or

Login with FB

Are You Being Pumped for Data by Facebook Apps?

How many times has this happened? You decide to log in to a website or enter a comment using your Facebook credentials, and the Facebook pop up appears and shows you something like this:

What about bloodtype? Do you want that too?

All I really wanted to do was login to The Mystery App with my FB credentials, not give away my first born. Do they really need such complete access to my Facebook account?

It all depends on what the app is doing of course; In some cases it might be a third-party tool that helps you to manage Facebook for business purposes and so needs greater access. But  I personally feel that many app request access to way too much information. Far more then they actually need to do their job. Facebook even warns third-party tools not to request too much information because there is a direct correlation between the amount of information they request and the amount of people that decline to allow it.

However, lets say that you do allow something like the above screenshot because you really want to use the app. All is not lost. Simply follow these instructions and you can customize how much information any app that you approve sees. What I usually do is approve an app and then go into the customization area and use my judgement to immediately restrict access to my information that I don’t think the app needs. Here is how you do it:

1) Go to Account Settings

Account Settings

2) Click on Applications tab on the left to show you a list of applications that you have given approval for.

Applications Tab

3) Click on the ‘Edit’ next to the app that you want to edit the rights to.

Click Edit

4) Facebook will present a list of all the points of data that the app is requesting. Some will be ‘required’ and some will be optional. The optional ones have a ‘Remove’ link next to each piece of optional data.  Click on the Remove link to disallow the app from seeing that piece of data or interacting with Facebook on your behalf (like adding an Event to your wall).

Click Remove to disallow that piece of data from being seen by the app.

 

That’s all there is too it and you can at least reclaim some of your privacy from third-party applications. Don’t get me wrong; As a business owner, I very much appreciate the fact that I can retrieve data and demographic information about the people that interact with conXt. But I tend to draw the line with extraneous information and ‘pumping’ users for information so that they can be targeted more effectively.

What do you think? Are third-party apps trying to help themselves to your data?

 

The Reincarnation of conXt

Hello Everyone!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted, but I am happy to announce the newest incarnation of conXt: A Private Address Book for a Connected World!

Since the release of Beta 1 last year, we have essentially completely re-envisioned the conXt experience and user interface. We were able to bring in a professional designer, a professional UX person, and re-architected much of the product. Many of the suggestions and issues that were brought up by users have been incorporated into this release and the end result is a product that is faster, easier to use, works on all browsers, and is damn good looking!

At its heart, conXt remains true to the same mission; to create a useful online address book which makes use of current networking technologies without sacrificing privacy or respect for the users.

Here are a few screenshots of the new release, but I hope you will take a moment to head over to www.conxt.com, sign in or register and let us know what you think! We are always happy to receive feedback.

The Benefits of conXt

  • Import current contacts from various platforms and automatically remove duplicates in order to create a single, unified address book.
  • Easily organize contacts into personally meaningful groups through the use of tags.
  • ‘Connect’ to the contacts in your address book in order to exchange ‘live’ contact information; choose whether any given contact can see your live Work contact info, your live Personal contact information, or both. Change this at any time.
  • Initiate communication with your contacts directly from conXt via email, skype, social network links, etc.
  • Backup all your contacts into one safe, private, location accessible from any of your web-enabled devices.

The Home Page of conXt.com

 

The conXt Dashboard

 

Example of an Interactive Contact Record

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the new design and your experiences using conXt to organize the various types of contacts in your life.

 

Easier contact info sharing coming soon

After a few months in early beta, it is clear that we had to make some usability improvements in what it takes to get up and running when you ‘conXt’ to someone else in order to exchange contact information.

Previously, when you signed up for conXt, you would have to import your contacts, create Groups, add contacts to those Groups, add your own contact information and then associate those various pieces of your own contact info with the Groups you created. In this way you would have very granular control over what you shared with whom right off the bat. I think we can file this one under #fail!

It was apparent after I had conXted with about 40 people and NO ONE was actually sharing any info with me, that this needed to be reworked. The overhead to getting up and running was just too high, plus not everyone needs that level of granularity right out of the gate.

So here is what will be in place next week; by default, you will be sharing ALL of your contact info with the people you are conXted with. This means that you just have to invite people to conXt and add your own contact info and you will now be up and running sharing contact information.

IF you need more granularity, simply create your Groups, add people to those Groups, and THEN associate your contact info with those Groups and you will once again have fine-grained control over what you are sharing with whom.

We will also make this retroactive for any pieces of  your contact info that you have not already assigned to a Group; your existing assignments will not be lost.

So, to recap – when a user creates a new conXt account all they need to do is:

  1. import their contacts
  2. Invite their contacts to conXt
  3. Add their own contact info to the ‘My Contact Info’ window.

That’s it! At that point, the new user will be sharing their contact information with whomever they are conXted with.

If you have any comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask or comment below.

Eric

Privacy Settings for Facebook Places

As many of you probably know Facebook has released a new feature called ‘Places‘. The feature is intended to compete with other ‘check-in’ types of services like foursquare, where you basically announce to the world, via your mobile device, ‘I am at such and such location’.  As sites like pleaserobme.com make evident, announcing to the world that you are not home  may not be the safest thing to do in the world. Facebook has taken it one step further, though, with Places; now you can announce to the world “I’m at such and such location WITH so and so”…even without so and so’s knowledge!

By default, your Facebook settings allow your Facebook friends to check you in somewhere. They do not need your approval to do so, but you are notified (thanks….). If you want to disable this ability and try to use the privacy settings to take back some control over this feature, follow the steps outlined below:

1) From your home page, click on ‘Account >> Privacy Settings’ on the top right of your screen:

The first thing you might notice is a comment from Facebook that reads:

"There is a false rumor that Facebook shares your location without your knowledge or consent. You control your information on Facebook. With Places, you choose when to share your location by checking in or allowing friends to check you in. Your location is never given to anyone automatically."

Technically that is true; Facebook does NOT share your location without your consent. But what they don’t tell you is that OTHER people can. Always the fine print…

2)  From the Privacy screen, click on Customize settings near the bottom:

3) On this screen you will see several areas: Things I Share, Things others share, and Contact Information. Under the ‘Things I share’ section, locate ‘Places I check in to’ and click on the Drop Down menu to the right of it and choose ‘custom’:

4) At the top of the pop up window that appears you will see ‘Make this visible to’. Click the drop down menu next to ‘These people:’ and choose WHO should be able to see where you checked in. In my case, I chose ‘Only Me’, so that effectively disables anyone from seeing where I have checked in. This is kind of a safety measure since I don’t intend to check in anywhere:

5) Once you have saved this and the pop up window disappears, find the ‘Things others share’ section of the page. Locate ‘Friends can check me in to Places’ and click the Edit Settings button to the right of it:

6) In the pop up window that appears click on the only Drop Down menu on the window and choose ‘Disabled’ and then ‘Okay’:

And there you go! You have disabled Facebook Places and reclaimed a tiny portion of your privacy.

What do you think about Facebook Places? Are you using it? Does it concern you at all? Did you know that your friends could check you in without your consent?

Working with Groups

This brief instructional video is meant to show how to add, edit, and delete Groups, as well as how to add or remove contacts from a Group.

Although I will soon create a video about understanding the idea of Groups, in general, some things to remember while reviewing this video are:

  • You can create as many Groups as you like
  • A contact can be in as many Groups as it makes sense for them to be in.
  • Removing a contact from a Group does NOT delete the contact.
  • Deleting a Group all together does not remove the contacts from your conXt address book (you can always find all of your contacts in the very special ‘All’ Group).
  • ‘Groups’ are how you share out your contact info with the people you are conXted to. If you share your Work info with the people in your Work Group then those people will see your Work info. This is done in the ‘My Contact Info’ area – video to come shortly!.

As this is my first attempt, please feel free to offer constructive criticism on how this video could be improved. Thanks!

View Full Screen (recommended)

Some user friendly upgrades

I know there has been some confusion around the idea of ‘Shared’ and ‘Private’ contact information and we are making some changes to hopefully clear that up. ‘Shared’ information is information that someone shares with you when you are ‘conXted’ to them. However, even if you are conXted to someone you can still have your ‘Private’ information about them, such as your Notes on that person, or if you happen to have some of their other contact info that they didn’t explicitly share with you.

As of now, those two views, Shared and Private, are very similar and confusing. Basically they look like this:

Shared:

Private:

The only real change was a small icon in the top right column and some text. Now we have integrated the two views together so it is clear that there are two views:

Hopefully this concept will make more sense for everyone. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Thanks!

Eric

The new www site is finally live

Just a quick note tonight. I finally got the conXt ‘www’ site live – you can find it at www.conxt.com. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Or better yet – register to use conXt and then invite your friends/colleagues/family members, etc to share their contact info with you so that you no longer have to update your address book. Ahhh…the dream of a never having to maintain an address book again….

Here’s a quick screenshot:

screenshot of www.conxt.com

Yes…that is a big blank white area on the bottom right. I’ll get to that in due time…

Thanks!

Eric

A Short Video Primer on the conXt Address Book

I realize that when I first sent out invitations to conXt that I provided absolutely zero in the way of instructions or support. Thanks to those who plowed ahead anyway! Here is a 3 minute video overview on the various parts of conXt. I will be releasing a short series of ‘how to’ videos in the coming days which go into a little more depth on the various benefits. So, without further ado:

conXt Beta release available

Finally, the day has arrived that the Beta release of conXt is available. What does the ‘Beta’ mean? It simply means that improvements are happening on a daily basis and that if you are using conXt there may be short periods of unavailability as we get our sea legs under us. It also means that it is a great time to leave feedback via the ‘Feedback’ tab that you will see in the interface. The more feedback we get, the more useful conXt will become.

I will be releasing a short video ‘primer’ on conXt later today, but for now the main things to remember about conXt are:

  • you can add or import your contacts from other platforms, such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or outlook.
  • you can organize your contacts into ‘Groups’. Create as many Groups as you like, and add your contacts into as many Groups as it makes sense for them to be in.
  • If you add your own contact information to conXt you can ‘conXt’ with the other people in your address book. This means that you choose to share some or all of your contact information with those people and they with you. In this way, your address book can become self-maintaining; when a contact that you are ‘conXted’ with updates their information you will see it in your conXt address book.
  • They way you share your contacts with other people is through Groups; share your Work contact info with the people in your Work Group, your home address with people in your Family Group, and so on.
  • Poke around a bit – there is a variety of smaller features that you may find useful in an address book.

Some known issues with conXt:

  • Firefox 3.0 on PC and Mac has some issues that prevent conXt from being properly uses – working on this (but if feel inclined, you can also upgrade to the current version of Firefox)
  • Firefox on a Mac has some issues that we are working on – except for 3.0 version, FF generally works but has some missing features.
  • IE7 is very slow. The engine used for rendering client-side logic, which is used heavily in conXt, is very inefficient and is causing a big slow down in IE7. We’re working on how to optimize this, but of course I would recommend upgrading to Internet Explorer 8 which is both faster and more secure.

Thanks! Stay tuned for updates…

Eric

Thank You GoDaddy Support

So, finally, after 4 days of down time, the conXt blog is finally back up.  Let the rejoicing begin!

I had originally had blog.conxt.com, as well as www.conxt.com, hosted as Rackspace Cloud Sites. This was going swimmingly until it was time to test out the actual conXt address  book app. At that point, my remote development team, myself, and rackspace support could not get it together to get the site working. It works great on a ‘standard’ medium trust site (it’s an asp.net app running in IIS), but rackspace uses a ‘modified’ medium trust environment. The unfortunate part was that, using a cloud site, I could not see the IIS logs to see what the problem was. So it went something like this: make a code change, confirm that it was still not working, update support ticket, wait 8-15 hours for a response and the ‘new’ IIS error, make a code change, confirm that it was still not working, update support ticket, wait 8-15 hours for a response and another IIS error. Rinse and repeat.

After about 6 of these sessions, with still no progress, I made the decision to switch the app to an Amazon EC2 instance where we had more control over the environment. And now the development instance of conXt is up and running just fine. Just for the record, I think that for many projects a Rackspace Cloud Site is a great solution. It really offered a lot of nice features that I hated to give up.

But now that the conXt address book was no longer going to be hosted at Rackspace, it made no financial sense for me to pay $150/month just to host a wordpress blog.

Long story short, after an aborted attempt to get the blog working at another unnamed host, I finally decided to just use godaddy.com, because the folks at the support desk helped me out a great deal in understanding and implementing DNS “A” records, so that www.conxt.com could point to the amazon instance, while blog.conxt.com could point somewhere else entirely. The  next person I spoke to at godaddy support helped me get blog.conxt.com working on the godaddy servers and stayed on the phone with me until it was clear that everything was working and that I had an understanding of what it was we were doing. This was the third time in a row that I received that level of support from godaddy.

And once again, I get to re-learn the lesson of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” – I had made a lot of judgements about godaddy based on my perceptions of its main site (still not particularly usable, IMHO), but I was dead wrong.  I will use them again, no doubt.

Here is a big THANK YOU to the support people at godaddy. You are real life-savers.

Eric