jducoeur: (Default)

Okay -- it isn't by any means perfect, but so far it's the best solution I've come up with.

The only thing I miss, in moving from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth, is the native support for cross-posting from here to FB. So for the past couple of months I've been exploring alternatives. The one I've been using was dlvr.it, as described here -- that's adequate, and makes it fairly easy to post links on FB that point to your posts here.

But the thing is, I don't love that, because not many people actually click through those links. And while I may not love FB, I do have a lot more friends there than on Dreamwidth, so I'd like to be able to actually cross-post, not just link.

For a while, I had thought that the answer was Zapier, and I put in a lot of work getting a true cross-post solution working there. But Zapier has one critical flaw: the approach I'm using for cross-posting requires a feature that only exists in their paid version, and Zapier is insanely expensive. (Like, $20/month.) It's just not worth that kind of money. (Yes, I talked to them about it; they brushed me off and refused to even contemplate a more reasonably-priced tier.) So I gave up and went back to dlvr.it.

But -- as of today IFTTT, the grand old man of the "plug-and-play applications" space, officially opened up their Applet program to all comers: you can build your own tools in it, and yes -- like Zapier, it allows you to insert some JavaScript in the middle.

(Why JavaScript? Because your DW feed is in HTML, and if you just post it directly the results look kind of crappy. I want something better.)

So I've spent a little time in the workday cracks today taking the solution I'd built for Zapier and adjusting it for IFTTT. The experience with IFTTT is a bit different from that of Zapier -- a bit less powerful (in particular, their RSS reader doesn't pick up your DW tags, which Zapier did), but with a much better built-in IDE.

I think that's now working adequately -- it's not The One True Solution, but it mostly works. I've published it as a public Applet on IFTTT; feel free to pick it up and use it. You give it the URL of your Dreamwidth RSS feed, and you need to connect Facebook to IFTTT; once you have that, it should, in theory, quietly check your RSS feed every 15 minutes or so, and cross-post new entries to your Facebook wall. It takes each DW post, translates it into something that looks okay on Facebook (basically, it back-translates the HTML to something vaguely like Markdown), and includes the link to the original DW post at the bottom.

Please pass word on to anybody who might care, and tell me about problems. (Hopefully, I can fix any problems -- once I published, IFTTT gave me dire warnings that I could no longer alter my triggers or actions; hopefully I can still edit the critical filter in the middle.)

jducoeur: (Default)
As one of the admins of the Carolingian Facebook group, I've been dealing with most of the requests to join. We get around one a day on average, and about half of them are spammers. I confess that, while I've been tending to give the questionable ones the benefit of the doubt (sending them a perky message along the lines of, "Hi! Are you new to the Barony?" and seeing if they respond), that's been waning as they've been putting less and less effort into looking like plausible members of the group.

I mean, yes, it is possible that we have someone trying to join named "Yafen Xiong".

It seems slightly less plausible that Yafen looks like the pretty blonde woman in the profile picture. (Especially given that the listed gender is Male.)

It seems a tad suspicious that this person has no information except that they have two photographs and are a member of 209 Facebook Groups...

... one of which is the "Nigerian Internet Entrepreneurs Club". *headdesk*
jducoeur: (Default)
The big news late last week was that Facebook had gone from mere stupidity about privacy to a true outrage: they were sending user's private information to advertisers. This article from Ars provides a much more nuanced view, describing what was really going on, which looks less like actively providing the information, and more like carelessness.

The upshot is that there isn't a lot of reason to believe that FB was deliberately furnishing user info to the advertisers; rather, the thing is that they *weren't* sending ads through the same hoops that apply to normal external links. It all hingers on the "Referer" feature that is built into the web: browsers generally tell webpages where the user got to them from. This is pretty useful in a lot of ways, but can leak information: if the URL you came from contains, say, your Facebook user ID, the page you are going to can find that out.

I gather from the article that FB goes to some effort to scrub that referrer information for normal links from the site (by forcing the link through an indirection), but wasn't doing so for ads. FB is claiming that this was accidental, and promptly fixed it. Frankly, I'm inclined to believe them, at least to some degree: in a company like that, it's not at all unusual for the left hand to not know what the right is doing, and it's quite plausible that the people running the guts of the site had little insight into how the ad program worked.

None of which lets FB entirely off the hook, mind -- the story still supports the notion that FB just hasn't *cared* very much about user privacy, and either doesn't have clear guidelines about it or hasn't been doing the sort of audits necessary to be serious. But it does sound like this was just another instance of that pattern (supporting lots of other evidence that's been coming out lately), rather than them deliberately passing the user info under the table.
jducoeur: (Default)
The big news late last week was that Facebook had gone from mere stupidity about privacy to a true outrage: they were sending user's private information to advertisers. This article from Ars provides a much more nuanced view, describing what was really going on, which looks less like actively providing the information, and more like carelessness.

The upshot is that there isn't a lot of reason to believe that FB was deliberately furnishing user info to the advertisers; rather, the thing is that they *weren't* sending ads through the same hoops that apply to normal external links. It all hingers on the "Referer" feature that is built into the web: browsers generally tell webpages where the user got to them from. This is pretty useful in a lot of ways, but can leak information: if the URL you came from contains, say, your Facebook user ID, the page you are going to can find that out.

I gather from the article that FB goes to some effort to scrub that referrer information for normal links from the site (by forcing the link through an indirection), but wasn't doing so for ads. FB is claiming that this was accidental, and promptly fixed it. Frankly, I'm inclined to believe them, at least to some degree: in a company like that, it's not at all unusual for the left hand to not know what the right is doing, and it's quite plausible that the people running the guts of the site had little insight into how the ad program worked.

None of which lets FB entirely off the hook, mind -- the story still supports the notion that FB just hasn't *cared* very much about user privacy, and either doesn't have clear guidelines about it or hasn't been doing the sort of audits necessary to be serious. But it does sound like this was just another instance of that pattern (supporting lots of other evidence that's been coming out lately), rather than them deliberately passing the user info under the table.

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