Reported Questions on Interactive 8Ball Now Going into Oblivion

We used to have an option on the Interactive 8Ball search page to “show reported questions”. We recently received an email from someone who objected to some of the questions submitted and didn’t like that the questions he reported were still available. Upon further reflection, we also decided that it doesn’t make sense for the reported questions to still be available on the site.

And so, without addressing the issue that people are still going to be mean on the site (which we’ve discussed before), we are no longer showing reported items on the site anywhere.

Here’s the email we received:

I think your interactive 8-ball “game” encourages stupid and crude behavior.

By googling my son’s name, the interctive 8-ball site came up. I have never heard of this site before.
I found references on the site to my son and other students from his school which are offensive, crude, and hurtful. I “reported” them as offensive and I reported them to the school. I want them removed from the site, and thought that they were removed by the act of reporting. However, I see that you can access them by clicking on ‘see reported questions’. They are also available in the “cached” items on the google site.

I find this very disturbing. He had nothing to do with these words appearing here and does not even know of their existence.

Please tell me what you can do about this. I want all questions or answers with his name removed. Can you do this? I am certain the are him because of the other names of students in his classes also being present.

Please respond.
_____ ______________

… and my response …

Mr. _________,

Thank you for contacting us about this. Before launching the site, we never understood how base and downright mean people who use Interactive 8Ball. It quickly became apparent though that most people who use the site use it to hide behind the anonymity and write hurtful things about other people.

Still the site can be fun for some… enlightening for others, and we’ve kept it online.

However, due to your email, we’ve re-evaluated our reporting system and agree that reported items should be removed forever. All of the question/answer pairs you reported will no longer be accessible on the site.

Please know that we have no control over Google’s indexing or caching, and so cannot immediately remove the content from Google’s site. However, they keep their index and cache fairly current, and after about a month or so our pages which were indexed there should disappear.

Regards,

Jason Coleman
Stranger Studios, Interactive 8Ball

Play the Interactive 8Ball now and see what all the fuss is about.

Reported Questions on Interactive 8Ball Now Going into Oblivion was last updated on April 7, 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

Interactive 8-Ball Facebook App

So we’ve jumped on the Facebook bandwagon a bit. You can now install the Interactive 8-Ball application to your Facebook profile.

Why would you want to install I8B on your Facebook profile?
I don’t know, but if you use Facebook as your homepage instead of iGoogle it’s nice to have I8B right there. We also update your profile and mini feed every time you ask a question through Facebook. Although this last bit can get tricky; we had a lady email us to take down a question she asked about a love prospect for fear of being had. (Which only gave us another idea for a Facebook app that we might share at some point.)

And What Happened?
I8B got a ton of traffic. In three days, we got 400 people to install the new application. Traffic to I8B trippled to 800 visits a day and then… leveled out. We actually lost 5-10 users today as people have started to uninstall the application. So growth is not exactly parabolic so far.

I guess we need something more to help the spread. (This blog post? A mention at TechCrunch? Maybe I’ll resubmit I8B to Emily Chang’s eHub.) It would be nice to have the 20,000 users that the other lame-o eight ball application on there has. Of course they got there first and so are high in the app directory and have the catchy URL at apps.facebook.com/eightball. (ours is apps.facebook.com/bettereightball) 😉

What’s next?
A WineLog app for Facebook, duh. The I8B stuff was kind of a primer for work on a WineLog application. And good thing too. It is nice to work out all of the kinks using a brand that we aren’t as invested in. This article helped me a bunch, but it also took a lot of hacking around to figure out what he meant by everything. The toughest part was fixing Facebook’s broken PHP4 client. Don’t even try messing with that unofficial one. If anyone needs help, shoot me an email or IM.

Anyway, a WineLog app would be fun. Again, I would rather just go to WineLog to see what my friends are drinking. But if you spend your day at Facebook, it’s sweet to get notifications on what people are logging. And it will hopefully introduce WineLog to some new folks. Cross your fingers.

UPDATE: Here are links to my versions of the facebook api scripts. Download them and rename them to .php. I hope to comment up the code when I get a chance, so you can see what I changed. But in the meantime, this might be a better starting place for you than Facebook’s version.

facebook.php
facebookapi_php4_restlib.php
IsterXmlSimpleXMLImpl.php

Download all of the above files, rename them to .php, and follow the tutorial instructions here (or do whatever you’re doing). The strange one at the bottom is a library to handle XML objects (PHP5 does this natively I suppose). Read here for more on simplexml44. Or here is the entire simplexml gzip file as I unzipped and installed it on my server.

Interactive 8-Ball Facebook App was last updated on June 28, 2007. Bookmark the permalink.

Interactive 8ball Picking Up Steam

Sometime in February Interactive 8ball was discovered by what I’m guessing is a group of high school kids from Steven’s Point Wisconsin. Since then the site has spread around the US a bit and is currently getting about 200-400 visits a day and about 3x as many pageviews. More recently, the number of visits has been staying level while the pageviews have been ramping up. That shows me that the people who have installed the widget are using it more.

One of the biggest issues with Interactive 8ball is that it requires an installed base of users to work properly. If there is no user to answer your question, you’ll get an automatically generated recycled answer after a 1-minute wait. Even worse, if there is no one asking questions, you’ll be waiting for ever on the answer screen. So this current run up of users is pretty exciting for me. We’re at the point where I would guess that you have at least a 50% chance of getting a response from a real person, depending on the time of day you’re asking your question.

I also coded up a page to search through old questions and even a quick digg-like voting system. This page hasn’t been getting much traffic, but I just put a link to it from the widget’s homepage that should help out. And while it’s not yet as popular as the 8ball itself, it is a ton of fun to search through to see what people are asking about.

It’s been a ton of fun asking and answering questions with the folks “in the ball”. I haven’t done any rigorous research yet, but here are a few observations I’ve made based on the use so far:

– People are mean. Mean and/or negative answers seem to outnumber nice/positive answers 2-to-1. I suppose answering in a sarcastic way, or generally being a downer, is more fun for people that saying something nice. This could be an issue going forward as I’m not exactly sure that the people asking the questions enjoy the rough responses so much and may be turned away from using the 8ball again. Perhaps there is some way we can encourage an even number of positive and negative responses or at least responses that are well though out.

– The most commonly asked questions are of the form “Does ____ like me?”. Makes sense. I’m thinking of picking the petals off of daiseys singing, “She loves me. She loves me not…”

– A close second is any form of the question “Will I have sex?”: “Will I have sex tonight?”, “Will _____ has sex with ____?” There are a few “am I pregnants”, which is alarming. I hope people aren’t using the 8ball as a method of pregnancy detection. Maybe we should have and advertisement for pregnancy tests on the homepage instead of a link to buy an 8ball toy.

– The next most common questions are of the form “Is ______ gay?”. I’m surprised that so many people have questions about the sexual preference of their friends. I wonder how many of these are serious questions vs. a way for people to poke fun at their friends. I remember being a kid and can see how young boys especially would think it’s funny to use the word “gay” and one of your friends’ names in the same sentence.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to monetize the widget. I thought that it would be kind of fun to put a small AdSense ad below the answer you get, but I couldn’t find any conversations online around whether or not it is okay to place AdSense ads into Google gadgets. In any case, there seems to be no way to make the AdSense links open up in a new window rather than inside the gadget’s iframe. So that plan is out anyway.

Other types of advertising might work, including direct sales to interested parties. Based on the typical questions, some sort of dating service might be appropriate. Although it seems like a majority of users are teenagers, so ads targeted to that group might be most successful.

I have one person who already approached me about such a deal, but I think I’ll wait until usage has grown more or at least reached a consistent level. It’s always fun to think about how these projects can make money, but I’m also a firm believer in the idea of “get people using your site first, then worry about making money later”. We’re arguably still in the “get people to use the site” phase.
Overall I’m pretty excited that people are using, and seemingly enjoying, the Interactive 8ball. Hopefully this surge in traffic won’t die away. I like the fact that I can have a random interactive with an anonymous party any time I want. It’s an awesome time killer.

Interactive 8ball Picking Up Steam was last updated on March 2, 2007. Bookmark the permalink.