ObFacebookTickerLoathing: all that screenspace just for the boring stuff?

Not Sharing Is Caring: Facebook’s terrible plan to get us to share everything we do on the Web on Slate:

For as much as he’s invested in sharing, though, Zuckerberg seems clueless about the motivation behind the act. Why do you share a story, video, or photo? Because you want your friends to see it. And why do you want your friends to see it? Because you think they’ll get a kick out of it. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s somehow eluded Zuckerberg that sharing is fundamentally about choosing. You experience a huge number of things every day, but you choose to tell your friends about only a fraction of them, because most of what you do isn’t worth mentioning.

Now Zuckerberg wants to lower the bar. “One thing that we’ve heard over and over again is that people have things that they want to share, but they don’t want to annoy their friends by putting boring stuff in their news feeds,” he said during his keynote. To me, this doesn’t sound like a problem that needs solving. If Facebook users aren’t sharing stuff because they worry it will bore their friends, good! Thank you, people of Facebook, for your restraint in choosing not to bore me.

But Zuckerberg couldn’t let this undersharing stand. “Our solution was to create a new place that’s lighter-weight where you can see lighter-weight stuff—that’s how we came up with Ticker.” If you translate “lighter-weight” to boring, you’ll understand what Zuckerberg is saying: Facebook now has a place on its site reserved especially for boring updates.

Sharing is fundamentally about choosing what not to share.

I created separate pages on FB for my various blogs ages ago, specifically so that my friends on FB didn’t have to read all my bloggy stuff unless they specifically wanted to, because I didn’t want to bore my friends. I don’t share much more than the occasional innocuous aside or petty rant in my own status updates, and once in a very long while a photo, because I don’t want to bore my friends. Once the comedians I follow leave Facebook to network elsewhere then I’m out of there except for interacting with mostly family, because I don’t want to bore my friends.

At least they have made it so that the ticker/chat column on the right can be hidden entirely (little arrow on the bottom-right). That’s something, but how many people realise that they can do it? And it doesn’t stop the information actually being shared, either – only that the clueful and non-malicious will choose (that word again) not to view it.

In the meantime, as various folks’ game-scores, comments on the walls of their other friends whom I don’t know, or likes that I simply am not interested in roll through on the ticker when I’m logged in, I’m quietly going through and editing my Subscribe options for them all: getting rid of Games from everybody (have fun with them, but I just don’t care) and removing Comments and Likes and Other Activity from everyone except immediate family and very close friends (if I haven’t got maudlin drunk with you on at least one occasion (even if it was 20+ years ago)where we specifically met up to just talk and talk, then I’m still fond of you and I still care, but we’re just not very close). If you don’t want absolutely everything you do on Facebook to scroll down that ticker area viewable to complete strangers, then I suggest that you ask your friends to do the same.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, Sociology, technology

Tags: ,

6 replies

  1. Addendum: you can only hide the right-hand ticker/chat sidebar on profiles/pages. Your own home/newsfeed page will not allow you to hide the ticker area. Come on you Greasemonkey scripts!

  2. I suppose Zuckerberg is always striking a balance between sharing that users want to do and sharing that paying advertisers wish that users wanted to do (ie more “I love Coca-Cola” “join the Farmville Borg today”, “buy from my Amazon affiliate store” and less “I love libraries with all their free books”). However, this doesn’t seem like the most sensible balance to have chosen: having a special noisy area for the (presumably at least somewhat more product-pushing) sharing that users stubbornly won’t do on their own.
    Note that I’m not one of those people who advocates a position along the lines of “Facebook is trying to make money! So that makes everything it does OK! Leave them alone you spoilsports!” But I do find it useful to sometimes consider whether something is going to be a money-spinner or not, because it informs the kind of protest one might want to make and the likelihood of that service suiting one in future.
    Google+ may have an advantage here, because if I understand G+’s +1s, they’re designed to make search better and better searches are what Google makes money from. If that’s right, Google will continue to (primarily?) focus on advertising at times when users are searching, rather than when they’re mooching around checking in on their friends’ moods. People don’t go to Facebook actively seeking information or commerce, so Facebook has no choice but to monetise the mooching.

  3. On the other hand, Google did put ads in email, so don’t look to my theory as the one social networking theory to rule them all.

  4. My guess: FB marketing has a couple of very quiet stealth accounts, which have “friended” the full range of users on their site, complete with loads of different private groups set up as filters, in order to be able to demonstrate in real time for potential advertisers what kind of daily traffic they could be looking at. This “new” feature is actually something FB marketing has been using for the past few months, and Mr Zuckerberg (who strikes me as someone who really doesn’t understand how people work at all if it doesn’t involve money) decided that as a way of maybe hooking in companies who aren’t advertising with FB yet, they’d roll it out in general to all their users (because who knows, maybe one percent of FB users are actually persons with the access and decision-making power to purchase advertising space on FB) in order to demonstrate what’s going on “behind the scenes”.
    For myself, I’m just glad I walked away from FB about a year or two back, after one of their alterations to their lack-of-privacy policies. Then again, I barely ever use social media in the first place (mostly because I find it somewhat irritating to be constantly interrupted by whatever’s happening with someone else while I’m in the middle of things) so I’m clearly not the market Mr Zuckerberg was aiming at anyway.

  5. Yeah I was annoyed at the change – but the service is free and I guess we don’t really have a choice. You can download a script to remove the ticker bar – I haven’t used it yet but it was recommended to me.
    What strikes me is that FB has a lot of UX/UI designers and yet manage to roll changes that just doesn’t seem to make sense, I don’t understand why the layout is 4 columns of information (left nav, main stories, events/ads, ticker/chat), with minimal abilities to customise. There is too much information repetition and overload.
    They have released the timeline UI for FB developers and it really looks nice, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

%d bloggers like this: