Posted by: Diabolic Preacher | June 19, 2008

Facebook Applications: Encouraging or Discouraging Socialising.

Attempting to write an article after planning the layout with Freemind…hope it turns out to be readable.

Facebook’s been out of colleges and universities of the west for quite some time now and has gathered a large number of users…but what’s more interesting is the deluge of 3rd party applications that allowed facebook users endless things to do on the site. This article sort of questions about the social aspect of the applications…how many of them effectively help bring friends close together. I saw on orkut already…many of my friendlist are honestly not on orkut. Orkut apps came late and scraps and wall posts surely isn’t worth the effort for most users.

Given the open platform and the free access to developers. There are loads and loads and applications for facebook users to add…such that their page takes forever to load. Many of the applications are similar to memes available for blogs, but here’s the thing…Memes like “Which color are you? (reminds of racism?) are like one time use applications…use and throw. Unless you be a dishonest person, you won’t want to prove you change colors frequently. However we still need the application just to display which color we are. That was an example but you get the general idea. Think of writing about Facebook when Facebook is blocked…hard to recollect examples…but this is good enough. Individual developer’s applications are very rarely interesting…especially since they beg for attention…asking you to invite lots of friends before they would show you the results…i mean often its just peace of mind to not care about the results. However for companies like slide.com or 30boxes.com, facebook is what i feel a huge fishnet filled with readily available users from the pool of all internet users. Users on the other hand have the convenience of using their facebook accounts themselves. No extra login to worry about.

Talking about applications, I feel there are probably way more applications than users. To be more specific, there are way more applications than the regular facebook users…to be still more specific, there are way more applications than any user could ever keep track of….and they don’t even bob up and down vying for attention “me! me! me!” and the icons are so close packed together at top…its hard to make out. This leads to a lot of applications being unused. Many people don’t add. Many people add but have no one to use it with. Many people add and it gets hidden six feet under. which is the next point. Facebook authors are hell bent on keeping everything on one page. They should probably learn some lessons from netvibes. Extended profile is as stupid as it can get…its like hiding apps under the rag. Why not let us add pages that show up as tabs based on whatever type of sorting we want to choose. I would prefer. “Regular”, “Occassional”, “Used Once…Had Enough” pages. You must have noticed the automatic scrolling of the page to the app, when you click on the shortcut icon. First of all, on low memory systems, its slow…not smooth at all…and if your app is as i said before 6 feet under, do you have a way to scroll back to the top? NO! scroll scroll scroll…and if you have no scroll-wheel for your pointing device or use a touchpad…it is worse. Its the main reason i stop adding applications. People add more applications than users…but i guess its better since ignoring applications is more acceptable than ignoring users…err…friends.

Lastly I talk about the socialness aspect, which in some cases i find it sorely missing on the site. One of the more irritating things that I talked about is this habit of developers to force users to invite a bunch of other users, before they show the results. I won’t recommend any product or application to my friends before I see it giving results and that too relevant ones. I see people inviting and reinviting me 3-4 times for the same apps (followed by our common friends), each time they want to re-use a certain app to recalculate their scores. Most people I am sure miss the Skip link which is so unprominently placed…but then again people have just taken to inviting anyone and everyone without giving a second thought about it. “oh! just ignore that…it wasn’t anything useful, that app” comes the usual reply when asked if they recommend the app, my friends invite me for.

When we look at certain factors that hamper collaboration among facebook friends, I think of the following points:

  • Unshared Results: Most quiz/meme oriented applications by default doesn’t let you share results with friends, when they visit your profile. Even the newsfeed would often be as vague as “Friendly Friend has taken the ‘how friendly are you?’ quiz. Take it now to know your score”, where Friendly Friend is an example name and shows how bad I am at example names. (Joe Smith is so cliche. :p ) You have no clue about your friend’s score and if showing off such results is a hidden setting, I wonder why is it hidden in the first place. Its like you have these apps cluttered up on your profile that you alone have to stay on your profile page and keep looking at… “oh my! i didn’t know i was this friendly!”
  • Too many apps: hard to collaborate: This point occurred to me when I think of the scenario that on an average a user and the friends he knows (usually in the same timezone) usually would come online around the same time and stay for around the same amount of time. A few exceptions may still till late or login much later, but given that the time a group of users who know each other (friends) stay logged in simultaneously is limited and given that there are so many applications, whether they be for self-use or for use among friends, it is very very rare that users ever plan how they spend time per app and even then whether all friends sync their plans. “At 2143 hours… Food Fight!…Copy that! Roger!” (i wonder where that application went…no much news about it). This lack of synchronization is in my opinion mainly due to the enormous amount of applications that each user themselves have on their profile…what’s available on facebook is at a totally different level…too many. This factor is responsible for each user spending time more with getting the highest scores in their favorite apps rather than talking with their friends on wall posts, communities or playing some game like word twist or dot game together in real time. I mean facebook has chat as well, so that could be used as well.
  • Very Few Group Activities: Most applications as I mentioned before are more like individual blog memes or ‘know more about self’ style quiz with some fun (and often duh-mb questions)…not social at all. Some like Word Twist on the other hand (word twist is my all time favorite app) and maybe scrabble applications are activities that are exciting because you could interact with a group of people rather than just have 1-1 communication. What better way to intro 2 of your friends to each other than inviting them both to a group activity with them (hoping that the activity interests them both 😛 ) like some board game session.

I started off with just self-brainstorming and starting out with a single root and all nodes type mind map and roughly grouped some similar points into branches. I am not too keen on strict adherence to the mindmap, as I constantly debated with myself as to which point belongs to which branch. One thing I followed in this case, was my own will. As I kept elaborating the points in the article, I felt some points were covered sufficiently while discussing some other points, so I kept on modifying the mindmap for this article to reduce unnecessary nodes or grouping more points under a branch or splitting a branch into 2 for better flow of content without giving the feeling of too long and illogically connected. I sure as hell could improve with time as this was just an exercise article and I appreciate comments on both the content and the structure of the post as such. I do elaborate things in detail…but then that makes it archivable rather than short gist of links which may or may not be alive few years from now.

The Mind-Map for the article


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