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November 06, 2007

Pioneers Get Arrows in the Back – Developer Notes

The nerd equivalent of pioneering is programming for a not-quite-released environment. There’s no good map of where you’re going; a lot of what you hear isn’t true; there are no guides; you can fall into frustrating traps – but there could be gold in them thar hills. Besides it’s fun and gives you a chance to do something that’s never been done before.

Been head down most of the day today trying to get OpenSocial stuff to work. I’m not actually even a pioneer since a few developers got to work with this before it was sort of released to the public last week – they must’ve had even more fun. Some of the sample apps they wrote are already broken. One of the scary things about a pre-release environment is that every time its developers fix something, they’re very likely to break two other things.

OpenSocial’s gonna be important. Maybe not as important as the GooglePhone but it’s more real at the moment. More important than newly-announced Facebook ad policy but that’s important too. Something has to get online advertisers to think beyond Google.

These days a “sandbox” is where you test stuff online or learn to use tools. There are two sandboxes for OpenSocial developers to use – Orkut and Ning. I started the day playing in the Orkut sandbox. It’s been working for me even though it seems not to work for some other developers. Nerds do help each other through fora; I think pioneers did that, too.

I’ve already had to give up on testing with Internet Explorer. Neither it nor Safari are working with OpenSocial – at least in the Orkut sandbox. Google acknowledges this but wants more detail. Come on guys, your sample apps don’t work with Explorer; that shouldn’t be too hard to recreate. You can probably get a copy of Explorer from Microsoft if you deleted yours.

I’m working with FireFox as a browser now; it has a neat JavaScript debugger called, of course, Firebug. Take an hour out to install and learn Firebug but it’s immediately a big help. Making progress finding my bugs.

Suddenly I, too. began to get the dreaded message “OpenSocial not defined”. This effectively revokes your sandbox privileges. The problem’s listed on the wiki for OpenSocial bugs but no fix reported as of tonite.

OK. If you’re a pioneer and one path is blocked, then you try another one, right? Went to Ning and built my very own social network. Takes about five minutes, BTW; more about Ning later. Now I have my own sandbox. Not so fast, my very own sandbox tells me “Our apologies - gadgets are temporarily unavailable.” Gadgets are where OpenSocial stuff goes in Ning.

Don’t want to write more code until I get what I’ve written working. Too much chance that I have concepts wrong. So stop and cook dinner and write this post.

Patience pays off. The Orkut sandbox has let me back in. No more time for blogging (but I did turn the oven off).

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