1. Making an Appearance on Facebook

    brian on 2006.12.23
    at 11:44 am

    Many of you out there may have heard me proclaim, “MySpace? Yuck! Never.” Quite simply, it offended my design sensibilities. Actually, strike that. It still does. It’s a freaking mess. I also lumped Facebook in with that. Not because it was ugly, but because it was a walled garden that came out after I could have signed up from college, and it was sort of like MySpace, and I couldn’t really see in, so I just assumed.

    Well two things have happened since then. One, Facebook opened its doors to everyone, and two, I now work at a web think tank, where we tend to mention MySpace or Facebook daily. Finally, the other day I caved. Research, of course. Actually, I’ve decided that there are enough good things about the social networking sites that outweigh the bad (and in MySpace’s case, the awful). Mainly, I wanted a place where old friends from high school or college could stumble upon me. I’ve come to realize very few of my in-contact friends have ever visited my blogs, which is what I reasoned was my substitute for these sites. Thus, I doubted anyone would want to stumble over me so much that they would Google me, but there’s a significant chance that they would find me when browsing one of these sites for classmates. I attempted to sign up for both MySpace and Facebook.

    As if trying to sure-up my opinion about it, MySpace shit the bed while I was trying to sign up. “A Message was sent to our technical team.” Jake says “Their technical team is a bunch of 12 year olds.” So are their designers. Listen up: any site that auto-plays music deserves a good punch in the developer’s face.

    That sent me to Facebook. I found their sign up to be easy, thorough, and fully of notes about your privacy, which is clear they take seriously, and is a major concern on sites like these. The only downside was that when it scanned my contact book from GMail to look for email addresses of my friends, it didn’t find people that I knew were both on Facebook and who I had their address, just not as the first address listed. The fact that I allowed it to log into my GMail account to begin with was super sketchy. I figured they had had enough privacy concerns raised over their couple of years of existence that they were going to truly not do anything evil and that they’d wipe my credentials from their system immediately. A leap of faith indeed. The next thing that sort of bothered me was that after I had it scan my address book, it offered to befriend those people who it had matched in the system. Except, it didn’t tell me exactly what it would be doing. And in the case of some people, that meant receiving a text message on their cell phone. I found this out only because I was chatting with Jake at the time, and he knew I had added him before I had told him, because he was one of the people who got a text message. I’m pretty that my boss also got one, because he added me almost instantly. In my case, that’s cool, because it likely didn’t bother him, but you could see how that could raise an issue. Granted, no one got a message that didn’t explicitly tell the Facebook system “send me an SMS if someone requests an add.” But still, it’s essentially me sending that SMS.

    So at the end of the day, Facebook 1, MySpace 0. Except that I didn’t stop there. Facebook kept calling me to add stuff, and I probably had a good two hours of mine sucked away that night. I still haven’t filled in the profile. That’ll be a few more hours, certainly. I put up a few token pics, so that wasn’t empty. Pretty good upload interface there. The tour du force, however, is the notes feature. Essentially a blog for your profile, when you post, it shows up in your friend’s news feed… essentially a news ticker of people in their social circles that shows up on their home page. Essentially an RSS aggregator. Actually, since you can subscribe to a notes feed over RSS, I’m pretty damn sure all the shared content on Facebook are essentially feeds. Clever. But it gets better. For my purposes, I pretty much never plan to visit the site. I’ll get notified by email when most things happen. But the thing is, I blog here, and here, and post to Flickr, and I don’t want to duplicate my work on Facebook. But the notes feature allows me to enter an address to an RSS or Atom feed which will be flowed into my notes, intertwined with anything I would ever enter on the actual site. Brilliant! Most people have no clue about feeds, and if they’re on Facebook, and they’re my friend, they receive my feeds. A grand new distribution scheme. And within minutes of my feed being entered, I had a comment on Facebook (there’s an option to go to the original post or to comment on it directly with in the regular notes feature) on a post a made weeks back.

    One problem was that the notes feature only allows one feature, and I had many feeds. Like I said above, two blogs and Flickr… all three have feeds. Well, as I posted on Facebook, there’s a cool way around that: Suprglu. Now with my RSS life patched together into a single feed, I was set.

    So, the last thing… do I go back to MySpace and try again? The thing that prompted all of this was a long lost high school friend out in LA had posted to his MySpace blog, which I picked up in my normal feed reader. Does he have Facebook? He didn’t show up in my searches. Does he know about Facebook? Probably, he stuck around college a good long time, getting as many degrees as he could muster, so when he was leaving, it was probably just starting, but does he know that he can now join without being actively at a college? Facebook has the obstacle that most people think it’s only for college kids. I’m sure I have friends on MySpace who are not on FaceBook, who may not know about Facebook, or know they can sign up, or may just not want to join yet another social site. So I’ll leave that for another day, most likely in the new year.

    To summarize, my experiences with Facebook have been almost all exceptional, and my experiences with MySpace continue to be disappointing. Facebook is now available to everyone, and if you’re thinking about joining, you should. I didn’t think I’d have a lot of people on my friends list, and within 24 hours I had 15 friends. So give it a shot. Perhaps it’ll have more staying power that Friendster, Orkut, Ryze, and the other hundred that fell before…

    Posted in: Web


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