Lots of talk recently about the distinctions between Millennials, digital natives and their older generational counterparts. This is an insider tactic for leveraging fear the olds have about their technological skills. As most people in charge of things are olds, it makes sense that younger or more technically competent people would socially leverage their tech chops to level the playing field. I’ve seen it in full resolution over the past 15 years. It’s nothing new. People use coded terms and words to mark themselves and to suss out new acquaintances. Technical competency does this too.
Facebook has been a key tool in this social manipulation. I’m wondering if it has gone too far. While Kid-King Zuck does his best Steve Jobs impression introducing new features and functionality, KKZ and company has made what I believe to be a fatal UI/UX mistake by finally over-featuring Facebook.
Features that aren’t used are worse than waste. They are obstructions and confusions that cause frustration and internal dissonance in the user–alienating them from the technology. “why did I post that?” “who cares?” and “Ooh did I creepy over-share?” These are not pleasant thoughts. Our brain punishes us for them. As Facebook becomes more sophisticated, it becomes more complex and stressful. People have to budget their time. I’m a big believer that social media is a feature (a means) and not a platform (an end in itself). We don’t Facebook just to Facebook but KKZ&Co. seems intent on making that happen– even though they contend they are not. “Don’t just enjoy–share” seems like a good mantra until you consider the consequences (asymmetric surveillance). Its no “eureka moment” to understand the platform must self-generate useful data. People like things that are easy. The Open Graph does that just dandy.
The data-mining prospects for Facebook are now mindbogglingly rich. Pre-crime is no longer science fiction. It will be absolutely possible- given the size of the dataset- to begin to uncover “Lone Wolves” –to see anger, depression, persecution complexes, and delusions of grander emerge in digital behavior even before they manifest physically. That’s provided, of course, people stay on the platform. They may not but probably will. Sadly I expect to see people who don’t Facebook treated with more than just a little suspicion. That isn’t good. Facebook takes more than it gives.
RWW has pointed out that Facebook’s feature roll out seems a lot like AOLs in the bad ol’ days. Features become just so much bloated code. Isn’t that what happened to Microsoft? Isn’t that the single biggest risk to Apple? Apple’s case is particularly interesting given their success is tied directly to elegant simplicity. Ironically, making things simple is very hard. I think it was too hard for Facebook and it may be too frustrating for users.
That said, power users are building groups and spending a little extra time to shut out the prying eyes. Facebook allows that, and that may explain why IT folks are generally happier with the current changes than Facebook’s core audiences. Google+’s circles accomplish the same thing in fact its built on groups but Google+ demonstrates the high cost of switching. People just aren’t migrating. Yet.
All we need is an api that reports on the behavior we want to merchandise. Everyone has a dataset of behavior that we all would share if the social contract was more fair and more opt-in as opposed to opt out. I forecast an api that allows everyone to strip the interface (Google+ Facebook myspace etc.). The end game is really the sign-in and owning the authentication key. That’s actually the holy grail in all these efforts is and where MSFT and APPL are really missing the money train. Users want to make certain data available on a permissions basis – without the clunky and unnecessary middleman platform.
Personally my Facebook news stream looks more and more like my inbox did in 1999. A stream of business news with jokes and personal stories sprinkled in.
Honestly, it is far too easy to extend personal anecdotes about Facebook. It’s a dumb thing to do. People ALWAYS complain loudly when they change it . Still, more features do not make a better experience. Improvements that cause increased complexity are not really improvements as much as they are just changes.
Pre-crime and Gladys Kravitz as Big Brother aside, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Marketers must adapt. Usage could fall an unimaginable 20-30 % and it wouldn’t matter much. I’m skeptical of more centralization on the web. It rarely works. Something is needed to thread or web presence together but I’m not sure an “entertainment sharing platform” is the thing that will do it. I still expect Yammer and Jive or a competitive equivalent yet to be named to come on strong (because of security) and pull us away from changing our settings on Facebook and put us in control of our communication again. Facebook is an enormous security risk and productivity suck for business. I just can’t see businesses of any size continuing to allow greater access as Facebook grows forward. All that aside, the cost of switching to Google+ is high because the Kid-King has your social record and he’s got no intention of ever giving it back. Migrating your data will be made very difficult. That’s the price of free.
A large, fast migration is unlikely. I anticipate Facebooks demise as death by 1,000 cuts. Slowly, as kids deem Facebook uncool and pick up other tools that are faster, more relevant and more opaque to their parents. That is still at least 5 years away.
For now though, professionally and personally, we’ll suck it up– complain for a few days and then go back to our regularly scheduled posting. I’m looking forward to the next thing.
Of both Pink Floyd and The Shins. And this is my blog, after all.