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My Beef With Facebook

January 13, 2013

Oh Facebook.  You’ve got millions of fans, and tons of critics.  I know.  I’ve read plenty of articles, posts, and comments on both Facebook and Twitter from people who criticize your privacy policies, and lament about your overall strategy and how you are going to handle mobile.

But I have not seen anyone else address the things that get under my skin about your site, so here goes:

My Beef with Facebook

Am I here to say “I’m fed up with Facebook and am cancelling my account!”?  Nope.  I enjoy using your site to stay in touch with friends and keep current on their lives, as well as share stories and photos from my own life.  But I’ve been generally doing this for several years now, and frankly, I’m getting bored.  I’m wanting and wishing and hoping you’ll bring some interesting innovation to your service.  Something to get me excited (oh and hey,  increase my engagement).  I think you’ve been trying- really, but your efforts are falling flat.  Since I’ve not seen anyone else call these issues, out, I’m bringing them to the surface myself:

Privacy and Control Settings:  Sure, I’m not the first person to identify some pet peeves with your privacy policies.  The thing that really puzzles me is how complex your privacy policies have become, and how difficult it is for the normal user to understand them.  My main pet peeve with your privacy and control settings is that I still don’t feel in control of the content I see in my news feed.

Example:  I frequently see posts pop up that involve one of my FB friends commenting on one of their FB friends photos or stories.  1) I am really not interested in reading other people’s interactions when I don’t know one of the parties involved, and 2) I’m not sure these people would be comfortable knowing I am can read their back-and-forth exchange.  Particularly the person who does not know me.  Is this a function of my privacy settings, my friend’s privacy settings, or her friend’s privacy settings?  I don’t know.  It makes me weary of posting more content because I also don’t know just how far my content “creeps” beyond my network of friends.  Mainly, I want it to stop and wish I had a way to control this on my end.  I don’t mind seeing ads and suggested pages to follow in my newsfeed, I get it that you need to bring in revenue.  But when I see personal content, I want it to  be the personal content of me, or my friends.  No one else.

News Feed Settings:  My preference is to see “Most Recent” stories, as I like to scroll through my day and check whether any of my friends posted some content I want to read–  but what I find is that often my News Feed defaults to “Top Stories”.  If you are going to offer me a choice, let me make my selection and don’t change it.  I’m not asking for anything new- just honor my preferences if you are going to offer them to me.  That’s all.

Forcing me to convert to Timeline:  Some people may think the Timeline feature was great- but I am not overly impressed (if I’m missing something about Timeline, please readers, let me know in the comments). When Timeline first came out, some of my early adopter friends started migrating over, but almost as quickly, I started reading about usability complaints.  So I decided to sit this feature out.  Then I started hearing that you were going to force everyone to migrate- which, in and of itself is rather annoying.  If it is such a great new feature, I should want to switch on my own, right?  Again, someone PLEASE tell me what I am missing about Timeline.  Then you started casually posting messages at the top of my newsfeed letting me know that X number of my friends were already on Timeline and that I should switch too.  But here’s the catch- I can do math.  The number of friends who had switched to Timeline was just under 50% of my total number of friends.  With an adoption rate hovering right around 50%, I know I was not the only person who had decided to nix the new Timeline.  In the end, you switched me over about six months ago.  Somehow, forcing your users to adopt your new and innovative functionality just doesn’t sit right.  Do I hate Timeline?  No.  But do I love it and has it changed my experience and engagement on your site?  Nope.

“Flat Innovation”:  At the end of 2012 you rolled out a nifty looking “Year in Review” application, where I could click on the app and you pulled together a summary of 2012 for me to share with my friends.  I was able to quickly figure out that all this app did was grab four of my profile pictures and put them together as an image.  Here’s the problem:  In 2012 I didn’t update my profile picture. (I update my cover image frequently, profile pic….. rarely.  You should know this, right?).  So all four of the photos you pulled together to highlight 2012 were from 2010 and 2011.  I didn’t share the image on my newsfeed because it was totally irrelevant.  What would have been fun was if the app had pulled together a sample of all of the photos I uploaded in 2012 and let me select which ones I wanted to highlight.  Then I would have pulled together pictures from my summer trip to France, my son’s birthday, and time with family and friends.  I have many fond memories of 2012, shared on Facebook, but your app did nothing to enhance this for me.

What I Wish For

Better control over what I see and share.  Intuitive, easy to navigate privacy settings.  A few years ago it was much easier to see my settings and tweak them- now, it seems as though those settings are more hidden (or at least, I can’t find them).

What I Wish just ONE website would do in 2013 (and yes, Facebook, I am looking squarely at you):  Build a platform and innovate by providing your users with more control over what they see.

You have oodles and oodles of data.  I know, because I am a web measurement professional.  You should be able to measure how people engage with your site when they are new.  When they reach X number of friends.  When they’ve been on the site for X number of years.  When they start using Facebook on their mobile device.  When their parents or their kids become their “friends”.  When you roll out new functionality.  We are all here, engaging on your platform, and there are nuances that you should be able to capture, and measure, and use to improve the site.

Like I said at the beginning- I still enjoy connecting with my friends using your service, but it feels as though your site has become a bit stale.  You are in the enviable position of having one of the largest audiences in the world, which brings a greater degree of diversity than most sites enjoy.  Yet, we are all essentially experiencing the same product.  Surprise us.  Innovate. Provide us with something that we ask for, and more importantly, provide us with something we didn’t even know we wanted.  Give us choices, honor those choices, and provide us with some control over our experience.

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