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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

My one "complaint" about Facebook

About two months ago, a member of the TorCamp community (I’m not sure who it was) joined Facebook and invited other members to join as well. Who then issued their own invitations. Within a week or so, almost all the active TorCampers had not only joined Facebook but had started using it with a vengeance.

I was, and continue to be, very impressed by Facebook’s design. There are hardly any products/services whose design I have few complaints about. When the PalmPilot first appeared, that was one. (Too bad it hasn’t evolved — Treo keyboards aren’t integrated nicely into the built-in applications — but I suspect that the Apple iPhone will repeat the achievement.)

My only complaint has been that the “news feed” I see on Facebook’s home page, which lists all the things that have been taking place among my friends (person X was tagged in a photo album, person Y wrote something on someone else’s “wall”, persons Z and W are now friends) only lists the most recent such events, as many as will fit within its idea of maximum reasonable page length. Although you can customize the types of events you are informed of, and mark certain friends as more important or less important, I find that to make sure that I see all the events I want to see, before they disappear off the bottom of the page, I have to check Facebook at least twice a day. And not just at any old times, since the events are concentrated during the part of the day that my friends are typically awake. Couldn’t the people behind Facebook provide the “news feed” via RSS or Atom so that I wouldn’t have to worry about missing anything? What kind of “feed” isn’t available as a feed?

Well, they could, but this “missing feature” forces me to go to Facebook often — which I imagine suits Facebook’s creators just fine. They make money from advertising on the site, and from offering me the option of giving virtual gifts to other members — at a price. And once I’m there I can engage in whatever activities Facebook has, which helps keep my friends coming back to Facebook to drive revenue.

So it’s not a bug; it’s a feature — however annoying. But I must admit that I’m no longer really annoyed. Now I’ve gotten into the habit of checking Facebook frequently, and when I have the option (e.g. when I’m not working at a client’s site) I go there even more often than I “have to”. I have been assimilated.

As in so many online communities, some Facebook users could reasonably be called “addicted”. From this TechCrunch item (via Mark Kuznicki in TorCamp’s Skype chatroom):

A Goldman Sachs trader in the UK named “Charlie” was warned by his employer that his visits to Facebook on company time were to stop. He spent, apparently, over 500 hours on Facebook in a six month period. That works out to about 4 hours per day.

Unwisely, perhaps, Charlie posted the warning email on his Facebook account, saying “It’s a measure of how warped I’ve become that, not only am I surprisingly proud of this, but in addition, the first thing I did was to post it here, and that losing my job worries me far less than losing facebook ever could.”


Blogger Ryan said...

Great points Rohan... The forced pageview model of the site drives me nuts as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2007 at 8:12:00 a.m. EDT  

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