22 March 2007

Social Networking, Minus It Sucking

I register at, and frequently use, a lot of online social networks. The internet's human element has interested me since the moment I first fired up a Telnet (w t f d) client at university in 1993. I quickly realised that I could use it to chat in real-time with friends around the world, which felt pretty revolutionary at the time. Since then, I met the woman I married on Friendster and moved my life across an ocean to work for a social software company.

While there are myriad ways to engage socially on the web today, few require more dedication than a social networking application. I can start a blog with only a few sentences or maybe just a funny YouTube video, but to really use a social network to any extent that will produce actual fun, you have to put work into it. You have to fill out your profile, get your friends to sign up, add some photos to it and so on. Okay, granted, it's not a lot of work compared to, say, building a fully-operational space station with planet-disintegrating lasers (w t f d), but once you've done it on Friendster, then on Orkut and then again on MySpace, do you really feel like doing all over again anywhere else?

With this reluctance, today I registered with Facebook. Why did I bother? Colleagues whose social software opinions I highly value told me it was super great! Why else? And so far I really like what I see.

MySpace makes me die a little inside each time I have to use it. It's not the schizophrenic ways in which people customise their pages or too many LOL OMFG comments (I actually like those, yeah, I'm sorry), it's just the horrible user-interface. It takes me a million clicks to get anywhere and it's zero fun. Perhaps even negative fun. I put work into setting up my profile and getting all my friends into it, but I never got any fun back out of it. I just click and wait, click and wait and bitch and bitch and moan. I know Facebook won't be any MySpace-killer, but as long as the initial investment is lower and it is even slightly more enjoyable to use than MySpace, maybe it'll be fun for a little while until something else shiny distracts me and I sign up for that.

The Facebook feature that became my first favourite is that I can import this blog into Facebook using RSS. This means that I don't have to start a new blog on their site or go blogless as I do with my MySpace account, rather I can easily establish a self-updating connection from here to there. Ace!

I also quite like the fine-grained definitions you can apply to your friendships. If Rin signs up, I can specify that I'm married to her, and next to "Married" in my profile, it will add "...to Rin" and link to her profile. This may not seem like much but I find it to be little nuances like this which make the whole experience more organic. It's a social network and this emphasises The Social. Instead of having your primary way of learning about who I know be through browsing my list of friends, the "Married to..." link brings this connection centrally into my own profile. This small action integrates telling you about who I know with the page that tells you about who I am.

The only bit of advice I have for Facebook this early in my evaluation of their site is that they really should consider making some options radio buttons rather than checkboxes. There are some overlapping relationships that I'd just rather not know about...

Hooking Up with Facebook

(Note: Rik's not my dad, this guy is. And we never hooked up in 1982, I was too busy playing table top Ms. Pac Man at Pizza Hut.)


Edgar said...

I've been an established Facebook user, my only problem is getting Northwestern friends...

I still yet to have one.


This will change next week when I start school here.

Mark my words.

Mark them!

Now to go check your Facebook to see if this comment shows up there...

Social Software FTW!!!