Popular Google+ user lists on gpc.fm

05 Aug

A few days ago, I’ve launched the lists feature at Google+ Counter.

Within the first week, users have created more than 1.200 lists – way more, than I ever expected in my wildest dreams. And the number keeps growing.

So, what are Google+ Counter lists?

In short, gpc.fm provides you with an easy and elegant way to create and maintain lists of interesting Google+ users.

There currently is no method on Google+ to publish your Circles – they are always private. However, you might want to publish lists of interesting profiles with. Think Android Developers on Google+ or My favorite Baseball Players. gpc.fm gives you exactly that and even allows to crowdsource list creation!

Why should I use it?

While you could create your own webpage with links to profiles, using gpc.fm to curate your lists has some major advantages:

  • Keeping your lists up to date with gpc.fm is straight forward and easy.
  • Our crawlers constantly parse and update all profiles in our index. This means, your lists will always show the latest follower counts and occupation for all members.
  • In case a member leaves Google+, or her profile gets pulled, gpc.fm automatically updates your lists. No manual intervention required. Your list always looks fine.
  • With the powerful guest password option, you can allow others to add members. This is a great way to crowdsource list growth.
  • gpc.fm is visited by more than 30.000 users per day. The Popular Lists page is a great way for others to discover your list. At the moment, we include all lists with more than ten members!

How does it work?

To start your own list, visit gpc.fm and click the Your Own Lists button.

If you additionally set the Guest Password, your list is prepared for crowdsourced operation. People who know the Guest Password can add new members to the list, but they cannot delete anybody.

The idea is, that you might want to share the Guest Password with others, but keep your Owner Password secret.

Next you add profiles by simply copying and pasting the URLs to Google+ Counter and hitting the Add Profile button

The unique Google+ profile URL is in your browser’s address bar when you click on the Google+ user’s name.

Once you click Add Profile, gpc.fm checks whether the user is already part of our index, reaches out to Google+ to parse and update the profile data and adds it to your list. You can then paste the next profile URL and add it, too.

Finally, don’t forget to Save Your List!

When others visit your list via the permalink, members are automatically sorted by follower count, with the most prominent one at the top.

How do I edit my list?

At the top of each list, you find the Edit link. Click it and you’re asked for a password. Depending on whether you submit the Guest or the Owner password, you can either just add new members, or also change the list title and remove members.

In case your list is a long one, you also find the edit list at the end of the page.

Is there a list of lists anywhere?

Yes! I’ve just added this tonight and rushed it out, so chances are, it’s still a bit rough around the edges. The Popular Lists on Google+ Counter page at http://gpc.fm/l/all shows our most popular lists. Popularity is calculated based on visitors. Also, we only include lists with at minimum ten members.

Any plans for the future?

Google+ Counter is just one of my side projects. I love the open web, web development and culture. That’s really the only reason why I created it. So please don’t expect a formal roadmap or anything similar. Most of the stuff, that’s on my list for the next few nights is based on user feedback.

Here’s what I will definitely add over the next few days:

  • List descriptions: This seems to be the #1 requests. In addition to the list title, you will be able to provide a more detailed description.
  • Open lists: If you don’t want to maintain some level of control over who can add members, you will be able to allow guest editing without the need to provide any password.
  • Profile search: The ability to search for profiles in our index.
  • Profile statistics: We keep updating each of the more than 32.000 profiles in our index on an hourly base. However, I currently do not provide detailed stats, like follower count over time, etc. Those stats are next on my list.
With that said, I’ll call it a day. It’s 3:09 am here in Germany, and I can hardly keep my eyes open.
Thanks for all your great feedback. I’d love if you spread the word.
As always, I’m available at Twitter and Google+ should you want to get in touch.

A brief update on Google Plus Counter (gpc.fm)

30 Jul

When I started creating Google Plus Counter, I didn’t expect it to become only half as popular as it already did.

Here’s a brief update on stuff that I’m currently working on:

It’s kind of strange to see many lists lead by Google+ members, who actually never said anything publicly. The most prominent example being Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. The updated detail popover, the one which animates in when you hover over a profile, now shows a little “has no posts” text, lowering your expectation if you actually plan to visit a profile.

I’ve also added a link that let’s you sort of blank-out those profiles:

I hope this will make it easier for you to discover new people on Google+ and fill your Circles!

While the Hall of Fame will continue to include no-posters, the new Top with Posts hall at http://gpc.fm/posters only lists active members. It is important to note, that my crawlers only see publicly available posts. Chances are, no-posters did share stuff within their circles, only.

I’ve also improved some of the internal mechanics for the site. The crawlers written in Python already did a pretty good job of updating the more than 30.000 profiles in gpc.fm’s index hourly, but they occasionally  missed to parse some of the profile info correctly. I’ve ironed out most of these bugs and at the same time improved speed. The crawlers have also been offloaded to a separate machine to keep up the great speed of the site.

Initially, the sidebar navigation and the suggested users have been coded into the dynamic part of the site. I’ve factored those snippets out. They are now static elements reused across the entire site and re-rendered hourly (like all the halls).

People have created more than 1.000 lists with the lists feature, introduced a few days ago. You can access it yourself at http://gpc.fm/lists. Lists provide you with an easy way to share Google+ Profiles. One good example is the Android Developers list at http://gpc.fm/l/androiddev.

I am totally aware, that the inability to edit lists once you’ve created them is desperately missing, but I wanted to get lists out first and see how it does.

Well, the wait is almost over!

I’ve finished all coding and am currently testing the implementation. Soon at the bottom of Google Plus Counter lists you’ll find an option to add or modify members:

In fact, the Android Developers list linked above has already been enabled for editing. I plan to roll out list editing this Sunday night (CET). You don’t have to do anything, gpc.fm will re-render all existing lists and add the required markup. Just make sure that you set a password, when creating lists. Should you have forgotten to do so, contact me at Google+ and I’ll be happy to help.

A final remark: As described a bit more in-depth in a previous blog post, most parts of gpc.fm are actually static.

This has turned out to be a great design decision as the site is hit by some serious traffic after having been featured by The Next Web, WebProNews and others. Technically, whenever somebody visits one of the Halls or a List, no PHP and no database queries are involved at all.

Instead, the worker processes written in Python are constantly rendering static HTML and move the final pages into the correct places inside the folder structure, thus keeping the content dynamic without passing every single HTTP request down the stack.

I’d like to thank everybody for the great feedback I’ve received and sharing gpc.fm with their peers.

As always, I appreciate getting in touch with my readers, visitors and users. Find me at Google+ or Twitter.

Last but not least I’d like to thank Sagar Kamdar who is with Google and has helped me setting up the verified author relationship for Google Plus Counter. If you search for my service, my Google+ Profile now shows up within the search results!

This is super cool and Sagar has been extremely responsive – and patient. This seems to be true for all of the Google employees these days and I truly admire the spirit and culture Google manages to keep up despite it’s enormous growth.

Is the Mac OS X Lion release actually older than the July 11 developer GM seed?

20 Jul

Today, Apple released the eagerly awaited major Mac OS X update, Mac OS X Lion.

Members of the Mac Developer Program got access to a so called GM seed on July 11th. While Gold Master (GM) seeds are supposed  to be exactly like their soon-to-follow market releases, this has not always been the case in the past. Apple did take the chance previously, to rush in some late-night patches between Gold Master and Release-to-Market (RTM) builds.

That is, why this year I resisted my natural temptation to immediately go for the GM seed.

The only way of finding out whether GM seed and RTM version are the same is to take a look at their respective build numbers, found in About this Mac > More Info > Software.

Oddly enough, it seems as if this year the RTM version is actually older than the GM seed. Mac OS X Lion GM Seed is Build 11A511 and today’s RTM 11A494.

What’s going on here? Did Apple in fact roll out a previous build and those who ran for the GM seed are one step ahead already? Or does Apple just not count as we humans do?

Even the App Store seems to recognize a newer version. If you try to download the release from a machine that runs the GM seed, you’ll get this:

Maybe Software Update will kick in after install and upgrade to 11A511. What do you think?

+++ Update +++

Turns out that if your Mac is connected to the Internet during setup, the installer will actually download an update and upgrade your build to 11A511.

The story behind Google+ Counter, now tracking 30.000+ members

16 Jul

When Google+ launched and I got one of the early invites some two weeks ago, I was pretty damn excited. Not only is Google+ a welcome other place on the Web to hang out – no pun intended –  I was also looking forward to start some coding I had in mind for longer.

I started working on Google+ Counter a few days later and within just three days, more than 30.000 Google+ members submitted their profiles.

So what exactly is Google+ Counter?

Well, first and foremost it’s my personal proof of concept for a couple of technologies I planned to play with for quite some time.

At the moment of this writing, the only visible part is the Hall of Fame, a nice collection of the top followed people on Google+. Hover over an image and you get some details. Click it and you’re taken to the member profile.

I do, however, already collect much more than just that.

And am planning on giving users back more than just follower counts soon. Who needs those scores, anyway?

Before I move on, let’s discuss privacy and Google+ Counter for a moment.

It’s as simple as this: Google+ Counter can only access what’s visible publicly.

I don’t use any special API (in fact, there is no Google+ API, yet) nor can my scripts log into Google+ as you, a process usually established via OAuth. Google+ Counter to Google+ really just looks like any anonymous visitor. It’s not even signed in.

All the crawler scripts see is the minimum information, you’ve decided to make available publicly.

I’ve been intrigued by the technological challenges of creating services that scale for almost my entire professional life. For example, over at GrandCentrix we run a platform that drives the mobile experience for Germany’s Pop Idol TV show. When the show’s final airs, we literally see hundreds of thousands requests coming in within seconds.

Handling that kind of load is not easy to solve with out-of-the-box recipes.

But dealing with peak load is only one aspect of large-scale services, handling massive amount of data is another one. And Google+ was sort of the ideal playground for me to start some experiments.

I built the frontend with PHP and jQuery. Don’t laugh, please. I know, it’s way more on vogue doing it in Rails these days. However, as there would not be so many dynamic parts on the site anyway, I chose to go for the old and reliable horse that is PHP.

Wait a minute? Not so many dynamic parts? Isn’t Google+ Counter all about analyzing a social network that is sort of a continuous moving target?

Sure it is. But the frontend part of Google+ Counter – and that’s the one leveraging a bit of PHP – comprises almost completely of static HTML pages.

Early on, I made a design decision to move all the hard and CPU intensive work to background processes running asynchronously.

Actually, the only processing happening in real-time when somebody visits is when users add a new profile. Google+ Counter instantly reaches out to the new user’s profile, grabs a name and a follower count and provides immediate feedback.

The profile URL then gets normalized and enqueued for later processing.

Throughout the day, a set of hardcore Python worker processes is launched in 30 minute, 60 minute and daily intervals to build the static pages of the site.

The Hall of Fame is as plain a HTML page as it can get. No PHP scripts and no database roundtrips are involved at all. The worker processes take care for everything, from updating profile links to adjusting the paginated navigation at the top of the page.

By far the most difficult part was dealing with the data changing over time.

A newly added profile is added to the index within a maximum of one hour after it has been submitted. I’ve chosen this slightly larger interval because the initial parsing of a complete profile can take some time, depending on the number of public posts etc.

Subsequently, Google+ Counter updates all of its data on an half hourly base. That means, we re-crawl all of the 30.000+ profiles every 30 minutes and extract profile and additional stream information. This includes keywords found in public posts.

We also keep a complete history, so we will be able to identify trends shortly. Not only in follower count but also hot topics, areas of expertise and much more. I’m not planning to offer a Google+ search engine, as I’m pretty sure, Google will add that shortly.

But it opens for a number of interesting opportunities, I’ll talk about in another post.

The Hall of Fame is updated hourly and it always incorporates the latest available data.

I use a number of technologies, from compressing data to map reduce to allow the worker scripts to scale beautifully. So far, 30.000 listed profiles do not seem to do much harm, so I’m eager to see what will happen, when I hit the 100.000 mark or even larger numbers.

So far, creating Google+ Counter has been a fun experience.

I’ve been focussing on developing mobile apps for some time. Most of those require some sort of backend either for content management or driving application logic. I found returning full force to Web Development and playing with large datasets very rewarding. And I hope, what I’ve learned will also allow me to build better mobile experiences.

If you want to get in touch or follow along with the evolution of Google+ Counter, you can find me on Google+ and Twitter.

Google+ vanity URLs are here – and they do not start with gplus.to

05 Jul

It hasn’t taken long for some third parties to build services on top of Google’s new social network, Google+.

The folks who brought us TwitterCounter, have started Google+ Statistics and somebody else offers the gplus.to redirect service. From discussions I’ve followed over at the network I’ve learned, that some users initially thought, gplus.to was an original Google initiative. Well, it is not.

Also, given that there is no disclaimer and no imprint whatsoever on the gplus.to website, I’m holding back at the moment.

It seems to be a little known fact, that every Google+ user already has sort of a vanity URL.

For example, the URL showing up for my profile in my browser is https://plus.google.com/110025177084709634671 and that’s the one I’ve referenced in other places.

However, turns out that my Google Profile address – the one I’ve had for years – does work, too. So the shorter and speaking pointer to me on Google+ is: http://profiles.google.com/ralf.rottmann.

By default, it links to your posts tab. You can, however, attach whatever works on the longer version and it’ll work here, too. So http://profiles.google.com/ralf.rottmann/about will link to my about tab.

ralf.rottmann is the username associated with my Google account. It’s the part prefixing the @gmail.com.

Before you sign up for the next suspicious Google+ vanity URL service, you might consider just using what Google has already built for you! It’s easier to remember, will be reliable as long as Google keeps up the service and likely even fits on your business card.

If you want to read more about Google’s exciting new service, just put me into one of your circles.

Shame on you, copycat: Excelsis Business Solutions copies GrandCentrix website!

05 Jul

In late 2008, together with some friends I’ve known forever, I cofounded GrandCentrix.

Within just two years, we’ve grown to one of the largest, iOS and Android focused mobile apps developers in Germany, servicing major brands. With publ.me, we’ve created a revolutionary iPad publishing platform, that not only coined the term “iPad publishing made easy” – hence the “me” in publ.me – but is also used by market leading companies across the globe.

In fact, a comparison conducted by renowned management consultancy Arthur D. Little found publ.me to be the most comprehensive, affordable and easy to use offering in this market.

I’m in this game for quite a while and do understand, that success fosters envy.

Still, I was somewhat surprised this morning, to find voice application professional Excelsis Business Solutions AG – who has just recently jumped on the app development bandwagon – to go online with what’s almost a 1:1 copy of the GrandCentrix corporate homepage.

Here’s the original GrandCentrix homepage, as it has been online since almost two years (click to enlarge):

And here is Excelsis Business Solutions’ shameless copy under the brand name apperplace:

Some say, if an established player (at least in the voice industry) is unable to come up with her own original ideas and starts copying yours, one should feel humbled.

So we brainstormed ideas from taking legal action to trying to get in touch.

We finally came up with an even better one: What makes for a better argument in customer presentations, talks and sales meetings, if you can prove a company that’s in business since 1998 feels tempted to bluntly copy your ideas, design, messaging and content?

We’ve started modifying our Keynote presentations and all of our sales collateral. We’ve added a brief intro, showcasing how desperate some of our competitors really are. And if they’re desperate, that’s usually a good sign!

Besides this, we still believe, if you’re serious about iPad publishing, you’ll likely not hand your business to a $99 construction kit company, anyway.

A former boss, who has founded one of the largest Internet companies on the planet, taught me to “lead, don’t follow”.

Today, Excelsis Business Solutions has proven being good at copying. We stay tuned.

Confirmed: Google+ iOS app is awaiting approval from Apple!

04 Jul

Today, Google’s own Erica joy has confirmed, that the iOS app has in fact been submitted to Apple for review some time ago. It is now stuck in review and waiting for approval. Erica actually posted it to the public on the Google+ network itself:

While her initial post related to the iPhone she clarified, that it’ll likely be a universal app, one that runs on the iPad and iPhone: “Sorry, even though I have an iPad and not an iPhone, I always call iOS apps “iPhone apps”. I’m sure its something to do with conditioning.”

Google+ has been available as an Android app since it launched for a very limited field trial earlier this week. It works pretty well in Mobile Safari but some features are limited or not exactly optimized for an iOS audience.

Hopefully, Apple will approve Google+ for iOS rather soon.

I frequently discuss Google+ related stuff on the network, so if you want to check it out, here’s a link to my public posts. (You don’t have to be a Google+ member to follow those.)

MLOVE, I love you

03 Jul

MLOVE 2011 is over and somehow I wish, it could have lasted forever.

Last year, my MLOVE post was titled “It’s all about the people“.

This year, I struggled finding a headline, that would potentially express it even better. I couldn’t. MLOVE 2011 still was all about the people and hopefully that aspect will never change.

Covering the spirit and nature of MLOVE in a blog post is virtually impossible. You have to be there and experience it yourself to completely understand it.

So this year, here is my unordered list of feelings and observations that I’d like to share with you:

  • MLOVE still is the one and only industry event – if one can even name it like this – that I’d pay for privately to attend. I’ve had the pleasure to visit SXSW, LeWeb, eComm, NEXT Conference, WWDC and many others in my professional life. Don’t get me wrong. Those are great conferences. But they are not family. And MLOVE sort of is.
  • Thanks god, MLOVE does not suffer from “tech celebrification”. The speaker and attendee lineup was impressive. But it’s not the MG Sieglers or Michael Arringtons that you meet during MLOVE. In fact, at LeWeb 2010 those guys were escorted like superstars, as if they had to escape their audience. At MLOVE, Thomas Goetz the Executive Editor for WIRED Magazine and Chamillionaire, a Grammy-winning rapper, could very well end up next to you during dinner or in one of the Future Cubes, applying design thinking methodologies to complex problems. After all, we’re all just humans and in this together.
  • Big company names just mean nothing. The MLOVE team made a good decision not even printing the name of the company you belong to on your badge. At MLOVE whether you’ve been sent by a giant telco or just launched your one-man-passion-startup, everybody gets treated equally. In other words: You get an audience because of what you have to say, not whom you work for.
  • What happens at MLOVE, stays at MLOVE. During his opening remarks, Harald Neidhardt put it this way: “We try to make you leave your comfort zone. And hopefully find a new one here at MLOVE.” And while it takes MLOVE newbies some getting used to, I’ve never seen so many people whom I just met opening up like this. A truly rewarding experience.
  • It’s like coming home. MLOVE is a truly international event. People from all over the world gather in the MLOVE castle. I’m connected through various Social Networks with many, but unfortunately, some I only see in person once a year. At MLOVE. And it always feels like family. Returning to the castle. Returning to this inspiring group. That is a fantastic feeling!
  • Though I don’t have any official numbers, MLOVE felt bigger this year. In 2010 we were a group of approx. 150. The crowd since has grown to roughly 250. While adding more diverse viewpoints, perspectives and stories of life is a good thing, I hope MLOVE will stay with this size or even downsize a bit. Why? Because everybody is worth spending at least some time with. If MLOVE keeps growing, you don’t have a chance to spend much time with most of the attendees but instead risk feeling in a constant hurry.
  • No corporate BS. Financing an event like this without falling into the trap of giving sponsors tons of time to present corporate slides is extremely difficult. MLOVE has always been different in this regard. Even Nokia’s German MD, the company was an MLOVE 2011 sponsor, talked about sustainability. And donated grassland and a wish tree to the MLOVE castle. I hope that MLOVE will find a way to keep the balance between size and not being 100% dependent on corporate sponsorship.

Then there was Bernd Kolb.

From the MLOVE website: “Kolb left behind these accolades [he was a chief executive with German Telekom and is the founder of I-D Media, RR] to work as a ‘social entrepreneur’ and ‘change agent’ helping to navigate the complex challenges amongst us and to develop innovative new solutions to deal with those challenges. In founding the ‘Club of Marrakesh’, Kolb gathers international thinkers, scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs to develop integrated ground-breaking projects and to implement them. The approach is entrepreneurial in nature and follows the principle that sustainability can be only achieved through profitability.”

Bernd’s talk about the fundamental global challenges our planet and society are facing and his passion to transform the world towards sustainability was one of those rare defining moments in life for me.

It’s not, that Bernd presented any facts that haven’t been around or available before. It again, was all about the people. I happened to sit in the first row during Bernd’s talk and could literally feel his dedication, passion and strong believe in our ability, to help driving that transformation.

It was mind blowing, touching and a wake-up call much deserved.

When Harald thanked Bernd for contributing this to MLOVE, he could hardly hold back his tears. The crowd gave standing ovations.

Finally, the MLOVE Teen Camp.

Last year, Harald’s daughter Toni Neidhardt gave a talk about the impact of Mobile to her teen life. At the age of 15. It’s available at vimeo and I strongly encourage you to watch it.

That discussion sparked the idea of doing a Teen Camp at MLOVE 2011.

On day three the young MLOVErs from countries all over the world presented their work. And boy did they deliver.

To me, the strong contrast between Bernd pointing out the global challenges we all are facing and shortly thereafter seeing these wonderful, brilliant young people shaping their ideas for their future, that made it an even more intense experience.

And sort of reemphasized our mutual responsibility and the fact that each and everyone of us can and must help. As Aape Pohjavirta put it during his talk: “We have no excuses.”

Besides this, I think these kids should go out to German schools and teach the teachers to teach.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank Harald and his wonderful team for putting this together and letting us feel their passion. Back into my home office, I hope I will be able to carry some of it over to my professional and private life.


CocaCola Reason to believe – a wonderful commercial

03 Jun

CocaCola’s Reason to believe is just such a wonderfully optimistic commercial. Lean back and enjoy!

Interesting little detail: The German version has some slightly different scenes and wording. It also does not explicitly include folks drinking Coke!

Reworking social features… done!

02 Jun

So much is going on in the Social Media & Networks world that it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

I’ve taken today’s bank holiday here in Germany to rework all the social features available on 24100.NET and its German sister site. I’ve completely removed TweetMeme integration, as stats indicated not so many readers are using it anyway. Also, you can no longer amplify posts straight from the title.

Instead, I’ve added Google’s +1 button (2) which just launched a day ago. In addition, you now have the option to follow me on Twitter with just one click (1). The TweetMeme button has been replaced with the official Tweet Web Intend (3) straight from Twitter Inc.

Finally, as I currently consider Empire Avenue the best tool to measure social media reach, I dedicated a pretty prominent part of 24100.NET to showing my ticker symbol (4).

I’m keeping Facebook comment integration alongside the native comments. While many have criticized Facebook comments as just another attempt of the company to take over the Web, I actually find it pretty useful as it takes the discussion to where many of my readers expand their social activities.

Last but not least I’ve fixed a long standing Open Graph related bug, that prevented 24100.NET posts from showing up nicely on Facebook.

I hope you like the more cleaned up social features. If you haven’t done so, go ahead follow me, Tweet this post and +1 it on Google!