Joseph Smarr

Thoughts on web development, tech, and life.

Category: Plaxo (page 2 of 4)

OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth! Oh, My! (Google I/O)

OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth! Oh, My!
Google I/O
San Francisco, CA
May 29, 2008

Download PPT (7.3 MB)

Update: Google has posted a full-length video of my talk, along with a web-friendly copy of my slides.

Giving my talk: I was one of only a few non-Google employees who was invited to give a talk at Google’s big developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. This was a huge event, and Google clearly went all-out on design and production. Not only were there a ton of talks and an amazing reception party, the open spaces were filled with colorful balls, beanbags, drink and snack stations (including made-to-order giant pretzels with salt), pool tables, demo areas, and more. This definitely felt like being inside the Googleplex.

Chilling in Google's beanbag chairsMost of the talks focused on a particular Google API, product, or service, and they were organized into tracks like “Maps & Geo”, “Mobile”, and of course “Social”, where my talk lived. Not surprisingly, most of the Social talks focused on OpenSocial, and originally I was asked to present as an OpenSocial container (on behalf of Plaxo). When I suggested that I could probably add even more value by talking about all the other building blocks of the open social web and how they complement OpenSocial, they were enthusiastic, and so my talk was born. I got to do a first version of a talk on this theme at Web 2.0 Expo in April, but enough things had changed in the world since last month that I had to do quite a bit of revising and adding to that talk for Google I/O (a sign of how quickly things are moving in this space!)

Open Social Web pool classicI gave my talk on Thursday morning and the room was literally packed to the walls. Several people came up to me afterwards and lamented that they’d tried to get in but were turned away because the room was already over capacity. Wow, I guess people really do want to understand how the social web is opening up! I was very pleased with how the talk went, judging both by the positive feedback I received (in person and in tweets) and by the long and engaged Q&A session that followed for more than half an hour after the talk officially ended. Interestingly, 100% of the questions were about the details of how these technologies work and how to best apply them, rather than whether opening up the social web is a good idea in the first place or whether it’s feasible. Granted, this was a developer conference, but it’s still a strong indication to me of the momentum that our movement has generated, and the increasing extent to which people view it as both inevitable and good. We’re definitely making progress, and I couldn’t be more excited to keep pushing forward!

Update: My partner-in-crime John McCrea has coverage of my talk, including photos and a video clip he shot towards the end of my talk.

Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web (Web 2.0 Expo)

Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web
Web 2.0 Expo
San Francisco, CA
April 23, 2008

Download PPT (5.3 MB)

cover-slideI’ve been talking about opening up the social web for some time, but the world keeps changing around me, so I can never use an old talk for very long. Since Web 2.0 Expo is such a big venue (probably the biggest conference I’ve ever spoken at), and since at Plaxo we’ve recently come to a new degree of clarity on how we see the emerging social web ecosystem emerging, I decided to make a totally fresh talk that answers “what is all this stuff going on right now, and where is it all headed”. After doing a dry-run for Plaxo employees yesterday, it was suggested that the visual impact of my slides could use some “polishing” (hey, I’m an engineer!), so our creative director Michael jumped in and worked with me into the night to help pretty things up. He’s amazing and this is easily the most beautiful set of slides I’ve ever had the privledge to deliver. 🙂

The room was packed, and I think the talk went very well. In fact, the Q&A was so lively and went on for so long that I actually got “played off the stage” with music to make room for the next speaker! And the huddle around the stage lasted considerably longer. So I guess I at least I got people thinking and talking. 😉 I was also pleasantly surprised to see a torrent of positive real-time reviews in the twitter-sphere (archived screenshot). My talk was live-blogged by Andrew Mager and Mark Scrimshire (thanks, guys!), and John McCrea even shot some video.

SocialWebDiagram-5It’s very exciting to be in the middle of such a transformative period in the Web. I firmly believe we’re on the cusp of the next major phase of the Web–the social web–and that a new layer of service providers are emerging to empower users to interact with the thousands of socially-enabled sites and services: identity providers, content aggregators, and social graph providers. There are examples of companies today that fulfill one or more of these rolls, and Plaxo is certainly going to participate in all of them, but we’re all just getting started, and–as I find myself saying more and more–you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Open Social Web roadshow continues

I mentioned earlier that the opening up of the social web has become a hot topic that’s taking center stage at many recent conferences and community events–and it seems to keep getting hotter every day. As a passionate advocate and early adopter / implementor of many of the building-block technologies (OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, microformats, Social Graph API, friends-list portability, etc.) working for a startup that’s helping define the new consumer and business ecosystem that’s emerging (both inside Plaxo Pulse and by helping users connect up the different tools and services they use), I’ve been speaking and otherwise participating in a lot of these events. Here’s an updated list of events I’ll be at in the next few weeks (including events today, tomorrow, and next week, heh). If you’re around at one or more of them, I hope you’ll come find me and say hi! 🙂

ReMIX08: Mountain View, Apr 17
Panel: “The Future of Social Networking” (3-4pm)

Data Sharing Workshop: San Francisco, Apr 18-19
Opening speaker: “What’s the problem?” (9am)

Web 2.0 Expo: San Francisco, Apr 22-25
Talk: Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web (Apr 23, 10:50am)

Web 2.0 Expo: San Francisco, Apr 22-25
Panel: OpenID, OAuth, Data Portability, and the Enterprise (Apr 23, 2:40pm)

OAuth Hackathon: San Francisco, Apr 26 (2-8pm)
Trying to help increase adoption of OAuth

Internet Identity Workshop: Mountain View, May 12-14
User-generated conference; I’m sure I’ll be running a few sessions

Data Sharing Summit: Mountain View, May 15
Directly following IIW

Google I/O: San Francisco, May 28-29
Talk: OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth: Oh, My! (exact time TBD)

Whoa, that’s a lot of events, considering they’re all in the next 6 weeks or so. 🙂 What can I say? The next major phase of the web is being formed as we speak, and it seems like every day another piece of the puzzle is being added. And between the technical, privacy, business, and user experience issues to debate, there’s always plenty to talk about.

If you can only make it to one of these events, I recommend trying to attend the Internet Identity Workshop. Everyone you’d want to meet in this community will be there, it’s incredibly accessible (both in terms of price to attend and ease of talking with key people), and it’s a good mix of explaining where we’re at today and getting down to real work pushing the envelope of where things go next. I always learn a ton at every IIW, I always have a great time, and I always leave with a bunch of great new ideas I can’t wait to work on. I’m sure if you come, you’ll have the same experience.

Launching clickpass: the inside story

Adding clickpass to PlaxoCo-founder Peter Nixey just wrote up a riveting account of the recent launch of his startup clickpass for Vitamin. It’s a must-read. Plaxo was one of clickpass’s launch partners, so the story features a few cameos from yours truly.

It will be hard to forget waking up in an Austin hotel around 9am on the day of the launch, eyes blurry from a heavy night of partying (er, that is, “networking”), glancing over at the alarm clock, and then jolting out of bed with the cold shock of realization: “oh crap, clickpass is launching this morning and I haven’t pushed the code live on Plaxo yet!”. My roommate John McCrea was still sound asleep, but I knew I had to get my computer set up and get on the phone with Peter and Immad (the other clickpass co-founder) ASAP to work out the last few kinks and get the code deployed. Thank god for VPNs and cell phones! How did they do this in the old days? Oh wait, I guess they didn’t. 🙂

Another memorable moment came a few moments later when Ryan King, our VP of Engineering, called John (who had just woken up to the sound of me talking frantically with Immad; probably something like “well you’ll just have to work around it and set a config flag on your side!”) to ask him about breakfast. I suddenly realized that I’d only recently learned that clickpass was planning to launch this morning, and I’d never informed the rest of the Plaxo team that I was about to push this new code live. (Our release process is normally more disciplined, but luckily our team is very supportive of my frequent need to push code out-of-band to meet external press deadlines). So I motioned to John to give me the phone quickly, and told Ryan (somewhat meekly), “uh, oh yeah, just so you know, I’m about to patch a bunch of code so we can help this startup called clickpass launch. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to break anything, but I thought I should give you a heads up. Hope that’s ok.” Not my most professional moment, but it’s not the first time this has happened either, and I’ve never done *that* much damage before, so I think Ryan said something like “ok, just keep an eye on it please”. Hmm, does checking twitter obsessively count? Actually, in this crowd, that’s about as timely and accurate as checking our servers’ log files. 🙂 And of course, in the end, everything worked out fine.

I’d been talking off and on with the clickpass guys since fall of last year, when I kept hearing about “this cool YCombinator startup that’s doing a super-friendly OpenID UI” whom I “should really talk to”. Always eager to help advance technologies like OpenID, I was curious to see what they’d come up with. Their technology, UI, and partner integration matured a lot between that first demo and their launch day, but even at our first meeting I could tell, “these guys are serious, they’re thinking well about the issues, and they seem determined to get things done.” Just as important, “they seem open and eager to hear feedback, even when it’s critical, and they don’t mind iterating until they get it right.”

For any startup that wants to partner with established players–or for that matter, be successful in any event–these are vitally important qualities. It’s what finally got us in the position where I could feel good about integrating clickpass into Plaxo in time for the launch–we worked back and forth until we found a way to get a good user experience without having to significantly change our existing UI or backend. This included huddling around a table on the floor of the SXSW convention center with Peter, talking about flows and edge cases (pictured above), and many a skype session with Immad tracking down bugs and deployment issues. But it was all worth it–the launch was a huge success, and the partnership provided clear benefits to both parties, and more importantly, to our users.

The Future of Social Networks (Future of Web Apps Miami)

The Future of Social Networks
Future of Web Apps Miami (with Tantek Çelik and Brian Oberkirch)
Miami, FL
February 29, 2008

View Slides (slideshare)
Download MP3 Audio (37.3 MB)

In addition to the half-day workshop I presented at FOWA Miami, I also gave a talk as part of the main event with Tantek and Brian Orberkirch (who also has a great write-up of our talk) on The Future of Social Networks. I summarized my remarks in my previous FOWA post, but I wanted to add a separate post for this talk so I could link to the slides and audio (and video should be available soon as well). FOWA was a great event, and I’m eager for the next one!

Implementing Open Social Web support on your site (Future of Web Apps Miami)

Implementing Open Social Web support on your site
Future of Web Apps Miami (workshop)
Miami, FL
February 28, 2008

Download PPT (3.8 MB)

I was invited to give a workshop and be on a panel at the Future of Web Apps in Miami. I attended the first FOWA in SF in 2006, and I really enjoyed it, so it was fun to get to be on stage this time. I’d never done a long workshop before, but I love talking about Open Social Web technologies, so I basically went through all of the various building blocks (OpenID, OAuth, microformats, OpenSocial, Social Graph API, friends-list portability, URLs as identifiers, etc.) and wrapped it in some high-level context about the emergence of a Social Web. The audience was very lively and engaged, and they asked a ton of great questions. So I was very happy with how it all worked out. These are the slides from my workshop; they’re a bit light since I was mainly using them as a reference to talk over. But hopefully they provide some useful jumping-off points to learn more.

I also gave a presentation on the main stage about the future of social networks with Tantek and Brian Oberkirch. Brian made the slides, which hopefully he’ll post too. My piece of the talk was called “Open for business” and it was about how being open can be good for your company, because it lowers friction to signing up and sharing, and it makes you a more relevant part of the online ecosystem. I showed demos of how you can sign up for Plaxo with an OpenID and pre-fill your registration info, discover and auto-suggest sites to add to Pulse using Google’s Social Graph API, and express yourself in new ways using OpenSocial gadgets. I think it helped the audience see that these open technologies aren’t just a cool idea, you can actually implement them today, as we have, and they work well enough to benefit mainstream users.

After the conference, there was a beach party at Nikki beach, and on Saturday, a bunch of us went with Leah Culver and Kevin Rose to attend the first Pownce Brunch to meet fellow users. We even managed to sneak in a little shopping and some beach volleyball. But of course we were talking about code and startups the entire time, since we all tend to lack that so-called “work-life balance”. 🙂 Another highlight for me was meeting Gary Vaynerchuk, the star of Wine Library TV. I’m surprised I’d never heard of him (since I’m into both wine and disruptive technologies), and he was super cool and friendly and is clearly having a major impact. He taped an episode of his show live at FOWA, and he and Kevin and I even came up with an idea for a side project that we may try to spin up sometime…

I returned home late Saturday night (thanks to Pete for picking me up!) and tomorrow I’m back on the road: GSP, MIX, and SXSW. Gotta keep spreading the good word!

Open Social Web: Coming soon to a conference near you

The social web is opening up, and its seems everybody wants to talk about it. Between the technologies, companies, and privacy / control issues involved, there is no shortage of strong opinions. And at Plaxo, we\’ve found ourselves right in the middle of all the fun, both due to the continued success of Pulse, and because we\’ve been consistently vocal advocates and early adopters of the open route.

Perhaps that explains why I find myself about to head out on the road for nearly back-to-back speaking appearances at a number of great conferences. This is going to be a marathon, but I can\’t wait! I love to talk about these issues, and I love engaging with the community. So stop by and say hi if you\’re going to be at one or more of these events:

Future of Web Apps Miami: Miami, Feb 28 – Mar 1
Workshop: Implementing Open Social Web support on your site (Feb 28, 1:30pm – 5:00pm)
Panel: The Future of Social Networks (Feb 29, 11:15am – 11:55am)

Graphing Social Patterns West: San Diego, Mar 3-4
Panel: Privacy Management & Data Portability for Social Networks (Mar 3, 4:15pm)

MIX: Las Vegas, Mar 5 – 7
Panel: Social Networks: Where Are They Taking Us? (Mar 6, 2:30pm – 3:45pm) [filter \”Speaker\” for \”Joseph Smarr\” to see session details]

South by Southwest Interactive: Austin, Mar 7-11
Panel: Building Portable Social Networks (Mar 10, 5:00pm – 6:00pm)

Web 2.0 Expo, San Francisco, Apr 22-25
Talk: Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web (Mar 23, 10:50am)

OpenIDDevCamp was hack-tastic!

DSCN5744I spent the weekend in SF at OpenIDDevCamp, hosted at SixApart’s offices. In the style of BarCamp and iPhoneDevCamp, the idea was just to get a lot of people together who were interested in OpenID, provide the space and amenities for them to work together, and let them loose. About 30-40 people showed up, including Brad Fitzpatrick, Scott Kveton, Tantek (with blinking wheels on his shoes), Chris Messina, David Recordon, Christopher Allen, John Bradley, Luke Shepard, and many more.

DSCN5748Over the course of the weekend, I got OpenID 2.0 relying party support deployed on Plaxo, and we found and fixed a bunch of little bugs along the way. You can now use directed identity (e.g. just type in “” as your OpenID and sign in on their side), and you can even use iNames (e.g. I can now sign in with =joseph.smarr). Thanks again to my hacker friend Michael Krelin, who did most of the hard work, and to John Bradley of ooTao for helping me figure out the subtleties of making iNames work properly. David Recordon and I also developed a firm spec for combining OpenID and OAuth into a single OP round-trip–it turns out it’s easier than we thought/feared; write-up to follow shortly. And Chris, David, and I came to a clear consensus on best practices for “remember me on this computer” behavior for OpenID RPs, which I’ll try to write up soon as well.

DSCN5747There was also a lot of great discussion about the future of OpenID, OAuth, microformats, and related technologies, as well as some lively debate on data portability (as you might expect). A personal highlight for me was when Christopher Allen (a co-inventor of SSL) regaled us with tales of how crazy and uncertain the process was to get Microsoft, Netscape, and the other big players at the time to all agree on a common set of principles that laid the groundwork for the development of SSL, which we now take for granted as an essential open web standard. It felt a lot like what’s going on right now in the social web, and the outcome there is an inspirational example to follow.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I love living and working in Silicon Valley with so many smart, energetic, passionate, and fundamentally nice and optimistic people. To wit: I just gave up a perfectly good weekend so I could stay up past midnight writing code and learning the finer points of XRI resolution, and it felt great! 🙂

PS: If you eat at Brickhouse cafe, I recommend the “half ass burger”–it’s just the right size. 😉

Opening up the Social Web (SNAP Chat)

Opening up the Social Web
SNAP Chat – What’s New in OpenSocial
San Francisco, CA
November 28, 2007

Download PPT (1.0 MB)

Update: PivotalLabs has put up the full video of my talk (.mov, 119 MB)
The folks behind the recent SNAP Summit have started a SNAP Chat series, and for their first event, they invited me and Hi5 Architect Paul Lindner to talk about OpenSocial and its place within the larger project of opening up the social web. I gave the latter talk, and then Paul did a technical tutorial and deep-dive on the nuts and bolts of OpenSocial.

This was the first time I’d put together a public talk on the broader vision of opening up the social web. I described the work that I’ve been doing at Plaxo to support and adopt open standards, Plaxo Pulse, the Bill of Rights I co-authored, and being the first company to implement OpenSocial, but I also talked about OpenID, microformats, social network portability, OAuth, and how these technologies all seem to be converging on a shared vision of how the Open Social Web should work.

This talk complements some other great recent presentations by Tantek and David Recordon on building an Open Social Web. It all feels so tangibly close now, and I’m sure after next week’s IIW, it will feel even closer. Once our new friends-list portability project goes live, things are going to get very interesting. Exciting times!

Video of WebGuild panel on OpenSocial

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak on a panel about OpenSocial for the WebGuild of Silicon Valley. It was a lively discussion featuring Chris Schalk from Google, myself, and Akash Garg from Hi5, moderated by WebGuild president Daya Baran. The event was hosted at Google HQ and over 300 people attended.

I talked about Plaxo’s implementation of OpenSocial as well as the larger context of opening up the social web. The video just got posted, and I’ve also embedded it below. Thanks to WebGuild for inviting me!

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