Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Force Fed Facebook

Hot on the tails of the Share button, Facebook have been innovating again - and it isn't all popular.

Now I guess Social Networking isn't a democracy, by any definition, but it seems reasonable that in a market economy  the Facebook programmers should take some notice of the opinions of the cash cows, sorry, customers that use their services.  The evidence would suggest otherwise.

A few months ago I noticed that Facebook had launched a service called Timeline - the idea being that you created an on-line history of yourself, uploading photos and other memories, I guess with the idea that your Facebook life would seamlessly interface with this past you, creating an ongoing genealogical roadmap of your life.  Wouldn't that be a boon for your descendants when they decide to map their family tree?

I'm not sure and it seems that 86% of Facebook users felt the same way, according to one poll.  As one commentator puts it, that's technically 668 million people.  Or as I put it, assuming the poll is anywhere near correct, 100% of real Facebook users.  How do I work that out?  Well, when they floated Facebook an eternity or so ago, the price plummeted when the investors suddenly realised that there was a percentage of Facebook 'users', I'm guessing 14%, that 'belonged' to animals, inanimate objects, protest groups or were duplicate pages by people who felt an irrational urge to have more than one Facebook page, like authors using FB to plug their books.  Who'd of thought it? (mine can be found by searching for, BTW)

I resisted the urge to participate in Timeline, partly because I don't really use social media socially but also because it looked time consuming and, well, a little geeky.  It's the full geek or nothing with me.  Anyway, despite me and virtually everyone else ignoring Timeline, Facebook are still plugging it.  I can understand them not taking any notice of everyone else but....

But now it seems Facebook has gone one step too far.  When you filled in your profile you probably added lots of other details - unless you read my blog from the depths of time and took notice of it.  Don't worry, most of the others didn't either.  If you or your significant other (wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever - you get the picture) identified someone as their significant other (and I'm really hoping that everyone had played by the rules here, otherwise this is really going to end in tears for some) then Facebook has generated a 'Couples' page for you.  It kind of links your Facebook pages together, so what you see, you partner sees.

Normal, ordinary couples hate it.  We spend our lives working how to interact with our partners.  Some live separate lives, others live in each other's pockets.  Most sit somewhere in the middle, which means they share some friends, actively dislike others but tolerate them anyway.  This initiative by Facebook which may generate more lucrative contracts with sales managers desperate to sell their products, is doing so at the expense of their customers.

It's also creating a whole raft of phoney FB existences. I'm sure the Facebook investors will be real pleased to find out that FB are addressing the issue with false and duplicate pages in this way. Not!

I think that there is a place for initiatives like Timeline, Couples and even Share - but I think a bit of consultation with their customers wouldn't go amiss, let alone giving users an opt in they can choose.  If the initiatives are as good and useful as Facebook clearly thinks then surely users will beat a path to the door to opt-in.


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