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Facebook’s f8 & Oodle – An Engineering Update

As Craig mentioned in his last post, Oodle participated in the May 24 launch of Facebook’s new social application platform, f8. As an Oodle engineer who was part of it all, I thought I’d provide some fun behind-the-scenes on our efforts, as well as a quick update on where things stand now.

Before The Event

Oodle was one of 65 developer partners that had preview access to the f8 platform. We were a late entry to that group, however, and got rolling with f8 development just a few days before the event.

After receiving the invite, a small team of folks here at the company immediately went into brainstorm mode and our thoughts eventually coalesced around two ideas — “BandTracker” and “WantList”.

The use cases behind each were actually quite simple:

  • BandTracker – A way to track your favorite musical artists and bands, be notified of upcoming shows, and get an easy link over to Oodle to purchase tickets for those shows. Oodle is able to do this better than anyone else on the net, thanks to the massive crawling and indexing infrastructure we’ve built for Oodle.com. We know about a lot of bands and a lot of shows — quite possibly more than any other service on the net. (Our database currently contains 210,000+ bands performing in 460,000+ shows!)

    We already offer BandTracker functionality in non-f8 form over at http://www.oodle.com/bandtracker/. Creating an f8 version made obvious sense since so much of the fun of music comes from sharing new bands with friends and seeing what they’re interested in.

  • WantList – Take the notion of the online wishlist and mash that into the Facebook status message experience. The result is a quick text box that lets you enter whatever you want right now — for example, “Steve wants a Vespa.” Your new “want” would then be displayed on your profile and also get pushed out to your friends’ News Feeds. “Ben wants a skybox at AT&T Park.” “Craig wants some heavy Class V action on the river this weekend.” “Mark wants everyone to stop blaming Canada.”

The Development Experience

We launched each app after just a few days of work. Three things helped:

  1. Clean API Client Libraries – The REST API client libraries provided by Facebook were in PHP5 and we’re a PHP5 shop, too. We were able to drop those in and get rolling quickly. The code was clean and easy to integrate. Very nicely done.
  2. Domain Knowledge – We had just completed a bit of Facebook API work for our Oodle Classifieds group on Facebook, so we were familiar with the core Facebook API.
  3. Quick Bootstrapping – F8 application setup was similar to the previous Facebook web app setup: get an API key, define a callback URL on your side, and give your app a pretty title and a path. We had Hello Worlds going in a matter of minutes.

At The Event

The core Oodle f8 development team members were: Caroline Clabaugh, Chris Estreich, Mark Kwan, Lu Wang, and myself, Steve Baker. The five of us rolled up there on May 24 along with a half dozen or so other Oodlers.

I personally enjoyed the moments before the keynote, around the booth, when folks were dropping by and just checking out Oodle.com. Got some nice feedback about Oodle and what folks liked about it. Even got some feature requests from a Facebook employee that had checked out BandTracker a day or two before the event. All good stuff.

The hackathon setup was solid. They definitely did it right for us nerds. The classic software engineer cliches are, unfortunately, true: give us lots of Red Bull, power strips, a whiteboard, a table to gather around … and then get out of the way. Oh, and some super-fast network connectivity. Unfortunately, the wireless was pretty poor during the start of the hackathon that followed the keynote, but with 100s of hackers with laptops, I’m not sure I should have expected much else. Real hackers go wired, anyway, right?

That night, we launched the two new Oodle f8 applications: BandTracker and WantList. (Note: You may be prompted for your Facebook login and password after clicking these links.)

In addition to those two apps, a few of us started hacking in different directions. Aren Sandersen, chief software architect here at Oodle, created FaceOff, a fun app that lets you look across all of your networks and see who has the most friends in each one. FaceOff is doing well with over 8,000 “adds” so far.

Since The Event – Stats & Updates

Oodle engineers Chris E. and Mark K. really kicked it into overdrive during the weekend following the launch and took BandTracker to a whole new level. At the time of launch, you could track bands and then see when they were coming. Straightforward, but barebones. In the days after that, they worked hard to add the sweet social sugar as well:

  • Recently Tracked – See what other people just started tracking
  • Most Tracked – See the hottest bands overall (Answer: Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • Who Likes What You Like? – Probably the coolest feature of all. See who is tracking the same bands/artists you’re tracking

There’s lots of really great stuff on the way for that, too. But even just so far, the hard work has really paid off. As of this post, BandTracker is approaching 20,000 “adds” by Facebook users. It’s currently in the top 40 of all Facebook apps, just ahead of other f8 apps from Digg and Twitter.

In Summary…

Craig D. has said for a long time now that classifieds are a social experience; after all, the vast majority of the time, the end result of a classifieds transaction is a face-to-face meeting between buyer and seller. So we’re fired up to see all of the innovation that’s happening in the social space online because we really feel like it fits nicely with where we’re headed. I’d love nothing more to see other social networks roll out similar APIs so that we can hop on board and integrate with them, too. It’s going to be a fun summer. Bring the Red Bull.

Event Photos

One Response to “Facebook’s f8 & Oodle – An Engineering Update”

  1. August 31st, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Steve Baker says:

    Stay tuned for more posts and photos in the future from Oodle Engineering. :-)

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