November 28, 2007

why facebook might be consigning themselves to the slushpile of history.

["Social Media". Drew it about 20 minutes ago. Inspired the post below etc.]

So what's stopping Facebook from putting in a small, tickable box that says, "Please do not let my 'Friends' send me any more of these REALLY ANNOYING Vampire/Zombie/Super wall/Super Poke/Whatever invites. I really, really don't want them etc..."?

Heck, it would probably take one of their junior coders only a few minutes to do. What's the problem?

I'm starting to suspect the short answer is, they WANT you to spend hour after hour after hour every month on their pages, deleting the crap. Makes the numbers look better for their bean counters:

"Yes, Mr Investor, people are spending on average 4 hours a day on our site. Can we have your vast pots of money now?"

But when in fact, 3 hours and forty five minutes of said 4 hours is spent deleting Zombie invites and their ilk, you start getting the feeling that somebody in Silicon Valley is taking somebody else for for a little ride.

I'm not saying this is what Facebook is doing. I'm saying this is what it's starting to feel like to me, more and more.

Don't get me wrong, I generally like Facebook and have found it mostly useful. I've even met their CEO, Mark Zuckerberg once before and liked the guy.

That being said, if they want to fix the problem, they can easily do so. If they do not, they're sadly just consigning themselves to the slushpile of history.

["HUGH'S THIRD LAW": If you p*ss in the soup for long enough, eventually it stops tasing like soup."]

[UPDATE:] Oh, Happy Day. Looks like Facebook now lets you ban annoying apps on the latter's Facebook homepages. Look for the link at the bottom right hand corner. Rock on.

Posted by hugh macleod at November 28, 2007 2:15 PM | TrackBack

I'm with you Hugh. I've actually written friends and said: please do not check all friends.. and specifically unchoose me from any of these apps.

Doesn't work.

Now it seems like I only go to Facebook because I like the way you can play scrabulous from their page. I ignore almost everything else. Seriously thinking that I don't need Facebook anymore.

Posted by: debra at November 28, 2007 2:39 PM

A mere month ago I thought Facebook was just great. But it is getting tiring... very, very, quickly.
What will we do next? Anyone?

Posted by: dc crowley at November 28, 2007 2:51 PM

The *only* thing Facebook is good at is being viral.

Posted by: Julian Bond at November 28, 2007 3:08 PM

Love this drawing. Hope to get one from you at Netcamp in Bucharest :)

How does it get social if friends are not there around anymore? I wouldn't blame Facebook for the lost time, but i would blame the "friends" for the existence of Facebook.

Posted by: Claudiu Murariu at November 28, 2007 3:09 PM

LOL ... Great point. I mostly let those invitations pile up on the side for days until I can't take it anymore. Why not offer a bulk management system, where I can delete or accept them all at once?

There could even be a filtering system, where you would only get invites to business apps, or from certain friends only. You could group your friends into those you want to get invites from and those you don't. In fact there's a whole bunch of ways they could make it easier for us to manage this never-ending slab of BACN on our sidebar!

I'm guessing they want to put all apps on an even footing so that you'll get invites to those things that do interest you, as well as the zombie hugs that don't.

Posted by: Alex at November 28, 2007 3:11 PM

Indeed. They need something better than "ignore" and "accept".

Posted by: Mari Adkins at November 28, 2007 3:19 PM

See, this is MySpace all over again, who puffed up their statistics by requiring a lot of page views. Only with Facebook, it's interacting with apps. The thing is, Hugh, I joined FB when I saw it got your endorsement. This sudden about-face of yours is rather surprising, especially since the "zombie invite problem" has been around for a long time on FB. What's next?

Posted by: Paul S. at November 28, 2007 3:35 PM

1) Because the apps and the data scraping are what make the money.

2) Because without the apps, what is Facebook except a one to many email service?

Posted by: John Dodds at November 28, 2007 3:36 PM

Agreed. I went to facebook and visited everyday because it was less annoying than Myspace and all the dumb chain letters and bulletins people post-- and I think you make a great point about it looking like they're just exploding pageviews-- It's becoming annoying now to deny the 20+ app invites I get everyday and now it's just another annoying social networking site to me when it could have been something great.

I might move my stuff over to utterz now.

Posted by: D.J. Coffman at November 28, 2007 3:48 PM

if facebook was smart then they would have sold their services to companies looking for internal social networks. imagine how awesome it would be for different groups to have different applications to work with, adding friends, show where you are within the company, and even have an internal CV of what it is you're working on and have worked on inside your company.

Posted by: Stefan Constantinescu at November 28, 2007 3:49 PM

I think you have to remember that a lot of people are still working Facebook out. We didn't witness people learning the web for the first time, but with FB we kind of have to. I think it'll go like this:

1. For a while people will entertain themselves with zombie stuff

2. Then they'll start looking for more interesting uses of the social graph and a few apps (think sharing useful data with friends, dating, etc.) will start to get traction

3. There on out, app developers will stop cutting their teeth on toy apps and start innovating

It's going to be painful to get there, but it will happen, and it won't just be Facebook: it'll be cross-site so you might be in FB whilst I'm in MySpace or whatever (thanks to the open API efforts of several players, that FB will have to sign up to eventually).

Think back to how bad the web was in the early days. Think how it matured and we started getting useful things out of it eventually.

We're very early on in the arch of developing social networking applications, but it won't take 1/10th the time it took for the web to mature.

Posted by: Paul Robinson at November 28, 2007 3:53 PM

I was starting to think that I was the only one that was annoyed by facebook. Its like you read my mind Hugh, (or I read yours... here on this blog, ... doh!)

Posted by: Convictus at November 28, 2007 4:11 PM

Anybody remember Friendster?

The douchebags got ahold of it so everybody jumped to MySpace. Then along come the douchebags again and its all "Facebook is the greatest man." Guess who's back? If you didn't answer "the douchebags," you need to return your computer to the Apple store.

Posted by: Scott R at November 28, 2007 4:13 PM

Every dog has its day. Humans have their 15 minutes. FB has what? Odd tasting soup?

Posted by: robert at November 28, 2007 5:13 PM

One of the problems for said junior coder is defining 'annoying', of course. Facebook doesn't have a system of rating application developers or applications that I've seen and until that happens, how does the code underneath the tick-box decide whether to show you an invitation or not?

My partner puts Scrabulous into the 'really annoying' category, mainly because half her office are working their fingers to the bone and the others are playing Scrabble. How does Facebook differentiate between her and Debra above?

Posted by: jfs at November 28, 2007 5:14 PM

Oh Hugh, these problems don't exist for me, or most normal people. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that you're a popular blogger and that you accept every goddamn friend request. If you let the noise in, don't be surprised when it sticks around. Why negotiate with the viking horde when you've given them the keys to the castle?

Posted by: Tony K at November 28, 2007 5:26 PM

This is so damn right and it is just about to backlash,

Some blogger described it as fram - spam from friends.

For me it is the the big scam of facebook - it's forced virality and not genuine.


Posted by: Asi at November 28, 2007 5:29 PM

I am repulsed and slightly amused by facebook. I read a lot of social philosophy by Jean Baudrillard... and basically his thinking says that the over-abundance of imagery and media creates a non-event. Things become less relevant. Also - in this day in age.. there is no more a concrete form of identity with the advent of electronic medium. There's lots of money to be made off of the cult of 'personality'... hence blogging etc.

I suggest you read his 'The intelligence of evil or the lucidity pact'. It's amazing.

I don't know if you realize this or not.. but facebook was originally a social networking site for college students. Then - it was open to the public. My friends and I were actually talking about this today how its gone down hill. Facebook is the new myspace. For instance, my friend Lee said he got a friend invite from a porn chick to look at her webcam. And we were talking about how the applications have gotten out of hand. I started counting how many I had.. and lets just say its ridiculous.

Posted by: Mary Mullane at November 28, 2007 5:31 PM

Oh.. and interestingly enough... Jean Baudrillard's last entry in The intelligence of evil advocates creating rules and illusion to combat 'virtual reality'. Hahahha... So keep on making some Hugh laws.

Posted by: Mary Mullane at November 28, 2007 5:35 PM

@Toni K, I'm not a famous blogger and with only 100 some friends on facebook I'm already TIRED of ignoring cause and games invitations.

Another alternative would be to force people to check the friends they want to send the app invite one by one, that would more than compensate for the time I spend deleting. Win win.

Posted by: Joaquin at November 28, 2007 5:56 PM

at least no one can argue thatfacebook being operates as "walled garden" ;)
anyway that's on the table at the moment. changing term wall (of "walled garden") to "firewall".

Posted by: Danijel Kecman at November 28, 2007 9:55 PM

with every app you can choose to block it to prevent future invitations.

Posted by: marcel weiß at November 28, 2007 10:25 PM

Spit n suck, open API´s and OWN your own data by creating your own social network (a´la ning or peopleaggregator). Bcause the current status and trend is just silly.

Posted by: J at November 28, 2007 10:44 PM

Geez, if Facebook isn't the place for zombie invites, then what's it good for?

Posted by: Prentiss Riddle at November 29, 2007 2:13 AM

Lots of people are getting sick of the spam. THere's a group that's been started that is solely for the purpose of getting people to list what they feel are the most annoying apps. The group creators then post a link to where users can block each app.

It's not much, but it's a start.

Posted by: Jay at November 29, 2007 2:43 AM

The problem with a social netwroking site than spans the entire population is that you end up being friends with the same people you've spent years trying to avoid in the real world.

Facebook officially jumped the shark for me when my mother-in-law signed up this week.

Posted by: Ben Rowe at November 29, 2007 6:45 AM

The problem with Facebook is not that some of us are tired of it and only spend hours in there to clean up invites to weird/ useless apps.

The problem with Facebook is that the vast majority of users (mostly everyone I know) does use the same hours to spam the few of us.

It's my guess that their usage figures are more correct than I'd like to admit.

Another guess is that in order for the situation to change there has to come something new, with the potential to replace Facebook, so the users can migrate.

We could also dream that a lot of people suddenly write blogs (instead of publishing photos and status messages), get challenging jobs (it's mainly at work that they spam us), and generally get social in real life.

As the latter suggestions are far fetched, what stops any of us tired and upset ones to delete our profile? What do we get out of Facebook to justify staying there?

Posted by: gorgeoux at November 29, 2007 12:11 PM

I drafted this and then rejigged it today because of your post. The message is certainly the same - I have a creepy feeling about these social network thingys. Its a lockin arrangement. At least blogging is your own choice of host etc.

Posted by: Shane at November 29, 2007 1:23 PM

It was fun for a while. I'm moving on. Surely such is the nature of temporary/internet things. Not everyone can contain themselves and be elegant online.

Less is more. Facebook does too much; like a flashy mobile (yes I mean iPhone) usually you just want to call people with it, the rest is often superfluous.

Posted by: Jill at November 29, 2007 3:27 PM

I agree. And why can't you sort your friends so your kooky cousin who flirts with, bites, is friends with, reads, and flipping spends 12 hours a day on Facebook doesn't even show up unless she did something for you.

Are you listening Facebook? I'm not interested anymore. I loved you because I could find out when my friends were going on vacation or getting married, not when they virtually fart on someone...

Posted by: holly at November 29, 2007 10:06 PM

I've complained to a friend that she actively invited me to SuperWall, Zombie, Glitter and she said she did no such thing. Is Facebook sending out automated add-to-apps that neither friend knows about?

Posted by: Loring Wirbel at November 29, 2007 10:41 PM
Is Facebook sending out automated add-to-apps that neither friend knows about?

I think apps have the ability to send out the messages themselves.

Although I took away permission for the Facebook api to access my information before the apps were even rolled out, so I'm pretty clueless.

Posted by: Tree at November 30, 2007 3:03 PM

Looks like FB is starting to feel the heat on this topic already.

Not sure how far they're going to "reign themselves in," but it's a start.

Posted by: Jon at November 30, 2007 5:30 PM

Dude, you can block the apps you don't like. It sort of sucks, but it totally works. Just do it.

Posted by: Jake at December 1, 2007 12:58 AM