra option that weren’t available when you first added it.

Control who can see the application on your profile

This is a standard drop down choice between everyone, all your networks, some of your networks, your friends, yourself, or no one. If you chose not to have a box in your profile when you added the application then this will be set to “no one”.

Individual control of mini-feed and news feed setting

When you are adding a new application there is only one setting for mini-feed and news feed. If you edit the application later you will be able to have different settings for your mini-feed and news feed (which is a good thing — have lots of updates on the mini-feed but not as many on your news feed so you don’t spam your friends).

facebook application privacy news feed setting

Applications and Limited Profile

You can control which of the official Facebook apps are shown on your limited profile under Privacy Options >> Limited Profile. As far as I can tell unofficial apps never show on your limited profile (or maybe they always show and there is no way to turn them off).

Control the Information Given to Third Party Applications

Under Privacy Options >> Applications >> Other Applications you can control what other applications can find out about you when you don’t have them installed (IE: if your friends have them installed). I highly recommend leaving most of the boxes unchecked. The only way you can disable ANY information from leaking out to your friends’ applications is by removing all of your applications first.

Blocking Applications

Did you know that you can block specific applications from contacting you or showing up in the news feed? You have to go to the application page and then chose Block Application. You do not need to install the application to do this. Yes, this means you can stop people from trying to bug you with those zombie/vampire apps.

Removing Applications and the Information Inside of Them

If you remove an application it does NOT delete any of the information inside that application. If you uploaded photos, videos or posted a note then all of that information will still be there unless you delete it inside of the application before removing an application. Good news: you can remove an app and then re-add it later on and be right back where you started. Bad news: it’s harder to get rid of embarrassing/incriminating info than just “removing the application”.

5 Things to Remember

    1. Don’t spam your friends — turn off the news feed for applications that update frequently
    2. Too many links — turn off profile links for applications other than your favorites
    3. Control who can see it — there’s no good reason to share apps with your networks instead of just your friends
    4. Delete THEN remove — you have to delete the information inside an app before removing it
    5. Stop being annoyed — block the applications you don’t like

      The Facebook applications privacy settings are pretty danged complicated, and in usual Facebook style the controls to access them are all over the place. But now you know what the different settings do and have an idea of how you can use them. Blocking annoying applications can make the site a lot less annoying, and you can control your own settings to keep from spamming the crap out of your friends. The only real gotcha is that you need to delete embarrassing information from an application before you remove the application.


      “Be sure to customize your privacy settings on the Privacy page if you are uncomfortable being found in searches or having your profile viewed by people from your school, workplace or regional network. Remember, unless you’re prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don’t post it.” — Official Facebook Safety page

      Did you find this page useful? Then help spread the word by sharing it on Facebook, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon or other sites.

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      Be My Friend (on social network sites)

      Unless you’ve had your head in the sand (or *gasp* you aren’t obsessed with Internet culture), then you’ve noticed that we’re seeing more and more web service startups over the past few years. Last year I flamed the Bubble 2.0 soundly in “Web Too.Many.” Earlier this year I tried to get an idea of what websites people actually use by starting the What’s Your Web 2.0? meme.I think I’m past breaking when it comes to my attention span and the number of services that I use. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some I heartily recommend. If you use some of these services as well, then please go ahead and “friend” me. And yes, there is a Facebook account in the list.


      Software Hosting


      • Twitter – sharing, republishing
      • Tumblr – aggregating my online presence
      • Jaiku – sharing, republishing


      These are sites that I used to use often, but I’ve given up on:

      • MyBlogLog – too much spam
      • Flickr – it’s easier to share photos with friends on Facebook
      • RottenTomatoes – it’s easier to share movie reviews with friends on Facebook
      • Technorati – never indexes me properly
      • Blogcritics – got some books, but they aren’t a very good source of traffic
      • LinkedIn – until the next time I’m looking for work
      • … more than I can possibly remember.

      What got me thinking about this is trying out Pownce for the first time and seeing how horrible it is at re-discovering my friends.

      I just sent out some invites to Kevin Rose’s Pownce to my FeedBurner subscribers. (Thanks for hooking me up, Adam)

      Pownce First Impression

      I’ve seen other complaints that the biggest problem of Pownce is “what do I do with it?” It’s probably the most powerful web-based instant messaging client out there.

      I was very surprised that they Pownce doesn’t have an “import contacts from address book” feature. That is rapidly becoming the only way to easily import the list of your friends from one web app to another. I was trying out Blue Swarm the other day and they are using a very slick widget from Plaxo that does easy address book imports. All web startups should use this, since email address contacts are the only universal data format for identifying your friends on the web.

      This is a perfect example of why the Facebook application experience is so powerful… signing up and maintaining a user account is the major barrier that prevents most web startups from gaining a massive user base. “Social” web sites have an even bigger barrier in that you have to move or re-find your network. Facebook apps allow for any application to have the same user account and social network.

      Obviously I think it would be pretty awesome if that Plaxo contact importer also supported Facebook as well as Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, and Yahoo.

      What Others Have to Say

      Scoble: “I see many of the same people in my friends list on Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, and now Pownce. Pownce is growing faster than the other ones right now, though. 728 people have already added me on Pownce. I can’t take many more social networks.

      Memoirs of a Bystander: “My question is this: Is there any value actually garnered from adding an obscenely large amount of random people as your friend on various social sites? Honestly, if a social networking site it meant to enhance you life through discovery of new interests, music, recommendations, etc…, is that easily done by wading through thousands of people?”

      Mashable: “And it is this: on Pownce, you can send a message, or a file, or a song, or an event, to one person; or three of your friends; or only your family; or everyone.”

      SocialHam: “Now more than ever Email seems to becoming a dead medium so can micro blogging sites fill in the gaps?”

      JetPacked: “Can’t decide between pownce and twitter? This should help. Here’s how to post your pownces to twitter.”

      Daily Grumble: “Social networking is a very difficult area for a new service to break into. How on earth are you going to persuade users of other, more established social networks to come to your service?”

      Greg Verdino: “Are social media mavens living inside a bubble of our own making, artificially inflating the impact that most of these nascent technologies are having on the population in general, and ultimately getting our companies and our clients riled up over something that will, over time, turn out to be, well um, nothing?”

      How to synchronize your iPod (or iTunes) to Facebook using Last.fm

      Posted in Facebook, Music, MP3s and Internet Radio, Technology by engtech on June 29, 2007

      I started listening to MP3s around 9 years ago, and bought my last CD around 5 years ago. Digital music has become a way of life for me (as it is for most people), to the point where I have around way too many devices for playing MP3s: computer, stereo system, DVD player, game console, cell phone, car and dedicated MP3 players like an iPod.

      Yet I’d be the first to tell you that digital music on demand over the Internet is so much more convenient then maintaining, sorting and backing up a large digital music library. Especially when web sites like Last.fm give you great artist discovery based on what you’ve already been listening to.

      Another great way to discover new music is by seeing what your friends are listening to. People often using MP3 playing software to automatically update their blog with what they are listening to. Livejournal goes so far as to add a “listening to” field to every blog post. But blogs are so 2001, I’m going to show you how to update your Facebook profile with what you’ve been listening to on your iPod, using last.fm as the middle man.

      I’ve been using this technique for a month now and my friends can see what I’m listening to, top tracks of the week, top artists… and best of all with one click they can either play the song or find out more information about the artist. The extra bonus points come from Last.FM getting better and better at discovering music I’ve never heard of yet instantly love.

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      What You Are Going to Need

      • a Windows PC [1]
      • an iPod
      • iTunes software
      • Facebook account
      • last.fm account
      • people who want to read your Facebook profile to see how much you rock (and roll) [2]

      A few assumptions: these are general directions, and not a step-by-step walkthrough. I’m going to show you the theory, and point you to where to get better information.

      [1] The theory still works even if you use players other than iPods, or if you are running on Linux or a Mac. You can sync pretty much anything to last.fm, which means that you can sync it to Facebook. See more info on what last.fm supports here.

      [2] This is, surprisingly, the hardest part.

      The Easy Part – Synching Last.fm to Facebook

      Thanks to those fancy new Facebook applications every one is playing with (have you given up on Super Poke and Free Gifts yet?), there are several ways to update Facebook with your recently played tracks on last.fm:

      1. The official Facebook app by last.fm
        • Pro: people can click on the play icon to listen to the music on your profile.
        • Con: They have to click on the app to see your recent updates. They can see your last.fm username.
      2. Unofficial last.fm apps for Facebook
      3. Last.fm Plus by Paul Wells This is what I use — highly recommended
        • Pro: *Much* simpler and less cluttered than the official plugin, not Flash-based. Can hide your last.fm username.
        • Con: People have to leave your profile page to play the music.

      I recommend Last.fm Plus over the official application. This is what it looks like. The play button will play the song/artist while clicking on the name will bring them to a biography of the artist with options to play samples, download MP3s, watch videos, buy albums or listen to similar artists. It’ll also show you information like what the most popular song by that artist is.

      How to sync your iPod with Facebook using last.fm

      Here’s what the linked page looks like for Hot Chip.

      Hot Tip: When installing Facebook applications, uncheck the “Publish stories in my News Feeds and Mini-feeds” so that you don’t spam the crap out of your friends. Find more information about Facebook application privacy settings here.

      (photo by dan morris)

      The Less Easy Part – Synching Your iPod to Last.fm

      There are several ways of synching your iPod to last.fm

      1. The official last.fm client (they finally added support!)
        • Pro: Part of the official client, less likely to break when iTunes updates
        • Con: Only works if you have your iPod set to automatically sync to iTunes
      2. iSproggler (Windows) or iScrobbler (Mac) This is what I use — highly recommended
        • Pro: Supports manually synched iPods.
        • Con: Have to choose the “Update iPod” option whenever you want to update. Can give a “script is using iTunes” warning when quitting iTunes.
      3. Yamipod software for Windows, Mac or Linux (iTunes replacement)
        • Pro: You can copy it directly on you iPod so that you’ll always have it with you. Can be used to copy songs back to PC.
        • Con: You have to run Yamipod *before* running iTunes or any other manager in order for sync to work. The forums usually have many support threads about getting Yamipod to work with last.fm. Have to manually click the send button.
      4. Amarok software for Linux/Unix (iTunes replacement)
        • Pro: Also supports more devices than just the iPod (iRiver, Zen, others)
        • Con: No Mac/Windows support, so I didn’t try it
      5. Uber geek: script for bridging your iPod to last.fm
        • Con: Looks like it is the least supported of all of these methods.

      As you can see, there are too many choices. If you have your iPod set up to automatically sync to iTunes, then use the official last.fm client. I’ve settled on using iSproggler since I find it’s more reliable than YamiPod.

      Updating your Facebook playlist in 3 Easy Steps

      The one time setup steps are

      1. setting up your Last.FM account,
      2. installing LastFM Plus on your Facebook profile and
      3. installing iSproggler on your computer (and configuring it with your Last.FM user account)

      After that the sync process is

      1. Open iTunes
        • Open iSproggler (if not configured to open automatically with iTunes)
      2. Connect your iPod
      3. Click on the Update iPod button in iSproggler
      4. That’s it

      This works great, and the playlist charts Last.FM Plus generates are above and beyond anything else I’ve seen in other Facebook music apps. I’ve been using it reliably for over a month now, and I highly recommend this technique to anyone with a Facebook account and an iPod.

      Internet Duct Tape is a blog about clever hacks and Internet mashups. You can subscribe to updates using an RSS reader or by email.

      Related Posts

      How to use Facebook without Losing Your Job over it

      Posted in Facebook, Online Privacy and Reputation Management, Technology by engtech on March 08, 2007

      I’ve followed my friends as they jump around from social network to social network, creating profiles on Friendster, Hi-5, Orkut, MySpace and now Facebook, even though I never use the sites.

      Facebook is great networking tool that lets you keep in contact with former friends from high school, university and various jobs. It easily connects people together with tools like registering that you are the owner of a specific cell phone number, keeping track of every email address you’ve ever had, and logging into your email account to find out who you know.

      As you can guess from my previous series on online pseudo-anonymity, something that collects as much personal information as Facebook scares the bejebus out of me. From the address book import I can clearly see that everyone I’ve ever even remotely known is already on Facebook, and the default settings mean they’re all sharing all kinds of personal information they may not be aware of.


      Ottawa employees fired because of Facebook

      Posted in Facebook, Links, Online Privacy and Reputation Management, Technology by engtech on January 18, 2007

      So an Ottawa grocery chain (Farm Boy) has fired employees because of postings they made on Facebook under their real identity (via: Michael Geist). Facebook is a MySpace clone focused on University/College students. Devon Bourgeois and James Wood are now jobless because of messages they posted on a message board on Facebook (although it was not publicly available). The gist I got from the story is that the company fired them for admission of theft based on posts on the Facebook message board.