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after a few weeks of facebook.

so now that i've established my facebook and poked around the site a little more, there's a lot in my brain about it. i think i've decided that there's much more negative about the site than positive, particularly when it comes to the... conceptual paradigm of the site, what it's trying to accomplish.

we'll start with the positives first, though. There aren't that many, but what's there makes it at least a decent casual site to visit that's fairly low-maintenance.

one: the power of applications. The fact that practically any sort of amateur programmer can create their own facebook application for the masses to use is the sort of shareware/freeware enterprise that i like to see in a single network. Surely there are plenty of places to go on 'teh web' to find free flash games or free flash applications in general or to rate movies or tv shows or whatever, but the large variety of people who are a part of and find each other in the facebook network makes for a more ecclectic "virtual flea market" of applications out there that don't feel so as isolated or narrow-minded as your typical flash or download.com sort of site. If i ever do upgrade my machine or update my OS, obtain a version of flash and learn how to program it well enough to create applications, facebook is probably where i'll attempt to put it to test the waters.

two: this is actually both a positive and a negative for reasons i'll get into later, but i'll stick it in the positive section that facebook seems to have a wider network of people/old friends/former students who i haven't kept in touch with for a long time that actively touch their facebook, offering at least some sort of personal snapshot version of their life. i love knowing what everyone is all about, even if it's sometimes just a glimpse, and in some ways facebook is more successful in accomplishing this than livejournal since it's easier and quicker to change a status or make a profile adjustment than it is to write a full-fledged blog entry or even try to keep in tocuh over the phone or via email during hectic sort of times.


As far as negatives, the big logistical negative is that the site layout is highly counterintuitive. the first day i was trying to poke around the site, it was impossible to find anything because nothing was where i thought it should be, and once you find something, the interface makes it extremely impossible to find it again. a couple of easy examples:

one: at one point when i was poking around the site, i received an email notification that someone had requested that i friend them. I saw the notification using gmail notifier and thus knew what it was without having to open the email. So i thought, hey - i'm already on the site, i'll just navigate to the request page directly so i don't have to open up my email. Except that the "accept friends requests" page DOESN'T EXIST ANYWHERE. I spent minutes searching for it, and i couldn't find it. eventually i had to open up my email to click on the link in the email so i could accept the friend request. that's dumb.

two: the hierarchy of mapping of preference settings is poorly laid out and inconsistent, mainly beacuse there are four different areas in which you can change settings: "edit profile", "edit applications", "edit account", and "edit privacy".

tangent: in my head, i said "privacy" with a short i, not a long one.

An example of inconsistent: The "edit profile" settings are set up in web browser-like tabs, and in each tab you have form fields that you fill out and once you're done filling out all the info, you hit "save". "Edit Account" is set up similarly, but as opposed to just being able to enter on the main tab page, the settings and networks tab gives you links you have to click on to change your settings. "Edit Privacy" also follows this model in general.

personally, the less mouse clicking i need to do to adjust a setting the better. The profile settings layout of heirarchical categories followed by a long form is much better than having to click on five separate links in order to change your settings.

An example of poorly laid out: Even though you have an "edit profile" page, there's a section in the "edit privacy" area labelled "profile". Even though you have an "edit applications" page, there's also a section in "edit privacy" for "applications". In "edit account", there's a tab for "networks" even though there's a network menu at the top between "friends" and "inbox", and a part of the navigation of that network toolbar takes you to this particular part of the "edit account" settings.

The whole thing is a labyrinth that fails to successfully connect all that is actually configurable within the site. Never mind that "privacy" should be a subcategory/subtab of what they truly belong to as opposed to an independent function (as in it makes sense that "profile privacy" is a subset of your profile, but it doesn't make sense that its a subset of your "privacy"). What i *really* want is a single top page that groups all configuration preferences into one place and uses a higher top level of hierarchy that has tabs for profile, applications, account, and privacy, and then keeps the subtabs of those Big tabs intact.

Then the profile page itself is a huge bear and lacks flexibility people need if they want to use a lot of apps. it's dumb and annoying to be forced to make your page longer and longer the momre apps you want to put into your profile. i should have the power to put apps onto a separate 'my apps' page so the regular profile can be not so cluttered.


Those sort of petty annoyances i think i could deal with if it weren't for some issues i've discovered i have with the concept of facebook as an overall whole.

*ponders how to say this*

facebook i think is ironically aptly named. Everything about it feels very material, surfacey, face value, and absolutely lacks meaningful substance whatsoever no matter what angle you approach it.

from one angle, it's not even a lazy alternative to blogging, it's a lazy altenative to real interaction. People regularly update their status on facebook however they like as if facebook functions as an enhanced IM client. Some use real moods or real events to update their "current status". "Mendel is feeling awesome because he won $60 in poker today." And then people read each other's statuses and feel like they have some insight to each other's lives without ever having to really talk or even read a more in depth blog entry about what that status means. it feels like a more disguised form of polite "hi/how are you/fine, you/fine/that's good, see ya/bye" interaction except without any actual interaction.

that sort of paadigm bothers me a great deal. As a recipient of people observing me, i don't want them to just take a peek at my life in the context of a "status update", nor do i feel like i'm doing justice to my friends by just knowing what their "current status" is. I want to read or talk about what's going on in their head or what's going on in their life beyond the polite passing-in-the-hall interaction, and i'm egocentric enough to want that out of those that observe me as well. I want to be able to talk to Jeff P. about his last year at Reading, the depression he's going through associated with that (if any) and the depression of having just ended what i assume to be a long-term relationship. Granted, in a way it's nice to have discovered these facts in any context because otherwise i wouldn't know them, but in another sense it allows me to stay disconnected from it and be more of a voyeur into his life as opposed to an actual friend.

and from that perspective, voyeurism seems to be a majority of what facebook offers, a "feel good" material substitute for friendship. But honestly - who really cares if Jacob has added the "hot or not" application or if Mona has updated the quotes or favorite books on her profile page? What does it really tell me when someone updates their status to say "broken" or "happy this week is over!" or similar sorts of fluff?

From another angle you might argue that there is actual interaction on facebook through the use of applications like "graffiti" or "fridge magnets" or "define me" or "food fight!" and the like. But this too feels very fluffy, particularly since most of those sorts of interactions are available for anyone on your friends list to see which diminishes any possibility of higher degrees of intimacy. No one is going to bear their soul to me by writing on my graffiti wall. No one is going to get in depth with me about what's in my head or heart. but hey, at least they have the ability to SuperPoke (tm) me.

Not that casual interaction of that sort doesn't have its place, but it shouldn't be the most prominent. if it was maybe a small subset of actual interaction with my friends, that would be fine, but the nature of facebook seems to magnify all that is casual and stifle all that is intimate, whereas livejournal in particular has more flexibility and power to be used as either a casual or intimate application.

i think that i had more to say about it, but it would probably just end up being a babble. the general conclusion that i derive about it is that the way i want to treat facebook is a stepping stone. it's a decent medium to keep a vague idea of what's happening with casual friends, but for resparking old meaningful but lost relationships or for trying to start new relationships on any level, having facebook be a central location of interaction is too shallow for the kind of friend that i want to be, and if i spend too much energy using facebook to amplify that sort of casualness, it takes away from my ability to make my relationships with people more meaningful, or at the very least is a time-waster that prevents me from getting real things accomplished.

A rough value comparison i have in my head is that on average it takes me up to an hour a day for me to keep up on my livejournal friends list, and that's with a small degree of skimming. That has more value to me than spending two minutes or so looking at my facebook newsfeed even for friends i have on facebook that i don't have on livejournal - hopefully the ones that are meaningful enough will have another medium in which i can interact with them. If not, that's my fault for considering facebook a sufficient substitute.


( read spoken (13) — speak )
Sep. 11th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
I don't see the point of Facebook and you have outlined some of the reasons. If I joined, I might get contacted by former co-workers and friends, but only if they knew my married name-and 99% of them wouldn't. Most of my friends use LJ and a few who are musicians have a MySpace so I don't see a pressing need to use Facebook for anything.
Sep. 11th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)
the only reason i joined in the first place was because one of my friends works as an internal graphic designer there. once i got it, i started to see that the pros make it fairly worthwhile (for me) so long as i keep in mind that it should only be used as a conduit. i refuse to touch myspace with a ten foot pole, so for networking outside of LJ, facebook is the best alternative.
Sep. 11th, 2007 08:31 am (UTC)
True, I've also found that playing with the news feed preferences keeps the "So and So added the SillyApp" messages to a minimum as most of those fall under "Profile Edits" and I raised Pictures and Notes because I'm more interested in those :)
Sep. 11th, 2007 08:38 am (UTC)
hmmm... i never thought about that. maybe when i get a chance i'll muck about those settings.

then again, my friends list is small enough now that it doesn't add too much clultter, and the one thing it gives me is enough exposure to what other people add and do to their profiles just to get a better feel of what's out there and what's possible. maybe when my list grows to above 100 or something and i get more famililar with apps, it will have more relevance.
Sep. 11th, 2007 09:28 am (UTC)
I guess the networking (work-wise) aspect wouldn't be of use to me (it might be if I thought I'd have a chance at finding work in my area).

Most people I know use it to be in contact with old school chums and to play Scrabble.

MySpace gives me a headache, but I sometimes look to see what's happening with musicians I know (I don't have an account).

Sep. 11th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC)
Accept Friends is done through the Home page if I rememember correctly.
Sep. 11th, 2007 11:34 am (UTC)
You can also add your LJ as a feed to your notes. And a careful selection of apps can give your page more depth if you want. Like most things in life, a lot depends on how much you put into it - like the heritage one. It could have left it as just a few flags showing my ancestry, but then I took advantage of the "heritage fact" part and gave some of my family history that included what several of my ancestors did for a living, which is really interesting to see their influence in my fields of study.

There are applications to ask your friends questions and collect their input. You can share booklists, which at least with a lot of my friends is far from a shallow activity. There are like three different platforms for that. You can also share links with the "my link" app.

Right now, I have an art gallery of famous works that I am working on writing notes for so my friends can see exactly why I like the piece - like Giotto's "Lamentations", which I believe is probably one of the most influential pieces in the Western and Christian world, but most people have no idea of its significance.

Superficialness is a choice.
Sep. 11th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
fair enough, i suppose, but finding that level of depth in the context of fb to me feels more difficult than it should be. Like, if i'm driving to work and it typically means i go from point A to point B to point C in a fairly straightforward manner that takes ten minutes. But i also have the option of driving to work by going from point A to point D to point F to point H to point Q then to point C. This may be more scenic or have some other stops along the way, but it's not practical to do that a lot of the time even though it's *possible*. fb feels kind of like that. i'm sure i'll find a way to make it work for me, to resist the temptation or the forces that give it the superficial feeling it emits, but time will tell whether or not the work that's needed to put into that is worthwhile in comparison to just keeping what i know is meaningful for me here on lj.
Sep. 11th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
nice. i don't agree with all of it, but overall this hits the nail on the head.
Sep. 11th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
yeah, there should be an option on the right-hand side of the home page where you can manage all of your requests. i think the reason why i prefer facebook the most over myspace or livejournal is the ease with which you can search for and network people, like the "mutual friends" feature and such.
Sep. 21st, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
I wouldn't develop facebook apps because they only want applications that keep users on the facebook site:


but food fight? I'm so there...

*throws a cupcake at darknote*
Sep. 26th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
i'm just catching up and reading this blog entry.

pretty fantastic. thanks.
( read spoken (13) — speak )


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