Maybe it’s just my advancing ‘maturity’, but I’m finding this burgeoning world of social networking to be quite taxing. Nevertheless, I’m giving it the old college try, and in fact I’m working on becoming a first class twit. (For those of you who already knew that, I should point out that by ‘twit‘ I mean a person who tweets with Twitter.) Not only that, I have a Facebook profile, a Facebook page and a Facebook Group. I’m not short of social site accounts!
And today, I added to my growing list of social networking tools and installed Google’s most recent invention - Google Friend Connect - to my website.
In case you haven’t heard of Google Friend Connect, what it does, basically, is to bring social networking to your own website (If you haven’t heard of social networking, never mind!) Once installed, visitors can easily join your site, and the neatest thing is, if they already have an account somewhere with an OpenID, they can sign in to your site without opening another account. So what, you may ask?
They can post comments and engage other members of your site, so your site becomes an interactive Web 2.0 site. But that’s not all. Your friends can invite their friends to your site, from your site. Think viral, and more traffic!
Getting started isn’t at all complicated. No programming is required, and even I was able to install it in a few minutes following Google's simple instructions. Mine is up and running ‘as we speak’.
All you do is enter your website url and name, and upload two files from Google to your server. Google then produces all the html you need to make this work, which you plunk into your website wherever you want Google Friend Connect to appear.
For those of you who have a Wordpress website (your own, not the wordpress.com variety), the logical place to install your new code is to a sidebar. Since my site is ‘widgetized’, I spent a few minutes wondering how to do that. Turns out it’s trivial. Just go to ’Design’, then ‘Widgets’ and add a new Text widget. Cut and past the new html code directly into the widget, name it, save it, and you’re in business!
A digression: in case you don’t want Friend Connect to show up on all your Wordpress pages, there’s a great little Wordpress plugin called Widget Logic that offers the quick and easy fix. Once installed and activated, it adds an extra text box to the edit form for each of your active widgets. So you just enter a little snippet of code - I wanted to restrict it to my home pages, so the code snippet was ‘is_home();’ (don’t worry, it’s all set out in the README in the plugin).
OK, back to Friend Connect. The first time you open the webpage where it’s installed, it announces to the world you have no friends! I din’t think that’s a good sign, so I added myself as a friend. I’m having some technical issues with getting my photo loaded to my profile, but that’s a minor detail and for the moment I'm reasonably happy with my achievement.
What you see when Friend Connect is installed is something called the ‘Members Gadget’. That’s great for adding friends, but there are a small number of other gadgets available to add more interactivity. I elected to also install the ‘Wall Gadget’ which allows members to post comments and even add videos if they’re so inclined. My understanding is that this Gadget operates in a fashion akin to the Facebook’s Wall, so if you are familiar with and like that, you might like to try this.
Installing any of the Gadgets is virtually a repeat of the process to install Friend Connect itself, so I won’t go into detail here. Because I wanted my Wall Gadget to appear only on single post pages, I entered ‘is_single();’ in the appropriate place in the Text Widget I created to house the html for the Wall Gadget (…the ‘Widget Logic plugin, remember?).
So now I’m set to go except for one major problem. I have no friends! I would be honoured if you would accept my invitation to visit my site (from my profile) and become a member. I hate to snivel here, but for the Canadians among you, I'm sure you can imagine some of the words used by Prime Minister Steven Harper today when he met with the Governor General to request Her Excellency to ‘prorogue’ Parliament. I’m going to use the words here that I imagine he used there.
‘Please - please - please’.
Please become a member. Otherwise, my Friend Connect application will end up like my fine collection of wood working tools - unused, gathering dust in my garage. That’s not a very good thing. When you get your own Google Friend Connect going, I'll do the same for you ...and remember, in the immortal words of Red Green, we're all in this together!