Social networks as “friend” Nazi (design flaws in Facebook, Jaiku, Twitter)

Oh, how I hate when social networking software tries to be my parent.

Jon Udell touches on this in his post about Facebook
: “how do I know this person?”

See, the developers who make this software really want to make it hard for you to add more friends. And what the hell is up with calling everyone a “friend” anyway.

Let’s say I want to add Fred Wilson to my social networking software. He’s NOT my “friend.” At least not how normal people define friends. He’s never been over to my house. We’ve never had a beer or coffee together. In fact I am not sure that I’ve ever met Brad face-to-face. Yet I know quite a bit about Fred from his blog. I know more about Fred than most of my neighbors. Which, admittedly, is weird. But back to the point.

I, like Jon, hate that I have to enter in Facebook how I know Fred. I don’t remember how I met Fred. It was a link from some blogger. I don’t remember who. So, I just put down “met randomly.”

How I met someone is really not the important thing, anyway. It’s what COULD Fred do for me in the future? He’s a VC. So, if my son ever starts a company (I’m too old, remember) then I might want to drop Fred a line and hook them up. But Facebook doesn’t ask me that. It just wants to know how I know Fred. I want to tell Facebook “I don’t really know Fred, but I want to.” It’s enough to make you scream if you really look at this rationally.

While I’m complaining about Facebook let me complain about Facebook’s mobile app. It’s quite sweet, actually, but only when you’re signed on. Now, unlike every other app that’s on my phone it automatically signs you off after a few hours and forces you to sign back in. What’s the problem with that? Well, the mobile app doesn’t save my password so I have to refill in my password. I hate keying passwords on my mobile phone. Dave Winer says that Facebook hasn’t been designed with adults in mind. That certainly is true. How many adults do you know who have learned to type on a phone keyboard (ie, not a Blackberry style thumb keyboard but the regular old style of 1-9, etc.) It’s a major pain in the behind.

Oh, and let’s not just pick on Facebook, shall we?

Jaiku is going to be the hot thing this week. They are shipping a new version and are throwing a big party tomorrow night and all that. I’m sure by Wednesday you’ll see Jaiku on TechMeme.

But, let’s say you add me to your contact list on Jaiku. It sends me an email. I know, for instance, that Leo Laporte has friended me there. But, now, can I see everyone who has added me to their contact list? No. Can I add everyone who has added me to my contact list? No. At least not that I’ve been able to figure out. It’s like they are saying to me “Scoble’s not wanted here because he adds “non friends” to his contact list.” Damn it, stop trying to be my freaking parent. If I want to add 1,000 people into my friends list, please let me! But no these social networks have to control my behavior.

And forget trying to import all your friends from some other social network. No, no, can’t do that! Gotta make it difficult for you to add contacts/friends or whatever you call these.

Twitter doesn’t escape here. With Twitter you have a binary choice. Are you a friend or not? Well, I have different types of friends. Don’t you? There’s my “beer buddies.” “School buddies.” “Business associates.” “People I want to meet for coffee.” “People I’ve had coffee with.” “People I’ve been to an Amsterdam coffee shop with.” Etc. etc. But, no, I can’t tell Twitter anything other than you’re my friend or not. And, since I add everyone who has marked me as a friend in Twitter as a friend too I can’t really block anyone.

So, what do I want? I want a social network that just lets me add contacts. Lets me add them for any reason. Lets me add them wholesale from other social networks. Lets me import them from Outlook. Or Facebook. Or LinkedIn. Or Twitter. Or Jaiku. Or Orkut. Or Gmail. Or wherever. And then lets me manage them on a granular level. Why can’t I add tags to each contact? Tags I pick. Not that are forced on me by some 22-year-old developer who has no idea about what a 42-year-old’s social network looks like.

Let me define different behaviors for each tag. “LOVER” tag might go into one page with a password, for instance, that isn’t publicly available. That way Maryam and I could use a social network to send sweet nothings back and forth (I can’t use any of these networks for THAT kind of social networking). “BUSINESS ASSOCIATE” could have a form that includes why I care about that person, business wise. So I could put Fred Wilson there, add that he’s a VC, add his blog, add his Twitter account, etc.

Anyway, I want to spend more time thinking this through, but I gotta go add a bunch of new Facebook contacts to my profile. Sigh.

Or am I just nuts and these social networks are all properly designed? What do you think?

UPDATE: Dave Winer wants to reboot the social network.

166 thoughts on “Social networks as “friend” Nazi (design flaws in Facebook, Jaiku, Twitter)

  1. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120131288334
    Well, in retrospect I guess social networking isn’t so bad. :)
    You gotta love the internet!

    BTW, My PSP also sold for 1/3 more than what the Microplay here wanted to give me for it.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120130279585

    Maybe the Scoble Wiki/Friendster Frankenstein will work after all. The new server should be here in a couple days so I can drive it down to the DC and find the hell out.

  2. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120131288334
    Well, in retrospect I guess social networking isn’t so bad. :)
    You gotta love the internet!

    BTW, My PSP also sold for 1/3 more than what the Microplay here wanted to give me for it.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120130279585

    Maybe the Scoble Wiki/Friendster Frankenstein will work after all. The new server should be here in a couple days so I can drive it down to the DC and find the hell out.

  3. Robert, thanks for picking on Jaiku as well :)

    Your comment on not being able to see the people who have friended with you is a valid one and the feature is already on our roadmap. If you want to invite your existing contacts, check out http://jaiku.com/contacts/invite. It is still limited in terms of services you can import from, but getting more complete.

    Regarding the ability to make a difference between types of friends (“school buddies”, “colleagues”, …), we’ll soon introduce new channel functionality, which should take away part of the pain here. In addition, I’ve been selling the idea of people tagging for our team for some time, but let’s see what happens there. I’d love to hear about your ideas of how the tags could be leveraged?

    See you later today!

  4. Robert, thanks for picking on Jaiku as well :)

    Your comment on not being able to see the people who have friended with you is a valid one and the feature is already on our roadmap. If you want to invite your existing contacts, check out http://jaiku.com/contacts/invite. It is still limited in terms of services you can import from, but getting more complete.

    Regarding the ability to make a difference between types of friends (“school buddies”, “colleagues”, …), we’ll soon introduce new channel functionality, which should take away part of the pain here. In addition, I’ve been selling the idea of people tagging for our team for some time, but let’s see what happens there. I’d love to hear about your ideas of how the tags could be leveraged?

    See you later today!

  5. Robert,

    Exactly. By checklist I meant in terms of defining the actions related to a tag – that’s the biggest piece from a programming perspective – but you are right, the specific tags will be unique to each person (but I would still suggest that rather than a blank slate the network suggest a few standard types for people to start with if they don’t want to go through the effort of customizing – i.e. you might then “clone” the privacy rules for “family” for the tag “cafesinAmsterdam”

    Shannon

  6. Robert,

    Exactly. By checklist I meant in terms of defining the actions related to a tag – that’s the biggest piece from a programming perspective – but you are right, the specific tags will be unique to each person (but I would still suggest that rather than a blank slate the network suggest a few standard types for people to start with if they don’t want to go through the effort of customizing – i.e. you might then “clone” the privacy rules for “family” for the tag “cafesinAmsterdam”

    Shannon

  7. contd
    ————–
    this uses -php izabi – a open source social networking using php mysql script and runs on linux and any Linux apache php mysql(lamp) and any server using php mysql like iis etc -users of my site can contribute code by sending code to me _raja_at_rajarishi.com or by contributing to the code base at http://www.phpizabi.net

    it has been downloaded
    ———
    90,802 downloads totally that is
    133.7 downloads per day

    features that this script and which my website currently has

    New Features
    * Random members gender selection
    * Saved searches
    Generic Features
    * Smileys support
    * Multilanguage support
    * Registration captcha
    * Mass mail support
    * Pictures cropping / proportions
    * Tell a friend
    * Invite a friend
    * Search and advanced search
    * Search by geographic distance
    * Contact us system
    * Bookmark link
    * Privacy and terms of use
    * Match search based on profile
    * Online / Offline status
    * Activity notification
    * Customizable genders
    Users and Profiles
    * Customizable profile data
    * Customizable questionnaires
    * Email address confirmation
    * Automatic / Manual approval
    * Unique address check
    * Online status
    * Personal Gallery
    * Personal Blog
    * User settings panel
    * Ignore / Block users
    * New contacts notification
    * New mails notification
    * Favorite blogs
    * Recent profile views
    * Contacts list
    * Contacts categorization
    * Contacts management
    * Newsletter
    * Horoscope
    * Last login
    * Profile / pictures rating
    * Profile views
    * Private photo gallery
    * Nudges (kisses, slaps, …)
    * Users comments
    * Events calendar
    * Personal events
    * Saved searches
    Communication
    * Blogs
    * Internal messages system
    * Pages (notifications)
    * Forums (inkspot)
    * Chatrooms
    * Files sharing

    script recommended by jessu@mail2.

    so heres to anonymity

    3 cheers to the new way to socialize -dont wish to say my name

  8. contd
    ————–
    this uses -php izabi – a open source social networking using php mysql script and runs on linux and any Linux apache php mysql(lamp) and any server using php mysql like iis etc -users of my site can contribute code by sending code to me _raja_at_rajarishi.com or by contributing to the code base at http://www.phpizabi.net

    it has been downloaded
    ———
    90,802 downloads totally that is
    133.7 downloads per day

    features that this script and which my website currently has

    New Features
    * Random members gender selection
    * Saved searches
    Generic Features
    * Smileys support
    * Multilanguage support
    * Registration captcha
    * Mass mail support
    * Pictures cropping / proportions
    * Tell a friend
    * Invite a friend
    * Search and advanced search
    * Search by geographic distance
    * Contact us system
    * Bookmark link
    * Privacy and terms of use
    * Match search based on profile
    * Online / Offline status
    * Activity notification
    * Customizable genders
    Users and Profiles
    * Customizable profile data
    * Customizable questionnaires
    * Email address confirmation
    * Automatic / Manual approval
    * Unique address check
    * Online status
    * Personal Gallery
    * Personal Blog
    * User settings panel
    * Ignore / Block users
    * New contacts notification
    * New mails notification
    * Favorite blogs
    * Recent profile views
    * Contacts list
    * Contacts categorization
    * Contacts management
    * Newsletter
    * Horoscope
    * Last login
    * Profile / pictures rating
    * Profile views
    * Private photo gallery
    * Nudges (kisses, slaps, …)
    * Users comments
    * Events calendar
    * Personal events
    * Saved searches
    Communication
    * Blogs
    * Internal messages system
    * Pages (notifications)
    * Forums (inkspot)
    * Chatrooms
    * Files sharing

    script recommended by jessu@mail2.

    so heres to anonymity

    3 cheers to the new way to socialize -dont wish to say my name

  9. hi scoble,

    never thought a phone call to u will lead to such a post

    i really like you a lot

    site name -RajaRishi.com where you the user rules us

    gender-Anonymous,Man,Woman,gal,boy,couple,friends,group,gay,bi,lesbian,money lender,money seeker,govt official,any of above,dont wish to say

    minimum age needed -1

    registration starts at -1900

    extensions currently allowed as pics -gif,jpg,jpeg,png,flv,fla,mpg,mp3

    the only restriction that i have used is that u have to verify your email address at registration login_this is to ensure the safety of the site and to protect users and me>the owner and the website host

  10. hi scoble,

    never thought a phone call to u will lead to such a post

    i really like you a lot

    site name -RajaRishi.com where you the user rules us

    gender-Anonymous,Man,Woman,gal,boy,couple,friends,group,gay,bi,lesbian,money lender,money seeker,govt official,any of above,dont wish to say

    minimum age needed -1

    registration starts at -1900

    extensions currently allowed as pics -gif,jpg,jpeg,png,flv,fla,mpg,mp3

    the only restriction that i have used is that u have to verify your email address at registration login_this is to ensure the safety of the site and to protect users and me>the owner and the website host

  11. People go apeshit about the feds being able to find out what book they checked out from the library but they’ll freely populate a database with who all their friends are.

    The line in the silicon stops a little short of that for me.

  12. People go apeshit about the feds being able to find out what book they checked out from the library but they’ll freely populate a database with who all their friends are.

    The line in the silicon stops a little short of that for me.

  13. You know, I’ve been writing to Facebook support regarding the constant signing in, and they suggested I “…try clearing your mobile’s cache and cookies,
    then try logging into m.facebook.com.”

    It did help. Once. It’s most frustrating.

  14. You know, I’ve been writing to Facebook support regarding the constant signing in, and they suggested I “…try clearing your mobile’s cache and cookies,
    then try logging into m.facebook.com.”

    It did help. Once. It’s most frustrating.

  15. No arguments here on your desires and issues with the friends bit. A search would be great that worked on all the networks as well.

    On the N95, you can actually save login details. I’ve found it always works for username – though not always for password. If you’ve saved the info, the way to call back your entry is by entering the first character and then pressing down, which will show your name. You can select it and then your form info will fill.

  16. No arguments here on your desires and issues with the friends bit. A search would be great that worked on all the networks as well.

    On the N95, you can actually save login details. I’ve found it always works for username – though not always for password. If you’ve saved the info, the way to call back your entry is by entering the first character and then pressing down, which will show your name. You can select it and then your form info will fill.

  17. It’s all about situational relevance — you need to manage a large pool of professional contacts. I just want to keep in touch with my high school friends. Facebook doesn’t need to support both of us, it’s probably better that they don’t. At the same time, if there isn’t a site out there that meets your needs then there’s a business opportunity.

    Of course, there’s the problem that my high school friends keep hopping networks, and I keep having to add them again and again. That’s a real problem, and while I appreciate the ability to import my Gmail contacts into Facebook it isn’t quite the same thing as importing my MySpace contacts.

    Anyways, my point is that every SNS site has to choose: How will they model relationships? Will they try to support small networks or large networks? Will they encourage people to meet strangers or help people track down people they already know? Each of those decisions has implications in how the system can be used. Facebook made their decisions — of course they might change their mind someday — and those decisions lead to a system which might not work the way you want.

    Honestly, it would suck if every SNS site worked the same way.

  18. It’s all about situational relevance — you need to manage a large pool of professional contacts. I just want to keep in touch with my high school friends. Facebook doesn’t need to support both of us, it’s probably better that they don’t. At the same time, if there isn’t a site out there that meets your needs then there’s a business opportunity.

    Of course, there’s the problem that my high school friends keep hopping networks, and I keep having to add them again and again. That’s a real problem, and while I appreciate the ability to import my Gmail contacts into Facebook it isn’t quite the same thing as importing my MySpace contacts.

    Anyways, my point is that every SNS site has to choose: How will they model relationships? Will they try to support small networks or large networks? Will they encourage people to meet strangers or help people track down people they already know? Each of those decisions has implications in how the system can be used. Facebook made their decisions — of course they might change their mind someday — and those decisions lead to a system which might not work the way you want.

    Honestly, it would suck if every SNS site worked the same way.

  19. “Kill the profiles, use open protocols, make it easy to find needed contacts, and make the system opt-out versus opt-in.”

    I’m reposting this link so you can read it well.
    http://freemyspace.com/history.htm

    I’ve met some of the people behind these sites. They are not interested in rfc standards ect… They are not interested in the same goals as google.
    http://collect.myspace.com/misc/news.html

    MySpace built up their membership not only by getting celebs, copying friendster ect.. But they had parties, physical parties in LA, and other places. Then they went and advertised on comcast channels.

    Most of the people involved in Social networking are not interested in the technical details. Their programmers are not the best programmers because it’s not something that you can say is an accomplishment really. No offense to Duc, he did a great job with the ugly mess that is cold fusion.

    To understand why the sites are the way they are, you kind of have to have met some of the people or at least talked to them. They’re not the Kevin Rose type for the most part. They’re the Kevin Pereira type.

  20. “Kill the profiles, use open protocols, make it easy to find needed contacts, and make the system opt-out versus opt-in.”

    I’m reposting this link so you can read it well.
    http://freemyspace.com/history.htm

    I’ve met some of the people behind these sites. They are not interested in rfc standards ect… They are not interested in the same goals as google.
    http://collect.myspace.com/misc/news.html

    MySpace built up their membership not only by getting celebs, copying friendster ect.. But they had parties, physical parties in LA, and other places. Then they went and advertised on comcast channels.

    Most of the people involved in Social networking are not interested in the technical details. Their programmers are not the best programmers because it’s not something that you can say is an accomplishment really. No offense to Duc, he did a great job with the ugly mess that is cold fusion.

    To understand why the sites are the way they are, you kind of have to have met some of the people or at least talked to them. They’re not the Kevin Rose type for the most part. They’re the Kevin Pereira type.

  21. Scott: want to go to Amsterdam? Then you’ll be able to see just what happens. Some things will never get discussed online and are meant just for Face-to-Face meetings. :-)

  22. Scott: want to go to Amsterdam? Then you’ll be able to see just what happens. Some things will never get discussed online and are meant just for Face-to-Face meetings. :-)

  23. Amyloo: a lot of it is, yes. You should look at LinkedIn. It’s the ultimate of this kind of behavior. “How do I use XXX to get my resume in front of YYY.”

  24. Amyloo: a lot of it is, yes. You should look at LinkedIn. It’s the ultimate of this kind of behavior. “How do I use XXX to get my resume in front of YYY.”

  25. Chris, why wouldn’t people go for it? First, if their friends use it, then they use it. Period. Doesn’t matter. That’s like me putting you in my address book – there isn’t anything you can do about it.

    I would say Plaxo is pretty successful with over 18 million users. Who would have thought that keeping your contact information up-to-date was so “sexy”. As far as I’m concerned, Plaxo is “address book 1.0″. We need “address book 2.0″ that takes e-mail past the first-degree medium that it is.

  26. Chris, why wouldn’t people go for it? First, if their friends use it, then they use it. Period. Doesn’t matter. That’s like me putting you in my address book – there isn’t anything you can do about it.

    I would say Plaxo is pretty successful with over 18 million users. Who would have thought that keeping your contact information up-to-date was so “sexy”. As far as I’m concerned, Plaxo is “address book 1.0″. We need “address book 2.0″ that takes e-mail past the first-degree medium that it is.

  27. While everybody is moaning that e-mail is dying, social network messaging is thriving, yet it’s nearly identical to e-mail. Why is it doing so well, but e-mail isn’t?

    Because social network messaging is a multi-degreed form of communication and it’s easy to access contacts (most of the time). The problem is that social network messaging can’t scale because it’s a closed network. How useful would Gmail be if you could only communicate with people on the Gmail domain?

    Chris is right – people don’t visit for features, they visit for communication. Why not take the Google approach of less is more? Stick to communication. Kill the profiles, use open protocols, make it easy to find needed contacts, and make the system opt-out versus opt-in.

  28. While everybody is moaning that e-mail is dying, social network messaging is thriving, yet it’s nearly identical to e-mail. Why is it doing so well, but e-mail isn’t?

    Because social network messaging is a multi-degreed form of communication and it’s easy to access contacts (most of the time). The problem is that social network messaging can’t scale because it’s a closed network. How useful would Gmail be if you could only communicate with people on the Gmail domain?

    Chris is right – people don’t visit for features, they visit for communication. Why not take the Google approach of less is more? Stick to communication. Kill the profiles, use open protocols, make it easy to find needed contacts, and make the system opt-out versus opt-in.

  29. I could add simple tagging to our social networking software and it wouldn’t change anything. It would be like TagWorld. People don’t visit social networks for features.
    I took out a domain, malliki.com. As soon as the rest of our server gets here and I put it in the datacenter I’ll make it live. But even with a cross between wikipedia and friendster, something that’s new and pointless. I don’t see people going to it.

    If Scoble gave me either the best social networking software on earth or 5 real well known celebrity profiles including Paris Hilton. As somebody who wants to make money off of it, I would take the celebrities in a second. Ordinary people do not give a crap about the software.

  30. I could add simple tagging to our social networking software and it wouldn’t change anything. It would be like TagWorld. People don’t visit social networks for features.
    I took out a domain, malliki.com. As soon as the rest of our server gets here and I put it in the datacenter I’ll make it live. But even with a cross between wikipedia and friendster, something that’s new and pointless. I don’t see people going to it.

    If Scoble gave me either the best social networking software on earth or 5 real well known celebrity profiles including Paris Hilton. As somebody who wants to make money off of it, I would take the celebrities in a second. Ordinary people do not give a crap about the software.

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