I kind of hate Facebook. There I said it. Now, I hate Facebook for a lot reasons: the chronic privacy issues, its walled garden nature, the shallow level of communication it encourages, the fact that it’s taking over the Internet, but one reason in particular bugs me the most. Now, I know this makes me a rather sore sport, but I hate how Facebook turns me into the odd man out.
You remember that big party back in college? The one that everyone went to? Everyone but you? You remember out for months afterwards everyone would laugh about something that happened at that party and when you would ask what was so funny everyone would just say, “You really had to be there?” Do you remember that? Well, for me, Facebook is that party.
I don’t use Facebook much but everyone seems to use it as their primary social outlet. This means that I’m constantly out of the conversation. Now, normally I wouldn’t mind; I could skip most of the conversations that take place on Facebook but when people announce their weddings, funerals, birthdays, moving days, new jobs, lost jobs, new kids and declosetings and I’m the last to know because I haven’t checked Facebook in a week, I begin to look like a schmuck. One particular thing annoys me and that is when it’s somebodies birthday, they get birthday wishes from every single one of their friends but me because I didn’t happen to be one Facebook that day.
Now, I was thinking, and after the headache subsided, I decided that what would be cool would be a script which would monitor Facebook through my account and manage all that social nonsense for me. Then I realized that would be hard so I settled for a script which would wish my friends happy birthday on their birthdays so I don’t look like so much of a schmuck. After a few days learning the Facebook API from scratch, I believe I’ve come up with a workable solution. I call it: Facebot.1 I’ve released it to the world in hopes that one day Facebook will become a completely automated social tool which no human has to interact with at all.
Facebot is actually a dead simple script. The hardest part in using it is getting the access token but this is thankfully straightforward. Sign up for a Facebook developer account, and create a new app. Copy down the app id/api key and app secret and go to the Graph API Explorer. Click Get Access Token, check every option available, click the blue Get Access Token box and the long string now in the box labeled “Access Token” is what you seek.
Invoke Facebot with:
ruby facebot.rb -t access_token
You can put this in a cron job set to run at 4:30 every morning and folks will wonder how you get up so early every day!
Of course, there is a lot of room for improvement. Custom messages per friend would be nice. Configuring it to notify you when it actually sends out these messages so that when friends thank you for wishing them happy birthday you don’t respond “When was your birthday?” would also be a plus. Actually, it would be nice to expand this into a full bot to manage my online social life without me, only letting me know of the crucial details would also be cool, but I’ll table that as project for the future.