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Battle of the Tastemakers: New Twist in Points & Influence

29 Nov

It’s been about a year since we first introduced influence points in Forkly, and in February we started awarding the title of Tastemaker to the most influential user at a place.

Since then, we’ve been watching how people use and interact with those features; there have been millions of accumulated influence points, fierce battles over Tastemakerships, and yes, even some cheating. Based on our learning, we’re announcing several important changes today on to how points and Tastemakerships will work going forward.

Fairer Tastemaker Battles

The idea behind the Tastemaker status at places has always been to give some special recognition to the users who are the most influential for a given place. It’s not about how many tastes they post there, but rather how many other people they influence to get interested in a place, and hopefully entice them to go and eat there.

In order to do this, we used to give the title of Tastemaker to the person who had the most points at a place. However, we found that this heavily favored early adopters who had simply been using Forkly longer, and made it very difficult for newer users to catch up. Don’t get us wrong: we love our early adopters! But is it fair that somebody who might have been very influential about a restaurant a year ago trumps somebody who has been a more enthusiastic advocate for the restaurant recently?

In order to make Tastemakerships more competitive, we’re now only taking into account the influence points you’ve earned at a place over the last 3 months.

Don’t worry, you’re not losing your influence points, but if you haven’t posted things from a given place lately, you might lose your Tastemaker status (time for another visit?). But, you now also have a much better shot at ousting the Tastemakers who have been resting on their laurels for too long. ;)

Verified Tastes

In the fight over Tastemakerships and influence, some people have been trying to game the system by posting tastes for things that they didn’t actually have (yes, we know, it’s inconceivable!).

Whenever you start a new taste, add a photo and post it, Forkly is now checking how far away you are from the restaurant to see if we can “verify” the taste.

We won’t prevent you from posting unverified tastes, but going forward there’s a chance that you might not earn points for it. We’ll usually give you the benefit of the doubt, but if we consistently see unverified tastes from a user, we’ll be more strict when it comes to awarding points.

Oh, and our verification system is smart enough to work with tastes that are posted later when you’ve already left the restaurant, and photos that you took using a third-party camera application. And don’t worry, all the processing happens on your phone, so we’re not sending any sensitive location data over the Netz :)

More to Come

We hope that the changes that we introduced will improve your Forkly experience, and as always, we’d love your feedback! We’ve got some other exciting changes and improvements in the works, and can’t wait to share them with you soon.

The Forkly Team

PathGate and Best Practices for Implementing “Find Friends”

8 Feb

Yesterday, somebody discovered that Path and other mobile apps upload the entire address book contents of a user’s phone to their servers. If you’re not familiar with the backstory, read the links above.

Path’s Reaction

Since the whole thing unfolded, Path acted quickly, apologized to their users, released an update that (partly) addresses the issue, and deleted all the address book content off of their servers.

I know the guys at Path well, and I’m sure they had only the best intentions in mind. In my opinion, they handled this about as well as they possibly could have after the news broke.

Some people gave Dave Morin some grief for this statement:

2. This is currently the industry best practice and the App Store guidelines do not specifically discuss contact information. However, as mentioned, we believe users need further transparency on how this works, so we’ve been proactively addressing this.

In saying that, he is mostly correct. Apple’s App Store guidelines do not specifically discuss contact information, and most apps that implement “Find Friends” functionality using the internal address book do it this way.

The one point that I disagree with is the “best practice” statement. I think what he meant to say here is “common practice”. Why? It’s been handled in a better way in the past. How do I know this? Because we built it, over 3 years ago.

A Better Way

The point of uploading the user’s address book information to the Path servers is to match potential friends who are also using Path, and notify the user when one of their friends joins. I think that’s good functionality and users appreciate it.

Over 3 years ago, we were working on the now defunct Brightkite iPhone app, and were building similar functionality to help our users find their friends on the service. When we were discussing the implementation, the first iteration inevitably lead to the same strategy that Path is using: upload the user’s address book information to our servers so we can do the matching.

But it didn’t feel right. I could already see the headlines about the privacy issues once people discovered what we were doing, very much like the headlines we saw yesterday. So we tried harder, and gave the whole issue some more thought. It didn’t take very long before we realized that we didn’t actually need the actual phone numbers and email addresses of people to match them; we just needed their hashes.

For those unfamiliar with hashes, a hash is the result of a one-way function that takes some input (in our case, an email address or phone number) and spits out something that looks like this:

2fd4e1c6 7a2d28fc ed849ee1 bb76e739 1b93eb12

The important characteristics of a hash are:

  1. Identical inputs will yield the same hash
  2. It is virtually impossible to deduce the original input from a hash if a strong hashing algorithm is used.

So, instead of sending a user’s address book contents to our servers, we only sent the hashed entries (with some normalization, such as lowercasing strings, and cleaning up phone numbers prior to hashing).

Then, we could just compare the hashes on our servers and inform our iPhone app that entry X in a user’s address book matches Brightkite user Y, all without ever “seeing” any actual phone numbers, names or email addresses. This enabled us to implement the same “Find Friends” functionality that so many apps nowadays use without compromising the privacy of the address book.

Apple’s Share of the Blame

Lastly, I wanted to take this opportunity to point out that Apple is to blame for some of this situation as well:

  1. As Dave stated, Apple doesn’t have any clear guidelines around accessing and using the internal address book.
  2. iOS doesn’t prompt the user for permission when an app tries to access their address book information.

I’ve had Apple developer evangelists actually tell me that in order to make signup to our apps easier, we should look for the “Me” card in the address book and pre-fill the signup form. While that seems like a great idea at first, I can’t help but wonder how people would feel if they saw this being pre-populated (“How do they know my personal information?!?”).

With regards to prompting for permission, this one just seems plain silly. iOS prompts you if an app wants to use your location, or wants to send you push notifications, but not if it wants to access your address book. Even my old Nokia 6620 did that, in 2004 mind you.

I would feel better if Apple added such a prompt, and I think they will, eventually.

Conclusion

While we didn’t opt to offer address book friend finding in Forkly (yet), I hope that this blog post helps those who are looking to implement such a system in their own apps.

Let’s get honest about uptime – Forkly’s Take

2 Jan

David from 37signals wrote a blog post today about uptime, and is calling for more transparency about actual uptime of services.

In that spirit, we’d thought we’d share our stats for the last year, directly from our monitoring tool of choice, Pingdom.

Uptime for forkly: 01/02/2011 - 01/02/2012

Detailed Screenshot

Note that, like David, we’re not “juking the stats” by omitting “scheduled” downtime.

We’re happy with our 99.93% uptime (which is incidentally the same as for 37signals’ own Basecamp), but we’ll try to improve on that number for 2012.

Apple chooses Forkly in the top 5 Lifestyle Apps of 2011

9 Dec

We’re excited to see Apple UK included Forkly in top 5 Lifestyle Apps of 2011! 

Check it out here.


Introducing Forkly Venue Pages & Leaderboards (beta)

10 Oct

Today we’re excited to announce the very first version of our Forkly venue pages. They’re the one stop shop to see all the individual tastes at a given place. Think of it as your online menu resource so to speak. 

Additionally, we’ve exposed the venue leaderboard.  Expect to see some really fun stuff around these in the near future :)

To view a venue page visit a taste detail page and click the venue name below the photo.

Here’s an example of a venue page

Venue pages will be easier to access and will be evolving with features over the next few months. Thanks again for all of your enthusiasm and support. If you have any questions or feedback, our ears are always perked, drop us a note at team@forkly.com.

If you’re a restaurant or bar who wants to add all of your items into Forkly, just drop us a note.

To keep with the scoop like Forkly on Facebook

GABF, Ignite Denver, and You.

28 Sep

This week is a big week in our neigborhood, it’s the annual Great American Beer Festival. Our entire foodie community (from coast to coast actually) joins together in Denver to celebrate craft beer and the food that goes with it.

We mentioned our perk launch with Great Divide Brewery earlier today, but thought we needed to do even more for you.

Ignite has become a big part of our community too, and tonight is Ignite Denver – GABF Edition. We will be giving away 1 Thursday night ticket to the Great American Beer Festival, and some rocking Great Divide beer. You’ll get to spend your Thursday night with our team, discussing the beer, food, and your tastes.

How do you win the ticket? Well for starters, you’ll need to be at Ignite Denver tonight. Pop over to our Facebook page for a few more details, and here’s to a Great American Beer Week.

Forkly Team

Beer + Forkly = Win!

28 Sep

When we set out to create Forkly, we wanted to make it ridiculously easy to find the tastes you love. We also started working with brands from the get go to ensure the best information and photos are available to you, making it that much easier to find what you love.

We’re testing out some cool new functionality starting today, the first being perks. The second being rewarding top influencers on specific tastes.

We were lucky enough to find our beta partnership right around the corner with Great Divide Brewery, and today, we are announcing their beta perk! To celebrate the Great American Beer Festival, we’re giving you the opportunity to join the Great Divide Yeti Mafia by earning the Yeti Mafia perk. 

How do you earn it? Taste and rate three of Great Divide’s Yeti beers in the next week, and you’ll receive the Yeti Mafia perk. In addition to bragging rights, we’ve made these perks with real life incentives in mind.

So what do you get? Great Divide will be awarding the person most Yeti beer points each day with a Yeti Mafia prize pack! As Great Divide Brewery says, Yeti Mafia. Where the beer is strong and the community is stronger.

This beta perk is just the begining, expect to see some really neat additions around these in the future.

Are you a brand or restaurant interesting in playing with our perks too? Give us a shout!

Forkly update now in the App Store – We’re now “Essential”

23 Sep

 

We just noticed Forkly has been added to the App Store “Essentials For Foodies”. Yay!

Additionally, we’re happy to announce the release of an update with a bunch of bug fixes and some new features. Download the update

Below are some of the fixes/features coming to you in v1.05: 

Added Facebook and “old fashioned” email sign up  
The Twitter only sign up is now gone. We’ve added the ability to sign up via Facebook and “old fashioned” email.

Learn more about things you Taste & Rate
After you taste and rate an item we’ll show you some neat stuff. Here are a few examples…

  • We’ll let you know when you fulfill a “Want”, the person you discovered it through and how long you’ve been wanting it.
  • See if you’ve had an item before. If so, we’ll show you how many times and what your previous rating was.
  • We’ll let you know if a friend has tried the same item and what they thought.

There’s more but we’ll let you discover them… 

Speed and bug fixes.
We’ve optimized parts of the app and improved the speed. It should feel much faster now.

Thanks again for awesome users like you who got us to “Essential App”!

Attn: Food Bloggers, Embed Your Tastes!

6 Sep

One of the first Forkly blogging tools we’re rolling out is the ability to embed tastes. 

Embedded taste cards allow you to easily share your photos, ratings and taste notes. Your readers can then “Want” items directly from your blog and find them later when they’re hungry. It’s a great way to connect with your audience.

Click here to see an example of an embedded taste card.

Embed your tastes in 3 easy steps:

  1. After you’ve added a taste using the Forkly iPhone app, visit your profile page at http://forkly.com/YOUR_TWITTERNAME

    Example: https://forkly.com/menghe

  2. Click on the taste you want to embed into your blog.

  3. On the detail page click “Embed” (shown below) on the right of the photo, and copy the code from the pop-up box. Paste the embed code into your blog. Voila!

Show us your embedded tastes! We’re looking for a few blogs to showcase, so send us a tweet. If you have any issues or need help contact us at Forkly support.

Best,

The Forkly Team

Introducing Forkly Profiles & Following from the Web

2 Sep

Today we’re excited to take your tastes one step further by allowing you to view them from the web. Introducing Forkly web profiles.

Now you can view tastes and follow people from the web. The profiles are pretty basic right now but expect to see more features added around them soon. 

To see your, or any other forkly profile just type in the following:

https://forkly.com/TWITTER_USERNAME

For example: https://forkly.com/theejana

Thanks again, we hope you enjoy these.