Astroengine Social Media: Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect, a new era for social media...

Facebook Connect, a new era for social media...

Facebook recently officially announced the release of Facebook Connect. At first, I was a little dubious as to what it would do; after all who needs to sign in to their Facebook account when surfing other websites, right?

Actually, Facebook Connect is a little deeper than that. Until now, Facebook has remained on Facebook.com, there was no way to transplant any of the social media applications to your own website (apart from a few developers). Applications for Facebook have been around since the dawn of the site, allowing users to develop and launch their own “useful” tools to connect, play, message and inform friends. Some have argued that the site was becoming cumbersome, with a vast number of user applications ballooning the platform out of all proportions. Many userpages were cluttered and overcrowded (including mine). So only a few weeks ago, Facebook underwent a huge face-lift, appearing to cut most of the chaff from userpages.

So far, so good.

But then the growing company announces it was developing its flexible platform to branch out. It would appear Facebook.com was just the beginning, over the coming months we’ll see Facebook applications appearing on other websites, expanding the scope of this social networking tool across the Internet…

This is one of the main reasons I’ve been so quiet over the Christmas holidays, I’ve been doing some website development (plus wrestling with a computer that I suspect is beginning to fail… oh dear). It’s made a change, but I’m very excited that my work is nearly done and I can commence business as usual. I’ve missed writing about space!

So what’s this Facebook Connect thingy? Last week I decided to give Google Friend Connect a whirl and it seems to be working out rather well. The ratings system also seems to be pretty useful. The key purpose of these social tools is to meet and connect with people who share common interests. Case and point is that I’ve been visiting other sites with Google Friend Connect installed and I keep seeing the same faces. Very quickly I can reconnect with friends and then subscribe to sites I enjoy.

Is it a bit of a time-waster? Possibly, but ultimately I believe it will be useful. The thing is, there is no model for this new social media technology, so it’s hard to see where it will end up. However, I’m hedging my bets with the prediction that this thing is going to be huge. And I’m not alone in thinking that.

So, once again, my good friend and social media professional, Avi, dropped me a message telling me that Facebook Connect was available. However, the thing wasn’t going to give itself up that easily.

I’m sure those of you who blog with WordPress are familiar with plugins, widgets and dynamic themes. So I made the assumption that the many WordPress developers had already churned out their first Facebook Connect plugin… not as easy as that, even the best developers in the world need time to develop and test their product!

The developing Astroengine social community. 1) Facebook Connect. 2) Google Friend Connect. 3) The Astroengine Twitter Feed

The developing Astroengine social community. 1) Facebook Connect. 2) Google Friend Connect. 3) The Astroengine Twitter Feed

Being a wannabe web developer (I am a web designer, but I’m finding it hard to keep up), I decided to follow the instructions for Connect installation, from scratch. Yes, it required a little coding. Yes, it was very trial-and-error (and it most certainly did not take me 8 minutes to get the thing running — try 8 hours!). And yes, I failed. Dismally.

I love a challenge, so I dug in and fought the good fight. The guys at Facebook even put together a superb video emphasising the “ease” at which Facebook can be installed… no matter how many times I smacked the “refresh” button, Astroengine.com would not talk to Facebook.

Eventually, a fraction of a second before I began deleting the application from the site, I had a breakthrough. Actually, a developer had been working on a beta version of a WordPress plugin! Hurrah! So I gladly downloaded the code and followed the steps as close as I could. This time, bits worked and others didn’t, but at least I was on the right track.

The following day I had a “eureka” moment after re-reading the instructions for the plugin. Yep, it was a solitary missing PHP tag. Hit refresh, and it worked! I could log into my Facebook account via Astroengine.com.

After spending 5 minutes relishing in the fact I could log in and out of Facebook… I thought I had better check out what it could do, and I was impressed with the platform’s potential. Basically, if you have a Facebook account (or even if you don’t, you can join instantly), you click on the “Connect with Facebook” button in the right-hand column. As you log on, your details are securely exchanged between servers. At this point, Facebook Connect automatically gives you your very own “subscriber page” on Astroengine.com (like a membership). There are one or two details that need to be ironed out, but so far you can use Facebook Connect to keep track of all your activity on Astroengine.com (that means following comments you’ve left with links to the articles – it may not sound exciting, but it is very useful in practice!), you can also opt to “post” your comment to your Facebook userpage as you go. This is a fantastic way of attracting discussions and distributing information.

Now Facebook Connect is stable, and the Facebook code is expanding (there’s even a Facebook mark-up, which I found pretty cool), more features will appear as time goes on. There may only be a handful of mini-applications on Astroengine so far, but over the coming weeks, I’ll continue to add useful stuff (not the chaff I was talking about earlier) to enhance the user’s experience. So go and explore! If you notice any bugs, let me know.

If you are interested in Facebook Connect, check out the links in the above post, and be sure to go to the social media website Sociable!, where the very helpful developers are working on the WordPress plugin (but be sure to follow their instructions perfectly!). Oh, and be sure to download the most recent Facebook Connect plugin version…

Cheers, Ian

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19 responses to “Astroengine Social Media: Facebook Connect

  1. Hi Robert, It seems to be jiving for me. The above comment posted on my profile (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/profile.php?id=604085830&ref=profile). Feel free to drop another comment or two to see where the issue is.

    What should happen is that you post your comment on AE, and then Facebook will return a dialogue box asking whether you’d like to post on your FB profile too. I’m just wondering whether popup blockers or firewalls my affect you (although I don’t think FB Connect suffers from this issue).

    Let me know how it works out. I’ve noticed you now have an account with Astroengine and you can track all the comments you make on the site, so that’s good. We just need to figure out where the problem is with the posting to Facebook issue.

    Thanks for letting me know how it’s working out, all info gratefully received!

    Cheers, Ian

  2. hmmm. ok. here’s the thing. yeah. finally figured out that the facebook popup upon comment submission shows up after i scroll up after comment submission… too bad the box doesn’t pop up right where the user is. i can imagine many users being confused. so yeah! at least it’s working on your site. just didn’t realize it.

    on my site, just now on IE, i scroll up after comment submission and see a facebook popup box that says:

    “Application response error
    Invalid template bundle id specified: 0. You can see this because you are one of the developers of the app.”

    it’s still under construction, but you can try at drinkjungle.com.

    i thought it might be the theme causing the problem, but i changed back to the default theme and i still get the error pop-up, so it’s probably not that.

    which version of wordpress are you using? i’m using 2.7. also, using the latest 1.0 version of sociable’s fb connect. the same issue happend to me with their previous version though. thinking might be a 2.7 issue…

  3. Hey Robert,

    Just been checking out your site. Although the Facebook dialogue did not pop up as I posted my comments, it briefly appeared (and then blipped out of view) as I clicked “back” onto your homepage. Looks like some form data is being held by the browser and attempting to communicate with the FB server after the fact.

    I’ll look into the dialogue box issue on Astroengine.You’re right, it does seem to position itself rather oddly… occasionally off the page! I’ll be keeping an eye on Sociable! for updates – they seem to have a lot of the issues in hand :-)

    Cheers, Ian

  4. hey there. thanks for taking a look at my site. don’t use any of the info there as it’s all dummy posts right now! ha ha.

    hmmmm. so i searched for “FB.Connect.showFeedDialog” in my page source code, but can’t find it… where should i be looking?

  5. yo man! i got it to work. i knew it was something stupid and so obvious. for some reason i overlooked it. duh. #7 in the readme file: “create a new template”. for some reason i just assumed there were default values in the fields already so a template was in the fb connector settings already. damn. i feel dumb. anyway, back to being productive. ha ha. thanks for your help! peace.

  6. Hey awesome, glad you found the issue. Yeah, the templates caused me some issues too.

    I haven’t actually tested Safari yet… let’s see…

    Glad things are moving in the rihgt direction – let me know when your site is fully running, I love the concept!

  7. Hey Robert! I had a play with Safari and it seems to look fine. Let me know how it goes with you. I’ve also tried Chrome, IE and Oprah; all good. Hows the site development going with you?

  8. Thank you , After a user logs in the widget does not render properly in Chrome. Also on my blog when the logged in user clicks their name to view their profile it destroys the layout of the site.

  9. Nice post, great detail. I would have liked to see the costs that are associated to it so I could add to my business case justifi cations to

    use the technology. Keep up the good work! Great Job!!! Informative and attention keeping!

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