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Improved image Handling: Custom and Insanely Custom Widgets

August 22, 2010

Part of the work that we’ve been doing for the next platform release is standardizing how we deal with widgets that have been customized through the custom widgets menu and what we internally call “insanely custom widgets” which have very unique looks usually driven by branding requirements.  As shown below, many of these widgets won’t even have to be exactly square in design.

Another example unrelated to the above image: In September, we’ll be running a trial with a good sized wireless carrier in Latin America that has a user base in the few million user range. Not huge but likely “right sized” for our current server infrastructure.   The trial runs for two weeks to 10% of their user base.  If successful, the trial will morph into a full set of revenue producing services available to the entire user base.   The widget to be used for this test is essentially a reproduction of  the carrier’s brand – there is nothing similar to it in our existing widget library.   That said, the code for this wireless carrier’s widget and,  more importantly, the dynamically produced images of widgets that we use in Facebook and other places are now handled through the same new code as our regular and more conventionally custom widgets.

The bulk of this change will be invisible to most of you but was a huge leap forward for us.  It improves your experience as a user by providing new out-of-the-normal widget designs and reduces the possibility for errors since we only have a single set of code to maintain.  It also opens the door to a whole slew of widget customization opportunities that we hadn’t been able to do before through a web interface. We previously were having to manually build exceptions for every insanely custom widget that we built.  That is no longer the case.

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Where Have We Been and What’s Next?

July 30, 2010

With the decline of the worldwide real estate market, we’ve been focused on developing our content management, mapping, and mobile capabilities for smaller cable companies and cell phone carriers in other parts of the world. We unwound all of our real estate related functionality from the core platform in the process.  We would not still be around had it not been for our services provided to these other industries.

That said, our next release is very real estate focused with the added benefit of our enterprise experience in other non-real estate markets.  The real estate functionality is now a module or add-on to the core platform that can be seamlessly added or removed for specific organizations and individuals with a single configuration setting within the platform.

Real estate technology is the perfect showcase for answering the question of “what’s of value and what’s around it?”.  Even if you aren’t involved in the real estate industry, you’ll still find all sorts of new functionality related to mapping, content management, and mobile capabilities.  The next release is just around the corner…

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Improved Image Handling Across The Platform In Next Release

June 29, 2010

Our next platform release is just around the corner and one of the specific areas we’ve put a lot of work into is image handling.  There’s likely a whole set of readers that are letting out a sigh of relief…we’ve heard your feedback and really focused on getting image handling correct in this next release (July 2010).

from feedback we received, we’d done well in some image handling areas especially those that involved video previews upon upload.  As we sat down and really had some open discussion internally and with enterprise customers, we need that we needed to do better.

The first focus area was the automation around knowing exactly what type of image had been uploaded. While we likely have a state of the art implementation for automated detection on the video side, our image detection system wasn’t nearly as comprehensive or reliable.  We’ve made tangible improvements for the next release.

The second focus area was making ensuring that every image was efficiently sized and shaped for all potential uses throughout the platform and on partner sites.

Lastly, we spent a lot of time focusing on how members store, share, group, and syndicate  all of the available content within the platform but especially images.  I’ll cover the specific functionality and platform features in more detail as we get closer to release.  There are a number of surprises here that I cannot wait to share.

We’ve also done a lot of image specific work within the developer API.  Members with access to the dev API will receive a separate document detailing all of the changes just prior to the next release going live.  We done our best to incorporate as many improvements as possible into the existing API set so you *may* already be seeing benefits from the code changes for the next version.

This is just a taste, I know…but we still have two weeks or so until launch. Until then, know that we’ve heard you….

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Video Processing Changes

February 14, 2010

Today, we are putting a number of logic changes in place to prepare for our next version of the platform and to provide better service for platform customers.

As background to better understand what we are changing, we have a small cluster of processing servers that convert videos, resize photos, and do all of tasks like create documents on the fly.  Currently, when a video is uploaded, it’s sent to the first open server. If there are no open processing servers, the requests  waits in line for an open server and then the request is processed. The first request is the first one processed.  Like most sites, we have more unregistered guests than members and more free members than paying members.  We are taking steps to make our platform “smarter” to improve our service for our members.

Processing Priority: We’ve introduced the ability for prioritizing processing requests based on membership status or affiliation based membership such as a company or organization.  During periods of high activity, paying members will be prioritized over members who in turn will have priority over unregistered guests. Note that this change will have no impact when there are plenty of open servers. It will only kick in when requests are waiting in line.  In order to ensure that even low priority requests don’t have abnormal waits, we have also added a way of gradually raising a request’s priority over time automatically.

Parallel Processing: When a member with privileges to process multiple files at once sends the files, they’ll be processed on different machines at the same time.  Of course, this will depend on the member’s processing priority and open server availability.  Our old logic reserves a single server for them and they were processed one after the other.

Members using this functionality should see marked improvements in the amount of time needed to wait on a group of large videos to be converted.

Customized Processing Options: Certain membership levels will have highly customizable processing options.  We’ll cover this in detail upon launch of the next platform version.

If video processing is a bit wonky today, it’s because we are putting these changes in place in the live environment.

These changes will result in reduced waiting and far more flexibility for our individual and corporate customers.  They’ll apply across the board to all of the different types of platform customers (real estate, mobile services, etc.)  This should lay the foundation for our continued growth in 2010 and beyond.

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FSBL Content Platform 2010

December 15, 2009

FSBL Platform 2010 is finally getting close.  We finalized the overall platform feature list as well as the free demo behavior  yesterday.  This means that we know what the target is for release now after the new year and specifically what that release will look like.  Innovation and ease of use are the watchwords for this release – it’s really going to be special.

Exciting times…

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We’ve been busy…

September 29, 2009

You haven’t heard much from us lately.  We’ve always been out on the forward edge of rich media functionality doing things that now are “cool” before they were cool.  We’re continuing that tradition.

A few months ago, we rolled out some experimental functionality to several non-real estate enterprise customers.  The response was awesome enough that we have been “heads-down” to roll out a production version of it with the changes that they came back with.  It’s a set of deep changes for us so we want to be sure that we have all of the bases covered and the functionality fully tested before rolling it out to other companies.

Note that some of the work that we are doing has occasionally impacted our live environment for reasons that we’ll discuss when we launch in December.  Though we haven’t seen any new impacts, we apologize in advance for any issues. 

The new functionality that we will be releasing aren’t small changes or simply putting a new shine on an old product…it will totally shift how you think about and deliver rich content to your customers via your web sites. See you soon….

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Restating Our Vision: What We Are About

May 17, 2009

We’ve taken a different approach to syndicating online content than most vendors. Our method brings the viewer back to the broker’s site to consume content rather than our site(s) or a third party site. It can best be described as syndicating the opportunity and brand rather than the content. The content is consumed on your website where the chances for customer capture are most rewarding for you.

Incidentally, Google will also index the syndicated content on your site rather than ours which is quite a different approach than most vendors.

You’ll be seeing a lot more about this theme soon.

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