Interview: Jof Arnold is One of My BlogFriends

Sharing and getting more exposure for your blog is very important. You want readers to read what you have to say. Well I enjoy a specific blog widget for Facebook. The reason for this is because I can discover other blogs.

Throughout my blogging experience I have met multiple bloggers/ authors. I keep in touch with most and even have regular conversations with them (off topic from blogging). I enjoy meeting new authors and reading new blogs i would never have found before. BlogFriends is a great plugin to use if you have a Facebook account.

There was one time where it went down and I was a little mad about this. I actually wrote about it in one of my ramblings and Jof Arnold has found and responded to my post.

Since he has explained about the situation and I wanted to learn more I asked for an interview and Jof accepted.

Ian: My first question is the day BlogFriends went down. I think it was September 6th 2007. What happened? I noticed the interface was adjusted a bit. Was there an upgrade?

Jof: There was a code upgrade during a run of our “update script” – the thing we use to update everyone’s profile boxes. Unfortunately just a couple of lines of code were read out of sync and this caused the title of posts to not be added to profile boxes. Normally this would be fixed automatically with the next run, but unfortunately it corresponded with our hosting provider having an unplanned outage on their experimental EC2-like servers: bad timing! We transferred the app back to dedicated hosting as soon as we could, and it’s been running perfectly ever since.

Ian: BlogFriends is such a great FaceBook application. How did you stumble on this idea? What was going through your mind along the process of making this application? What would be the sole purpose of BlogFriends?

Jof: Thanks! Actually, while the idea for the Blog Friends facebook app came to Luke only recently, it was several years in the making. The “i-together” concept of building technology that helps people to explore their interests as unique individuals but also, at the same time, within a rich social context, had been in Luke’s mind for about three and a half years previously. He had tried out many prototype services and business models before Blog Friends finally emerged.

Ian: I love BlogFriends, as it lets me view my friends’ friend’s blogs. Was this on purpose? Or is this another sole purpose of exposure for bloggers?

Jof: It’s really about helping people explore and connect with others through their “social graph”, but in the special context of blogging. So it works both as a way to find blogs and a way to get your blog found – in both cases in a social way

Ian: I understand that BlogFriends is not real time. I was reading there are issues with Facebook API. Can you go into further detail about this?

Jof: For us, the challenges of working in facebook come in two forms: things they planned, and things they didn’t!

On the planned side, perhaps the biggest challenge for Blog Friends is that profile boxes are pushed to facebook, not pulled from it. This means we request to facebook “Please display <this code> on <this user>’s profile page” and that code is displayed until we push more content to facebook telling it to update. This is different to the normal method of the internet where information is pulled – i.e. you request data and you get whatever the data is at that time.

As for unplanned, I guess you know that Facebook pushes new code every night? Usually it works, but when it doesn’t it can create a lot of fun for developers the next morning…

Ian: Will there be further advancements with BlogFriends on Facebook? If so what new features will you be bringing in?

Jof: In the short term we will roll out a major new release in the next fortnight. This new version will have advanced blog post ratings and showcase features, as well as a more fluid representation in the interface of the user’s relationship to the various bloggers whose posts they read (rather than separate sections for friends, friends of friends etc.).

Ian: i-together.com redirects to the Facebook Application BlogFriends. Will there be a purpose for this specific domain?

Jof: We have not ruled out expanding beyond facebook onto our own site with the Blog Friends service and other i-together services.

Ian: In the end BlogFriends is a great application. Off topic I would like to ask a minor question about you. I notice that you are the owner of BrainBakery.com. Do you create scripts for others to us, similar to freelance work?

Jof: Benjie and I set up BrainBakery.com to develop advanced internet applications for clients; we’ve recently developed several Facebook applications, including i-together’s Blog Friends, and a couple of others which will be released soon. However BrainBakery is no longer taking on coding projects as we’re focusing on this application for various reasons which will become clear soon. 😉

Ian: Lastly, I notice from your blog you are a musician. What instrument do you play? What music do you enjoy?

Jof: I’ve played guitar badly for about 17 years now, and can play bass and keys okay, but am more into composing with computers. It’s mostly for fun, but I once wrote a couple of fringe theater musicals with a great London artist called Maggie Drury – including one about megalomania co-written with the creator of Rosie and Jim. Totally surreal! Lol.

As for tastes, I listen to all sorts of stuff via Last.fm and somafm.com – although I don’t mind admitting my heart’s still in the late-90s post-rock scene of Mogwai, Trail of Dead, Shellac, McLusky, Blond Redhead etc.

What I learned from the Interview

Why BlogFriends went down on September 6th 2007. But there is a bigger learning experience I retained from this interview. Developing a program for Facebook is hard. I myself tried to create a Facebook application but I have to read and learn a new type of code, I just did not have time to learn.

With Jof, he did not know about the facebook challenges and lead to more research on his end to create a more durable and powerful widget for Facebook. He did his homework and succeeded!

Another is he wants to create a sort of live interaction with BlogFriends and Facebook. Creating an interactive environment means more exposure and loyal readers. I try to make this blog very interactive by finding new and great plugins from wordpress. Interacting with your audience is important to keep them from being bored and ‘just reading.’


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