tv + facebook = good

Among my recent internet wanderings, another event that intrigued me was the CNN/Facebook live broadcasting of the inauguration activities this morning.

There’s nothing inherently new about chatting with others during a presentation – formally, webcasts & webinars have offered features like this for a while and informally through IM clients it’s a great way to have sidebar conversations on  conference calls.

What the CNN/Facebook implementation showed was that it can be a great way to experience television – finally a way to have ‘interactive tv.’  Sure, some of the comments were strange, obvious, or unnecessary.  But especially for a live event like this having a way to share in the excitement of the moment (especially since some of us had to be at work!) was pretty cool.

I’m not sure I’d appreciate the same pings from friends while watching a sitcom (does anyone watch those anymore?) but for certain events it definitely enhances the experience.

Another small point that I found interesting about they way they implemented it as well: rather than creating a new chat mechanism, they just leveraged their already-existing status updates.  This worked really well since everyone had a unique ‘chat’ window (no two people share exactly the same contacts).  It was also a way for them to roll out a new capability with no new ‘feature’ – just re-purpose something you’ve already got.

social gaming: monetizing over game play

I spend a good part of my time online checking out different technologies and sites that I read about, always trying to keep up with what’s new in the world of the internet (hey! check me out on Twitter!)

There are two recent experiences that I’ve had that I thought were interesting.  The first is online social gaming, a la Mob Wars.  I kept receiving invites and seeing facebook status updates about peoples’ dealings in this game.  It started turning up in my online reading too so I thought I’d give it a try.

The social aspect of the game is that you can invite your friends to join your “mob” thereby increasing your chances to complete activities in the game.  I’m not much of a gamer and I’m not that familiar with this social aspect of gaming, but I’m certainly aware of other games like World of Warcraft, etc., where you can join with your friends.

The interesting part of this, for me, was less about the social interactions, but more about the way they monetize the game.  They actually make it difficult for you to continue playing – you run out of health, or points, or whatever, and you have to wait around for them to regenerate – of course, if you prefer you can ‘buy’ additional points either directly or by conspiring with one of their advertisers.  It’s intriguing that they’ve got a model where they stop you from interacting.  This seems so backwards at first – you’d think a game would want to draw you in – that’s certainly the model that I’m used to.  I’m accustomed to games where you just keep progressing level after level, dying, and retrying, until your eyes are sore.  This idea that you’d interrupt game play – and not allow someone to continue – for long periods of time no less – just seems so foreign.

Of course this model makes perfect sense from a monetization point of view.  But the key is to get the balance of enough game play to draw someone in, and enough frustration to where they’re willing to pay to continue play.  This is what will seperate the good from the bad.  Personally I don’t find Mob Wars compelling enough to play, but then again, I’m not much of a gamer.

It will be interesting to see if other forms of media take this approach.  Of course you could argue that some already do – preview a 15 second clip of a song before buying, or a movie trailer before viewing – but the reality in those cases is that there is NO option to continue after a drawn out waiting period.  You must pay to play.  The same could be said of HBO (or cable tv in general), or over-the-counter games/software where you have to buy the application.  But imagine an online wordprocessor where you can’t print out your document until tomorrow, unless you pay $1 in which case you can print it now, or a TV show download that is free next week but will cost you today – tell me that wouldn’t work for the Oscars or the SuperBowl.

What Firefox add-ons are you using?

Partially for my own purposes (in case of re-install) but also out of curiosity, I thought I’d jot down the different Firefox add-ons that I’ve got installed, and which ones I actively use vs. those that are just sitting on my machine.

I’m a big fan of Firefox – I much prefer it to Interet Explorer or Safari – and I like it better than Google’s Chrome, perhaps because I’ve just gotten used to Firefox.

By far the most appreciated add-on that I use is Tab Mix Plus.  This manages the tab behavior on Firefox, providing some much-needed improvements to the default actions.  For instance, I can have each link from the toolbar or from bookmarks open in a new tab.

PDF Download is probably my next favorite add-on.  This simple plugin gives you the option to open a PDF in a browser window or download it.  Simple but effective.  I hate waiting for PDFs to render in the browser and I hate reading them there too.

Next is Delicious Bookmarks.  I switched to Delicious as a way to keep all of my bookmarks a couple of years ago and there’s no looking back – my bookmarks are synchrnized between all of my browsers/computers and they’re available when I’m away from home too.  I also use an iPhone app so I can see my bookmarks there too.

I recently downloaded 1Password for the iPhone and I went ahead and purchased the (mac only I believe) application, which has its own Firefox add-on.  1Password stores all of my passswords for internet sites, and as a bonus I can sync those with my iPhone too for when I’m traveling.

Those are the most important add-ons to me.  I couldn’t imagine what managing my internet sessions without them would be like any more.

In addition to these key add-ons, there are a few additional that I also have installed, and used to varying degrees.

I recently tried out Twitter, and so added TwitterFox and Power Twitter to my list.  Power Twitter makes changes to the default twitter experience including un-masking those tiny URLs (that I hate) and adding a much-needed search right to the main page of twitter (really twitter, you’re not going to add that yourselves?) .  TwitterFox adds an icon to the status bar, which provides quick access to read any of the ‘tweets’ that you’re following as well as a quick access to writing an update.

ForecastFox is another add-on that I’ve got down there on the status bar – it provides a quick snapshot of the weather for the next couple of days.  It’s a good bit of information and well done in that it’s highly configurable.

The final addition to my status bar is Greasemonkey.  This provides a mechanism for using little scripts to overwrite the default behavior on many sites – just little changes here and there- I’ve only downloaded a few scripts but I like the idea of being able to change some of the pesky little behaviors that you see sites getting wrong from time to time.

Up on te toolbar, I’ve got a few additional buttons.. there’s Cooliris which provides a pretty nifty slideshow application to lots of online sites (like FaceBook for instance).  You click a photo in the album and cooliris provides a unique slideshow that makes looking at the photo album a pretty slick experience.

Also in the toolbar I’ve recently added Video Download Helper which provides a mechanism for downloading videos and other files (like, from YouTube for instance).  I don’t really use this all that much.

The last add-on that I’ve got running is SQL Lite manager – this is a pretty cool add-on that allows you to attach to a database and run SQL commands.  I really don’t use this either, but when I wanted to make some bulk updates to my LightRoom catalog, this really came in handy.

And that’s what I’ve got for now.  Do you think I’m missing anything?  I’d love to hear what you’re using and feel to be a worthy add-on.