Where is Facebook going?

Today seems to be a good day for writing blog posts, seeing as I’ve got nothing better to do right now. So I was reading this article in the NY Times about Facebook and where it’s heading. Now, I’m well aware that I’m one of the “college kids” the article mentions, but the thing, I understand where Facebook is trying to head. They need to become profitable, obviously, and their idea of how to do that is kind of cool. By eventually using those interactive ads, I think it will be an extremely effective way to advertise without the users feeling like they’re having their personal space intruded upon. I would happily choose what my favorite M&M flavor is and have it displayed on my profile. I wouldn’t even think twice about it being an ad. THAT is totally fine. What I’m not okay with is ads all over the place. You know those sponsored links that show up in the middle of your news feed occassionally? Those are not okay. Don’t ever intrude on what I’m trying to look up, and I’ll be perfectly happy.

I also understand where Facebook wants to go with the site design. They want it to be useful in real time. That makes sense. Their example of having a coworker post that they’re going to lunch so that you can join them makes complete sense. But where they fall flat is in explaining this sort of thing to their audience. Facebook has engaged multiple times in a farce of a conversation with their users, showing them mockups of what the new design will look like, and asking for feedback. But I’m not sure we have ever seen any of our feedback being used. It seems to me like they come to us with a design they’ve already decided upon and finalized, and then they ask us our opinion just to appease us. But that appeasement doesn’t work if we don’t see any results from it.

Look. I work in the game industry, as you may know. I’ve also been an avid beta tester for years before now, so I’ve followed beta forums regularly. It’s very obvious to a community when you ask for feedback on a feature you’ve already finished. When a high percentage of players (or at least of those who are active on your forums) cry out against the feature, yet you implement it without changing it, there’s going to be trouble.

Facebook seems to have taken the approach of letting their users vent their frustration, and then waiting for it to blow over. It actually turns out to be an effective strategy. Remember the time before this last one that Facebook changed the website around? We all flipped out for a while, posted petitions, made groups, etc, then eventually gave up when it was clear nothing was going to be done about it. Same thing with the news feed when it first appeared. They’re going to design the site they want to design, and there’s nothing much we can do about it. Don’t like it? No one’s forcing you to be on Facebook. Games can do the same thing, to a certain extent. We design the game that we want to make. No matter what complaints a playerbase makes, we’re not going to change our game from a fantasy genre to a wild west theme. Sure, little things can be changed, but in general, the game has already been designed by the time it gets into the public eye. The difference, however, is that games depend on an audience. You make your players upset? They quit, then where’s your money? If I leave Facebook, I’m pretty sure they’ll never even know.

Man. I like all this commentary on articles that I’m doing. This is fun! Maybe I should be in tech more often (*GAG*).

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