Faceboot has become useless for people like me.

I like to keep in touch with international friends, find out what they’re doing, see how their lives are going. I want to know what they’re doing.

But faceboot, despite originally looking like an excellent way to do just that, and slowly but surely battled against its own usefulness and finally got to the stage where I just can’t do what I’d like to do.

For example, I logged in yesterday morning. At the top of my feed was a photo. I logged out. I logged in again yesterday evening. At the top of my news feed was the same photo. According to faceboot, none of my three hundred contacts had posted anything over the intervening day. I simply don’t believe that. Faceboot lies.

image: concrete abuse of text

In consequence, I see no point in scrolling down my feed because I know it’ll be false. That means faceboot get to show me fewer ads. It also means that, if I post something, and other people behave as I do, fewer people will see my post, so I’ll get less response. In consequence, I’ll post less, so I become more and more disengaged. And this is all because faceboot can’t stop themselves lying.

I used to see a lot of different people’s activities when I logged in. Now I just see a few people doing things. I used to see what people were recently, and what they were doing quite some time ago. I used to be able to go back until I got to what they were doing the last time I logged in. Now I can do none of those things. Faceboot actively blocks me from doing so. Faceboot is useless.

For example, a lot of people objected to the order faceboot displayed items, so, eventually, they added a second option that allowed items to be displayed correctly. Quite quickly, though, they started to corrupted that second feed, so now it is just as useless as the first. It might claim to display things in time order, but it quite clearly does no such thing. I’m educated. I know that 12 hours ago is older than 10 minutes ago. Faceboot pretends otherwise. Faceboot lies.

Faceboot’s failure to respect their users’ goals has led them into a vicious circle of failure.

I have pet theories on other faceboot failures, too.

Faceboot has likes. You can show you like something by ticking it. But faceboot seem to have made the mistake to think that someone only wants to see things they’ve liked. Now, me, I like sex. But I do not want to spend all my time just having sex, or just looking at porn. I need to eat, I need to go to the toilet, I need to earn.

On the other hand, I don’t like arguments. But arguments allow me and my partner, me and other people, to identify a problem, to identify a complicated problem, and to find a resolution. Arguments are unpleasant, but they make my life better, usually. Arguments can also be intense, arguments can raise emotions, arguments can help you realise you’re alive. But I would never tick like to an argument if one appeared on faceboot. Thus, in effect, faceboot have taken the arguments away from my life. They try and make my life flat and boring, they try to ensure my life will never improve.

But I suspect faceboot’s errors go further than that. I know they try and maximise income for their advertisers; after all, that their business. I have no problem with that. Indeed, I think they control the conmen well. The adverts shown to me are never rude and attention seeking, they are never animated.

Admittedly, I don’t like being conned, and advertising is unavoidably in the con game (if something was really good and necessary, it’d sell by word of mouth), but it’s a minor con and the advantages of keeping in touch with my friends is worth putting up with the liars and the spivs, so long as they obey the law. But advertisers research how best to con their victims, and they do so, I understand, using short, small, psychological experiments. From that, they work out how to get people to behave in the way they want, in the way that gets them to respond to their ad. Faceboot use the same psychological experiments to keep their users predictable and presentable to their advertisers.

image: concrete abuse of text

If faceboot is dependent on such psychology, then I wonder if their underlying problem might be twofold:

  1. Short term experiments produce short term results. That’s fine for adverts, they want to make a sale now, not in a decade’s time. But short term results are no good for a long term service, such as faceboot. What works now does not work forever. What is enjoyable today is not enjoyable when repeated endlessly. I like brussel sprouts, but I would not like brussel sprouts every day forever and ever amen. Faceboot should consider the results of long term experiments, which means they need to fund them, which makes them far more expensive. They probably also need to ensure that experiments have a much wider range of participants than a professors’ pet students.
  2. Psychological experiments are notoriously unrepeatable. It’s a serious problem. In consequence, the results of one small experiment are hardly worth reading. It’s only when experiments are repeated by different researchers, and the results are confirmed, that the idea explored gains value.

If I were in faceboot’s shoes, I’d roll back a lot of the subtle lies and do my utmost to keep users involved. The more users, the more marks faceboot can’t present their customers, the advertisers. As things are, given how the service appears to be, and given their unfortunately recent record of lying to advertisers about views and regularly being caught abusing people’s privacy, if I were an advertiser I’d be seriously looking for alternatives.

I’d like to find a service that allows me to keep in touch with my international friends. That service used to be faceboot. But now faceboot blocks me from doing what I want to do. I’d like to find an alternative.

Mind you, that won’t be so easy. I want to keep in touch with my international contacts. They want to keep in touch with me. We need to use the same contact mechanism. At the moment, that is faceboot. Once, it was cix. But if I drop faceboot, where do I go? My contacts are there. So until we all move away, and gravitate somewhere else, I stick to faceboot.

That’s why faceboot still has the chance to sort itself out. But I’m not optimistic. Why should faceboot pivot towards their users when all those other social sites failed to do so?

What I will do is open accounts on a good number of social sites, and see whether any of my contacts gravitate towards one of them. I suspect not. However, I’ll still do so on the grounds that if I’m wrong, it’ll be rather good.

UPDATE: since I posted this, faceboot’s most recent news feed has got a little better, and sometimes actually notices temporal order. It’s still not nearly good enough, but it’s better. Unfortunately, they’ve also introduced a feature that actually blocks me posting replies to news feed posts in firefox! I have no clue whether the latter is deliberate, or a bizarre consequence of my exact combination of plugins, although I suspect the former given firefox can sometimes block both hack malicious and head malicious adverts, given blocking the latter is very much against the immediate interest of a company that sells adverts.