TAG: Facebook

Facebook’s Growing Design Problem (and a proposed solution)

According to Businessweek, Facebook may soon be changing its new Beacon feature, which shares personal information (if not identifying you personally) with 3rd party sites outside of Facebook. I wrote about the feature in Facebook’s Brilliant but Evil Design

Interestingly, most people, including the group MoveOn.org, seem worried about a different symptom of the problem than I was. Most people are worried about what happens when the shared information gets back to Facebook, and their Facebook friends see their outside activity. For example, if someone rents Footloose on Blockbuster.com, all their friends on Facebook will see it. I personally think that Footloose is a brilliant movie, but some people might be embarrassed by their friends seeing they rented it.

My main concern was that Facebook and Blockbuster were talking at all.

Continue Reading: Facebook’s Growing Design Problem (and a proposed solution)

Facebook’s Brilliant but Evil design

Seth Godin writes how 8 billion dollars worth of gift cards seeps through the cracks each year. Astounding number. He rightly points out the reason we buy so many gift cards: it is not socially acceptable to give cash as presents. But when we shift that cash into a gift card, we lose the risk of giving an unwanted gift while giving something more socially appropriate.

Such a small, yet large, difference.

In Chapter 4 of The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler discusses a similar distinction between “extrinsic” motivations and “intrinsic” motivations. Extrinsic motivations come from the marketplace, and involve money. They are appropriate in some situations and not others. Intrinsic motivations come from within, such as pleasure or personal satisfaction. They are also appropriate in some situations and not others.

This distinction is important in social design because so many of the activities people participate in online are motivated from a desire of social standing, not economic standing.

Take the case of a New York Times article recommendation. If I send a link of a NYTimes article to you as a friend, my only motivation is social…intrinsic…and it’s probably a small one at that. I saw this article and I thought you might like it. My reward might be a small up-tick in your opinion of me.

But if I’m getting paid money to give you that recommendation, then my motivation is in part economic, and that changes everything. You are now suspicious of the gesture…and my reward might actually be a penalty…your opinion of me will most likely deteriorate.

When friends deal with friends, money often makes no sense.

Continue Reading: Facebook’s Brilliant but Evil design

Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?

Armin Vit at Speak Up asks: Where are the canonical web designs?

“Milton Glaser’s Dylan poster. Paul Rand’s IBM logo. Paula Scher’s Public Theater posters. Massimo Vignelli’s New York subway map. Kyle Cooper’s Seven opening titles. These are only a few landmark projects of our profession. Design solutions that, in their consistent use as exemplary cases of execution, concept and process, don’t even need to be shown anymore and that, for better or worse, (almost) everyone acknowledges as being seminal works that reflect the goals that graphic design strives for: A visual solution that not only enables, but also transcends, the message to become memorable in the eyes and minds of viewers. Whether these projects are indeed as amazing, relevant and enviable as we have built them up to be is cause for a separate discussion but it’s safe to say that, as far as designs recognized around the profession, there are a certain few that invariably make the list, usually without question. Myself, I could list projects in every category from logos, to annual reports, to magazine covers, to packaging, to typefaces, to opening titles that could be considered landmark projects… But when it comes to web sites, I can’t think of a single www that could be comparable — in gravitas, praise, or memorability — as any of the few projects I just mentioned. Could this be?”

Armin then goes and mentions the obvious answer: Google.

But this is not an acceptable answer for him, because…wait for it…the logo sucks.

To talk about Google in terms of its logo has long been a pastime for people who care about logos. For years I’ve heard the same argument from people who want nothing more than to get rid of the “Mickey Mouse” logo, as it is often described.

Armin’s point is that while Google seems to be better than Yahoo, it is still plagued with a bad logo. He’s not “moved or inspired” by the design. Therefore, he reasons, it is not canonical design. Canonical design, in his mind, is one that practitioners of the medium look to as exemplary.

But, frankly, I think Armin has missed his own point…

Continue Reading: Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?

The Difference between a Recommendation and an Ad

A quick thought regarding Facebook’s new Social Ads platform.

A recommendation is something you get from someone who knows something about you. They have seen an item of interest and thought that you might gain some use by it. They give their recommendation freely, knowing that it may do you some good, expecting nothing in return other than perhaps a “thank you”. Recommendations are thus social capital.

The primary reason for a recommendation is a need on the receiver’s side.

An advertisement is something you get from someone who may or may not know something about you. They have an item they want you to be interested in, and hope you might gain some use by it. They give it freely, but they do expect something in return as they are paying for this transaction. Thus they are biased, however small, to give you that ad. Advertisers will never give you what they objectively think is best for you. They’ll give you what they have. Ads are thus economic capital.

The primary reason for an advertisement is a need on the sender’s side.

Facebook cannot give recommendations as long as they accept money from advertisers which constrains the items available for placement. They are being paid to show only certain stuff…not necessarily the stuff that’s best for you, but the stuff made by the people who are giving them money.

To their credit, Facebook doesn’t seem to be using the term “recommendation”…yet.

Continue Reading: The Difference between a Recommendation and an Ad

Weak Ties and Diversity in Social Networks

Anne Truitt Zelenka has a nice post: Weak Ties for Social Problem Solving in Enterprise 2.0, touching on a subject being discussed more and more these days: weak ties. She suggests that one of the next challenges for social software is distributed problem solving: how to leverage your social network when you have a tough problem to solve.

One of pieces Anne references is Andrew McAfee’s The Ties that Find, a nice overview of the idea of weak ties, which originated with the fascinating work of Mark Granovetter, who wrote the original work The Strength of Weak Ties(PDF) in 1973. Weak ties are relationships we have with people outside our own social networks. We don’t utilize them often, but we utilize them in certain situations to help us with things our social networks can’t. Most importantly, weak ties gives us a perspective outside of the normal groups of which we are a part, whose perspectives tend to become homogenized over time as we learn and become familiar with the people we spend the most time with.

What struck me about Anne and Andrew’s pieces was the implicit idea of the value of diversity. Neither mentioned this explicitly, but for those familiar with James Surowiecki’s work The Wisdom of Crowds, diversity is crucial to wisdom, and thus problem solving. Weak ties helps explain how we continually introduce diversity within our social groups, by periodically leveraging those relationships with people outside our close-knit social networks.

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Ballmer on Facebook: Bunch of Features

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer: (via)

““There can’t be any more deep technology in Facebook than what dozens of people could write in a couple of years. That’s for sure,”

Robert Scoble, in Steve Ballmer still doesn’t understand social networking:

“When I worked at Microsoft I heard this over and over and over again from various engineers and program managers who STILL haven’t competed effectively with WordPress, Flickr, Skype, YouTube, or any of the other things over the years I’ve heard this “we can build that in a few weeks” kind of arrogant attitude attached to.”

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Should designers optimize for page views…or user experience?

An interesting quote from Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, when asked if Facebook’s news feed feature, which aggregates disparate profile information into a single view, reduces page views (and presumably advertising revenue).

“our thinking is that if we give people more controls, they can share more information. As people shared more and more information, Facebook found that it creates a more component experience that brings them back to Facebook more often. Page views and traffic went up 50% within weeks of the launch of the news feed.”

Wow, that stat is amazing. A simple interface design feature, thought (by traditional thinking) to decrease page views, actually increased them and fast.

Facebook vs. MySpace pageviews

Page Views vs. User Experience

Zuckerberg’s response underlines a real distinction between the old page view approach to the Web and the new user experience approach. The difference lies in what you optimize for…

Continue Reading: Should designers optimize for page views…or user experience?

The Social Graph and Objects of Sociality

Why our relationships can’t be explained without the objects and experiences that we share.

One of the biggest problems on the Web is joining a new social networking site. To do so means going through the painful effort of creating a profile and adding all of our friends, something we’ve done over and over…at least once for each social networking site we already belong to. This is quickly becoming an issue for everyone who uses social networks.

This problem has led to a flurry of activity, highlighted by LiveJournal creator Brad Fitzpatrick’s missive: Thoughts on the Social Graph, in which he clearly outlines the issues involved as well as some worthy goals to shoot for. Brad’s piece was followed shortly after by the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, which among its rights is the right to allow users to syndicate their own profile and friend data. This, of course, would alleviate the squeaky wheel.

Social Network

In addition there are countless groups getting together to try and solve this problem. The microformats folks are working on building formats to help with this. The DataSharingSummit is an entire event focused on this and related problems. All of this activity is centered around one idea: that people have a social graph that can be represented in software. In other words, we can recreate our offline relationships online and let everyone know about it by sharing some sort of file or feed.

The major axis of the social graph, as Fitzpatrick points out, is relationships between people, or more simply, a list of friends. My social graph, for example, consists of my friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances. These people I know to some extent or another, some I talk with daily, some I know only online, and some I would rather not speak to. 🙂

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Interface Compare: Inviting Friends on MySpace & Facebook

I’m introducing a new type of post here at Bokardo called “Interface Compare”. I’ll use it to compare interfaces from different services to highlight interesting things designers are doing (or not doing). The first installment is comparing the Invite screens on MySpace and Facebook.

MySpace Invite Screen

MySpace Invite Friends

The interface for this is pretty straightforward. You can type in the email addresses of all the friends who you would like to invite, separated by a comma. You can also add a message to the invite if you want.

Facebook Invite Screen

Facebook Invite Friends

You’ll notice one big difference between the Facebook and MySpace invite screens. Facebook allows you to import addresses from various third party email systems. You can grab your contacts from webmail services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail. You can also import contacts from your desktop mail applications as well.

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Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice, Part I: The Cold-Start Problem

One of the emerging principles of social design is what I call The Del.icio.us Lesson, which can be summarized as “personal value precedes network value”. Since I wrote about the Del.icio.us Lesson last year, it has become one of my most read and cited posts.

Other evidence would suggest that there’s something to it as well, that it is indeed a strong principle that helps us build better social software. Several of the social design folks that I regularly read, including Thomas Vander Wal and Rashmi Sinha, have observed similar phenomena. In a talk she gave about social design at Wordcamp, Rashmi’s first principle was “Make the system personally useful”. You can see her slides here.

Now, it’s one thing to talk about the importance of personal value and how that personal value precedes network value, but just what does the Del.icio.us Lesson mean in practice? That’s what this series of posts is about…

Continue Reading: Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice, Part I: The Cold-Start Problem

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