Category: Technology


So you got over a million followers on Twitter

September 20th, 2009 — 04:22 am

( * Originally posted as “The Million Followers Fallacy” on “Pravda on Media and Tech” )

Twitter is getting more and more attention from “old media” lately. Whether it’s a news-story mentioning Twitter, a Twitter competition between a celebrities, or using Twitter to gather reports on the Iran elections, the average person sees the word “Twitter” more and more often lately.

But with the Twitter rush a new bubble seems to be forming.

Remember the days of the 2000 Dot-Com bubble, in which every site displaying a million page-views could raise money as though it had already become profitable?
I feel we are repeating the same mistake, only in social media.

The new fashion among some Twitter users, individuals or companies, is to brag about the number of “followers” they have for their Twitter account, or the number of followers their employees have. Encouraged by this there is a host on new “services”, promising user to boost their followers count for a small fee. There is also a new buzz-word: “Reach”. Those self-proclaimed Twitter experts will use tools like TwitterAnalyzer to show others that their Tweets are supposedly read by even more people than their Twitter followers, using a repeat publication (”Retweets”).

And there lies the illusion.


The number of Twitter followers (or reach) is usually meaningless

Twitter usage is based on the magic principle of following/followers. You follow other users that may interest you, and being followed in turn by others who find your updates interesting.
But suppose you just opened an account on Twitter - how do you get followers?

If you are a celebrity like Ashton Kutcher, have a TV show like Opera, a successful blogger like Robert Scoble, or simply a leading TV channel like CNN, than you have it easy - you just need to mention your new Twitter account and the masses will follow you.
But you need to be well-known to the public prior to opening a Twitter account.

But what if you are an average Joe, looking to become a superstar on Twitter?
You can use an unwritten rule, saying that if someone is following you, it’s polite to follow that person back. Twitter users interested in inflating the number of followers they have simply need to follow thousands of others, hoping those others will follow them back.
The less ethical among them wait for another to follow, and than stop following that person.
To sum it up: such a user has 20000 followers, not because he is THAT interesting to them, but simply out of politeness.

The principle behind “Reach” is similar: if you wrote an update, and one of your 20000 followers repeats it, and that person has another 10000 followers (not shared by you), your message could have been read by 30000 folks. But again, people exploit the technology, and open multiple accounts, each of them having thousands of followers (as previously mentioned), and than repeat that message from all their accounts. Twitter defines this as Spam.

In addition to all that, there is the face that 10-50% of all followers are either dormant/inactive accounts, bots, spammers, or other irrelevant accounts.

Million follower don’t actually read your updates

And suppose Mr. Kutcher writes something on his Twitter account, does that mean all of his million (plus) followers actually read it? Of course not!

On my personal Twitter account I follow only about 200 people. Each one publishes a number of updates during the day, reaching thousands of updates each day. Since I’m not sitting glued to the screen, when I check for updates I usually see only updates from the past 30-60 minutes. Written something when I wasn’t checking for updates? I’ll probably miss your update.

To put it differently, if you wrote an update and have a reach of 100000 users, it’s 100000 of users with the potential to read your update, but most likely most of them will never see it.

So don’t be tempted by false promises from Twitter “experts”. We are light years away from a reliable, measurable advertising model on Twitter.

Comment » | Technology

Juval Lowy and .NET Service Bus

January 12th, 2009 — 01:21 pm

I have recently been to an Israeli user group meeting in which iDesign’s Juval Lowy gave a lecture about the new Azure .Net Service Bus for web services written in WCF.

Basically a service bus is a router, similar to the one you use in your office network. Instead of needing to update the configuration for multiple clients each time a service they are connected to is moved to a new location or changes channel, all clients/services connect to a central hub. In this case the service bus is located online, somewhere on Microsoft servers.

Here is what the meeting’s page says about the lecture:

The .NET services bus is part of the new Microsoft Cloud Computing Windows Azure initiative, and arguably, it is the most accessible, ready to use, powerful, and needed piece. The service bus allows clients to connects to services across any machine, network, firewall, NAT, routers, load balancers, virtualization, IP and DNS as if they were part of the same local network, and doing all that without compromising on the programming model or security. The service bus also supports callbacks, event publishing, authentication and authorization and doing all that in a WCF-friendly manner. This session will present the service bus programming model, how to configure and administer service bus solutions, working with the dedicated relay bindings including the available communication modes, relying on authentication in the cloud for local services and the various authentication options, and how to provide for end-to-end security through the relay service. You will also see some advanced WCF programming techniques, original helper classes, productivity-enhancing utilities and tools, as well as discussion of design best practices and pitfalls.

Although Juval clearly know a lot on the subject, and apparently is currently doing a tour lecture on the subject (at least in Israel and Belgium), I have to say the talk was not very interesting for experienced WCF developers. This is due to the fact the interface is almost identical to that of a simple WCF service, therefor I kept getting a feeling of “been there, done that“. It’s very easy to work the .NET service bus.

The .NET service bus supports both TCP/IP and HTTP based connections (highlight of the lecture: “to add WS support just add an ass“), and allows both connectivity through the cloud or P2P (after negotiation). There is a limited usage to SSL transport level security, something that alarms me a bit, as this is the best performance/security ratio option in WCF.

I do have to wonder regarding the usability of this platform. Many companies I know moved to SOA architecture, splitting central servers to many services. Such systems need a service bus residing inside the local network due to two reasons:

  1. Local network is more secure. Although Mr. Lowy waved his hands and replied “message level security is NP complete” to a question on the subject, I doubt IT managers or security officers in large firms would accept that.
  2. Local network is faster. Although a large downwards bandwidth is easily obtained, for a true 2 way communication you need a decent outgoing bandwidth (unlike ADSL lines, for example), and that’s not cheap.

There are local alternatives, both commercial (Microsoft Biztalk server) and open source (Udi Dahan’s NServiceBus).

I guess only time will tell if this new technology is successful.

6 comments » | Programming, Technology, WCF

New Technologies Trends

February 25th, 2008 — 12:49 pm

I have written before a short comparison between “old” and newer technologies, but at the beginning of that post I state that part of the choice of a new technology is the market trend towards that technology.
After reading Justin’s post showing that moving to ASP.NET is beneficiary because it’s becoming a prominent technology I decided to implement his research methods (using Google) on different technologies.

I began by searching for file types

However, this reflects only on files shared on the web, and since JAVA is a web technology (unlike Delphi) the results don’t say much.

But Google trends provides a clearer picture - while C# remains stable, other programming languages are on the decline:

Focusing on the .Net world, you can clearly see new technologies are dominant in Google searches:

WPF vs. Winforms

WCF vs. Remoting

The rise of .Net Framework 3.0 technologies

With Silverlight being the “Hot New Thing” (maybe because it’s a web-based technology)

So maybe choosing a new technology is a logical move even if it doesn’t offer a significant technological advantage - since keeping older technologies means you are working against the market trend.

So consider switching from Winforms to WPF, from various communication technologies to WCF and from VS 2003 or 2005 to VS 2008 - in the long run the market will force you to do it anyway, either through the job market or through customers demands.

Comment » | Technology, Visual Studio, WCF, WPF, Winforms

Microsoft Goes Open Source?

February 23rd, 2008 — 05:09 am

In a recent announcement Microsoft declared a “Strategic Change” in their relationship with the open source community:

  • Publishing on MSDN over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols and API. Protocol documentation for additional products, such as Office 2007, will be published in the upcoming months.
  • Microsoft is providing a covenant not to sue open source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols. These developers will be able to use the documentation for free to develop products.
  • Microsoft will design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional (OS?) document formats

However, although the company said developers will not need to take a licence or pay a royalty or other fees to access this information, those covered by patents will still be subject to a royalty from developers who want to use them for commercial applications (Microsoft said these royalty rates would be “reasonable and non-discriminatory”).
Red Hat seems to think this is a move designed to “foreclose competition from the open source community”, making Microsoft’s move “too little, too late”.

According to Steve Ballmer “There were certainly things we did to get into compliance with the European (Union) Commission’s decision”. However, the EU regulators are expressing skepticism regarding this statement.

Real change or a hoax? we’ll have to wait and see…

Comment » | Technology

Upgrading technologies in an existing project

February 13th, 2008 — 10:43 pm

We all know about the “cool new kids in town”, meaning new technologies all developers want to use. Offer a developer two positions:

  1. Programming with C# 1.1
  2. Programming with WPF and C# 3.5

What do you think most developers will choose?

However, there is the question of an existing project, written in an “uncool” technology.
In my experience developers tend to push towards using newer technologies, but how do you convince the people in charge?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Framework 2.0 vs. 1.1
Advantages: Performance boost if you are using ArrayLists with value types in them (when you switch to generic Lists)
Disadvantages: Incompatibility issues requiring code changes (should be very minor)

Framework 3.5 vs. 2.0
Advantages: Using Linq for new complex data access and query modules, otherwise I’m unsure
Disadvantages: Same as switching between 1.1 and 2.0

WCF vs. Various communication technologies
Advantages
: Much easier to configure and deploy, can drastically change the communication method without any code changes
Disadvantages: Not applicable when you do most of the communication in a non-.Net world if you remote points are not using web services protocols (example: communication with hardware sensors)

Workflow foundation
Advantages: Easier to manage complex workflows. Enables user modification of workflows.
Disadvantages: If an existing workflow code is already written - major code rewrite.

WPF vs. Winforms (with CGI+)
Advantages: Creating easily resizable forms due to vector graphics use. Customize look & feel in ways which are almost impossible to duplicate using winforms. Easier interaction between UI/graphics designers and developers.
Disadvantages: Will require serious code rewrite. Performance issues still exist (I have yet to witness a professional map engine based on WPF)

Team system vs. various source control / task management systems
Advantages: I have used SourceSafe, PVCS and Rational ClearCase/ClearQuest, and to this date I think VSTS is better is terms of performance, ease of use and customizability, especially when you need to integrate source control and task management.
Disadvantages: Requires Windows - how do you use VSTS to manage C++ code in a Unix/Linux environment?

Comment » | Technology, VSTS, WCF, WPF

Motorola cell phone stereophonic adaptor

September 8th, 2007 — 01:50 pm

I’m using my cell phone to hear podcasts, and I’m hearing it in my car using FM transmitter.

Unfortonately, the transmitter’s jack is a standard 3.5mm, while cell phones (at least mine) use a 2.5mm jack.
There are cheap adaptors available for mobile mp3 players (also with 2.5mm), but the phone’s socket is a bit different.

So I searched a little, and found out the SKN6183 adaptor. Since I couldn’t find one in Israel I had to order it from EBay (cost me 1$ with 8$ shipment), but it was worth it.

Comment » | Technology

One developer, 2 servers, over 50 millions page views each day - using ASP.NET

August 31st, 2007 — 09:34 am

I have read Oren’s post, in which he writes (again) why he thinks Asp.Net is a bad web platform.
I have been reading about various tools like Ruby or MonoRail and people promoting over using simple Asp.Net.

Coincidentally, I have recently listen to an Arcast episode with Markus Frind, the founder of http://plentyoffish.com/.

This dude is the only employee in the “company” (acting as the developer, architect, CEO, janitor, etc), running the web site on two servers from his home. He wrote the site as a programming exercise.

And why is he using Asp.Net?
Well I use ASP.NET now because it’s trivial and easy and gets the job done. There is just so much to learn out there and every six months it completely changes. So I stuck with what I knew, used it a lot, and I’ve gotten really, really good at it.

It’s beyond me why Microsoft doesn’t make him their spokesperson for their platform.

Comment » | Programming, Technology

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