November 12, 2008

Do I actually like Facebook?

Last week I registered for Facebook in response to an invitation from one of my colleagues. It wasn’t the first invitation I’d received but I’m the classic late adopter – I tell myself that this helps me design great software because I’m designing for other late adopters. Anyway, by now virtually every person I’ve ever so much as shaken hands with is on FB so I went ahead and signed up. Then I spent two days almost exclusively on FB, looking around, trying things, seeing what works (for me, that is) and what doesn’t.

5 things I like about Facebook:

  1. Seeing what people are doing right now. For some reason I love knowing that Christine is moving an armoire or that Jenny just posted pictures. This is way more fun than Survivor or other reality shows because it’s not just random average-looking people off the street mugging for the camera, I actually know these people.
  2. It’s a great way to get information fast, like the ‘Machine is Us(ing us)’ video Michael posted or comments on Prop 8. In just 2 days I’ve learned more stuff than I ever get from chatting with people.
  3. Getting pinged – it’s almost as good as having real friends! Maybe even better, since I can take my time with those snappy comebacks, which you can’t do in face-to-face encounters.
  4. Having virtual contact with friends and colleagues way out here in Bavaria. And having an easy way to remind them I exist.
  5. The plug ins, like how compatible my movie taste is with Sandy Voypick. Run far, Sandy, we have nothing in common.

4 things I don’t like about Facebook:

  1. The search results list doesn’t show enough info the members to actually find the people you care about unless they’re already connected to you in some way – for example, maiden name, graduation year, etc., would be extremely helpful when I’m sifting through the 20+ Aaron Baars to find my Aaron. – which sucks in many other ways - does a way better job of connecting you to the people you’ve lost touch with that you’re actually interested in.
  2. I joined 2 groups I was once part of (The JET program and Judson School) and have no friggin’ clue if anyone I know is also part of those groups. Also when you view all you have no idea where you are in the list, no way to organize search results and by the time I got to # 7 in the Next list I was starting to see repeats.
  3. The overall usability isn’t that great. Sure, billions of people use FB every day, but who are you going to believe, them or me?
  4. It’s way too easy to spend too much time being virtual and not enough time being real. After only a day on FB I found myself shushing my very real daughter while responding to something someone wrote on my virtual wall.

I wanted to come up with even lists of 5 things I like and 5 things I don’t like but as it turns out I like more things than I dislike about one of the most popular and accessible Internet applications of our time. Facebook is a fun social networking tool and there’s no doubt it has shaped how people use the Internet to network. And I definitely think there’s a place for it in the workplace, where your success may well be dependent on your social connections.

But is it more than that? Does FB represent the future of business applications?

For example, could you use Facebook as a team management tool at work? Interesting idea, but challenging when you get down to it because it doesn’t seamlessly include the business applications your teams probably use, like document management, etc.

I’ve also heard rumbles about using FB as a core system of record for business applications but I don’t see it – the information that, say, a global HR system needs isn’t there and even the information that is there is spotty. For example, if my company wanted to get my employment history from FB it would look like I only ever had one job.

So, as a business application I don't think FB is quite there, at least not in its current form. But it is definitely meaningful for business. Which means that the question ‘Do I like FB?’ that I started this posting with is the wrong question because the answer doesn’t matter. Somehow this little application that allows you to ping and poke people you seldom speak to in person has scratched a deep collective social itch.

Business is about people, after all, so business can't dismiss anything that has captured the imagination and mindshare of so many people.

And I think that the journey of collective intelligence/networking/thinking/sharing has just begun.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just learning my way around Facebook. Was invited to join about two years ago, but only really accepted and started using it over the past few months. There's a lot about it I like and a lot I don't. As far as using it as a business tool, I think Linkedin does a better job of that (which I've also recently been using). As with everything in life, I'd like to see something that is a combination of the three sites-such-as these with which I am familiar: facebook, linkedin, and goodreads.


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