Monthly Archives: August 2007

The Options for Controlling The Noise Level on Your Facebook News Feed

To continue the conversation about Facebook and to respond to Daniel’s comment, there is a way in Facebook that you can control the level of noise in the News Feed.

From the news feed, you can click “Preferences.” You’ll be presented with some sliders. There you can choose how much of what story types you to see. These look cool but you can’t really tell if they have any effect or not on what stories are present.

Facebook News Feed Preferences

You also have the option of seeing more or seeing no updates from certain friends. This seems like it could be more useful.

Facebook See More or Less About Friends

While it’s good to see that Facebook has some preference options like this, I’d really like to see something more.

MSU Launches Interactive Map: a Google Maps & Building Data Mashup

MSU Interactive Campus Map Screenshot

During my tenure on the Michigan State University Web Team, we were just starting to talk about how we could take the online campus map to the next level, throwing out ideas and developing prototypes.

I am very happy to see that today they have launched the interactive campus map (http://maps.msu.edu/interactive/). It mashes up the building data with Google Maps. Users can easily do things like search for specific buildings on campus or look for all of the campus parking spots.

Kudos to the team!  It’s exciting to see this site out in the wild. I look forward to hearing what type of feedback they get.

Buy Cameron Moll’s Book “Mobile Web Design”

The mobile phone is hands down one of the most ubiqutous devices ever made. If you have a message that you’re trying to communicate over the Web, it’s a medium that you can’t ignore. The problem is that the medium is new enough (at least within the United States) that most of us don’t know enough about it.

Well this week Web industry luminary Cameron Moll released his book “Mobile Web Design.” The book is a great high level introduction to the Mobile Web and how to develop for it. It’s available only in PDF and costs $19.

Pick it up right now!

Have you read the book? What do you think of it?

If They Know, Why Doesn’t Facebook Let Me See Just My Real Friends?

There is this really cool conversation going in the blogosphere right now about real friends vs. online friends and how they’re played out in social networking applications.

Facebook has allowed you to stay in touch with more than just your close day to day friends. It has given you the power to track and keep in touch with your whole friendship ecosystem.  It allows you to keep in touch with everyone from your best friends to the person you met a conference once to your long lost friend from third grade.

The thing is for the most part all of the relationships are seen as the same in Facebook.  This makes it incredibly hard to filter out the noise and just hear the signal because you have this constant stream of everyone’s activity.

Robert Scoble has very elequently stated in some recent videos how Facebook knows who you’re close to.  They can tell you interact with, message, poke, attend events, went to school with and so on.  You think they could put in some type of automatic filter that allowed me to see my close friends more prominently then the person from the the conference who I don’t really talk to or know that well.  The thing is… they don’t have this feature.

Facebook should be using all of this activity and attention data to shape how we see the dat that is being presented to us.

Right now there is a Facebook Application where you can choose who your “Top Friends” are (which I still think is a dumb idea). I’d love to see an application which would show you who your top friends are purely based on the history of all your interactions on Facebook.

Digg Redesign Launches But Still No OpenID Support

The Digg community woke up this morning to a new design of their favorite Web site.  Kevin Rose and Daniel Burka announced the redesign as a step toward allowing them to add new features like Digg Images. (Big whoop! Geeks will be voting on their favorite lolcat. It’s nothing that exciting.)

I was kind of hoping that we’d finally get OpenID support at Digg but alas alack no such luck.

Has the excitement around OpenID fizzled out? It just seems like there aren’t many big companies with are following through with their support of the technology.  It was kind of hoping that support at Digg would help to keep the torch going.

Facebook’s News Feed – Aggregating Together Your Friends’ Social Activity History (Or Not)

Tonight, we continue our walk through Facebook, looking at what it has to offer.

In today’s active global society, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on with all of your friends. Facebook is ingenious because its convinced users to record their social history in one central location. That social history can then be easily exposed to those that are within your social network.

Within Facebook, this was first done with by getting a very high level view of what friends had changed their profile. Later, Facebook added the ever infamous News Feed, which makes every change within a users social history available for public view. As we all knew this caused a outcry.

During the outcry, users finally started to realize the level of detail that they were exposing to their friends. Now instead of just exposing less of their social history through Facebook, users decided to just hide themselves from the News Feed. It’s entirely possible that there could be things happening with your friends that you don’t know about because all you’re doing is paying attention to the news feed.

What if I wanna expose my social activity history to some people and not to others? One of the biggest added values of Facebook is being able to see that aggregated view of your entire network’s activity. If key people are being hid, it makes it less useful. The thing is I’m forced to treat my long lost friend from 5th grade the same way I treat my best friends. There is no way you can choose who you expose information to.

I think so much could be done with the News Feed. I’d love to see it be rethought or redone.

Google Web History Could Power Its Social Search

I’ve really enjoyed the conversation that has taken place around Robert Scoble’s videos on, “Why Mahalo, TechMeme, and Facebook are going to kick Google’s butt in four years.”

The basic idea is that the Web has gotten too big and Google doesn’t have the power to sift the crap out of its search engine.  Scoble thinks that with things like Mahalo‘s human-powered search and Facebook, we’ll be able to better understand what sites we should trust and what sites our friends trust.

While this is interesting, haven we forgotten about Google Web History?  Maybe no one else uses this, but it allows Google to keep a history of the sites that you go to which in turn helps to customize your personal search.

The argument could be made that just the act of surfing the Web will show some types of implicit endorsement of some pages and not of others.  If Google knows what pages you click and and how long you stay there, it can also understand what pages resonate with you.  Google doesn’t need systems which give more explicit endorsements of Web pages, like Yahoo has with Del.icio.us.

What do you think?

Is Facebook creating better community or making our relationships more shallow?

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Facebook.   Jeremiah, Scoble, and Nick can’t stop talking about it.  Scoble recently called Facebook “the new business card.” For me, my excitement goes in waves.  I get excited about it and then I two or three weeks without using it.

I just wonder… is Facebook helping us to stay in touch with our community or is it making our relationships more shallow and voyeuristic?

A few weeks ago, I was saying good bye to one of my friends who was moving out of town.   I said something like, “We should make sure that we’re Facebook friends.  It’ll help us all stay in touch.”   So a good face-to-face relationship has turned into the Facebook Newsfeed and Wall posts?  Whats up with that?

There is the Facebook Platform which people are so excited about.  Just take a look at the top applications… Top Friends, Super Poke, Graffiti, Free Gifts, Fortune Cookie, and Horoscope.    While poking people can be fun for a little while, which of these Facebook apps really benefit my life in any way?  They don’t send me running to my computer when I get home from work.

I think Facebook Groups is probably one of the most underdeveloped features in the whole product.  For the most part, people don’t take advantage of the actual group aspects of the application.  Facebook Groups have become profile labels.  You can  be in the “I like naps” group.  This group doesn’t talk about naps or plan get togethers to nap.  It’s just a label.

The Facebook Newsfeed is cool but some people use it and some people don’t.  A lot of times the people that I want to hear from or about keep their updates private and so I’ll never see them.   I dunno.

Just so I’m not all negative… Facebook Events are great.  If I’m marketing a get together, it’s one medium for getting the word out.  For some reason, I still prefer Upcoming as a main marketing tool.   I like Facebook Photos but I feel pretty emotionally invested in Flickr.  I like Facebook Video, especially being able to send my long distance friend video messages.

I dunno….

Over the next week I wanna write a series of posts about Facebook.  I’m going to dive into more of the features.  I want to dive into the philosophy of Facebook and see if I can identify what about it is missing and were it could be improved.  I’ll also see if I can identify what type of social need its filling which is causing it to be so successful.

SXSW Panels That I Wouldn’t Miss (If They Got Accepted)

2008 will be the year that I go to my first South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference. I’m not really sure why I haven’t gone yet but I know I’m not missing this one.

I was taking a stroll through the panel picker application, where you can vote one which panels ideas (there are 688 of them… WOW!) you think look interesting and that you’d want to attend. I quickly started to see the names of people I recognized as well as my friends.

These are some of the panels ideas that stood out for me (NOTE: I voted for many more than this)…

What panels look good to you? Which ones would you be excited about? What ones do you think I should vote for?