One thing that most consumer software of value does today is to integrate in some way with the major social networking incumbents, Facebook and Twitter. zeebox, naturally, is no different, and we’ve worked fairly closely with Facebook to get our Open Graph implementation right while also ensuring that we make best use of their platform.

There’s been a few bumps along the way. In past, Facebook have gently chided us for pre-filling the message field when posting to people’s walls from the app, which runs afoul of Facebook’s platform policy. Basically, any app that posts to your wall should have an empty field that allows you to express your thoughts about the subject matter you are posting.

But the truth is, there are loads of apps out there that flout this policy.

Draw Something:

Amazon Kindle:

And even some of zeebox’s competitors.. yap.tv:

In all these cases, Facebook’s platform policy is being violated because there is pre-filled content in the field rather than it being blank. In the case of yap.tv, you can’t even edit the text and, worse still, incomplete text is being displayed to the user.

It’s a little frustrating to see that FB’s platform policy isn’t quite enforced with an even hand, though I suppose the benefits of having a good relationship with Facebook outweigh this.

Written on April 23rd, 2012 , All, Dev & Test, Social Software, Tech


Facebook does many things very well, but most would agree that they are not particularly adept at managing their users’ privacy or security.

A recent example hit me the other day while browsing the Facebook iOS SDK integration docs. Facebook suggest that SDK developers store the Facebook access token that grants a client (e.g. an iPhone app) access to the Facebook platform in the iOS user defaults. This is not secure and could result in someone else masquerading as the user on Facebook or hijacked the user’s identity.

What is a Facebook access token?

A Facebook access token allows a 3rd party app to interact with Facebook on behalf of a particular user. Depending on what permissions the user granted to the app, the holder of the Facebook access token can do anything from posting to a friend’s wall, to accessing all the user’s personal information. It is important, therefore, that this access token is only ever accessible by the app in question.

What are iOS user defaults?

As any iOS developer knows, this is where an app can store a user’s preferences and any other information that might help the app to understand a user better across app sessions. These defaults might store things like a user’s ID, a preferred colour scheme, or the user’s first name, among other things.

User defaults, however, are not secure. Data stored in the defaults is stored in plain text, and while iOS apps cannot access the defaults of another app, anyone who had access to your phone, or a backup of your phone, could easily extract the Facebook access token and use it to masquerade as you. Not a good scenario.

Facebook makes the suggestion in the “Implementing SSO” section of their iOS tutorial. The offending bits:

The right place to store secure data on iOS devices is in the keychain.

Written on February 27th, 2012 , All, Dev & Test, Mobile, Social Software, Tech

For the past few months I’ve been working at zeebox on a new app for iPad that is genuinely one of the coolest products I’ve come across recently.. and so it has been an absolute pleasure having the opportunity to build it! I’ve been largely working on the social aspects of the app, e.g. Twitter integration, Facebook authentication, and the chat system, which is brilliant as this combines my two favourite spheres of software development: mobile and social.

Basically, zeebox acts as a glorified TV guide with social elements. You can see what your friends are watching ,chat with them about shows, invite them to watch with you and various other things. Despite a huge amount of work going into it, the app is still pretty nascent and it’s clear that it will improve dramatically over time, as long as people within the company continue to dream up more great ideas (this hasn’t been a problem thus far!).

There have been 4 of us working on the iPad app, but naturally there’s also a great team of engineers building the back-end services that tie the whole thing together. iPhone, and Android versions of the app are to follow. Check it out!

Written on October 28th, 2011 , Agile, All, Dev & Test, Mobile, Social Software, Tech

Another raaza app in the wild. This one is US Flu Fighter, which is basically a mashup of various different CDC feeds with Facebook and Twitter in an iOS native app. It’s another one with a Ruby on Rails web services back end, which I’m finding increasingly handy for quickly building such back ends. I used the CorePlot framework to draw the graphs, which was a pleasure to use once i got familiar with it. US Flu Fighter has been submitted to the CDC’s Flu App Challenge so please go ahead and give it a vote.

Written on June 3rd, 2011 , Dev & Test, Mobile, Social Software, Tech


This is year two for the Addicted to Ibiza Island Guide, a location-based listings app for the Ibiza party crowd. It includes event listings, a club guide, maps, DJ mixes and more.

The back end for this one was built in Java using largely the same components as last year, i.e. Struts 2, Spring, Hibernate, Freemarker and JAXB. If I had to do it again I would probably build it on Ruby on Rails, simply for the increased speed at which the solution could be delivered.

It’ll be available until December this year and then taken out of the store in anticipation of next years guide. :-)

You can learn more about it on the Addicted to Ibiza blog, and don’t forget to like the Addicted to Ibiza fan page on Facebook to hear all the atest Ibiza news… 250,000 members and going strong.

Written on April 24th, 2011 , Dev & Test, Mobile, Social Software, Tech

uktalogotype


The latest app from raaza, UK Terror Alert, has just gone live in the iPhone App Store. This is another Ruby-on-Rails backed app that feeds data sourced from the UK Home Office and the MI5 Secret Service into native app format. This was the first time I’ve used Apple push notifications in an iOS app and it was a bit of a trying process getting an APN server up and running on top of RoR.

As for the basics, with UK Terror Alert you can:

  • see the latest alert levels for international and Ireland-related terrorism
  • receive push notifications whenever the alert levels change
  • view a history of all alert level changes
  • get practical advice on how to mitigate the effects of terrorism
  • share this info on Facebook and Twitter.

For more info, visit the website:
http://www.ukterroralert.com

Written on January 20th, 2011 , Dev & Test, Mobile, Social Software, Tech

addictediphone

Another new iPhone app has just launched from raaza: the Addicted to Ibiza Island Guide 2010. This is the app you need to discover the best parties, places, news and music on the island. The app features all of the following:

  • The Addicted to Ibiza Blog for all the latest island news.
  • The Addicted Island Map with all the hottest bars and clubs, and how to get there.
  • Addicted’s Recommended Places guide with the best clubs, bars, beaches and more all detailed for you.
  • The Addicted Events Guide, with the deets for literally hundreds of the island’s hottest parties, from Amnesia to Pacha and more.
  • A Shout Outs section
  • Solid full length DJ mixes from top DJs like Pete Gooding, DJ Melon, Sarcastic and Rich Hope.
  • We did this app in partnership with the Addicted to Ibiza blog. And had a lot of fun doing it. I feel like I know the island pretty much inside and out now. Could come in handy if I end up going there in September. :-) Pick up the app below.

    app_store_badge

    Written on July 27th, 2010 , All, Mobile, Social Software, Tech

W3 AR3 T3H GOOGLE BORG. W3 PWNZ J00.

For some time now I’ve been comparing my usual search queries using this Google vs Bing tool, and the frank truth is that for a lot of the things that I search for, Bing gives me more accurate results that are more relevant to me than Google. This is likely only to improve when Wolfram Alpha is incorporated into Bing, but even now I can’t deny that Bing is the best default search engine for many of my queries.

But I haven’t switched, and I won’t. Google is still my default home page in every browser I use. There’s one simple reason for it– my online behaviours have become so enmeshed with Google that any sort of divorce is quite simply not an option. So what serves as the ball-and-chain? iGoogle and Google Apps, which have become products that drive me continually back to Google’s economic engine: Search.

Many years ago I began using Google Apps as a matter of curiosity and convenience. It started with Gmail, and some time later followed with Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. Now I have become so dependent on all of them that they effectively act as an impetus to continue to use good old iGoogle as my home page, even if better search results are out there to be had. Giving up easy and immediate access to my all-important iGoogle + Google Gadget-based Apps dashboard is simply unfathomable. The plain truth is that I am no longer simply a regular user of Google Search but rather a hooked user of the Google Platform, of which Search is only a part, and for me to give up my dependency on the platform would be a huge task.

The introduction of social features into Google products only tightened their grip on me. With the arrival of Google Talk/Chat in 2005 I was suddenly able to interact with my Gmail contacts in the immediate form of instant messages. Google almost overnight took on characteristics of a social network, and I found myself with yet another compelling reason to have Gmail and hence Google itself open on my desktop at all times. Even the fact that Google Talk uses open protocols and that I could use any XMPP client with it is not enough to dissuade me. And midway through last year Google introduced social features into Reader. The nefarious Google Grip tightened fruther. Social features tend to make products especially sticky for the simple reason that everyone wants to be where their friends are, and the cost of switching tends to be high (e.g. building up a whole new network of contacts in a new product).

Two things are set to draw my relationship with Google even closer. One is the emergence of Android. I have avoided adopting an Android handset for the same reason that I have in past shunned the iPhone: poor feature set. But this is set to change this year. Android will finally see handsets with good quality cameras, zippy processors and all the other high-end features we’ve come to expect. And because of Android’s fantastic integration with Google apps, these new devices will only serve to further the Google platform’s importance and dominance.

picardchromeborgThe other, of course, is the coming of Chrome OS. As Google Apps already acts as a sort of social and professional productivity platform, an operating system that supports and increasingly intregrates the products of the platform makes perfect sense, and yet will further indenture us to Google. Then, like the hive mind stretching its tentacles into the consciousnesses of all its Borg followers, so too will Google’s reach extend out to all of us via our mobile and desktop operating systems, with Search at its core.

So even if Google Search isn’t the stand-out it once was, ultimately Google and me look set to be partners for the longhaul. iGoogle & Google Apps have effectively bound me to using Google Search. Google’s operating systems will cement this relationship further. If Bing could match the ease and convenience of iGoogle + Google Apps with similar products, then they’d still have the enormous barriers of social software change to overcome. You’re fighting a tough battle, Microsoft.

Written on February 3rd, 2010 , All, Ruminations, Social Software, Tech

facebookscam

Recognize adverts from Facebook like the one at right? The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier today that they are in fact a scam. Victims are first asked to pay $1.95 shipping for information on how to earn thousands monthly or weekly while working for Google, and are later charged much more than this. Facebook claims to have eliminated all such ads, but they clearly haven’t as I captured this one just 10 minutes ago. That Lamborghini may prove to be as elusive as you first imagined..

Written on February 26th, 2009 , All, Social Software, Tech

I’ve been following events at the MWC over the past several days and it shaped up to be a fairly interesting conference. Here I’ve summarised my thoughts on some topics of interest:

  • Mobile broadband, as ever, is a hot topic. The promise of high-speed data over 3G has floundered a bit given that there can still be fairly high latency even if transfer speeds are reasonable (though I can’t say I’ve ever achieved even close to the 3.6MBit promised by Three anywhere in London on Three’s HSDPA network). The 4G networks due to roll out in 2012 that promise bit rates in the 1 GBit/sec (!) range certainly capture interest, particularly LTE Advanced, which seems to be the front-running contender for adoption by carriers.
  • Green issues are being talked up quite a lot. Apparently a year of average mobile phone use generates 25kg of greenhouse gases.
  • Mobile advertising is on everyone’s agenda, given that conversion rates are in the 7% – 12% range vs the pitiful rates offered by internet advertising.
  • Product announcements were a bit lackluster. We have a new touchscreen Android phone, the HTC Magic from Vodafone, a new 12MP shooter from Sony Ericsson (which will run Symbian, thankfully), Nokia’s first 8MP shooter, the N86, and two new handsets from HTC: the Touch Pro 2 and TouchDiamond 2
  • The INQ1 won best mobile handset, largely on the back of their deep integration with Facebook and other social software. It certainly wasn’t the mid-tier hardware.
  • Verizon was demo’ing it’s new Novarra content adaptation system. I’m a little disappointed to see that the biggest carrier in the US is now using Novarra transcoders because they do pose real difficulties for mobile development, as I’ve blogged about previously
  • Attendance numbers were down around 15%, from 55,000 in 2008 to 47,000 this year.

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