Playing around with a new theme

Recently I had the urge to start blogging again, but I knew my theme here was severely out of date. Specifically it didn’t work for beans on a mobile device.

I decided to start fresh, and what you’re seeing is an early iteration of a new theme. There are still a fair number of issues with it. I over-estimated the amount of space I had on a phone for a top nav menu, and I have a lot of images that need resizing.

Problem is I don’t have a proper staging server for this site so I have to experiment ‘live’ but since I haven’t posted here in like 5 months I figure traffic must be near zero so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Just figured I’d better make a post about it on the off chance someone stumbles onto the site before I get it finished.

Why I don’t like Like

Warning: This is very much a preliminary post, based on my current understanding of Facebook’s new “LIKE” buttons. But since the feature is live now, I feel like I need to warn people about the ‘potential’ issues sooner rather than later.

So without further ado.

We used to see Share on Facebook buttons on various sites. These were pretty straightforward. You’d click them and it’d stick a link on your Facebook “Wall” so your friends could see that you liked that link and potentially follow it.

Now we have the Facebook Like button. On the surface, it does the same thing. But behind the scenes it’s doing more. It sends not only the link to your wall, but certain meta data that the content producer has tagged the page with. You can, of course, view the source of the page and see what this meta data is, but many people won’t think to do that.

Let me give an example of why this could be problematic. Say you love Guild Wars, but you always play it alone or with one particular friend. You don’t think of it as an MMO, and you don’t like MMOs. In fact you hate WOW and EQ2 and LOTRO and all the other MMOs. They just aren’t your thing.

But Guild Wars you love, so you’re on a page about Guild Wars and you click the LIKE button.

But the site owner considers Guild Wars an MMO, and there’s meta data tagging this page as ‘MMO’ so when you click that LIKE button, you’re telling Facebook that you like Guild Wars and that you like MMOs. That data goes into your account.

The next week you go over to Steam to see what good deals there are. Steam queries Facebook and sees that, according to the data stored with your account, you like MMOs. So it shows you all the great sales on MMOs, and doesn’t show you the sales on single player RPGs, which is exactly what you’re in the mood to buy.

Facebook has misrepresented you. Or rather, you’ve misrepresented yourself because you don’t agree with the meta data on a site you clicked a LIKE button on.

Clearly this example is pretty trivial. But there are other situations where it could matter more. Worse, meta data could be set up to be deliberately misleading. There’s the potential for some pretty ugly shenanigans going on behind the scenes. Think of a political candidate’s page that’s been tampered with so that it has meta data saying you like the opposing party.

If this Like business takes off and lots of sites start polling your Facebook data, this could become a problem.

So I urge you, until we learn more about this system, to avoid using any “Like” buttons you encounter. Maybe Facebook has checks in place to prevent bad things from happening, but maybe not. And it still isn’t clear to me who can, and can’t, query the data associated with your account.

BTW, I put a LIKE button on Dragonchasers last night to see how it worked. I just want to be clear that I put no meta-data behind it, and I thank the folks who helped me test it.

And one last time, this is my understanding of the system as of right now. I could have some or all of this wrong. But just in case I’m right, I wanted to get people thinking about these issues.

I wrote more generally about Facebook’s new features at ITWorld this morning. You might find that post interesting as well.

SproutCore a Flash killer?

Another week, another geeky new technology to get all excited about.

Leo Laporte was twittering about SproutCore, which caught my interest and led me to a couple of articles. The actual SproutCore website is throwin an error at the moment so I can’t get to the source, but what I’m reading is that SproutCore wants to replace Flash, Adobe AIR and Silverstream as a technology for RIA (rich internet applications).

The beauty of it is that its all written in javascript, so there’s no plug-in to download. Which gets me wondering about SproutCore vs Lively Kernel (another Javascript-based RIA platform in development). Are they in competition or do they compliment one another?

Interesting times. Anyway, here’s a couple of articles worth reading. Thanks to Leo for Twittering about this.

Apple’s open secret: SproutCore is Cocoa for the Web

Cocoa for Windows + Flash Killer = SproutCore


Microsoft’s Silverlight has hit their 1.0 RC milestone. In case this one has slipped under your radar, here’s how MS describes the technology:

Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of Microsoft .NET–based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web.

From what I gather, it’s essentially an alternative to Flash. Surprisingly for a product from MS, it’s available for Mac OS X and eventually for Linux as well as Windows.

I’m not going to claim the slightest expertise here. This is a case of a technology floating around and me hearing about it without paying much attention until suddenly it gets in my face. I hope to dig into it a bit more and if/when I do I’ll report my findings.

Blueprint CSS

Warning: Incoming Geek Post

Blueprint is a CSS Framework that’s supposed to help you jump-start the design of a web page. As I’ve spent most of my web development years doing back-end code and not much worrying about display issues, it looks to be a good tool for me to use. Haven’t tried it yet, though.

Darren from has a post about his initial experiences with Blueprint that is well worth reading.