Facebook Developer Garage

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8-Nov-2010 - Facebook Developer Garage

It's the first time I've been to one of these - cool, casual format hosted in the very functional and appealing District 319 facility at Main and Hastings. Things kicked off with an open discussion panel (Eric Woodward, Boris Mann, Mischa Steiner-Jovic, Brent Holliday and Mack Flavelle), which got fairly lively with heated debate on the strategy of release a "crap" product sooner and then make it better. Proponents of this approach (Lean Startup Model) suggesting it gets the product out there and user feedback will guide how it evolves. Opponents suggest that this tack will show your hand too early, deflate the enthusiasm around your idea and turn off media from ever paying attention to you again. I liked the catch phrase burn-learn-earn to describe the use of early investment to learn what people will pay for in your product.

For me, it's depends on the product - some products absolutely gain by early and aggressive releases - others can be so valueless that any excitement can be irrevocably lost, regardless of how cool the idea is.

The main event began with hearing from various companies in the Facebook dev space - mainly games.

Russ Ovans of Backstage suggested that in social gaming there are two types of utility: strategic (=score); and social (=status), and that virtual goods are social objects. For a viable social gaming economy:

1. virtual goods must be coveted by others

2. players can do what they like with the virtual goods

3. virtual goods are exchangeable with other players

Intrinsic value leads naturally to pay-to-play. The presenter gave the example of his original Scratch & Win game, which, though so incredibly simple and over three years old still makes $0.02/day/active user!

J.Joly of dimeRocker presented their Facebook game creation platform, claiming it is an awesome space to be in since games are 50x more popular than any other app Facebook (Zynga’s FarmVille might be helping those stats a tad...). Their solution is, sorry for the analogy, very wizard-like in its simplicity, enabling really fast game deployment to Facebook. Top Bar as an example built on the dimeRocker platform. It’s a slightly edgy bar business sim, complete with barfing patrons who need to be ejected before they bring down the tone. Paul Prescod then spoke briefly about Ayogo's social games - very cool stuff - but then went on to underscore that Facebook is a tough, constantly changing, stuff-breaks-all-the-time place to write apps for, which led to more lively discussion! (Update: Ayogo just won the 2010 Digital Hot List at nextMEDIA)

Finally, Mike Vernal, Director of Engineering for the Facebook platform, took the stage. He responded to Paul’s observation of Facebook’s ever-breaking nature first by acknowledging that it is on purpose, since Facebook does not want to slow down it’s dev speed as it grows - so bad things can happen, but it will be worth it! :) Second he gave out his personal email and phone number so anyone in the audience (and, at least, in my neighbour’s Facebook circle!) could contact him directly about problems they encounter - cool. Some fast facts he offered: social + startups = disruption; faces are hotspots for attention; 200 million users/month on mobile.

With the clock running down on the evening, of the last two presenters - Parveen Kaler of Smartful Studios presented very quickly, and Jason Bailey of Super Rewards (adknowledge) skipped his presentation entirely, figuring everyone had seen enough of him since he was the MC, and could figure out how to get a hold of him anyway :)

The crowd then enjoyed the remaining pizza and a quaffed more drinks to round off a very enjoyable evening.

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