My Take on the Facebook Changes
Tuesday, October 4, 2011Tweet
Since everyone and their mother are weighing in on the updates to Facebook, I figured, what the heck.
Am I surprised that it changed? Um, no. Facebook has done nothing but change since it started. I've been on it since it began in 2004, when it was called TheFacebook, was only accessible if you had an .edu e-mail account and your college had joined (yes, really!), and only let you see updates from other people at your college.
So it's not exactly surprising that Facebook has changed again.
What surprises me is this: Why are they doing it? As someone whose job it is to collect and analyze feedback on a regular basis, I have to wonder: Are they actually trying to respond to user needs/wants? If not, why not? And if so -- well, they don't seem to be doing a great job at it.
This may not be true for everyone, but the most recent changes to Facebook have brought it farther away, rather than closer, to what I want and what I use it for.
With that in mind, I figured maybe I should write down what exactly I wish Facebook would and wouldn't do.
The Facebook developers seem to believe that the number one thing I want Facebook to do is show me updates only from the people who are most important to me. False. I want to see updates from the people I'm Facebook friends with. If I didn't want to get updates from a person, I wouldn't be Facebook friends with them.
Caveat: There are a few people I am Facebook friends with out of obligation but hide their posts because they regularly offend me. In those cases, I have chosen to hide them from my newsfeed. I don't need Facebook "guessing" who I want to see and not see.
What I want to see in my Facebook newsfeed is not dictated by who I want to see or not see. It is more about what kind of updates I want to see. For example, I regularly have to scroll through a bunch of posts about my friends becoming friends with other people. I don't care. Everyone I know knows people I don't know. (Did you follow that?) 95% of the time, the people they're friending, I don't know. The other 5%, either I don't want to be Facebook friends with those people or I'll seek them out on my own when I do.
But there's no way to tell Facebook to stop showing me "friend adds." Or "every time a friend plays a game." I can hide specific games, or an entire person's feed. Those are my options. There used to be a set of sliders where you could say you wanted "more" or "less" of certain kinds of updates, but they never seemed to have much effect and they've either gone away or they're very well hidden.
Also, Facebook's new default is to show me "most" updates from each friend, which I can change to "all" on an individual basis. How does Facebook know which of my friend's updates I want to see if I don't tell it?
Every time Facebook makes a change, the number one question I see everyone asking (and writing articles answering) is: How do I get it back so I can see all the updates from all of my friends??
I tried to achieve this after the newest changes by creating a list that had everyone on it and making that my bookmark instead of the homepage. I know I'm still missing stuff, though -- it'll say there are six new updates, but I only see three, and when I refresh, half of them have disappeared and the one that was seventh is now second!
This is frustrating because my friends know that I'm on Facebook regularly and so expect me to have a general idea of what's going on with them. This can lead to conversations like, "Oh my gosh! When did you break your leg?" "Um, like 2 weeks ago. I've been posting about it on Facebook." "But I check Facebook every day... and I told it I wanted to see all your updates... damn Facebook must have thought that wasn't important!"
What baffles me is that we are in this age of customization and "you" and giving people more options than they know what to do with, yet Facebook's model is "Don't tell us what you want, we'll just figure it out for you."
Well, if you can't even figure out how I want Facebook to work, how are you going to be any good at figuring out which of my friends' updates I want to see?
So, Facebook developers, here is what I want: I want to use Facebook to see what my friends are doing in their lives. Not what they're doing on Facebook. I want to see the four things they share: status updates, links, photos, and videos. That's it. I don't want to see who they friend. I don't want to see whose page they're looking at or what game they're playing or what Facebook app they're using. Just the things that they post. And I want to see all of those updates, not just the ones your algorithm thinks I want to see.
Can you do that for me?