Facebook offers peek under the hood of Timeline apps

Interested in knowing more about how Facebook Timeline runs? The social network is offering a behind-the-scenes look.

Facebook's engineering team is offering a new behind-the-scenes look at the apps that power the Timeline platform.

Facebook software engineer Paul Tarjan explained the mechanics involved for several of the Open Graph apps in a memo published on Friday, explaining that the engineering unit typically test out new features for internal use before rolling them out to the general public.

One of the cool things about building on our own platform is that we've been able to catch bugs and figure out pain points for developers. We learned that it's really important to think hard about how you want to model your objects and actions at the beginning.

One of the apps proves that Facebook's employees have been touched by the gamification bug. The Pokemon app is acts as an "Easter egg" hunt for employees.

The reward here might be personal satisfaction or just the sheer thrill of seeing a Pokemon leap across the screen. Basically, every time someone closes out a task in the internal workflow, the employee catches a Pokemon that lives in that person's Timeline app -- similarly updated to what you would see from apps made by Pinterest and Nike+ -- as evidence of his or her good work.

Other examples explained in detail include internal code-review tools, real-time data analysis systems, and an infrastructure for classifying spam that inevitably sometimes pops up throughout Facebook.

If Facebook test runs its internal apps for public use later, one that we might want to keep a closer eye on is Pixelcloud, a rather simple interface for uploading and sharing mockups, screenshots, and other files at Facebook. Users can tag content, add a caption for context, and get input on an image through comments on the News Feed.

Pixelcloud also shows the profile pictures of everyone who has clicked the link, so the content owner has an idea of who has looked at the content. That sounds like something that would fit right in with the way Facebook's photos platform is going.

Tarjan said that Facebook is publishing these examples in in the hopes of inspiring engineers and developers at other companies to use Open Graph to "track whatever is important in your day-to-day life," remarking that "it is as simple as describing your data model in the Open Graph Tool, putting a link on your site for users to authorize your Facebook App, and then calling the API whenever someone does an action."