Srilatha Marru's Blog
Facebook Applications are marketing heaven but not a development cakewalk.

Facebook has more than 500 million active users. It is a good viral marketing for any company to advertise its products through Facebook.  50% of its active users log on to Facebook any given day.  Average user has 130 friends. People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.  These big facts encourage any marketing company to mine the gold in the Biggest Social Networking Platform.

Facebook Applications and development Platform:

Facebook offers development platform that allows users to develop applications that interact and integrate with Facebook experience.  Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications. More than 550,000 active applications are currently on Facebook Platform. All this would give enough confidence to dive into Facebook application development.

So what else is the problem?

To keep up with race of the emerging social marketing and capture market, the social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google are releasing half-baked development APIs, just to be forerunners. Facebook has several APIS to build the Facebook Applications.  Some APIS are deprecated and other not fully developed.  Facebook would tout about its API and release a fully blown documentation. Developer since has read through all documentation would promise himself and the client to get the application done.

When the time comes to implementation the developer would realize that the documentation is what Facebook wants to do with their API but has not completely implemented or tested it.  The bugs about the implementation are buried deep down in their Bugzilla account. And developers wait endlessly for the bugs to get fixed.   And developers break promises and workaround the solution to complete the project or download their latest API code and fully go though new changes and see if the new API supports the features.

Based on a recent first hand development experience, some examples of facebook app issues include:

  1. Facebook and its application have issues with Safari browser since Safari doesn’t support storing users cookies by default.  And the solution by Facebook is left to developer’s discretion.
  2. Facebook currently does not support adding apps to the users Wall tab.  It has been mentioned in the development API that this feature is deprecated in early 2010.  But the Facebook has not made any official announcement about disabling App Wall tab feature and the product guide still shows the old features. Disconnect between Marketing and Development team is clearly evident.  It is hard to blame just the Facebook because there is a problem at large in software development world where the products have to be oversold to sustain and generate revenue.

Past marketing failures:

Some examples from the past are Google wave. It was so hyped in its initial stages and on August 4, 2010, however, Google announced that the product would no longer be developed as a standalone product due to lack of interest.  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html If any company or agency spent time and money to leverage on Google Wave they should have been at a loss.

Take away for end users and app developers:

The situation is like throwing noodles onto the wall to test if spaghetti is cooked. We are the walls of various app features. In this transition era, we cannot be left behind and cannot stop venturing into these buzzy but untested features. It is always encouraging to invest marketing and branding time in most popular marketing platforms to date.  The only solutions I can think of are to keep in mind that any emerging feature will have an associated risk. As a marketing development firm, we have to be adaptable and distinguish between offering well-known features versus popular untested features.  There is a need for shared responsibility of associated risks among and need for adaptability and flexibility on design features and products when working with and promising to deliver solutions based on emerging technologies. Even with these gotchas, social networking is paving ways for new marketing revolutions and we have to keep up with it.

Srilatha Marru's Blog
Cakephp relative file path

In cakephp relative file paths are little tricky. Unless they are defined in the routes or in the actions/functions a file will not be rendered as you are expecting it to.   So many a times  or always you can use absolute paths to point to a file like an image or a video.

In  my scenario using the relative paths for a file was mandatory.  I was given a pre compiled swf file with relative paths encoded in it.  And the cakephp didn’t understand the filename in the url as it was.  So here is what I found in cakephp documentation which solved my problem of rendering the relative urls.

Media Views (From Cakephp site):

Media views allow you to send binary files to the user. For example, you may wish to have a directory of files outside of the webroot to prevent users from direct linking them. You can use the Media view to pull the file from a special folder within /app/, allowing you to perform authentication before delivering the file to the user.

To use the Media view, you need to tell your controller to use the MediaView class instead of the default View class. After that, just pass in additional parameters to specify where your file is located.

 class ExampleController extends AppController {
function download () {
$this->view = 'Media';
$params = array(
'id' => 'example.zip',
'name' => 'example',
'download' => true,
'extension' => 'zip',
'path' => APP . 'files' . DS
);
$this->set($params);
}
}

Hope you will find it useful too and will save your time.

Srilatha Marru's Blog
Developing Web applications in PHP???

I have been developing applications both desktop and web based from past 5 to 6 years.  I worked with Java, JSP, C#, Asp.net and currently working in php.  I see people having inferior opinion about PHP language over other high level languages.  I am not sure how much they know about php language and its capabilities.  Or how much they must be knowing about front end application development projects that are achieved in few months(2 – 3 atmost) with at least 90.99% client satisfaction.

What has PHP done so far?
PHP has helped in building the most popular blogging platforms and content management systems to date run by millions of websites around the world.  To anyone’s surprise Facebook, the most powerful social networking platform is run on PHP.  Although Facebook coverts php into low level languages it is interesting that it runs on php at the application level.

What is PHP evolving in to?
PHP5 version is more object oriented than ever.  There are lots more methods and functions to help the developers do their work more easily.

How much secure is it?
PHP when run on Apache and Linux servers  in my opinion is better than asp.net run on Windows with security issues.

Frameworks available:

There are lots of frameworks available making complex functionality  a piece of cake for developers.    Authentication, sessions,  access control, cache control, ajax support and so on are available to you by these frameworks.  Zend framework, cakephp, codeigniter and many frameworks have bigger development communities and are releasing the new versions up to date to cope up with upcoming technologies.   Pear packages gives the flexiblity to interact with webservices through HTTP protocol and parse the xml responses.

With these and lot more I  feel php has a strong application development platform which would help in building not only informational websites but also strong application oriented websites.

Srilatha Marru's Blog
Twitter development tools

Have thoughts to use amazing twitter services on your site. There you go, twitter has opened up a developer platform for developers to write applications, share them and use them. Thanks to Rajesh Gollapudi our co web developer who mentioned about it yesterday. And I took a sneak peek at it. http://dev.twitter.com/

I had trouble registering the application in the beginning. I thought it didn’t like my callback url. But I guess it didn’t like my application name. I changed the name from ‘My twitter Application’ to ‘My tweet bash’ and it worked!

The best first thing you get from it is Hover cards. The name sounds so interesting right? These are the cards that get displayed when you hover over the usernames on twitter feeds.



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