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Timeline: Let’s Move Forward

December 21st, 2011 1 comment

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.

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Check Yourself Before You ?uest Yourself

December 12th, 2011 No comments

Jimmy Fallon. Some people love him, some people hate him. But, almost everyone can agree that his (or NBC’s) one genius move was getting The Roots to be his house band. The Roots occupy a very comfortable space in the zeitgeist. Even people who don’t like hip hop music like The Roots because “they’re a band” or “they’re conscious rappers.” For a group whose fan base seems to be “coffee shop chicks and white dudes” (their words, not mine), a shift to late night seemed comfortable.

Well, ?uestlove rattled some cages before Thanksgiving and set off a bit of a firestorm. One of the funniest parts of the Jimmy Fallon show has been the walk-on songs that The Roots play when a guest comes out from backstage and sits down on the couches to be interviewed. The songs always embody just the right amount of snark and are usually a fun game for viewers at home to parse through (“Red Red Wine” for Kathie Lee Gifford, “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” for the non-Kim Kardashian sisters, “Loser” for Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt). These Easter eggs have gained some notoriety for the show – NBC even lists them on the Jimmy Fallon site.

The Roots chose a rather rude song for Michelle Bachmann’s walk-on song before Thanksgiving – “Lyin’ Ass B****” by Fishbone. When the walk-on song aired, the ripples on Twitter started emerging with people commenting on the song. And then the mainstream news picked it up and it became a real issue with Bill O’Reilly and others weighing in.

So, it’s clear that ?uestlove doesn’t like Michelle Bachmann. That’s fine, because there are a lot of people for not liking Michelle Bachmann. It’s a free country and there are definite reasons why someone could disagree with her politics. But NBC and many others had a real problem with the song choice (for obvious and justifiable reasons) and now ?uestlove has to have his walk-on choicesscreened by 3 separate NBC higher-ups. And, it could have been worse, because if not for the Bachmann campaign holding back at the end of the day, ?uestlove thought NBC might have firedThe Roots.

Politics and morality aside, there’s an important lesson to be learned here: Tweeting about  your job can get you in trouble. ?uestlove is an NBC employee. He’s also a superstar on Twitter and regularly tweets about his job. During rehearsal for the show that day, ?uestlove indirectly tweeted out about the song. Once that tweet went out, it almost guaranteed that this would be a news story thanks to the amplification that networks like Twitter provide. Granted, ?uestlove probably would have been punished even in a world without Twitter, but the amplification power of social networks guaranteed that this would not fly under the radar. In the world we live in, companies and employees both need to be wary about what they say on networks and need to draw clear lines about what’s fair and foul.

Categories: Internet, Life, Social Networks Tags: