Changes to Facebook (Perceived Privacy)

7 Sep 2006 - 2:16pm
8 years ago
25 replies
1177 reads
Mark Canlas
2003

Among the college age crowd, there's an online hoopla going abouts, and I
thought it would be a great time to discuss it from an interaction
designer's point of view.

Facebook is an online community, centered around college and high school
students. It's like Myspace, in that it's extremely popular, but it's also
unlike Myspace in that it's clean, organized, and doesn't cause seizures on
page load.

Earlier this week or last, Facebook added a feature called the "News Feed"
which aggregates to the user's homepage all of the changes that other,
relevant users ("friends") made on their profiles, be it the change of
interests (yesterday I liked green eggs, today I liked ham), or the
announcement of a new party (IxDA party at my house!).

The reception for the News Feed as been overwhelmingly negative. Or at least
the most vocal of users on Facebook have made it a point to share their
dissatisfaction with the feed. It has been described as annoying, "where did
my front page go?", intrusive, creepy, and extremely stalker-friendly.

Allegedly, the creators of Facebook, and users like myself, maintain that
all of the things the feed shows you are things that one could have gathered
normally, by surfing Facebook "the old way". Instead of surfing through 30
friends to find who has new pictures, the feed just tells me so.

At first, it was awkard to see certain messages. "Jimmy is attending
Beer-a-palooza." // "Tanya added photos about Las Vegas Summer 2006" //
"Sharon and Johnny are no longer in a relationship [broken heart icon]" //
"Elizabeth changed her status from 'in a relationship' to 'married'"

Elizabeth's personal page is now filled with comments such as
"congratulations on your marriage". Would the amount of comments have been
less had the feed not been there? I.e. only Elizabeth's most personal
friends, or those who check her page most often, or those who interact with
her in person, would know that she got married, without the assistance of
the News Feed. But everyone Elizabeth has chosen to be friends with, even
your not-so-close friends (as it is a binary condition, there are no degrees
of friendship), knows that she is married.

The ability to broadcast your profile changes to other people's feeds is
currently turned on by default, and is "opt out" by choice.

Various Facebook groups are being created along the lines of "Say No to
Stalkers" or "Bring Back the Old Facebook" or "Unite and Boycott Facebook!".

So. To round it all up. How does the aggregation of already available (easy
or hard via the "manual" way?) information effect users in social contexts?
Are Facebook users justified in being concerned over "stalker-like
features"? Or should they have already been aware of the consequences of
sharing information in a virtually public space?

How does Facebook's experience relate to future scenarios, where normally
disparate, even "private", bits of information are now readily available in
one, easy-to-read location?

Cheers,

"Mark"

Comments

7 Sep 2006 - 3:10pm
Nasir Barday
2006

Mark, thanks for making this a thread! Last night, I was thinking about the
ruckus this new feature has caused in the Facebook community, and I thought
to myself "wow, what a great study in social interac--- nahhhh..."

Anyway, all of a sudden, information that was already there has been
combined in an easy-to-digest format. But while it also makes explicit what
was before intrinsic (is there a term for this?).

Before, if "Eva Green" and I became friends, people would only know that if
they were constantly watching my friends list for differences (a la
"stalking" behavior). In that same vein, things like relationship changes
("Nasir is now in an open relationship with Natlie Portman! Whoo!") and
comments on photos and other people's profiles become obvious too. More
stalking fodder, some might say.

But some info is arguably useful to announce to friends, e.g. added photos,
newly joined groups, maybe even events people plan to attend.

To Facebook's credit, they do allow you to hide stories from your mini-feed,
one of the "evil info-rolls" in question. Though you have to do this
manually for each entry you want to hide. They also only show people
information that they have the original rights to see. Unfortunately,
Facebook hasn't made this policy very obvious.

I wonder if there's a clean design solution around this? Maybe somehow
annotating each entry with an icon that conveys "you're only seeing this
because you're close friends with Eva." Maybe this is an IA problem: while
the IxD is clean, and the feature seems to fit the "keep track of my
friends" goal of a social network, there is still clearly some info that
people clearly don't want made obvious, violating the "keep people
up-to-date, but don't put my bidness in tha streets" goal.

Thoughts?

- Nasir

On 9/7/06, Mark Canlas <mark at htmlism.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Among the college age crowd, there's an online hoopla going abouts, and I
> thought it would be a great time to discuss it from an interaction
> designer's point of view.
>
>
>
> Facebook is an online community, centered around college and high school
> students. It's like Myspace, in that it's extremely popular, but it's also
> unlike Myspace in that it's clean, organized, and doesn't cause seizures
> on
> page load.
>
>
>
> Earlier this week or last, Facebook added a feature called the "News Feed"
> which aggregates to the user's homepage all of the changes that other,
> relevant users ("friends") made on their profiles, be it the change of
> interests (yesterday I liked green eggs, today I liked ham), or the
> announcement of a new party (IxDA party at my house!).
>
>
>
> The reception for the News Feed as been overwhelmingly negative. Or at
> least
> the most vocal of users on Facebook have made it a point to share their
> dissatisfaction with the feed. It has been described as annoying, "where
> did
> my front page go?", intrusive, creepy, and extremely stalker-friendly.
>
>
>
> Allegedly, the creators of Facebook, and users like myself, maintain that
> all of the things the feed shows you are things that one could have
> gathered
> normally, by surfing Facebook "the old way". Instead of surfing through 30
> friends to find who has new pictures, the feed just tells me so.
>
>
>
> At first, it was awkard to see certain messages. "Jimmy is attending
> Beer-a-palooza." // "Tanya added photos about Las Vegas Summer 2006" //
> "Sharon and Johnny are no longer in a relationship [broken heart icon]" //
> "Elizabeth changed her status from 'in a relationship' to 'married'"
>
>
>
> Elizabeth's personal page is now filled with comments such as
> "congratulations on your marriage". Would the amount of comments have been
> less had the feed not been there? I.e. only Elizabeth's most personal
> friends, or those who check her page most often, or those who interact
> with
> her in person, would know that she got married, without the assistance of
> the News Feed. But everyone Elizabeth has chosen to be friends with, even
> your not-so-close friends (as it is a binary condition, there are no
> degrees
> of friendship), knows that she is married.
>
>
>
> The ability to broadcast your profile changes to other people's feeds is
> currently turned on by default, and is "opt out" by choice.
>
>
>
> Various Facebook groups are being created along the lines of "Say No to
> Stalkers" or "Bring Back the Old Facebook" or "Unite and Boycott
> Facebook!".
>
>
>
> So. To round it all up. How does the aggregation of already available
> (easy
> or hard via the "manual" way?) information effect users in social
> contexts?
> Are Facebook users justified in being concerned over "stalker-like
> features"? Or should they have already been aware of the consequences of
> sharing information in a virtually public space?
>
>
>
> How does Facebook's experience relate to future scenarios, where normally
> disparate, even "private", bits of information are now readily available
> in
> one, easy-to-read location?
>
>
>
> Cheers,
>
> "Mark"
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

8 Sep 2006 - 1:21pm
Georgia Bullen
2006

I've had interesting conversations over the past few das about this
primarily because I'm a recent college grad and also a recent addition to
the professional world.

Truthfully the News Feed is great if you're not a frequent user of Facebook
and even better if you have a handful of friends. It gets extremely out of
had if you have a massive list of friends or are using it to really stalk
all of the people you know.

What I find most interesting is that the users are revolting using the
system itself. They are creating groups and deciding based on the number of
members how successful their cause is "against" Facebook, and yet it's not
really against because the users are using Facebook to yell!

Facebook has also rolled in a "blogging" feature of "Notes" that you can
"Tag" friends into, which is slowing turning facebook into a one-stop shop
for everything that college and highschool kids use the internet for...

-Georgia

On 9/7/06 5:10 PM, "Nasir Barday" <nbarday at gmail.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Mark, thanks for making this a thread! Last night, I was thinking about the
> ruckus this new feature has caused in the Facebook community, and I thought
> to myself "wow, what a great study in social interac--- nahhhh..."
>
> Anyway, all of a sudden, information that was already there has been
> combined in an easy-to-digest format. But while it also makes explicit what
> was before intrinsic (is there a term for this?).
>
> Before, if "Eva Green" and I became friends, people would only know that if
> they were constantly watching my friends list for differences (a la
> "stalking" behavior). In that same vein, things like relationship changes
> ("Nasir is now in an open relationship with Natlie Portman! Whoo!") and
> comments on photos and other people's profiles become obvious too. More
> stalking fodder, some might say.
>
> But some info is arguably useful to announce to friends, e.g. added photos,
> newly joined groups, maybe even events people plan to attend.
>
> To Facebook's credit, they do allow you to hide stories from your mini-feed,
> one of the "evil info-rolls" in question. Though you have to do this
> manually for each entry you want to hide. They also only show people
> information that they have the original rights to see. Unfortunately,
> Facebook hasn't made this policy very obvious.
>
> I wonder if there's a clean design solution around this? Maybe somehow
> annotating each entry with an icon that conveys "you're only seeing this
> because you're close friends with Eva." Maybe this is an IA problem: while
> the IxD is clean, and the feature seems to fit the "keep track of my
> friends" goal of a social network, there is still clearly some info that
> people clearly don't want made obvious, violating the "keep people
> up-to-date, but don't put my bidness in tha streets" goal.
>
> Thoughts?
>
> - Nasir
>
>
> On 9/7/06, Mark Canlas <mark at htmlism.com> wrote:
>>
>> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
>> material.]
>>
>> Among the college age crowd, there's an online hoopla going abouts, and I
>> thought it would be a great time to discuss it from an interaction
>> designer's point of view.
>>
>>
>>
>> Facebook is an online community, centered around college and high school
>> students. It's like Myspace, in that it's extremely popular, but it's also
>> unlike Myspace in that it's clean, organized, and doesn't cause seizures
>> on
>> page load.
>>
>>
>>
>> Earlier this week or last, Facebook added a feature called the "News Feed"
>> which aggregates to the user's homepage all of the changes that other,
>> relevant users ("friends") made on their profiles, be it the change of
>> interests (yesterday I liked green eggs, today I liked ham), or the
>> announcement of a new party (IxDA party at my house!).
>>
>>
>>
>> The reception for the News Feed as been overwhelmingly negative. Or at
>> least
>> the most vocal of users on Facebook have made it a point to share their
>> dissatisfaction with the feed. It has been described as annoying, "where
>> did
>> my front page go?", intrusive, creepy, and extremely stalker-friendly.
>>
>>
>>
>> Allegedly, the creators of Facebook, and users like myself, maintain that
>> all of the things the feed shows you are things that one could have
>> gathered
>> normally, by surfing Facebook "the old way". Instead of surfing through 30
>> friends to find who has new pictures, the feed just tells me so.
>>
>>
>>
>> At first, it was awkard to see certain messages. "Jimmy is attending
>> Beer-a-palooza." // "Tanya added photos about Las Vegas Summer 2006" //
>> "Sharon and Johnny are no longer in a relationship [broken heart icon]" //
>> "Elizabeth changed her status from 'in a relationship' to 'married'"
>>
>>
>>
>> Elizabeth's personal page is now filled with comments such as
>> "congratulations on your marriage". Would the amount of comments have been
>> less had the feed not been there? I.e. only Elizabeth's most personal
>> friends, or those who check her page most often, or those who interact
>> with
>> her in person, would know that she got married, without the assistance of
>> the News Feed. But everyone Elizabeth has chosen to be friends with, even
>> your not-so-close friends (as it is a binary condition, there are no
>> degrees
>> of friendship), knows that she is married.
>>
>>
>>
>> The ability to broadcast your profile changes to other people's feeds is
>> currently turned on by default, and is "opt out" by choice.
>>
>>
>>
>> Various Facebook groups are being created along the lines of "Say No to
>> Stalkers" or "Bring Back the Old Facebook" or "Unite and Boycott
>> Facebook!".
>>
>>
>>
>> So. To round it all up. How does the aggregation of already available
>> (easy
>> or hard via the "manual" way?) information effect users in social
>> contexts?
>> Are Facebook users justified in being concerned over "stalker-like
>> features"? Or should they have already been aware of the consequences of
>> sharing information in a virtually public space?
>>
>>
>>
>> How does Facebook's experience relate to future scenarios, where normally
>> disparate, even "private", bits of information are now readily available
>> in
>> one, easy-to-read location?
>>
>>
>>
>> Cheers,
>>
>> "Mark"
>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
>> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
>> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
>> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
>> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
>> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
>> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

8 Sep 2006 - 1:35pm
Nasir Barday
2006

This morning, Mark Zuckerberg, the original founder of Facebook, sent an
open letter to all Facebook users (login to read it), apologizing for the
way they rolled out the feature. Interestingly enough, the movement to
change facebook gained more ground because people noticed through those very
same news feeds that others were joining "we hate the new facebook!" groups.

Anyway, the solution they're trying is adding a separate settings section to
allow users to control what shows up as news items. They probably could have
saved a lot of hurt from the beginning by doing some good ol' fashioned user
testing. But I guess from a social network's point of view, what better
metric for a design than the number of groups that start up in favor of or
denouncing it?

Aigh. I know what books I'm getting those Facebook peeps if they end up on
my holiday shopping list ...

- Nasir

8 Sep 2006 - 1:58pm
Rebekah Sedaca
2006

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

The face book response is an interesting one, and I too have asked
myself "did they do any user testing"? Just because something can be
done doesn't mean it should be! This should go along way in helping
those of us usability and UXD professionals in making our case for the
values of our work in the design process. A real-life mainstream news
worthy example is just what we needed!

Unfortunately, I am not of the "face book" generation (the tool didn't
exist when I was in college just 6 years ago). However, on Tuesday I
viewed the site's enhancement with a web producer on our team who used
the site often and was raving (and ranting) about its new stalking
feature. She's posted an article online "How Facebook Lost face" which
explains the history of the site and what has happened over the last few
days. Check it out!
http://www.capstrat.com/cs/insight/articles/how-facebook-lost-face.cfm

- Rebekah Sedaca, UXD

8 Sep 2006 - 2:04pm
Georgia Bullen
2006

Another interesting note... When Facebook, Inc was recruiting on my college
campus last year, they only wanted engineers and claimed to not have a
usability department, therefore not knowing what to do with people who had
studied "HCI" and not accepting applications/resumes from usability
backgrounds.

On 9/8/06 3:58 PM, "Rebekah Sedaca" <rsedaca at capstrat.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> The face book response is an interesting one, and I too have asked
> myself "did they do any user testing"? Just because something can be
> done doesn't mean it should be! This should go along way in helping
> those of us usability and UXD professionals in making our case for the
> values of our work in the design process. A real-life mainstream news
> worthy example is just what we needed!
>
> Unfortunately, I am not of the "face book" generation (the tool didn't
> exist when I was in college just 6 years ago). However, on Tuesday I
> viewed the site's enhancement with a web producer on our team who used
> the site often and was raving (and ranting) about its new stalking
> feature. She's posted an article online "How Facebook Lost face" which
> explains the history of the site and what has happened over the last few
> days. Check it out!
> http://www.capstrat.com/cs/insight/articles/how-facebook-lost-face.cfm
>
>
> - Rebekah Sedaca, UXD

8 Sep 2006 - 4:59pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: Rebekah Sedaca <rsedaca at capstrat.com>
>
>The face book response is an interesting one, and I too have asked
>myself "did they do any user testing"?

That's one of the first things I thought as well, and then revised myself slightly: the problems with this are matters of scalability. When you're dealing with a few dozen test accounts with a handful of friends each, it's no biggee, but once you're in the wild with hundreds of users and hundreds of friends, things magnify dramatically. And even in beta testing, the problems won't show as strongly until you have tons of beta users. (Of course, they should havee thought of that in their testing, but I can imagine them not giving it the weight it needed. Bet they won't make that mistake next time!)

-- Jim

8 Sep 2006 - 6:06pm
Susan Farrell
2004

I've given this a lot of thought during the ruckus too, and I think
the problem has to do with several factors that might not have been
uncovered by traditional user testing with a small number of
representative users. A usability professional on the spot would
likely have known that and employed other methods as well.

At Facebook and MySpace, etc, there is a passionate user base, and
the site consists almost entirely of content they create, so the
users naturally feel like it's their space. This user-ownership is
what you want, because it makes the site popular, but it changes the
role of the users. People are emotionally more invested at sites with
user-created content than they are with many other kinds of websites.

Virtual remodeling of someone's virtual home without asking them is a
violation of trust in this kind of relationship. It's worth
mentioning that this is not the first time this sort of breach of
trust has happened in website (and gamespace) redesigns, but it is
one of the more dramatic and vehement so far.

Standard advice is to make incremental changes that are first
beta-tested, when rolling out any significant design changes of an
established site, in order to avoid shock and rejection.

Maybe if FB had turned on the new features for a volunteer group of
user accounts and asked people to check them out and give feedback,
they would not have lost so much trust and could have modified the
feature rollout to be more palatable. What Jim Drew pointed out about
scaling is also very important though. In order to show the realistic
effects of the features, the test group must include both average
accounts and extremely friend-heavy accounts. I think in a case like
this that simply mocking up accounts would not have been as effective
as volunteer accounts, because we care a lot more about privacy when
it's our intimate detail that's being syndicated.

One of the blog articles I read this week (sorry I can't recall which
one) also pointed out that "friend" means something different in this
kind of social space. Being someone's friend in this context does not
convey the kind of intimacy that the newsfeeds provided about profile
changes and one-on-one interactions, but instead "friend" there is
more like an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, or even just an
indication of social token passing or endorsement.

Maybe if FB had also offered the new features as goodies that users
could opt in for, people could have tried them over time and given
more constructive feedback.

Opt-in and beta-testing would have left the users feeling in charge
of the site in important ways. This is the real lesson here. Websites
exist for their users, and they need to behave accordingly.

Susan

9 Sep 2006 - 6:15am
Mark Schraad
2006

>
> I've given this a lot of thought during the ruckus too, and I think
> the problem has to do with several factors that might not have been
> uncovered by traditional user testing with a small number of
> representative users. A usability professional on the spot would
> likely have known that and employed other methods as well.

Very possible but doubtful unless someone had experience scaling new
features, once tested. A simple heuristic evaluation would not likely
have foreseen the gravity of these results. This is a case where
"deep dive" research might have provided a better understanding of
the culture and its variances. It only takes a small, highly vocal
minority to cause this sort of backlash. Obviously this portion of
the community is important, but I have to guess that the new features
were fine with the larger percentage. Bad PR, and the complaints of a
few should not necessarily conclude that this is a bad feature. In
the 90's, Microsoft started talking about producing server side
applications of Office that the user would access from the web. The
reaction was a resounding negative. Now, that concept has spawned its
own mini-industry (web 2.0). The source company's image was wart of
the problem... but it was also an idea that the general public was
not quite ready for.

> Maybe if FB had turned on the new features for a volunteer group of
> user accounts and asked people to check them out and give feedback,
> they would not have lost so much trust and could have modified the
> feature rollout to be more palatable.

I agree. But this seems contrary to your point in paragraph one.

> What Jim Drew pointed out about scaling is also very important
> though. In order to show the realistic
> effects of the features, the test group must include both average
> accounts and extremely friend-heavy accounts. I think in a case like
> this that simply mocking up accounts would not have been as effective
> as volunteer accounts, because we care a lot more about privacy when
> it's our intimate detail that's being syndicated.

Jim is correct. Scaling is a huge issue and this should have been and
could have been predicted. You do not take a clam bisque recipe for
four, and multiply the ingredients times 100 to feed 400.

> One of the blog articles I read this week (sorry I can't recall which
> one) also pointed out that "friend" means something different in this
> kind of social space. Being someone's friend in this context does not
> convey the kind of intimacy that the newsfeeds provided about profile
> changes and one-on-one interactions, but instead "friend" there is
> more like an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, or even just an
> indication of social token passing or endorsement.

Term definition is of particular importance in usability. From a
generational, cultural and professional perspective, a single term
can mean multiple things. When we did testing in the trucking
industry back in the 90's, we found that the term "van" had
different meanings (we actually counted four distinct vehicles)
depending upon the specific occupation of the user.

The shift from a small agile start up, to a larger company is a
difficult one. It changes the culture, the type of talent and the way
strategies must be defined and ultimately executed. I think it is
important to note that the problem here was not just the risk taken,
but also how it was managed and marketed. I realize the context of
this forum is use interaction, but there are business and marketing
issues at play here. We all too often categorize functionality in an
attempt to isolate a problem so as to not duplicate it. As designers
we must learn more about organizational behavior, strategy and
business. Doing so will make us more effective contributors in
contributing to innovation.

Mark

9 Sep 2006 - 11:59am
Susan Farrell
2004

Susan said:
>>the problem has to do with several factors that might not have been
>>uncovered by traditional user testing with a small number of
>>representative users.
[...]
>>Maybe if FB had turned on the new features for a volunteer group of
>>user accounts and asked people to check them out and give feedback,
>>they would not have lost so much trust and could have modified the
>>feature rollout to be more palatable.

>At 8:15 AM -0400 9/9/06, Mark Schraad wrote:
>I agree. But this seems contrary to your point in paragraph one.

To clarify:

By traditional user testing I meant: recruit a dozen or so
representative users, sit them down in front of prototyped features
and have them do tasks and give feedback.

What I proposed as a better alternative in a case like FB is a lot
more like beta testing. Take a few volunteer actual users and their
real accounts (instead of the prototype), and invite the entire user
base to tour the features in situ and give feedback (instead of
evaluating with only a small sample of representative users).

Your point about the designers sometimes being right in the end
(features eventually get accepted) is true enough, but if change is
managed carefully, it's not always necessary to go through the PR
disaster stage to get there. Unfortunately human beings seem to be
change-averse on the whole, which means even good changes can be met
with strong resistance -- especially when the change seems to be
mandatory and seems to originate from outside the group. Involving
users in the design change process can help a lot in reducing that
resistance.

Susan

9 Sep 2006 - 5:14pm
Mark Schraad
2006

On Sep 9, 2006, at 1:59 PM, Susan Farrell wrote:

> What I proposed as a better alternative in a case like FB is a lot
> more like beta testing. Take a few volunteer actual users and their
> real accounts (instead of the prototype), and invite the entire user
> base to tour the features in situ and give feedback (instead of
> evaluating with only a small sample of representative users).

I agree. This is the advantage of a small nimble start up. They can
make a change to (product A)... serve it up online at random
intervals (variation B) and gauge its success in real time. The
larger the company, the harder this is to do. Research is absolutely
necessary, but in the end, it only give you indicators, not answers.
Laboratory situations or even online simulations will not give
designers what they want unless the process is tied to true
situations. I am a lot less conservative with money when I am playing
Monopoly. I am looking forward to being able to make real time, on
the fly design changes with real time feedback that helps me to gauge
success. Alternatively, in marketing queries, predictive markets seem
to hold real promise for extracting tacit knowledge from invested
participants. It is going to get quite interesting and very fun in
the next few years as we develop more accuracy and insight into users.

> Your point about the designers sometimes being right in the end
> (features eventually get accepted) is true enough, but if change is
> managed carefully, it's not always necessary to go through the PR
> disaster stage to get there. Unfortunately human beings seem to be
> change-averse on the whole, which means even good changes can be met
> with strong resistance -- especially when the change seems to be
> mandatory and seems to originate from outside the group. Involving
> users in the design change process can help a lot in reducing that
> resistance.

One of my favorite professors often said, "you do the research
diligently, you develop a solid strategy, but in the end you trust
your gut." As designers we can use research to determine a lot of
things. But we still have to lead. The folks at Oakley are at the
extreme here... reportedly disavowing any research. They believe that
the customer does not know what is cool until they (Oakley) show
them. The absolute hardest determination is how far ahead of the
customer to be. Too little, we fall flat. Too far ahead and we have
Newtons.

Thanks for the clarification Susan.

Mark

9 Sep 2006 - 9:58am
Jared M. Spool
2003

At 08:06 PM 9/8/2006, Susan Farrell wrote:
>Maybe if FB had also offered the new features as goodies that users
>could opt in for, people could have tried them over time and given
>more constructive feedback.
>
>Opt-in and beta-testing would have left the users feeling in charge
>of the site in important ways. This is the real lesson here. Websites
>exist for their users, and they need to behave accordingly.

I wrote an article about this problem back in March of 2005:

Designing Embraceable Change
http://www.uie.com/articles/embraceable_change

I think we're going to see this problem more and more. As people become
involved in the designs we create, they are going to show a very natural
reluctance to change.

New technology takes the control of change away from the user. Whereas, in
years past, the user controlled when a software upgrade happened, thereby
giving them an opportunity to psychologically adapt to the change, now it's
up to the supplier when the change happens.

We're seeing that users are adverse to sudden change and understanding how
we're going to adapt to the change process. I'm betting, in the next five
years, we see a lot of research around how to help users adapt to
technology changes they don't control.

Jared

Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
978 327-5561 jspool at uie.com http://www.uie.com
Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks

10 Sep 2006 - 2:30pm
Christopher Fahey
2005

> >Opt-in and beta-testing

A/B testing (where you show some site visitors design A and some design B,
then you measure and compare the results of each) works for sites where
there is little or no multi-user networking involved... But how does one
beta test a network-related feature on a social network site, where everyone
is interconnected? There is no networking-related feature you can test on
some users without testing them on all users (unless you can find network
"islands" where a small group of users only know each other and have no
connections to anyone else, in which case you'd probably be testing with a
highly unrepresentative group). Has anyone thought of a clever way to do
this?

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

10 Sep 2006 - 3:50pm
Peter Boersma
2003

Chris wrote:
> A/B testing (where you show some site visitors design A and some design
> B, then you measure and compare the results of each) works for sites
> where there is little or no multi-user networking involved... But how
> does one beta test a network-related feature on a social network site,
> where everyone is interconnected?

I'd say not all test scenarios require that both ends of the social relation
require the availability of the new feature. Facebook's news feed is, as far
as I can tell, a good example of this, right?

So only the types of innovations where both ends require the new feature you
run into trouble. But this was also true for other innovations, like file
compression formats and even the old fax machine. How did those get tested?

Peter
--
Peter Boersma | Senior Experience Designer | Info.nl
Sint Antoniesbreestraat 16 | 1011 HB | Amsterdam, The Netherlands
p: +31-20-530 9100 | m: +31-6-15072747 | f: +31-20-530 9101
mailto:peter at peterboersma.com | http://www.peterboersma.com/blog
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10 Sep 2006 - 10:15pm
Nasir Barday
2006

We can't blame this fiasco entirely on lack of user testing.

The issue with the news feed was a mismatch between the types of information
presented (i.e. making some intrinsic info about the social network obvious)
and the original goals of users (keeping tabs on friends, sharing a bit of
what's happening in my life with my friends, not feeling violated). Facebook
could have nipped this in the bud with contextual inquiries and interviews--
probably easier said than done if they still shun HCI folks, as mentioned
earlier.

Facebook identified a problem that users had ("I want to keep tabs on my
friends"), but they didn't follow through with a clear picture of what info
people wanted their friends to see easily.

Of course, I'm saying all of this from an armchair. I can't say I truly
understand the challenges of the development process at a social network.
Would love to hear from anyone that works on social networking apps that has
had to work with these problems.

Peter wrote:

> So only the types of innovations where both ends require the new feature
> you
> run into trouble. But this was also true for other innovations, like file
> compression formats and even the old fax machine. How did those get
> tested?

I sometimes doubt that file compression and fax machines were ever tested
for the does-this-thing-turn-you-into-a-crazed-lunatic metric. But these are
also one-to-one technologies that would be easy to test with pairs of people
as opposed to a connected social network.

- Nasir

11 Sep 2006 - 8:00pm
Christopher Fahey
2005

> Chris wrote:
> > But how does one beta test a network-related feature on a social
> > network site, where everyone is interconnected?
>
> I'd say not all test scenarios require that both ends of the
> social relation require the availability of the new feature.
> Facebook's news feed is, as far as I can tell, a good example
> of this, right?

Strictly speaking you are correct, but I think it's a two-way feature that
cannot be split up.

There's a "social contract" here: Because it requires that (a)your page
shows what other users have changed on their sites, and (b) those other
users should understand that their information is being shown on other
pages, the feature is incomplete if you allow some users a special right to
watch but feel secure that they are not themselves watched.

This is the "universality/reciprocity" aspect of the feature. The feature
might be perfectly acceptable if you could be sure that you could see what
other users were doing without being seen yourself. But since the essence of
the feature is that everybody can see everybody else, the sense of
universality is essential to the feature. That is, the people being watched
are equal participants in the feature to the people watching. You can't
truly test one without the other.

Picture it: Facebook could have set up a test where 1,000 random users were
given the feature of seeing everything their friends changed on their sites,
but the 50,000 friends of theirs who were being watched were not told about
the fact that they were being monitored. This would not be an accurate test
because unless you are both watching and being watched (or if you
consciously opt out of being watched), you are not really using the feature.
You would have a partial insight into the watchers' POV, and zero insight
into the people being watched.

The whole public complaint about the feature, in fact, was from those being
watched, which emphasizes my point. It makes me wonder if Facebook might
have actually done some testing of the feature strictly from a "watcher"
point of view, and received rave reviews. Only when you realize how creepy
it is to be watched dos the features true impact sink in.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

11 Sep 2006 - 8:49pm
Nasir Barday
2006

Chris wrote:

> It makes me wonder if Facebook might
> have actually done some testing of the feature strictly from a "watcher"
> point of view, and received rave reviews. Only when you realize how creepy
> it is to be watched dos the features true impact sink in.

In this case, the feature itself does show users how they were being
tracked-- a mini-feed shows when in your own profile, allowing you to hide
stories about yourself at will. But without that, would the mere fact that
the same information they saw on their friends was appearing about
themselves have been easy enough to figure out?

Actually, couldn't this problem have been weeded out before even reaching
the prototype stage? Contextual inquiries with follow-up interviews probably
would have shown that while users may have been ok with automatically
publishing some information, they may not have been as eager to, say, show
everyone the comments they made on other friends' photos.

Even if Facebook simply knew how squeamish people were about this issue,
they may have designed in the privacy controls for the news feed from the
get-go. In fact, they probably should have known this already. One of the
reasons Facebook attracts such a large user base is the privacy controls.
Perhaps a thorough competitive analysis would have saved Facebook the grief.

- Nasir

12 Sep 2006 - 12:55am
Peter Boersma
2003

Nasir Barday said:
> In this case, the feature itself does show users how they were being
> tracked-- a mini-feed shows when in your own profile, allowing you to
> hide stories about yourself at will. But without that, would the mere
> fact that the same information they saw on their friends was appearing
> about themselves have been easy enough to figure out?

Exactly. If the Facebook usability testers did not explicitly ask for this
in their tests (or even designed scenarios for this(*)), participants must
have mentioned their concerns anyway, one would think...

Peter
(*) Like receiving a comment on something that would have appeared in their
feed and seen by someone else. Depending on the fidelity of the prototype
this could be pre-programmed, done on the spot by an observer, or only
hinted at.
--
Peter Boersma | Senior Experience Designer | Info.nl
Sint Antoniesbreestraat 16 | 1011 HB | Amsterdam, The Netherlands
p: +31-20-530 9100 | m: +31-6-15072747 | f: +31-20-530 9101
mailto:peter at peterboersma.com | http://www.peterboersma.com/blog
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Come to EURO IA - Sep 30 & Oct 1 - Berlin - http://www.euroia.org
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12 Sep 2006 - 7:32am
Christopher Fahey
2005

> Exactly. If the Facebook usability testers did not explicitly
> ask for this in their tests (or even designed scenarios for
> this(*)), participants must have mentioned their concerns
> anyway, one would think...

It probably doesn't hit home until someone you barely know writes you an
email about something you did on your own page. Like when someone inquires
about your recent family vacation after checking you out on Flickr, it
doesn't really register as a real privacy concern until you feel it in
action.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

12 Sep 2006 - 7:41am
Leisa Reichelt
2006

> It probably doesn't hit home until someone you barely know writes you an
> email about something you did on your own page. Like when someone inquires
> about your recent family vacation after checking you out on Flickr, it
> doesn't really register as a real privacy concern until you feel it in
> action.
>
>
hrm. I'm not sure.

I look at this screengrab: http://flickr.com/photos/emilyjoy/238946933/

and I think as soon as I saw something that on my page I'd be scurrying to
my privacy settings (assuming I knew I had them and what they did) to check
what I was sharing with other people...

________________________
Leisa Reichelt
User Experience Consultant
www.disambiguity.com

17 Sep 2006 - 5:31pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Peter wrote:
"*So only the types of innovations where both ends require the new feature
you
run into trouble. But this was also true for other innovations, like file
compression formats and even the old fax machine. How did those get tested?"
*

I have not seen Facebook. From what I have read so far and from my MySpace
experience, the better analogy here is not a fax machine, but the
distinctions we make between friends and acquaintances in the off-line
world. One might be willing to share more info with close (or
"real") friends than with acquaintances.

So what Facebook could have done is to introduce this feature as opt-in
"Share updates in my activity with..." [select from the list], where the
"watched" people choose who needs to know about the changes. Thus
introducing new, the "real" friends category in this social network -
approaching the complexity of our relationships outside the online world.
Perhaps making some info more personal (less available to acquaintances)
than other.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On 9/10/06, Peter Boersma <peter at peterboersma.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Chris wrote:
> > A/B testing (where you show some site visitors design A and some design
> > B, then you measure and compare the results of each) works for sites
> > where there is little or no multi-user networking involved... But how
> > does one beta test a network-related feature on a social network site,
> > where everyone is interconnected?
>
> I'd say not all test scenarios require that both ends of the social
> relation
> require the availability of the new feature. Facebook's news feed is, as
> far
> as I can tell, a good example of this, right?
>
> So only the types of innovations where both ends require the new feature
> you
> run into trouble. But this was also true for other innovations, like file
> compression formats and even the old fax machine. How did those get
> tested?
>
> Peter
> --
> Peter Boersma | Senior Experience Designer | Info.nl
> Sint Antoniesbreestraat 16 | 1011 HB | Amsterdam, The Netherlands
> p: +31-20-530 9100 | m: +31-6-15072747 | f: +31-20-530 9101
> mailto:peter at peterboersma.com | http://www.peterboersma.com/blog
> -----------------------------------------------------------------
> Come to EURO IA - Sep 30 & Oct 1 - Berlin - http://www.euroia.org
> -----------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
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21 Sep 2006 - 2:03am
stauciuc
2006

On 9/18/06, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>
> I have not seen Facebook. From what I have read so far and from my MySpace
> experience, the better analogy here is not a fax machine, but the
> distinctions we make between friends and acquaintances in the off-line
> world. One might be willing to share more info with close (or
> "real") friends than with acquaintances.
>
>

Haven't seen it either. But maybe this is also a case of 'Don't translate
technology into design'. The FOAF specification (they must be using that or
something similar) only defines basic binary relationships, like 'X knows
Y', and is put to best use only as a basis for defining the more complex
relationships we have in real-life.

Sebi

(Sorry, Oleh, I still expect to reply to the whole list when hitting reply)
--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

21 Sep 2006 - 10:00am
Nasir Barday
2006

Sebi wrote:

> Haven't seen it either. But maybe this is also a case of 'Don't translate
> technology into design'. The FOAF specification (they must be using that
> or
> something similar) only defines basic binary relationships, like 'X knows
> Y', and is put to best use only as a basis for defining the more complex
> relationships we have in real-life.

Facebook's "only show this friend my limited profile" preference lets you
distinguish friends vs. acquaintances. This is similar to Flickr's "Mark
contact as Friend" and "Mark contact as Family" options, with specific
permissions on pictures for each group. Facebook's approach still seems more
technology-oriented, since the goal isn't to "show X a limited profile" but
to keep friends and acquaintances separate.

The main reason this fiasco blew up was things like changes in relationship
status showed up as a news flash for everyone in the network to see. Users
felt that making this info obvious was inappropriate, even for their close
friends.

- N

21 Sep 2006 - 12:06pm
Dave Malouf
2005

this is just a test.

23 Sep 2006 - 7:32am
Jared M. Spool
2003

At 02:06 PM 9/21/2006, dave wrote:
>this is just a test.

Damn. I wish I'd known. I would've studied.

26 Sep 2006 - 9:08am
Cwodtke
2004

http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/08/intimacy_gradie.html

This article might shed some light on why the experience was jarring.

"The concept of Intimacy Gradient comes from architect Christopher
Alexander, in his book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings,
Construction. (Oxford University Press, 1977)
<http://downlode.org/etext/patterns/>:

/Pattern #127 - Intimacy Gradient:
<http://downlode.org/etext/patterns/ptn127.html> /

/*Conflict:* Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a
sequence which corresponds to their degrees of privateness, the
visits made by strangers, friends, guests, clients, family, will
always be a little awkward./

/*Resolution:* Lay out the spaces of a building so that they create
a sequence which begins with the entrance and the most public parts
of the building, then leads into the slightly more private areas,
and finally to the most private domains."
/

It sounds like more private information was suddenly "put in the
front yard" so to speak...

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