Interview with Ahmet Alp Balkan about FriendFeed Applications

ff-aabWe are continuing our interview series with Ahmet Alp Balkan who drew attention by developing many Friendfeed applications in the last months. Ahmet is a sophomore scholarship student at Bilkent University studying Computer Sciences. His first important project was mySchoolog , which he developed when he was only 17.

This project was translated into 17 languages and got mentioned in more than 200 articles and blogs worldwide including Webrazzi.

Hasan: Hello Ahmet. Can you introduce yourself to Webrazzi readers?

Ahmet: I am 19 years old and am a scholarship sophomore at Bilkent University Computer Sciences Department. I have been working on developing computer software for the past 10 years. That is why I chose this department. My first big step was to develop mySchoolog in 2007 when web 2.0 was slowly launched. This project got us pendants in Turkey and from abroad. After adhering one year to OSS, I developed 3rd party applications and services this year. I am one of the board members of Blog Writers Association and keep my blog at ahmetalpbalkan.com.

Hasan: What kind of applications have you developed for FF? What type of feedback did you get from these applications?

Ahmet: This year I have developed seven FriendFeed applications and published them. Let me talk about them:

FFSMS is a project we started first in Turkey then in the US, is a project with “send your FF posts by text messages” slogan. We have very good feedback and some people got used to it and started using it. It got out with Sandman’s sponsorship.

FFSPY is my last project, which pinpoints who has cancelled your membership and emails this information to you. I hope it will be successful.

FFScheduler is an application that allows users to post their posts at a scheduled date or time. Though many users do not get what this application is for, they use it for celebrating birthdays, explanations and project launchings. We launched it in English and one of our users made an introduction video that we use it as the official video for the app. It is a good feeling. We did not get any negative feedback. It got out with Cevahir’s sponsorship.

FFOldAvatars is a service that we created just for fun; it shows a user’s profile pictures that he used on FF before.

FFSummary is my unluckiest application. It sends the users that day’s, week’s, month’s best feed. The day that it was launched, FriendFeed started to offer this service from within FriendFeed.

WhenDidYouJoinFriendFeed.com gives the users the information of when they first started to post on FriendFeed. It is an application that is used for fun that we got positive feedback about. FriendFeed’s founders and most popular users tried and shared the application.

FFBlockr FFBlockr is my first application in February 2009 with Hayal Ofisi sponsorship. It shows you who blocked you on FriendFeed network and it got a lot of attention. We had to stop offering the application because of technical reasons. Many celebrities in FF US has tried this application.

Web 2.0 Write is not a FriendFeed application but we developed this fun tool this year. You can write using famous web 2.0 logos.

Hasan: Which of your applications is the most used? How about the number of users that use other applications of yours?

Ahmet: The most used application that I have is “WhenDidYouJoinFriendFeed” that I released this week which is used by 1500 people in 24 hours. The others had between 300 and 1000 users. Even if these numbers seem to be low, considering the few amount of Friendfeed users and  the fact that these users hesitate to use 3rd party applications, these numbers turn out to be not that bad.

For instance, with our FFSMS project 350 text messages were sent by 300 people both in the US and Turkey. This is a good number for a project that is only a few weeks old. Users do not need this when they have 3 G or the internet connection. That is why US users especially do not use it that much. There are still users that use the application on a regular basis. Nowadays we are trying to put the project into life in Iran where facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed is abolished. There are FF users in Iran as much as the ones in Turkey and they do not have 3 G.

Applications are usually supported by FriendFeed founders and popular internet faces in the USA (Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, Leo Laporte…). Meanwhile I have had good friendship with FriendFeed founders. Unfortunately, I did not get the same support from the important names in Turkey.

Hasan: Thanks to one of the applications you are the most followed person in Turkey. Do you think this is unethical? Doesn’t following 40.000 people by downloading one application make FF more complex?

Ahmet: In fact this is a big misunderstanding. There is no link between the applications I develop and the amount of people in English account. The situation was the same before I developed those applications. As you know, this is an application that is used in Twitter. You can see thousands of applications following thousands of people. In addition, there is no big difference between following 1000 people and 40.000 people in FF. You can find other people that do the same thing I do on FF.

If you are concerned about the people that follow, you can simply block them or make your profile invisible. This way nobody would cause confusion by following you. PR and interactive marketing people are working on this function of social web and this is totally legal. This type of membership functions are sold abroad to individuals or corporate bodies. I believe this will soon be common in Turkey. Applications as Ffollo allows the user to control everything and you do not shed a tear.

If I say to do this automatically the user do not have to have an additional application, they might leave me alone.

Hasan: The most disturbing notice is the one warning that applications can post on behalf of the user on FF and ask for password. Lately you had to clarify about a stolen password and said that had nothing to do with our applications. Does this skepticism not cause trouble when it comes to addressing a bigger audience?

Ahmet: The event was like this: somebody got a hold of 5 or 6 blog, IM and FF passwords somehow and posted from these accounts. Knowing this will draw the attention to us, I found the need to announce that this had nothing to do with us because it had nothing to do with us.

Yes, people are afraid to reveal their 3rd party application passwords. Thus, using our applications does not require a password or a remote key. With a system called OAuth you can use your password without revealing it to the application’s owner.

Today Twitpic with millions of users is asking for its user’s Twitter passwords. %70 of Twitter applications does this. I do not think that this is scaring the user away. Users would like to try the application when they see others use them. For example, FFSMS became popular like this.

Hasan: What are your plans for the future? What are your short and long-term goals?

Ahmet: I am planning to focus on school more in the following year or two and would like to become better at engineering. I would also like to come up with good ideas and would like to take Turkey’s web sector ahead with new developments. At least with these seven applications we have become the most efficient FF application producer nation. I would like to see myself at a position that is best fit for the job that I chose.

Hasan: We are looking forward to see upcoming developments Ahmet. Thank you very much indeed for the interview.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Ahmet Alp Balkan about FriendFeed Applications

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