Facebook: The Timeline and Frictionless Sharing

It’s been 5 days since Facebook introduced a series of changes that will roll out gradually over the next few weeks.  As someone that works in Social Media, I spent countless hours thinking about these changes and also implementing and playing with whatever new features I could get my hands on.

I’ve played with Facebook’s new timeline feature.  I’ve tried out several services that utilize the new frictionless sharing features of the Open Graph.  And, as always, I have some thoughts.

The Good: Timeline

Facebook’s new timeline replacement for the traditional profile is an innovative and creative addition to Facebook.  It is visually appealing and gives a glimpse into other people’s lives in a way most Facebook stalkers could only dream of before.  I really do like it.

I do still take issue with one thing, and this is a personal preference: I can’t stand Facebook making ANY decisions FOR me.  If I’m going to be given a timeline to tell the story of my life, I want it blank.  I don’t like the idea of Facebook culling through my stuff and creating the timeline for me.  Their algorithm might be good but I’d rather opt-in to having certain information on my timeline, than needing to go through and remove stuff.   I am given plenty of control to curate it after the fact and I can also make additions at any point on the timeline.

One more thing: It is also fairly complex to understand who can see what applications on my timeline, I’d almost rather everything be public or private.

Besides that I think Timeline is a HUGE win for Facebook.

The Bad: Frictionless sharing

Sharing without intention is not social, it’s overwhelming, it’s noise. Not everything I read, I endorse. Not everything I watch, I like. Not everything I listen to, I want to share. Without intention it’s simply surveillance.  Now when I visit certain sites I have to carefully choose which stories I should even click on.  What happens when I listen to a song and wind up hating it, why should that be “automagically” shared?

The real time ticker is not a feature that improves the experience of Facebook, it simply adds noise and clutter to an otherwise complicated and busy page.  What frictionless sharing is doing is simply providing more data for Facebook to build a behavioral profile on you, sell more ads and make more money.  The way this was implemented has NOTHING to do with social.  It is a move intended to get you sharing more information by removing your filter from the equation.

I’ve now spent several days watching update upon update of what people are listening to, and what they are commenting on and what they are liking.  I don’t know which songs that they are listening to are songs they love, songs they are just trying out, or songs playing because they left Spotify running.  This constant stream of noise has cause me to drop my Facebook usage dramatically.  I want to scream at the side of my screen “STOP MOVING!”

Why do I need to see the move that my friends are playing in Words with Friends?  Why do I care what each and every person in my network is listening to?  Here’s the answer, I DON’T.  And I suspect that most of you don’t either.

The features could be social if they were implemented on our terms but again, they are not.  Going to the music section of Facebook and seeing what friends are listening to could be social.  By entering the music section of the site, I am choosing to listen to music, or at least choosing to enter the section of the site that deals with music.  When I’m there I can interact with my friends are discuss music.  Having those same updates pushed to that god awful ticker is an entirely different design and functionality decision.

In short, I think frictionless sharing is horrible and quite honestly it makes me angry.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Mark Zuckerberg keeps making the statement that every year people share twice the amount of information they shared in the previous year.

Bullshit.  

Facebook is building their platform specifically to increase the amount of information people are sharing.  Adding the Like button increased the amount of information people were sharing simply because it is creating data that could not have existed before the button.  Similarly, frictionless sharing will cause people to share volumes more information than ever before, because they have been fundamentally removed from the process of determining which pieces of information to share.

Zuckerberg made another statement not too long ago claiming that very few people actually utilized the lists feature on Facebook.  This is another case of Facebook creating their own statistic.  Lists were obscured so Facebook could push their News Feed.  Prior to the release of smart lists, Facebook lists were obscured behind no less than 3 clicks.  The process for managing lists was simply terrible.  And to follow the content of a single friend list took another 3 clicks.  If you make something difficult to use people won’t likely use it.  If you remove people from having to decide what to share, you will see more sharing.  It’s that simple.  Facebook is not reacting to statistics and user feedback, they are manufacturing it and using the data it creates to make the next change.

Great possibility tarnished by complexity

Perhaps what has me in a tizzy the most is that even I can’t wrap my head around the enormous number of features and relationships between applications, sites,pages, friends and settings.  I say “even I” because I work in Social Media.  I write about this, I read about this, I study this and I use this…on a daily basis.  What about Grandma?  You see, what is going on right now is the over-complicate-ification (I made that word up) of Facebook.  By continually adding more features and making it more difficult to understand the relationships between applications, permissions and functionality of Facebook, the biggest losers are the average users.

The page has gotten busy, the number of features overwhelming and even those of us in this industry consider throwing our hands in the air and turning over our social security cards to Facebook.  It’s almost impossible to fight at this point.

The Unscathed Behemoth

Facebook  seems to emerge, not only unscathed by constant privacy issues and site changes that anger users, but they emerge victorious adding users by the millions.  People roll onto their backs and submit to the social networking giant, just to have the opportunity to connect with one another.

What choice do we really have?  My whole social graph isn’t about to up and move to Google+ or Twitter, I’m SURE of it because I’ve been beating the Twitter drum for years now.  So, no matter how much I hate a feature, worry about a setting or wish for a viable replacement, it seems as though Facebook is here to stay.  Enjoy the noise my friends, enjoy the noise.

 

  • Dali Burgado

    Jeff, Amen and Bravo, buddy!

    Especially the annoyance of having Facebook create the timeline for you and then you needing to remove junk!

    Couldn’t agree more with:
    “If you remove people from having to decide what to share, you will see more sharing.”

    Yes, the biggest losers are the average users!

    Awesome stuff!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Dali

  • http://newraycom.com Ray Hiltz

    Great stuff, Jeff. And not only because I agree with you but you bring up two points that especially pisses me off about Facebook and do so very adroitly. 
    1. Grandma. Zuckerberg et al know where their bread is buttered and we (social media types) aren’t the place. They’re the people who innocently enough give all their personal date to Facebook. Sure they hear about privacy issues, but Grandma know how to do two things; power up the computer and post an update on Facebook (which is probably never closed.)2. On one hand, Facebook digs into your history to lay out your timeline, on the other, it touts it’s serendipity feature on Ticker, Talk about a goldmine for Big Brands and Facebook coffers.Enjoyed, thanks.

  • http://www.socialmediaphilanthropy.com Jeff Gibbard

    Thanks Dali. So nice to meet you across the many social channels. Glad you liked the post.

  • http://www.socialmediaphilanthropy.com Jeff Gibbard

    It’s funny because I’ve gotten bent out of shape along the way with regards to Facebook’s attack on privacy and forced openness. The reason I’ve gotten upset is not because of ME. I live fairly open. I spend a ton of time on Twitter and live very openly, it’s part of my business, it’s part of who I am. Where I take issue is on behalf of those that don’t know any better. The vast majority of Facebook users are entirely unaware of the massive implications of site changes. This is also why I am so strongly opposed to Facebook’s decisions to make everything opt out, rather than opt in. They target and prey upon those that are unaware.

    Thanks for the comment. I love hearing back from readers.

  • http://www.sixyearitch.com Liz Henry

    I agree 100% with everything you wrote here. I’ve started using Facebook as my blog page for everything. At the moment, no privacy concerns there, not a huge amount of noise, etc. Sure, I can’t connect with family or friends (but those people are on twitter). My family? I never used Facebook for that. The downside: I can’t message anyone as my page. They truly are the behemoth that won’t go away. 

    I’m actually quite concerned about my privacy and the new updates. Before, someone would have to wade through tons of data. Now, it’s a yearly click away. What it says to me is: now, more than ever, you better be pretty damn sure that what you share won’t come back to bite you in the ass. And, for me, that means sharing pretty much nothing. 

  • http://twitter.com/kflores Kevin Flores

    Great Article Jeff!  I definitely agree with you.  As you point out, the scariest thing is that the ‘masses’ just roll with the new features and that is what matters to Facebook – to the end of collecting more data. It’s crazy how complex the system is getting.  I noticed that the privacy settings “look” simpler, but really aren’t given how much new functionality is coming online.

    Very nervous about changes will come to brand / company pages, too.

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