Stanford Students Present Facebook Apps to Class

I had a chance to drop in on a session of the class being taught at Stanford this quarter for students who want to learn about developing applications for Facebook (briefly mentioned here). Today’s session was a bit unique since the students were expected to give presentations about the applications they have developed so far.

Of course, the existence of this class is now a bit ironic, since today more news emerged about Google’s OpenSocial, a new alliance that, among other things, allows application creation with basic HTML and JavaScript skills. With Facebook, developers need to learn a new markup language called FBML, thus, part of the need for a class. That said, much of the Stanford class is dedicated to the concepts that are pertinent to application development on any social network platform. For that reason, the class is hardly invalidated – and is perhaps reinforced – by recent developments with OpenSocial.

All in all, I learned about 25 applications for about two and a half minutes each. Most of them were quite simple, as their assignment had been to create applications that drew the largest number of users (their next assignment will be to focus on user engagement). Like Facebook apps in general, the majority of the Stanford apps were also intended for diversionary (dare I say trivial?) activities. That’s not necessarily a knock against them since many – and perhaps most – users obsess with Facebook because it simply amuses them. Plus, it’s impressive that these students were able to put applications together with any decent functionality in the time they were allotted.

Here’s a rundown of the applications created by Stanford students listed in the order they were presented. Links to most of them have been provided since they are actually live on Facebook now, but keep in mind that these are still in development so they may not work completely, or at all for that matter.

Commonalities – shows you how many things you have in common with your friends, based on the information you have in your profiles

Compliment Box – give and receive complements that display on both your profile and a canvas page. Use predefined complements or write your own

Cooties – “like zombies on crack”, you can spread “cooties” among your friends. When a cootie passes on from one user to the next, a new strain is created that reflects user profile information. In the future, they might map the spread of cooties geographically or over the social network.

Dodgeball – throw dodgeballs at your friends. If they respond within an hour of the throw, they can dodge the ball. Otherwise, they get hit and score is kept to reflect the hit. Users must invite more friends to buy more balls to throw.

Get Wasted – add drinks to your online “bar” and mix them. Look at your friends’ drinks, add them to your fridge, and find out what drinks you can make together.

Funny Images – put funny images on your profile and share them with friends. Profile widget has buttons that let you view more pictures and rate whether you find certain pictures funny or not. Developers are thinking about allowing users to upload their own funny images.

Good Eats – create lists of restaurants that you recommend to others; view restaurants that are most recommended among your friends, and sort by type of restaurant.

KissMe – kiss your friends, basically by inviting them to use the application. Apparently this is the most popular application of the whole class in terms of the number of users it has (100,000).

MASHWB – play MASH with your friends; pick two friends and decide what their lives would be like together (the car they’d own, where they’d live, number of kids they’d have, etc.).

MatchMaker – match your friends up in interesting ways (as “heavenly”, “closet gay”, “drunken mistake”, or “missed connection”). Respond to how your friends match you with others.

PhotoGraph – like StumbleUpon for Facebook photos; discover your friends’ photos that you otherwise would have missed. Click a button to save photos that you like and they will be displayed on your profile.

Pickup Truck – send your friends pickup lines or actions. When they respond in kind, the exchange will be threaded like a Facebook series of messages.

Polls – ask your friends anything you want, provide multiple choice answers. Write your own questions or click “surprise me”. Polls get displayed on your profile page and results are shown in a pie chart.

ScribbledPhotos – draw graffiti on top of Facebook photos; just choose a photo and scribble on top of it with a pink marker. Draw on both your own photos and others’.

Send Hotness – figure out your ten hottest friends; invite your friends to help you with rankings. You must invite at least ten people to see the rankings.

SocialBuzz – share items with friends and gain a reputation in a particular area by sharing things that your friends like. Focuses on music sharing purposes right now.

Super Status – just like Facebook status messages, except you don’t have to deal with the automatic “is” verb. Developers plan to add tagging of friends in status messages.

The Giving Tree (previously “The Gumball Machine”) – brings into Facebook information about businesses listed on Kiva, the lending site for 3rd world entrepreneurs. Developers will eventually make it possible to give donations to Kiva through Facebook.

Tournaments – set up brackets for tournaments you compete in with your friends. Comes with wall where you can trash talk your opponents.

Wall of Shame – list up to five things on your profile page that you think suck. Describe what sucks, why it sucks, and the URL at which it sucks. View the things most hated in your network.

War – play the classic card game with your friends on Facebook. The application has been marketed using Facebook’s video app, which gets prioritized in people’s news feed.

Animated Gifts – send your friends animated gifts.

Guess Who – play the classic board game online using your friends as pieces. Click on profile pictures to flip people down.

Car Overload – addition to online car enthusiast community. Add the car that you own and the parts that going along with it. Car parts brought in from online auto sellers. Share parts with friends, comment on parts, and display your car on your profile page.

In addition to the student presentations, Blake Commagere stopped by to give a bit of a lecture about what he’s learned from developing applications for Facebook (you can blame him for being bit by zombies). He stressed that while invitations are currently the key way to attract users to your application, the news feed will become the primary method of spreading virally once Facebook allows applications to display items to people who haven’t yet installed them (currently, you will only see messages from the applications you have installed).

He also discussed how many corporations are banging on the doors of Facebook developers because these companies need engineers who can create an applications for them that build brand awareness. Apparently, these companies are so desperate for talent that they are willing to pay large sums of money and give developers complete ownership of the applications they produce. His overall point was that developers need not currently worry about going out and doing things on their own, because their talents are in short supply.

Finally, he highlighted a few interested aspects of Facebook’s seemingly unsubstantial “poke” feature. He pointed out the importance of the feature’s sexual undertones and argued that poking behavior can actually be tracked to better understand courtship, since is not “binary” (it matters how long people wait to poke others back, etc.).

Blake’s view on OpenSocial: it will exhaust him by providing even more work. He thinks it looks a bit shallower than Facebook’s platform, but he expects it to improve with time. He approves of FBML’s power and thinks platforms that depend on API calls have significant weaknesses.