A good technical book will achieve two goals: inform and inspire. Now, a great technical book, that will motivate. It will force you to act. Not out of obligation, but with verve that’s usually reserved for a kid in a candy shop. And the Facebook Cookbook is motivating as hell.
It’s so motivating that I’ve passed off the book to our other team members, Matt and Jim, to get them on board with not just some of the Facebook app ideas I’d like to explore this year, but some of the other technical insights that are found in the book. We’ll see if they’re as excited as I expect them to be after having a read. And, who knows, maybe a great Facebook app will come out of it. As long as it doesn’t involve Zombies, I’ll be excited to work on it.
So, let’s talk about application ideas. Clearly, the Facebook application environment is super crowded, with volumes of applications in all sorts of categories, but there’s always room for new successes with a well executed idea. More important than anything, with the Facebook Cookbook Jay’s been able to get me to explore ideas that may otherwise have been put on the back burner, simply because of a perceived complexity in building for a new technical environment. The directness with which Jay and guests such as Jeffrey Tseng and Ilya Grigorik (among other great contributors) tackle not just the technical aspects of the Facebook Platform, but supporting technologies, Facebook specific marketing, and more, demystify this new environment.
Even better than breaking down the process of moving from idea to app to growth, across all of the key aspects of managing a successful Facebook app, the Facebook Cookbook is full of detailed and specific insight. For example, Application Notifications are limited (such as the notification you’d get from Scrabulous (now Lexulous) saying “Mike Fragomeni has played a move in Lexulous. You may have moves pending in other games too. Click here to view your games.” (By the way, Mike’s pretty good if you’re in the mood for a challenge)). The Application Notification limits are also based on user feedback. For example, your notifications can be flagged as spam, which sicks the Facebook Platform Police on you. So, you need to be very careful about how you manage your notifications. Rather than ramping up to the maximum number of notifications, play with your wording and context of delivery to ensure that you have a healthy opt-in rate, aren’t getting flagged as spam, and aren’t losing app users because they’re getting tired of all the messages they have to sift through every time they log in. Once you find the right balance, that’s the time to increase your flow of notifications. And, the more engaged your users are, the more notifications your app will be allocated. Win win.
There are great insights just like that throughout each chapter of the Facebook Cookbook. I know I’m writing more about idea generation and marketing. That’s simply because I don’t play much of a role in coding these days. That’s where the aforementioned Matt and Jim come in. I can say that the thoroughness of the technical aspects of the book is impressive, with Setting Up Your Environment, FBML, FBJS, FQL and FB API chapters accounting for 70% of the book. Each section with more great insights on subjects from caching to connecting to user data and other integration points.
Facebook Cookbook is so thorough that we not only find a great and relevant discussion on the social graph, but we also have the opportunity to compare the Facebook Platform against Google’s Open Social and the wealth of networks that are connected through Google’s platform. You even get an answer to the question, is it better for your app to have access to more people on different networks, or have access to a more connected network? Better yet, why not do both? Facebook Cookbook includes details for architecting your app to run on both platforms with as little rework and maintenance as possible.
All this and beyond the publication Jay’s still hands on continuing to work with the Facebook Platform to come up with new insights.
Clearly, I heartily recommend the Facebook Cookbook. Truthfully, I have just one complaint. This has to do with a tremendous error in the book that I really hope will be corrected in subsequent printings: Jay, the toilet paper should fall on the front. Come on, man!