Wellington author Burton Silver‘s successful book Why Cats Paint was a sharp dig at the world of art critics. The premise being that cats can’t paint meaningfully, but that their art is often indistinguishable from some critically acclaimed art.
And so it is my contention that Facebook was created by cats. Clearly it wasn’t created by sensible humans or it wouldn’t exhibit the scatter-gun approach to user interface design. No, it wasn’t carefully modelled after established patterns or carefully designed and tested by the industry’s leading minds. I reckon someone taught a cat or two, probably two or more as it is also apparently not of one mind, how to use a GUI interface designer and let them loose.
The latest incarnation of “Home” on Facebook consists of a stream of inanity updates from my friends contacts, surrounded by no less than five types of controls for taking you to other, mostly less intuitive parts of the experience. The clever part is that, depending on whether you use the web site proper, the mobile version of the site, or a mobile application, some parts of these controls are simply not available. This suggests to me they should be absent from all versions of the experience.
The other day I was checking to see if anyone had anything interesting to say and noted an interesting “notification” from one contact that referred to a private item. As I actually like this person, I tapped my iPhone screen where it said “click here” to see it. Nothing happened. It wasn’t a live link. Sigh!
So I fired up the Facebook site on my iPhone’s browser and it gave me a custom iPhone experience. Nice. Except “Notifications” was nowhere to be found. Sigh!
So I forced it to use the full site on the iPhone and for the life of me I could not figure out where to get notifications from. I finally visited the site on my Mac tonight and discovered you get notifications from area number three, the toolbar at the bottom of the screen which cleverly remains static as you scroll so that your brain overlooks it all the way to the bottom of the page. I’d probably not have spotted this had there not been a red “1″ badged on the otherwise agnostic icon.
So having found the notification, I clicked the link.
And got an error. Sigh!!
Another attempt after a few minutes seems to have got past the error, and given me instead one of those “Allow access?” pages which is asking me to sign all my data over to something called “Online Friends”.
I need another ‘application’ to view this thing? And if my Facebook contacts aren’t “Online Friends”, then what are they? I click on a link which should show me what “Online Friends” actually does.
View which of your friends are online whether they are logged in or out of chat.
Riiiight! I need a special application to do instant messaging and presence. So this is what everyone has been talking about. Well, what a waste of time. Only one of my contacts, apparently, has this installed. Hardly useful now, is it? I’ve visited numerous web sites where I have an identity and online presence is an option you simply turn on or off. I’m already logged in. Why isn’t that enough?
Once again it falls into stark clarity for me. The only reason I am using Facebook is because some people I know are using it. Well, some people I care to associate with, anyway. It is the Microsoft Windows of the social networking world. People only use it because other people use it. I certainly didn’t sign up until I had several friends suggest it.
Given the way many people, including myself, use the “What’s on your mind?” status updates, and the way the site design is heading, it’s a bloated Twitter. An overly complex, annoying, scatter-brained, bloated Twitter. The one thing Twitter is, is simple.
So – if you know me and want to be a part of my online life, here’s how you do it.
If you want to know what I’m thinking, saying, doing – follow me on Twitter.
If you want to see my photos, check out my Flickr page.
If you want to know what else I do online, check out my various web sites.
It’s your choice which parts of my online presence you participate in, and I promise you they’re all simpler than Facebook.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to offend anybody except those responsible for Facebook.