How Do You Find Out Which Of Your Friends Are Already On A Social Network?

I asked the following question to my friends on

When you join a social network (eg Twitter) how do you find out which of your ‘real life’ friends are already on it? Email / Ask them all?

I got quite a few responses (see below). It seems like most people, as I expected, go out of their way to contact (via email, instant messenger, etc.) each of their friends to see if they are on the service. Alternatively, some services include functionality to scrape your address book for contacts that are on the service. Right now, the latter is the best solution. Unfortunately, this requires the web service to re-invent the wheel to incorporate this feature, which is why many do not have it. When it is supported, it still requires that you give the service your email account information (including your password). Last, but tied with the rest for least, is searching for each of your friends individually, IF the service even provides search functionality (Twitter, I’m looking at YOU!).

So what can be done? What would be the ideal solution?

As much as I would like to lay out my plan, I should keep it under wraps until I develop a proof-of-concept. I do not want anyone to take the concept and create commercial competition. My goal would be to make a platform that is free and decentralized. Some might say that OpenID and ClaimID are barking up the same tree, but I think there is a much better way for the idea to be executed for it to be truly useful and widely accepted.

Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on how you think this problem should be solved, you can feel free to let me know! On Twitter, just start your message with “@brianshaler ” (no quotes). Or you can email me at

Responses (via Twitter):

@brianshaler: most sites have a book that searches your gmail hotmail etc address books to add them to your list automatically. not twitter :(
Very true. However, I don’t think we can or should depend on every web service to build out this kind of functionality

@brianshaler social networking aggregators are the next big thing. they will help with that issue
Possibly, but I think there should be one open standard and it would have to be very well-developed.

@brianshaler: that’s a start. You could also try to invite them. If they’re already on, u’ll just get connected and if not, they may join

@brianshaler what are “real life” friends? :)

@brianshaler ask one by one, and maybe invite them
That’s the way it seems to be now on most social networks. Wish it wasn’t so.

@brianshaler well. I don’t even ask anymore. The answer is always no :p

@brianshaler: when you find out, let me know!

Will do. ;-)

@brianshaler – type there AIM/GoogleTalk handles in. Nothing beats BFI.

@Brain Shaler – under help the 4th ? its like where is search? click that and then there should be a blue word saying twittersearch
You would need to know their screen names, and TwitterSearch only keeps updates for a day or two.

@brianshaler I constantly stalk all of my real life friends online so I already know! Umm, where did all my real life friends go?


@brianshaler None of my “real life” friends are on any of this rubbish. Except possibly Facebook. Which I am not on.

@brianshaler: I invite them or email them to ask them and then invite them… :)
Wish there was an easier way, don’t you? I always have trouble thinking of who to ask/invite.

@brain Shaler – click twitter search and then there should be a box like where you can type in a name to find someone
It’s “Brian” by the way, but thanks for the compliment! ;-)

@brianshaler hardly any of my real life friends have ever heard of a social network other than Facebook. :(

@brianshaler, I ask them usually, but I think you can search with Twitter, not sure though

Nope, Twitter does not have built in search. But this idea applies to ALL social networks. Twitter is just an example of one where a solution is needed

@brianshaler: put that on my Twitter wish list!

@brianshaler: I have the problem that none of my “real life” friends are interested in joining. :P So all the people on my friends lists are those I only know online.

@brianshaler I say you email them but use web 2.0 buzz words


@brianshaler: e-mail.

@brianshaler you search ;-)

@brianshaler: Yeah, and sometimes they have an email address book checker, but who’s going to enter their email password to see which friends are on there?
Great point. There has to be a better way.

@BrianShaler Good question. I’ve got an idea for a site to help with that problem, but just getting started. “MySocNets”, maybe?
Here’s someone that knew where I was going with this question!

@brianshaler that’s one of the things I like about twitter, actually. Your network evolves naturally as u see who’s talkin to who.

That’s how I got some of my first contacts on Twitter, but that doesn’t help us very much in finding which of our real-life friends are already on.

@brianshaler that’s a good question! I only have one “real life friend” on twit…all the other ones have no idea what it is…
Are you sure you have asked every single one of them? What if you missed someone and he/she has an account?

@brianshaler: with the exception of Facebook the answer is always “non of them

@brainshaler I asked them and emailed-they just laughed guess my friends have lives-lol
Misspelling my first name decreases the chances of me spotting your reply by about 50%. Misspelling my last name decreases the chances of me spotting your reply by about 98%. FYI ;-)

brianshaler: i search by name or email

@brianshaler start typing names and see who comes up.

Not very efficient, but I’ve had to do that, too.

@brainshaler well if they are your real friends, you should already know the answer to that question :)

@brianshaler for me is easy cause no one uses social networks :-P

@brianshaler What is this “real life” of which you speak?

Urban legend.

@brianshaler what if you joined because your friends aren’t on and you don’t want them to find you

@brianshaler: ask them.. Twitter needs a contact upload application like the other networks.

@brianshaler “do you find out which of your ‘real life’ friends are already on it?” Quite good question! I asked myself too…

A “good question” is generally a bad thing. That means there probably is not a “good answer”.

@brianshaler – invite your friends and if they already have it, they’ll sign in and see your page. :)
Not bad, but what if you don’t want to bother the people who aren’t on it, and only want to add the people who already are?

@brianshaler i pretty much im my online friends w/ the link

@brianshaler I have asked and sent invitations but I guess my real life friends are not that keen joining any social network.


@brianshaler how do you put skin on twitter? I never notify friends except those I already know use a given site… no junk mail!

@brianshaler Interesting question.Been debating it with a couple of friends for an hour now. Shows how bored I am.

@brianshaler – Most of my RL friends don’t spend much time on-line. I’m glad they don’t ;)


@brianshaler Still wondering how to connect my real world and my social network. There is surprisingly little overlap.

Video: Making of a ‘ShalerJump’

At the last Refocus Phoenix metting, Adam Nollmeyer took some great action shots using a 3-piece lighting setup — the most sophisticated ShalerJump shoot so far!

The results were some stunning captures with very distinct lighting. We staged the jump at a memorial on Washington Street where Adam could get below my jumping start level (to increase the perceived height of the jumps). In the background, there was a building with a giant ad on it for, and I decided to jump over it!

Awesome photos by Acme PhotographyWhile I’m on the topic of videos, I have been making a video every day since July 1st on So far, these “metodays” have not been anything too exciting. I am using them as an exercise to get more proficient with video production. Tune in and watch as the quality and content get better and more interesting!

The Allegory of Time Investment

It has been said that ‘time is money’. The association is generally drawn between the two in reference to billing hours. If you are not doing something that brings you money, you could be doing something else that would. Therefore, the profitless activity is costing you the money you could be earning.

This concept should not be new to most, since the phrase exhibits fairly widespread use. However, it serves as the perfect introduction to a deeper metaphor between time and money.

I am going to illustrate how successful people — often subconsciously — embrace this metaphor, while others may be limited to thinking of investment in terms of dollars and cents.


If we begin to examine the concept further, we will notice other striking similarities indicating that time is very much like a currency.

First, we can note some coincidences in the English language. The word ‘currency’ can either relate to time or money, depending on context. Time, like money, can be refered to something you can ‘spend’ or ‘save’. With these similarities being part of everyday dialogue, it would seem like this allegory is dangling under our noses in the most conspicuous way.

Both time and money can be wasted or invested. This is another seemingly rudimentary statement. Everyone knows you can invest time into something (e.g. “I invested a lot of hours in that video game!”). In many cases, the term ‘waste’ should have been used instead (e.g. “I wasted a lot of hours on that video game!”). Investing generally implies that the amount spent was done so with the intent of receiving some sort of return. For the sake of this discussion, I will only use the term ‘invest’ when a return on investment (ROI) is expected, and use ‘waste’ otherwise.

Yes or Uh Oh

All the time you spend can — and should — have some sort of positive ROI. You should be able to ask yourself what I call a “Yes or Uh Oh” question: Am I investing my time right now? This is a “Yes or Uh Oh” question because if the answer is either ‘Yes’ or you come to the realization you are making a mistake (hence the ‘Uh Oh’).

It may take some creative thinking to figure out what the return on investment is. This is because the return for your time typically does not come in the form of time.


As an example, we can examine two different breakfast habits. In one situation, we have an individual who wakes up, rushes to work, and eats a cereal bar in the car during the commute. On the other hand, we have an individual who wakes up, prepares a hearty breakfast, and eats it while reading the newspaper. While the second individual may be late, studies indicate that he or she is likely to be more productive at work. The time spent having a full breakfast and preparing the mind for the day can be viewed as an investment. The return on investment in this case would be a productive work day.

Investing Wisely

Successful people are known for investing their money wisely. Typically, they also invest their time wisely. Many people, aiming to become successful, are diligent in their finances and think that is all they have to do. If your goal is to be wealthy, you should ask yourself the question “Is what I am doing right now going to bring me closer to my goal?” regularly, and try to make the answer be “Yes” as often as possible.

As a Web Developer

For example, my profession, web development, provides many situations where wise time investment can make a great impact. Time needs to be taken into consideration as much, if not more than, money when approach some types of work. If a project is not going to become a valuable part of your portfolio — something that will lead to more work in the future — or if it is not going to be a valuable learning experience, what value does it have? If the only value (ROI) the project has for you is “paying the bills”, then that is all it will do and all that it will ever do. Portfolio pieces and educational experiences are not the only types of returns you should require, just two common examples.

Keep in mind that successful people do not generally ‘waste’ their time on work that will only provide immediate return. Instead, they focus on investing their time into work that provides long-term, accumulating returns.

Invested Time Returned As Time

In some cases, the time invested can return time as profit. As an example, someone can build a widget that reduces the amount of time a certain task takes. Every time that widget is used, the creator gets back the time he or she would have otherwise spent. The saved time can then be reinvested into other things.


The idea, of course, is for the ROI to end up with monetary value. It does not always have to have a direct monetary return. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In the sense of investment, the value of time can change much more dramatically than money, since it is not tied to anything tangible. By investing your time wisely and reinvest it when possible, you will increase the profitability of your accumulated time investment.


This article is intended to illustrate how time can be invested as a currency to accumulate value and wealth, to give a fresh perspective on personal growth, and to motivate others to invest time, rather than waste it.

This article has also been published on

Does Digg Need a Pictures Section?

That is the first of a series of questions as we examine whether or not Digg needs a Pictures section.

The answer seems obvious. Thousands of Digg users have expressed their support for a Pictures section. Has the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ come up with the best solution?

People have been focusing on that answer, when they should have been analyzing the question. Does Digg — a ‘news‘ site — need a Pictures section? It does not seem like a proper fit. If Digg in fact does not need a Pictures section, then what is the alternative?

The solution can be approached by expanding on the question: Is it Digg — a ‘news‘ site — that needs a Pictures section, or Flickr that needs a Digg section? Flickr is, after all, a photo-sharing site. What better location for these popular photos than a photo-sharing site?

Of course, now we approach a key roadblock for this solution: Flickr Explore. Flickr Explore is like the Digg Front Page, but for popular photos, rather than news. Is Flickr Explore insufficient at presenting the best new photos? That cannot be the case. Flickr’s “Interestingness” algorithm actually does a great job of ranking photos by quality. You could say that it is just as good — if not better than — Digg’s vote-driven quality ranking.

If Flickr Explore is just as good at delivering quality content as Digg’s Front Page, then why are people demanding a Pictures section for Digg? Why not just use Flickr Explore?

By examining the differences between Digg and Flickr from another perspective, we will find that Flickr Explore is insufficient. It is not the quality of content, no. The quality is arguably as good or perhaps even better than Digg’s vote-driven ranking system. The critical flaw in Flickr’s “Interestingness” algorithm is that it does not deliver content that matches the taste of the user. Flickr Explore is glaringly insufficient because it is one giant list of all types of photos.

How successful would Digg be if it was only one category? Could we compare its success in that scenario with Flickr Explore’s success in the photo realm?

If Flickr Explore delivered popular photos of various types to the people who say they are interested in that genre, would Flickr Explore have the appeal of Digg?

I hope you enjoyed this one-man Platonic dialogue.

You Think You Know (JavaScript) But You Have No Idea

For those that don’t know who Douglas Crockford is, here’s a short bio via Wikipedia:

Douglas Crockford is a senior JavaScript Architect at Yahoo Inc.. He is well known for his work in introducing JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). He has also worked on the computerization of media at Atari, Lucasfilm Ltd., and Paramount. He is the founder of two startups, Electric Communities and State Software.

I recently stumbled upon a series of videos of Douglas Crockford talking about the JavaScript language.

JavaScript is not my favorite language. Since I mainly only use the web browser implementation of the language, I have had countless experiences struggling with cross-platform incompatibility issues. Besides that, the language is great. It’s flexible, powerful, easy, and support for it is extremely widespread.

In his videos, Crockford covers a wide range of topics, from JavaScript’s history to example syntax. Many advanced JSers might find some parts of it to be a little too rudimentary, but I think there is quite a bit to learn for JavaScript programmers of any level. I’ve been writing JavaScript for over 5 years, and learned quite a few things about JavaScript that I didn’t already know.

The videos are highly recommended for anyone that uses JavaScript. The videos are even MORE highly recommended for people who know another language and are thinking about learning JavaScript.