In messing around with Timeline over the last few days, I’ve started to think about why I use Facebook and the type of information I’m looking for. Maybe I’m an average user, maybe not – but if my experience is typical of most others, then the Timeline experiment needs to be tweaked.
Some data I’d like to see from Facebook:
1. Percentage of time average user spends on News Feed
2. Percentage of time average user spends on their own profile
3. Percentage of time average user spends on a friend’s profile
4. Percentage of time average user spends on a brand/corporate profile
And, most importantly:
5. In 6 months, I want to know how these percentages have changed given the introduction of Timeline
I’ve been flummoxed by Timeline. I don’t even like looking at my own. The UX is jumbled and hard to decipher. I can’t tell what the order of events is (which is a problem given that everything on Facebook has been reverse chronological so far) and 2 staggered columns is a big miss. I can’t properly read the thing, so I’m not going to take the time to examine what’s in it (or anyone else’s). But there are more important problems.
I’m not looking backwards. And I probably don’t care what you were doing in 1994.
And because of that I’m not that interested in Timeline. Nostalgia might have a place in social web, but I don’t think it’s the primary focus.
Additionally, Facebook now faces the same problem that Google+ faces with Circles. Timeline forces users to do something proactive that takes them out of their current stream of activity. What’s the value proposition of going back and filling out all the information on your Timeline? The saving grace for Timeline is that retroactively filling out information is not the main value proposition (the way Circling people is for Google+) – you can just look forward and Timeline will still work. And undoubtedly, Facebook will make changes and it’ll work.
People flow through information on the Internet. They don’t want to have to jump out of that stream to add in information that won’t be immediately recognized. Explain to me why I want to insert things into my timeline from 1992? or 1998? or 2007? Now, moving forward, I’ll be more interested in what shows up in my timeline. And if I were younger and new to Facebook, then this would be marvelous. But that’s not my situation.
It’s simply additional work.
And that brings me back to my initial data requests. What are people using Facebook for? To really learn a lot of information about their friends’ pasts (aka The Stalker Special)? Or are they looking for updates? I think it’s the latter. I have Facebook open on my computer all day long and it stays on the News Feed. If I see an interesting story, I’ll click on it, but I’ll rarely go to the person’s profile who posted the story or update. Why would I leave my stream of updates?
Maybe this is a fundamental change in how Facebook wants us to use the network. At the start it was spending time perfecting your profile and stalking other people. Then the News Feed popped up, people raged against it, and it ended up becoming crucial to the experience. Because Facebook stopped being about static information on your profile and more about what people were doing (hence, the need for a tool that brought you updates). Timeline is the next step in that notification. Automating the sharing process and placing it on your profile. But why use Timeline instead of a normal profile? That’s the part I’m not fully clear about yet.
With the number of information (or distraction) options available on the internet, I just can’t see people spending so much time on friend’s Timelines.