FacebookCampToronto

FacebookCamp was on last night in Toronto. For those not familiar with the Barcamp or TorCamp, they are adhoc events organized by the community to share information and network. Last night, the focus was on developing for the Facebook platform. The event was combined with the Facebook Developer Garage series with presentations from Caitlin O’Farrell and Meagan Marks from Facebook, and was hosted and sponsored by MaRS Discovery District, Trapeze Media and my own company refresh partners.

FacebookCamp was originally planned as a fairly small gathering for 30-40 developers to discuss the Facebook platform, but the number of registered guests in the Facebook group and Barcamp wiki ballooned to over 600! The actual number of attendees was somewhere around 450.

The presentations for the night broke down as follows:

“The Importance of the Developer Community,” by Caitlin O’Farrell

Caitlin kicked off the Facebook presentations with a quick introduction to the Facebook platform and developer program. Facebook is involving developers in plans for the platform and is running a series of developer events across the US to get feedback from the community.

“Application Best Practices,” by Meagan Marks

Meagan kicked off her presentation with some statistics focusing on Canada, which were well received. 10% of Facebook applications are being developed in Canada, and Canada currently has 3.3M of the 33M registered active users worldwide.

The bulk of Meagan’s presentation focused on best practices for apps to grow. She emphasized that successful applications use all the available channels to interact with users, including the news feed, user profiles, application directory, messages, and invitations.

Meagan also provided good explanation of how to use the different Facebook components: the profile box is best used for publishing and sharing content but is not a good location for the user to create or interact with content, while the canvas page is best place for users to interact with the app (and thus populate the news feed).

She emphasized that making sure that news feed information is relevant and not just spam is vital. Applications that are found to be spamming users will have their news feed items become less likely to be shown. A good technique to make news feed items more relevant is to combine multiple events. For example, if 5 of a user’s friends have just beat his high score, combining these events into a single feed item that lists the different users is a more relevant news feed item for the user’s friends.

Meagan also touched on using different techniques to make your application more viral. For example, creating a virtual currency can help users interact with more aspects of your application. Several “pet” applications give you “dollars” for each of your friend’s pets that you interact with.

Another powerful way to enhance your app would be to create an API to allow other apps to interact with your application. This will leverage the success of other applications.

“Anatomy of a Facebook Application,” by Jay Goldman

Jay covered the basics of creating and setting up an application in the Facebook environment. Most in the crowd were developers, but not everyone had started developing the Facebook environment. Jay covered different app features available for developers and the application registration process to create your Facebook app.

“FBML,” by Sunil Boodram

A good understanding of FBML can make all the difference between a great looking application and something mediocre. Sunil covered all the basic functions of the FBML and the test console that Facebook has made available to debug your FBML templates. Most of the questions at the end of the presentation focused on using iFrames with FBML which I thought was rather unexpected. My own experience with both has been that you generally use one or the other and if you’re commiting to a iFrame design you use minimal FBML code.