Hacking Facebook to remove the social value facade

We see [Ben Grosser’s] point that all the metrics found on the Facebook user interface make the experience somewhat of a game to see if you can better your high score. He thinks this detracts from the mission of having social interactions that themselves have a value. So he set out to remove the ‘scores’ from all Facebook pages with a project he calls the Facebook Demetricator.

You can see two UI blocks above. The upper offering is what a normal user will see. The lower is the page seen through the lens of the Demetricator. [Ben’s] feels it doesn’t matter how many people like something or share something, but only that you are genuinely interested in it. With the numbers removed you’re unlikely to follow the herd mentality of only clicking through to things that are liked by a huge number of people. He explains this himself in the clip after the break.

The Demetricator works much like the Reddit Enhancement Suite. It’s a browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that selectively strips out the metrics as the page renders.

Hackathon results in the Facebook book

[Jeremy Blum] and [Jason Wright] pose with their project at the end of a 24 hour hackathon. The Facebook headquarters in New York City held the event as part of their Summer of Hack program. As an homage to the hosts, the hacking duo decided to create a physical book and populate it with the virtual Facebook. And what do you call such a creation? The Face(book)^2.

The video after the break gives the best overview of the hardware, but here’s the gist of it: They started with the largest hardcover book they could find, hollowing out its pages to house their own hardware. When you open the book it calls back to a computer over an Xbee link with a request for data. The python script on the computer pulls the newest from a Facebook feed, sending it back to the book to be displayed. There is a graphic LCD and four character LCDs built in for this purpose. There’s also an accelerometer which is used for detecting page turns when the cover is jostled. The rest of the interactivity is provided by a few tactile switches mounted next to the smaller LCD screens for navigation and the ‘like’ feature.

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Poking machine

We may be showing our age here, but we have no idea what a ‘poke’ on Facebook actually means. Whether it’s the passive-aggressive manifestations of online stalkers or an extension of  the ‘like’ button, all we know is [Jasper] and [Bartholomäus] built a machine that translates virtual pokes into our analog world.

The “Poking Machine” as [Jasper] and [Bart] call it, syncs to your phone over a Bluetooth connection. The build is incredibly simple: just an ATtiny running Arduino for ATtiny, a Bluetooth controller (possibly this one from Sparkfun), and a servo. When the Facebook app on [Jasper] and [Bart]’s phone receives notification of a ‘poke’, the servo is powered and gently taps the wearer on the arm.

One thing we really like about this project is the case made of several layers of laser-cut acrylic bolted together. This case offers a very clean look even if it is a bit ungainly. We suppose the guys could have used a simple vibration/pager motor for this build, but it wouldn’t exactly be a poking machine at that point. Check out the build video after the break.

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Hackaday in the social tangle

Like any other organization out there, we’re always trying to find new ways to reach our audience. Admittedly, we’re not the fastest when it comes to adopting a new social communication site. We’re working on it though, trying to be a bit more interactive … or just plain active.

So, if you’re looking for other ways to get your hacking fix, or see some interesting commentary, find us on facebook, twitter, our own forums, and now G+. We just signed up to G+ and our name is “Hackie Smith”. If you need an invite, email us at theofficialhackaday@gmail.com see below.   Sometimes there’s good discussion in those places that doesn’t end up here on the site.

You can also find several of us spattered across the web in sites like Reddit and Slashdot.

[Update: Our g+ page got shut down. Feel free to find any of the writers on g+. I’ll give out invites, look for “Caleb Kraft” or 60mango@gmail]

Facebook notifier uses some papercraft and simple electronics

This weekend project will tell you when you’ve got something new to look at on your Facebook page (translated). The yellow flag on the side of the mini-mailbox automatically goes up, alerting you to your recent online popularity.

[Rocco’s] craftwork on this project is fantastic. We love the scale, the colors, and especially the artificial grass that adorns the base. Inside the mailbox an Arduino controls a small servo motor attached to the new mail flag. As with other Arduino-based notifiers (be it the Internet Furby, or our own troll sniffing rat) the USB connection makes it incredibly easy to convert online information to real-world signals. The client side of this is a Python script. It uses a package that we were previously unfamiliar with called mechanize. We’ve just made a cursory examination of how that package is used, but we’re going to keep it in mind as an alternative to our usual go-to package, BeautifulSoup, which tends to be a bit hairy when you’re just looking for some basic data.

Upvote/Downvote cards

Next time you throw together a talent show consider using these cards for up and down voting. [Frits Rincker] came up with the idea over the weekend based on the like and dislike buttons of Facebook. They consist of some foam board with LEDs in the outline of a hand. He built a switch which completes he blue circuit for the thumb’s up and a red circuit for thumb’s down by using a weight that slides freely in a channel, with a reed switch at either end. We’ve embedded the video after the break for you enjoyment.

Oh, and in case you were wondering; Hackaday likes this.

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Firesheep: Promoting privacy in a scary way

Often, software hackers are the activists that push software giants towards updating vulnerable applications. In todays example, [Eric Butler] is pushing Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and more all at the same time. By creating a user script-kiddie friendly extension for Firefox, he has allowed just about anyone to sniff unsecured connections on public Wi-Fi access points and log into these unprotected accounts.

Right now the extension is available for Windows and Mac, with a Linux port coming soon. Temporarily, the best way for a user to avoid getting taken advantage of would be to not use these social networking sites on a public connection, or to implement a secure proxy for these connections that would keep your data safe. Hopefully these websites will have a quick rebuttal that allows for security without workarounds. With all of the bad press they are recieving, they certainly have incentive to.

Are there any software or security buffs out there? We would love to see someone port this to an iPhone or Android app that could check and log open Wi-Fi points. We’ll leave the foot work to the experts out there, but do be sure to give us a heads up if anyone manages to make it happen, okay?