Archive for November 27th, 2007

My Appointments

Nov 27, 2007 in 1 Star, Business, Facebook, Money

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Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

How to “Facelance”

When it comes to Facebook applications there is a plethora of “just for fun” apps that don’t provide much added value or service to Facebook beyond entertainment. So when William Blanchard told me about his company LAMBcast, Ltd’s new app My Appointments I got very excited about the possibilities. My Appointments promises to help you monetize your “skill, talents, and expertise”. It enables you to freelance directly through Facebook by providing an appointment scheduling and payment system on your profile page. Could this be one of first truly utilitarian applications? Will it spark a gold rush of service oriented applications?

I had to investigate further so I immediately installed My Appointments. Well — almost immediately. There was a brief pause of confusion as I stared at the about page which had a logo and description referring to an application named “Hire Me”. I finally inferred that Hire Me is simply another name for My Appointments. It’s easy to assume that this is probably to attract both users of My Appointments and their potential clients who would hire them. But I must admit it made me hesitate. The last thing you want as a middle man service layer is any sort of doubt in the mind of your would be clients. People do not like their source of livelihood messed with.

My Appointments Logo

Once you install My Appointments you are prompted to fill out a short questionnaire about your services, contact, and billing information. After I completed the questionnaire I was taken to a page informing me that my trial period was now over and a subscription of $5 monthly through PayPal was required for “uninterrupted use of Hire Me!”. This was a little unsettling and jarring to me. Not that $5 a month is much to ask for from a service that helps you schedule more clients efficiently but the fact that I was never given a trial period to begin with. Suddenly I felt like I had been deprived of something I didn’t even know I had had.

My Appointments Trial Over

My Appointments Profile Box

After that I wasn’t sure what to do next. I wasn’t about to pay $5 now for something I supposedly could have tried for free and there didn’t seem to be anymore options or tabs to click on. I decided to check out my profile and see what a potential client would see. Boy was I in for a surprise!

My Appointments had embedded the largest profile box you can imagine that looked like a giant banner for “Hire Me”. It clocked in at a whopping 924 pixels in height. The bulk of it was a box featuring the “Hire Me” logo saying “Click To Enter”. Once you click on the profile box the interface is enabled and the large banner turns into your appointment calendar and scheduling form where clients can click on an available time slot and submit their contact information. There is also a PayPal button at the bottom of your profile box allowing your clients to be redirected to PayPal to submit their payments to you.

That is about the extent of the functionality of My Appointments. Oh — except for the fact that it kept spamming emailing me every time I did anything! Not only was I never informed that it would be emailing me, but I’m not even sure where it got my email address from. Did it get it directly from my Facebook profile? Or did it utilize my PayPal login email address in a way that I was not informed it would? Either way, receiving a steady stream of emails from an unidentifiable sender that contains the same messages the user interface already told me is completely irritating. Plus they are full of typographical errors like “Thank you for addming this Application.”

My Appointments Email

The Result

I admit it was love at first sight with My Appointments — but then I woke up the next morning sober! I was so excited about the idea of a truly useful app that I almost over looked the glaringly obvious user interface and usability issues. To top it off the usefulness of My Appointments is rather limited. I couldn’t figure out a way to import or export existing appointments so unless I use Facebook exclusively and have all of my clients book their appointments on my profile I am going to have some major scheduling conflicts.

The over zealous email notifications, super-size-me profile box, missing free trial, and handful of other quirks all contributed towards the 1 star rating. I haven’t given up on my dreams of a Facebook app revolution though. I think with a lot of hard work LAMBcast could be on to something with My Appointments. If they can fix all of the bugs and polish it up there is a potential market of hundreds of thousands of self-employed people on Facebook. Some who might even be willing to spare $5 a month. But if LAMBcast doesn’t, someone else will.

Uninstalled but you can still hire me for $160 an hour. Well, maybe. Let’s talk.

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College Admissions

Nov 27, 2007 in 3 Stars, Education, Facebook

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

College Admissions by Max Hodak is designed to facilitate the research process of finding the right university for you. The application clearly has a target audience of US high school students. I’m not sure if the application is US only, but it appears to be that way.

User’s are encouraged to fill out their College CV (Curriculum Vitae). It gives the over achievers some bragging rights amongst their friends, but more importantly to provides the data necessary for the analytics screener to match you up with a college.

Unfortunately, the search functionality is a bit weak. I searched by name for UCLA, University of California Los Angeles, or by location Los Angeles and it returned 0 results. If I just search by state (CA), then UCLA shows up along with every other location that has the string CA. For a site geared towards finding colleges, it seems like the search functionality has been overlooked.

Here is the search for CA.

College Admissions 'CA' Search Results

Clicking on one of the universities, brings up extensive statistics.

For me, the most interesting feature of the application is their Analytics Screener. It lets you systematically search for schools that meet your criteria, such as the U.S. News rankings and acceptance rate. It then pairs it with the information you specified in your profile to come up with scores that describe your chances of acceptance. I think it would be beneficial if there were some sort of legend on the page that described exactly what the statistics mean. In this example, however, it’s not able to provide any useful statistics because I haven’t yet completed my user profile (I can’t remember what my SAT scores were 10 years ago!). I’ll post a screen shot of what they would look like as soon as Max sends one over..

College Admissions Analytics Screener

While I like the application’s premise, it’s has a little bit more to go in terms of usability. It’s still in an early beta, so I expect to see more improvements in the near future. Overall, I feel the application is a bit cluttered; it presents too much information on the main page and a lot of unnecessary white space in other places (which is a problem when your on a small 13″ laptop screen). With a slight overhaul such as adding tabs, fixing search, adding more language that better describes the statistics, it would probably meet it’s desired audiences expectations.

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Friendly Search

Nov 27, 2007 in 4 Stars, Facebook, Utility

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Facebook - Friendly Search_1196190145812

Friendly Search by Heiko Waechter and Jason Smale aims to improve the way you manage all your existing friends by filtering, sorting and searching. It’s not an improved Friend Finder application, as one might interpret their description.

Facebook - Friendly Search_1196190441859

Immediately after signing in, I’m impressed with its clean presentation. The application is designed in Flash, with a little bit of little eye-candy like fading and flashing. Everything is accomplished on a single page with no page reloading.

Features:

  1. Sort by
    1. First Name
    2. Last Name
  2. Filter by Network
    1. Drop down list of all your networks and your friends’ networks
  3. Filter by Country
    1. Drop down list all distinct countries in your network of friends
  4. Filter by Sex
    1. Male
    2. Female
    3. All
  5. Search by Name
  6. View Mode
    1. Small icons
    2. Medium icons
    3. Medium icons with details

I’m going to keep the application installed. In all honesty, even the existing Facebook Friend List feature is one I use irregularly, but next time I need to lookup one of my friends I’ll probably use Friendly Search.

Installed

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Scrabulous

Nov 27, 2007 in 5 Stars, Education, Facebook, Gaming

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Rating: ★★★★★ Scrabulous Logo

CAZIQUES, QUIXOTRY, BEZIQUE and MUZJIKS. Wait, those are words? Not only are they words but they are the record holding words played for:

  • Highest single play (SOWPODS) – CAZIQUES
  • Highest single play (OSPD) – QUIXOTRY
  • Highest opening move score (SOWPODS) – BEZIQUE
  • Highest opening move score possible (OSPD) – MUZJIKS

If you’re wondering what the heck SOWPODS and OSPD are, don’t fret I’ll get to that later. In the mean time if I haven’t destroyed your mind or your ocular sensory and have piqued your interest instead you will now promptly install Scrabulous on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Developed by Jayant Agarwalla and Rajat Agarwalla, Scrabulous (also found at scrabulous.com), for all intents and purposes, is Scrabble©. While its not technically Scrabble© (trademark ™ of Hasbro) it uses Scrabble© rules, official Scrabble© tournament dictionaries and the exact Scrabble© board. How they do it, I don’t know nor do I care, I just want to play.

Scoring and Play

The game uses a points system that combines numerical values assigned to each letter tile as well as point multipliers (2x letter, 2x word, 3x letter, 3x word) arranged throughout the 15×15 grid game board. If you can play all 7 of your tiles in a single turn you are awarded an additional 50 points on top of the word’s normal score! This is commonly referred to as a Bingo.

Scrabulous Scoring and Play

Scrabulous can be played with a minimum of 2 and maximum of 4 players. To start the game is simple but what lies within the world of Scrabulous is a game of mystery, deceit, trapping, blocking, theft, treachery, defense, offense, and.. The most important aspect, vocabulary! Don’t be fooled by words and words alone, Scrabulous is most definitely a game of strategy.

Words are formed left to right, top to bottom; similar to a crossword puzzle. No diagonal words or backwards spelling allowed, unless of course it’s a palindrome! Each word must consist of a minimum of 2 letters and must appear in the dictionary/wordlist your game is using. On each turn a player can choose to pass, exchange tiles, or play his tiles on the board. Click here for a more detailed explanation on the rules and game play.

Creating/Choosing Games

There are several ways to start games in Scrabulous. You may choose to Create a New game, Host a Table, Join a Table, Browse through your friend list to see who else has it installed or peruse a global directory of Scrabulous players. Regardless of which method you pick all games come with the same options that are chosen on creation.

Scrabulous Create Games

Opponents aside, you must choose type of Dictionary, Game Type, Game Speed, Requests Limit, Request Duration, and Notes.

Dictionary: English SOWPODS, English TWL, Italian, French. As promised here’s the explanation of SOWPODS and OSPD. Although for Scrabulous the only 2 dictionaries that apply are SOWPODS and TWL.

  • SOWPODS - The term was coined to cover the convergence of the two international Scrabble word sources. OSW and OSPD. It is an acronym derived from anagramming OSW and OSPD. Used in tournament Scrabble in all English-speaking countries except North America, Thailand and Israel
  • TWL also known as OWL – Official Tournament and Club Word List. This is an expanded version of the OSPD. The words that were included are mostly those which were considered offensive. It is used primarily in North America, Thailand and Israel.
  • OSPD - The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, a publication derived primarily from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, but also includes words from four other major college dictionaries. OSPD is exclusively used in North America, Thailand and Israel
  • OSW - The Official Scrabble Words, a publication derived solely from the Chambers Dictionary, published in Scotland, OSW is exclusively used in the UK.

Scrabulous Game Options Game Type: Regular or Challenge. A Regular game removes the option to challenge your opponent and instead gives you an automatic word checker that will validate any word played upon submission and reject any word not in the dictionary. There is no penalty for invalid words and the player can continue until a word is accepted. Players may also use the dictionary tool in Regular games. Challenge games afford the players the opportunity to play any letter combination they want leaving the checking up to you. When you do challenge a player you feel is playing a fake or misspelled word, if you are right the player loses his turn and the points from that round. If you are wrong, you lose your turn. Players may not use the dictionary tool in Challenge games.

Game Speed: fast (users are online and want to play), medium (may take a while), and slow (will play whenever I have time).

Request Limit: You may also choose the number of requests the host can receive, for example if you select 3 your game request will expire once 3 challengers have joined your table.

Request Duration: How long your host request is available, anywhere from 15 – 90 minutes.

Notes: (Optional) Anything you want people to see when viewing your listing will appear here.

Features and Tools

Scrabulous comes loaded with built in cheats and tools. Not only can you play a game where the game itself does your spellchecking, you have a built in word list, a tile distribution breakdown, a dictionary lookup, refresh board, move list, delete/resign, and a quick help link.

Scrabulous Word ListWord List: A complete 2 letter Word list for both TWL and SOWPODS game play.

Scrabulous Tile DistributionTile Distribution: A complete list of how many tiles per letter exist. Use this to see whats been played and whats still either in your opponents tray or waiting to be picked up.

Scrabulous Dictionary LookupDictionary Lookup: Check to see if any word you want to play is valid! This option can only be used in Regular mode, does not function in Challenge mode.

Scrabulous RefreshRefresh Board: Refresh the board to see if there is new chat or if your opponent has played.

Scrabulous Move ListSee Move List: View complete move list history for your game including each turns point total and your overall total.

Scrabulous Delete/ResignDelete/Resign: If you don’t want to play a game you can delete or resign. Games with 3 or less moves are deleted and do not show up in your statistics or game history, however if there are 4 or more moves, you will resign and count it as a loss.

Scrabulous HelpHelp: Quick links to the game rules, faq, practice mode and feedback

There is also a shuffle button for your tiles, an alphabetical sort button for your tiles, and the ability to spell directly on the board so no drag and drop required. To help with the mathematically impaired, Scrabulous also shows you your score on your current play before you even commit which proves to be incredibly useful for placement comparison.

Under “Completed Games” you can access all your past wins and losses and view the boards as well as the play history per game. Under “My Stats” you can see your rating, how many games you’re playing, how many games you’ve completed, how many games you’ve won, lost, drawn and your best scoring Bingo as well as your Bingo History. If you want to see the overall Leaderboard simply click “Global Stats”. There are a few setting options that you can configure. You can choose to remove your profile from the Scrabulous Users page, select whether or not you want your board by default to show the numbered multipliers, enable a 2 minute auto refresh, and set your default dictionary and game type. If you dont want users to see your online status, not to worry you can adjust that as well.

Cheat Tools?? That’s Crap!

So why play at all? Because its fun! Don’t believe me? Ask the other 544,985 active daily users. There’s a reason why its one of the top performing apps on Facebook! Even with the built in cheats, the game is addictive. Its turn based play allows you to have as many simultaneous games as you choose, at any pace you want. Most importantly Scrabulous educates you. Don’t know the word your opponent just played? I bet you’re going to look it up and use it the next chance you get.

Some users feel the built in tools cheapen the game, but personally I love them. It allows me to be a little more creative in my strategy and encourages me to find new ways to play tricky combos. Unfortunately because it is turn based, with opponents behind a computer and on the internet, cheating is going to occur. While there are numerous Scrabble word builders available online it still doesn’t stop me from playing. The challenge exists regardless of what my opponents may or may not be using, Scrabulous itself challenges me as much as any player does, for every time I play I’m forced to rethink position and strategy to improve my own game. Whether I perform poorly or well, I learn something new every game. And no, for the 100th time, I’m not cheating. I know the word XYSTI because someone kicked my butt with it, and you bet your hiney im jotting down and utilizing words that have decimated my win/loss ratio! If you don’t like to lose and have trust issues, get off the internet.

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The 12 Walls of Facebook — Part 1

Nov 27, 2007 in 4 Stars, Chat, Dating, Facebook, File Sharing, Just For Fun, Messaging, Photo, Utility, Video

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If you have a Facebook account, you’ve probably noticed the handful of different wall applications. It’s not uncommon to see a handful of them on the same Facebook profile.

Facebook provides you with a wall by default. So what makes these “Super” or “Advanced” walls so “Super” and “Advanced”? Lets take a look…


The Wall

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Wall Facebook Application This is the default wall created by Facebook. By default (unless you removed it), it’s on your profile. The Wall allows you post text, no html or bbc (bulletin board code). You can’t post images or YouTube videos, but you can attach items such as a link and can create a video from your webcam.

Other applications have the ability to tie into The Wall and extend it’s ability. Though, from what I’ve seen, most addons are vampire hugs and other crap you probably don’t care about.

If you like it plain, this is the wall for you.


Super Wall

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Super Wall Facebook ApplicationThis one has to be better, right? It is named Super Wall after all. The 16 million people that have it installed sure seem to think so.

Besides all the features The Wall provides, Super Wall allows you to attach photos, YouTube videos and even music (though you have to install another app to listen to it).

Photos can be added to the wall from your Facebook photo galleries, you can upload, or provide the URL to an image on the web. There’s also an option to draw Graffiti.

Videos can only be attached from YouTube or Google Video, which I guess is ok since everyone uses YouTube anyway.

Though I do have a very serious complaint about this application, which affected it’s rating… This is the spammiest app I’ve encountered on Facebook. I’m beginning to think maybe this app has so many users, not because it’s so great, but because it Super Spams everyone you know.

Upon install, it asked me to invite friends with all of my friends selected by default. Then it added an additional item to my news feed asking people to come and write on my wall.

When I created a test post on my own wall, I accidentally blasted it out to all my friends Super Wall’s. (Everybody is selected by default). In addition to accidentally writing a test message on everybody’s wall, it posted a message in their mini-feed saying they got a new post on their Super Wall.

This means not only did I post on all of my friends’ Super Walls, but all of their friends got messages in their mini-feeds saying I did so. F’n great…

Super Wall Facebook Application Arrrggg!!

A quick browse of the Super Wall Message Boards will reveal a lot of other users angry at this application. *danger*

Install at your own risk. But if you do install this app… make sure you uncheck the mini-feed option!


Advanced Wall

Rating: ★★★★☆

Advanced Wall Facebook Application The Advanced Wall operates almost exactly like The Wall, but gives you an “Advanced Editor” option. This advanced editor is a WYSIWYG / Rich Text editor. You can change your font, color, height, embed links, emoticons, images, YouTube videos, Flash and even HTML.

You can even import all your posts from your old Facebook wall.

Advanced Wall also lets your friends write private messages on your wall. It is highly configurable and allows you to change a number of settings, like the number of posts on your wall, number of posts per page, a lot of privacy settings and you can even have new post notifications sent via sms to your phone.

If you like the way the original Facebook Wall operates and want a little more functionality, this is a good choice.

 

 

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My Flickr

Nov 27, 2007 in 4 Stars, Facebook, Photo, Utility

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Rating: ★★★★☆

My Flickr Facebook Application Screenshot

The My Flickr Facebook App is exactly that. It allows you to show a few pictures from your Flickr account on your Facebook profile page.

The interface is a little crappy looking, but you know what? Who cares! It works and it’s easy! You can show up to 30 pictures in your profile page and select them by tags, date range, etc.

For those of you that have your Flickr photos tagged, this will be super simple. I had to take a few minutes (in Flickr) to tag a few photos I wanted shown.

I really like applications that don’t immediately prompt you to invite all your friends and doesn’t spam the crap out of your feed. My Flickr gives you a checkbox (to publish to the feed) and gives you the control.

My only complaint (preventing a 5 star rating) about this application is that clicking a thumbnail opens a window to Flickr.  I would have liked it to stay in facebook and allow users to comment.

If you have a Flickr account, this app is worth checking out.

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Be Santa

Nov 27, 2007 in 4 Stars, Events, Facebook, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Winning is the Reason for the Season

‘Tis the season for seasonal apps. This past week we’ve seen a slew of new holiday related apps rushing into our Facebook News Feeds faster than you can lick the stripes off a candy cane. All the religious and political debris aside though — who doesn’t love Santa Claus? That’s why this next app got our attention.

Be Santa Logo

The only thing better than getting gifts from Santa Claus is being Santa Claus! Be Santa from the recently founded Dank Apps team gives you just that opportunity. Be Santa lets you play Santa by sending both real and virtual gifts to your Facebook friends with a surprise twist. On Christmas Day of this year random virtual gifts will be selected to be turned into real gifts! Dank Apps is promising to give away $2,500 in virtual-to-real gifts this holiday. Now wouldn’t that make you the joy of all your friends?

All you have to do to send your friends these potentially real gifts is to log in to Be Santa once a day and send gifts or write “letters to Santa” to your friends. You can do each of these up to 20 times a day. For each gift or letter sent you will earn one entry into the virtual-to-real gift giveaway.

When you send a real or virtual gift you enter the name of the product you’d like to send into a simple search box that pops up results from a list of online shopping sites such as Amazon.com. Select the item you were looking for and then send your gift request. You can also choose from a handful of pretty colored gift boxes. I sent my friend Jamie a Sony Blu-Ray Disc Player in a purple gift box since she’s a Sony snob and obsessed with the color purple. If she or I have any sort of luck, she might actually get that Sony Blu-Ray Disc Player this Christmas courtesy of Be Santa!

Be Santa Gift

If you or your friends find out you’ve won this Christmas morning though you won’t be the only ones celebrating. Dank Apps should be partying in style this year with the rampant success of their previous app The Lotto and the recent $250,000 in funding they received from Bay Partners as part of the AppFactory program. Let’s just hope they save some of that money and use it to remove the pop-ups being served through the ads on Be Santa which is my only real complaint so far. Thankfully Firefox minimized the annoyance for me.

Be Santa Received Gift

The Result

Gifts hand picked, carefully wrapped, and sent! Gleefully awaiting Christmas morning. Keeping it installed, at least until Christmas, when I find out I didn’t win!

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