Aug
03

Exposing the naughty bits: 10 new Facebook features nobody was asking for

So yesterday, I accidentally exposed my naughty bits on Facebook. It was okay though, because it was a Private Group. You know. Members only. But to my shock and dismay, a new Facebook notice appeared out of nowhere that told me 55 people had seen my naughty bits. But only four had Liked them. You might think I’d want to know that. I Beg to Differ.

Exposing the naughty bits

Like me, Facebook has been exposing its naughty bits lately. And yes Facebook, they were Seen By many. And not all of us Liked them.

You see, Facebook has this odd way of suddenly adding “features” to its site and mobile apps with little or no warning or explanation. They just appear. And some just make you scratch your head. Now, let it be said: I’m not the type to just complain about change, because some Facebook updates are brilliant, and actually useful things – like Tagging, which appeared in late 2009 to much joy and thumb-upping. Or user friendly names for users and pages. Or Pages themselves. Or Groups. All good.

And some are structural revisions like Timeline - which was disorienting and caused some ripples when it appeared. But largely this kind of change make sense as a step in the evolution of the platform, so the furor died down. And I for one, became a fan. Because Timeline was helpful.

But then there are the others, the “features” that appear suddenly and randomly, but don’t seem to serve any real purpose, and actually hurt Facebook’s usability and simplicity. Or even worse, increase the sense that Facebook is being sneaky or Big Brotherish. So without further ado:

Ten Facebook features we didn’t need

1) “Seen by” in groups

This is the one I mentioned above. Where Facebook tells you how many people have supposedly “seen” your post in a group. And then, if you hover over the “Seen By” message, it tells you who saw it, and what time / date.  I say supposedly, because it’s unclear either a) how Facebook defines “seeing” – i.e. is scrolling past something “seeing” it? or b) why that is even important or relevant information – i.e. to anyone but the most anally retentive admin?

Weird. Creepy. And makes users feel like they are losing a little bit more control over how they interact within a group. Just a bad, anti-social idea.

2) Find Friends Nearby

If you hadn’t heard of this one, it was a mobile feature Facebook tried to introduce quietly that was designed to instantly find friends in the vicinity based on mobile GPS location data. But then, when it rapidly caused a privacy stink, Facebook killed it the same day because it was too obviously creepy-stalkerish, even for Facebook.

3) Your picture in other people’s ads (a.ka. “Sponsored Stories”)

Thanks to Maddie Grant from Social Fish for this one.

This one has been making the news lately because of a just-settled, then un-settled, lawsuit.  Here’s what Facebook officially says about this “feature”. Basically, because you “Liked” something – say OB Tampons – your photo can appear in an OB Tampon ad in my stream. Again. Creepy. And in this case, feels unethical too because Facebook is using people’s faces without permission to endorse products and make money.

4) Facebook e-mail switch

From Shinyshiny.tv

Do you remember back when Facebook wanted to revolutionise the way we message one another by giving us all @facebook.com email addresses? Yeah it was pretty “meh” and no one really cared. Well now in an attempt to make our Facebook inboxes more relevant Zuck and the gang have got rid of your regular email addresses and replaced them with a Facebook one.

Again, silly, creepy, and bad strategy.

5) Editing comments

The problem here is not that you can edit your typos and screw-ups. You could do that (kind of) for a while – but it was time limited, so you could make small changes if you were quick, but after a while, they became permanent. Which worked.  My problems are 1) the bizarre “edit” history thread  that tracks your edits forever, and 2) that they didn’t aply this behaviour consistently – as  Techdrink points out.

But here’s what you can’t do. You can’t edit your comments on the Comments Box plug in used by many websites like TechCrunch (and even TechDrink at one stage). You can’t edit your comments on mobile where it would arguably have been infinitely more useful (isn’t that right, auto correct!). And you still can’t edit original posts!

Also, there is the potential for abuse. Say I post a comment that says “I like kittens!” and 520 people “Like” it. I could then go back and write “Kill all the kittens”, and it would look like all 520 people were secret kitten murderers as well.

The “Ticker”: oooh look! Another place to see Farmville requests!

6) Sidebar “Tickers” – all those bloody right hand sidebars.

Back when I first saw them last August, I thought the new sidebars were kind of cool and an interesting addition to Facebook. That is, until they actually appeared on my Facebook screen, constantly moving as they scroll by, and created an exponential increase in the clutter and “Wall of Noise” effect you get from Facebook.

Gah!!! Again, it made me feel less in control of Facebook. Not good for Facebook!

7) Facebook messages popping up like chat requests

(Thanks to Dave Harrison for this one.)

Yeah. That. We didn’t ask for that one either. It sucks because we could ALWAYS tell when we had a message through that little red icon at the top. But you could ignore it until you actually had time to look. Now it’s in your face and you feel rude if you don’t answer immediately.

8) An iPhone mobile app (and other mobile apps) that really suck

(Thanks to Jon Aston for this one)

Okay, this wasn’t a feature they chose (I hope), but it’s one of my biggest sources of Facebook frustration. I’d love it if they pulled every engineer from the useless projects above and assigned them to fixing their wonky, slow mobile apps. And maybe letting us tag people and do other basic stuff? Huh? Please?!?!

9) People who complain about every new feature on Facebook.

(Thanks to Shelly Kramer for this one)

I agree, in that this annoys me too. But I’d also argue this is actually a “feature” of how Facebook rolls stuff out. By changing so frequently, radically, and in many cases with a tin ear for how the changes may be received, they are constantly shaking the platform. Which makes people feel unsteady.

1o) <Add your own Facebook feature here.>

What do you think? Are we being fair to Facebook? Do they deserve the constant criticism? Please share your pet peeves, your faves, your tirades or praises in the comments.

Comments

  1. ShellyKramer says:

    I think a lot of these things are annoying. But really – if people hate the Facebook experience, they can always quit using it. Sure, the mail changes, the pulling of images for advertising (mostly because people don’t know or care about knowing more about privacy settings – so they can control this), Timeline (which ROCKS), editing posts (which is also a good thing, imo), and Seen By (is this really so bad? not if I’m a group admin, it’s not, and not if the group has a purpose, which then allows me to know what content is resonating and what isn’t).
     
    Seriously, the complaining gets tiresome. And you know I love you. But really? If people hate Facebook so much, I think they should make themselves – and everyone else happy – by not using it. It really is that simple.
     
    And no, Facebook doesn’t care about what you (or I) think. They are in pursuit of their own ends – and what business isn’t? Does your bank ask you what you want before they make changes? No. Does the grocery store ask you when they remodel and rearrange things, making it harder for you to know where things are to buy them? No. Does the highway department ask your opinion about detours and rerouting when maintaining roads? No. And if you don’t like any of that you (1) change banks (2) shop somewhere else (3) take a different route or move to a different city. It really is that easy. 
     
    And if you don’t like change, participating on ANY social network is going to be a problem. 

    •  @ShellyKramer Love you back Shel. But seriously, the “love it or leave it” argument? I complain about Facebook because I do love it and want it to stay the dominant platform. I happen to spend a lot of time there.
      But forget about me: I also want to be able to convince my mom to finally get on Facebook (it’s too complicated and scary for her) and to convince my father-in-law to come back (he’s paranoid about privacy issues and all he hears is news about privacy breaches). And because I’ve invested so much time in building that TImeline for me and my family, I’d love to think Facebook sticks around for generations.
      Because any time you have millions – sorry BILLIONS – spending so much time in a place, they kind of start to feel like they own the place. And they do. Or at least, they own the brand. So if Facebook wants to maintain its leadership, they need to understand that. And respond with humility. 

  2. This is so impressive!

  3. Pinned Post. Such a great idea!
     
    A way to give your Page Purpose & Functionality! Finally, then after weeks if you search & Google the right way you find out that your wonderful pinned Post becomes unpinned after 7 days!
     
    Stupid, Stupid, Stupid Facebook. Completely messes up all your Purpose & Functionality for your page. Why not let us Pin a Post to the top & decide when we want to change it. Have it Pinned permanently if we so Choose.
     
    For my function I was going to change it monthly. No I have to return every 6 days to screw with it so I can get another 6 days until the end of the Month.
     
    Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Facebook!
     
    Why did my pinned post go away?
    https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=230477247041898#Why-did-my-pinned-post-go-away?
     
    How do you even tell Facebook how Stupid things are? I’ve spent hours searching & this is the only spot I found to release some steam?

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