25 July 2007

Impressions of Facebook

In between consulting gigs and standards meetings, I've gotten interested in social networking, web 2.0, and other recent buzz. I started using del.icio.us to share my bookmarks, and Twitter, and got busy with my LinkedIn account (which had been idling around 8 contacts for a long time).

The biggest buzz lately is around Facebook. Some kind of tipping point has been reached on this very recently. There are impressive growth numbers for Facebook, articles about Facebook elbowing out LinkedIn, and Facebook announced new platform APIs a few weeks ago. I figured I'd better join Facebook if I wanted to understand what the APIs can do. So, I'm a Facebook user for the last week (and I already have 4 friends; I guess I haven't tried very hard :-)

These are some initial impressions on using Facebook.

Profile. So I joined and I am presented with some forms to fill out for my profile. The basic profile questions are definitely left over from Facebook's days as a college dating service: Interested in: Men? Women? Relationship status: (my favorite choice was, "It's complicated". I could answer most questions people ask me with that). Then there's Looking for: Friendship, A Relationship, Whatever I can get, Dating, Random Play. Contrast this with the LinkedIn choices: consulting offers, new ventures, expertise requests, business deals, reference requests, getting back in touch. In either case, the choices are pretty limiting; predefined fields don't do much for me, and I don't enjoy filling them out. Especially the personal ones: Interests, Activities (and what's the difference between those two?), ... I would love to see a tagging interface, where I can pick tags or create my own, both for the categories and my answers.

Persona. Filling out the profile, I don't know what persona others will see. It's hard to tell what is visible to whom. And I don't yet know who "whom" is -- I'm just starting out: what's a network? what's a group? Which ones might interest me? What will they see about me?

Finding friends. The means for finding contacts (address books and selected email providers) does not give me a warm fuzzy. Maybe I'll upload an exported version of my AddressBook, so Facebook can search through it. Yawn.
I manage to find exactly 2 people thanks to my google mail address book, and AIM buddy list. So I invite them...
I ask myself, well what else can I do? I can post a picture of myself, but still don't know what my "page" looks like. I can write stuff on "The Wall". What's that? Who sees it? Everyone? My (then zero) friends? And what's a Poke?
Until you can participate in the community, it's hard to see what kinds of things you can do ....

User Interface. I haven't figured out how to rearrange the layout of my page. (Do they call them pages?) It would be nice if I could apply my own CSS stylesheet. On searches, and stuff, I really dislike the 10 items at-a-time view limitation. Maybe it's settable somewhere.

There's a hard limit on number of networks you can be a member of (5) and on how many groups you can participate in (200). I guess that's no big deal; at least not for me.

Enough for now. I'll add to this as I keep playing.

[For another time: Is Facebook the new Lotus Notes? (Anyone out there who wants to tackle this?)]

Next post: Facebook and NING APIs compared and contrasted.

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