Facebook tries day and night to get you to like pages, join groups, and attend or create events. It tries to guess what you might be into based on what’s close to you and what your friends like.
As a UX chick, I would love to know how it decides that one friend’s interests should be 90% of what I’m shown, especially when I have no behaviours that would tell Facebook his interests match mine.
I’m Not Vegan
Let’s start with that. I eat animal products in nearly every meal of the day. I’m far from vegan and since I find that the more Paleo I go, the better I function, I’m unlikely to be vegan any time ever.
I follow multiple Paleo pages on Facebook for recipe ideas. I follow no vegan pages. I have never attended a vegan event other than one vegan friend’s annual vegan birthday dinner. Facebook would see me invited to other vegan events and declining them nearly the moment I’m invited. Friend doesn’t invite me anymore at my request.
I’m not in any vegan groups. I’m in very few groups and none are remotely about vegans. One is about D23 members (Disney fans). One is people who went to the same summer camp I did when I was very little.
Every time Facebook suggests a vegan thing to me, I “x” it out as soon as I see it.
I’m also not single. I’ve been in a relationship since April 2012, and Facebook knows that. So it has no reason to show me dating sites. It used to show me engagement rings but appears to have given up. 🙂
I am for animal rights and improving their situations but am not connected to any of those on Facebook. Most of the things I’m connected to on Facebook are related to Walt Disney World since that’s a main obsession for me. I don’t think you could eat vegan there if you wanted to.
About once a month, I post to Facebook about a negative run-in I had with a vegan person or vegan article I read. If Facebook is parsing for sentiment, they’d know I’m not into it. If Facebook isn’t parsing for sentiment, and assumed I am into vegan stuff because I mentioned it, then they will also assume that vocal conservatives are into Obama and abortions. Which would be unfortunate for those people. Plus I write very often about Disney… where are those links or suggestions from Facebook?
So having established that, how much should Facebook try to get me to engage with vegan things on Facebook?
Most Of Facebook’s Suggested Pages, Groups, and Events For Me Are Vegan
I have many Facebook friends into a variety of things. One friend is very into Catholic prayers and pages. I don’t get shown those.
I have friends who genuinely like GOP presidential candidates. I’m not shown those as suggested pages.
One local friend mostly posts about Black Lives Matter, protests, and Oakland “dyke” events. I’m not shown those as suggested things.
I have one local vegan friend. He’s into ALL these things. Here are some of the Vegan pages and groups Facebook pushes on me daily:
- Vegan Aquafaba (whatever that is)
- Vegan Singles Around The Globe (not single)
- Santa Cruz Vegans (not in Santa Cruz)
- Naughty Vegan Humour (are these red meat jokes?)
- What Naughty Vegans Eat (I’m gonna guess it’s carbs and sugars)
- Worldwide Vegans
- Vegans in SF, Berkeley, and Oakland
- Vegans United (for or against what)
- Vegan Teens Sanctuary (um, not a teen)
- Vegan Cats (please don’t feed your carnivorous hunter a vegan diet, which these people do, which is inhumane to a cat’s natural self)
- Power To The Veg!
- Vegan Meringues – Hits and Misses (since meringues are egg whites, I’m going to assume a lot of misses there)
These Aren’t Ads or Sponsored
These aren’t ads or sponsored posts where the page owner asks Facebook to promote something to fans’ friends. These are just every day right column Facebook suggestions.
You’d think that if the Vegan Teens wanted to advertise, they’d go for people in their stated age group (13-21). They wouldn’t look for 43 yr olds. That might be a bad idea. So these aren’t ads.
Distracting User Experience
It’s distracting to have Facebook suggesting so many pages, groups, and events that I will never be interested in. No it’s not a sign. I am not going vegan. I want animals treated way better but I still need to eat them to function well.
I would love to see how Facebook decides that one friend’s groups, likes, and events take precedence over anything else they can show me. I have other local friends. They have things they are into. I don’t seem to be getting those.
How many times has a post like this ended up in your news feed?
And then let’s say you share it. If you’re like me or my Facebook friends, by default, your shares and posts are set to “Friends Only.” That means this teacher will never see that you shared it.
What if you share one that was someone else’s share? The teacher might not see that if she’s just looking at how many shares her original post received. What if you pressed like on your friend’s share of it? The teacher won’t see that either.
Those students are not going to get the right info or data about how far this post really went.
Here’s How To Do This Right
Step 1: Write your message. Make sure you mention elementary age school kids, sexting, security, or safety. Could be middle school or high school. I saw one where the teacher had written that her school kids thought it was OK to post pictures of themselves in their bras and underwear.
Step 2: Come up with a probably-unique hashtag like #apr2015internetsafety. Ask people who share it to tag the picture with that hash tag. Side note: in case some freako uses that hashtag for NSFW stuff, teachers, make sure you are checking these things before showing them in class to students.
Step 3. Ask people who share it to make sure that their Facebook share is a PUBLIC post. The kids can only see public posts. They can’t see posts I made just to my Facebook friends. Shares have to be public.
Step 4: If the goal is really to see WHERE this post ends up geographically, ask people when sharing to post their location (generally) like city and state.
Step 5: If you want to teach kids how many people could see a post, have the people who share it also say how many Facebook friends and followers they have.
That means someone sharing it might create a public post that says, “San Francisco, CA. 300 friends, 60 followers. #apr2015internetsafety” The teacher can see how many likes and shares that got, and follow everything like a neural network.
Now you’re cooking with gas. Everything else just seems is a sharing black hole since the original teacher will have no real way to track it all down later. But if she can go to Facebook and look for her hashtag, then she can now collect some good/better data.
This image has been floating around this week:
I think that anything anybody can do to reach out to people who are hurting and unfortunately considering suicide can only be a good thing. It looks like Facebook carefully wrote a message that isn’t too emotional but lets someone know that friends are worried and there IS help out there.
But What’s Up With The Heart With The Question Mark?
I can’t help but wonder if that’s really the right imagery or icon considering the potentially grave situation. I imagine that you’d want an image that shows care, warmth, and some sort of “people care and we’re here for you.”
So why the question mark? I would hate for a depressed person to see a heart with a question mark and interpret it as “does anybody love you?”
How about just the blue heart. A blue heart is already a little sad.
And there is no question here so we don’t need a question mark. Everything is written as declarative sentences. Someone asked us to look at a post that made them concerned. Click to see that post.
The next screen asks the same question twice: What would you like to do? I’m not sure I want to ask a suicidal person what he or she wants to do. I think that second screen would be FINE without the twice-asked “what would you like to do?” Remove both instances of that question.
I’m glad Facebook is doing this, but I think the imagery and some of the copy could be better given the extremely delicate nature of the situation. This message might come as a surprise to someone who receives it, so how can it be warmer and softer?
Accordions. Expanding and contracting sections. That’s pretty common! And what’s also common is to have a triangle, chevron, or carat of some sort pointing down to tell you things drop down… and then the reverse one pointing up once it’s expanded. That tells you it goes up.
Not ground breaking, right? Well, someone tell Facebook.
This makes me think this area will expand further when I click that. But here’s what it actually does:
Just wow. You had me click to show a drop down that told me to collapse something… rather than having an up-facing icon and let me collapse it in one click. Fantastic.
When I see the “Ask” button next to a Facebook relationship status, I take that to mean, “PLEASE DON’T ASK.”
Because if that person wanted you to know, it would just say it right there. It would say single, married, in a relationship, or something else. It would just say it!
So my new hypothesis is that “Ask” means “please don’t ask because I don’t really want to say.”
I recently ran an experiment. I had a blog post here. I posted it to my Facebook page. And I wanted to try “boosting” it so more people would see that Facebook post (and hopefully click it to see the blog post). Seems simple, right?
For a flat fee, Facebook will offer to push your post to a range of people. I chose to spend $60 on the 2900-6000 range. That makes you assume what??? Oooo I might get 6000 people. Right there, Facebook should do a better job setting expectations. I’ve run lots of Facebook ads that promised lots of “reach,” and they always come in at the low end.
I also chose to push the boosted post to friends of people who already like my Facebook page. This was mostly an experiment for me, so I didn’t get too crazy with targeting. I created my ad and Facebook created 2 versions of it for the sake of reporting/tracking. One was what was shown to the people who already like my page (weird, I thought I was just showing the boost to their friends and not them) and one was show to their friends.
Let’s start with one main metric you need to know. Click to enlarge.
Post engagements. 58 of them according to Facebook. At $1.03 each, I spent the $60 I chose to spend at the beginning of the Boost process. OK what are post engagements?
Click to enlarge, and then let’s discuss what’s here because it gets really slimey really fast.
Here’s another slice of it, click to enlarge:
And yet another slice from the post itself:
And from many clicks deep, there’s this:
There are a lot of confusing and possibly misleading things here:
- My post got 0 shares according to this. How did it get 1 comment on a share if it got zero shares?
- Yes, the post got 2 comments. One was from a friend of a friend. The second was me responding to her. I saw another screen that made it look like those 2 comments were part of my 58 post engagements. So did I pay $1.03 for my own comment because that’s a post engagement?
- I have 58 “post engagemgents” but 11 “likes, comments, and shares.” Well then what are the other 47? Not sure. Can’t be clicks to my website because Facebook claims there’s 48 of those, and I’m looking for something that represents 47. If Facebook is being precise, I’ll be precise too.
- I have 51 clicks. 48 supposedly to my website’s blog page. 3 on “other.” Do we not know what “other” represents? The info icon says that an “other” click is on the page title or “see more.” Ummm, OK.
- Wait, do I have 51 clicks, 48 clicks, or 47 clicks? I’m so lost.
- That number of clicks doesn’t match what Google Analytics reports from those days from Facebook as a source. Goog shows fewer than that by about 25%.
- I have how many of what??? One place says reach was 2906 people. But then it also says 3180 people reached and 3174 of those were paid. So which is it?
What did I really end up with?
Tangibly, I ended up with 1 new like to my Facebook page and 1 comment on the post. I probably got about 30 people going to my blog post to read it (based on Google Analytics and not Facebook’s claim of clicks).
Facebook counted my own comment on the post as a “post engagement,” and it looked like they do math like this:
Total spent divided by totally wanky number of post engagements = your cost per engagement. Well then please don’t count MY replies in that!
Why don’t the stats match up with each other? What is reach REALLY? What the hell is a post engagement?
As usual, I’m unhappy with having spent money running some sort of ad on Facebook. It always seems so unrewarding and like money was just sucked from me for no good reason. The stats don’t match up. Reporting is weird. It’s all very uninspiring.
But of course, Facebook wants me to boost that post again for more reach!
For $15, I can reach 3500 – 9200 people. Well, are those unique people? Or are those in addition to the nearly 3200 you say I already reached? Could you take $15 from me, reach 300, and say we’re done? I can’t tell. This is just completely unclear (and I’m not going to do it for the experiment).
The ranges are also kinda weird. For $50, I can reach 4600 – 12000 or for $60 for 4800 – 13000. So I could spend $50 or $60 and end up with 4800. That seems a little weird.
I also noticed I’m not paying specifically for post engagements.
I spent $60. I got somewhere between 2909 and 3184 “reach” based on which of Facebook’s numbers you believe. I got 58 post engagements, and I was told that means they were $1.03 each. But I didn’t get to bid on post engagements. I didn’t get to say HEY I’ll pay a dollar each for a post engagement, and run this ad until I’ve spent $60.
The tail wagged the dog. I got X amount of reach. I got Y amount of post engagements (whatever those are). And then the math was done later as some sort of “cost per.”
It would be interesting if like regular Facebook ads you could pay per click or engagement and bid on that amount. Otherwise, this is the old pay per impressions model (reach are impressions) later manipulated to look like pay per action. Which also ends up feeling like I paid for over 3100 people to see my ad and ignore it, assuming we believe that Facebook showed it to them.
I hope someday someone at Facebook decides that consistency and honest are important in all of their ad products.
There has been a lot of confusion lately over the Facebook Messenger app and what it wants to do once it’s on your phone. There are blog posts and reports saying the sky is falling, the permissions are insane, and everybody should uninstall it or never install it. There are blog posts and reports saying no, that’s a hoax, it’s really OK, go ahead and install it.
As an Android fan girl, I read the permissions for the Android app.
Interestingly, Facebook has named their install file “orca” as in killer whale. I’m assuming they are hoping it’ll kill Google Hangouts, Google Voice, and your phone’s text messaging and calling. Because it wants to be all of those things… the killer (whale) app.
It’s all there in black and white, no need for he said/she said.
This is an easy one to determine. We don’t have to wonder whether alarmists are right or mellow, unworried people are right. And you are welcome to install it or not. But you should know to what you are agreeing to give Facebook access (that they don’t have access to now). For example:
- A log of your past phone calls. Why does Facebook need to see who I’ve been calling?
- The ability to dial my phone for me. Well, I can do that myself nicely, thanks. How about you just tell me the number.
- Sending, receiving, reading, and editing text messages (SMS and MMS aka multimedia messages aka pictures you and others text each other). Facebook wants to see those and send them for you. Thanks but I don’t need any help there.
- All the Wi-Fi networks I’ve logged into. Why?
- Keep my phone from sleeping. Well, that sounds like a serious battery drain. Why would you want to do that?
- The ability to download files to your phone without telling you. OK, what? What is so important that you need to download files AND not tell me?
That’s just some of the permissions that make me uneasy. You might dislike other permissions once you read all of them.
I uninstalled the app a few weeks ago. I don’t miss it. I have a shortcut on my home screen to the mobile web page for Facebook messages. That’ll work fine. Anybody who needs my attention faster can email, call, Google Hangout, or text. It’s not like you can only reach me via Facebook messages. I could never use that again and reach people just fine.
Beware of Orca
It’s important to read permissions. I have uninstalled other apps when they updated their permissions. I remember when Skype wanted to turn my wifi on when it felt like it and “Draw” over everything else. I uninstalled.
Sure, you might say what’s the point. Internet privacy is like airport security… it’s a lame story, so why bother. Go ahead. I understand that as an Android user, Google knows everything. But I don’t need Facebook to know everything. I can control that. That’s what I’m choosing to do.
What do you want to teach Facebook and future companies about what they can do inside your phone or with your information? Jeez, this article doesn’t even TOUCH what Facebook could possibly down the road do with all they collect about you. Could they then let advertisers advertise to you differently because Facebook notices you keep calling certain businesses? I don’t even want to imagine.
Killer Whales. Not known for being nice.
Hey! I have something for you. You think you want it. And to get it, all you have to do it like my Facebook page. Or sign up for my mailing list to read my white paper. Or share this with a friend. Or tweet with this hashtag.
And THEN you can have this whatever it is.
This has been a marketing tactic for some time. I can think of web pages I saw at least 10 or 15 years ago that wouldn’t let you “learn more” until you agreed to join their email mailing list and in same cases also give up your mailing address. I never thought it was a good practice.
Businesses and services don’t really connect more with people they force through hoops and obstacles. Especially in this modern world of quick unsubscribing from email lists, I can easily join your list with an email address I made 5 minutes ago, get what I came to get, and never check that Hotmail again. Or unsubscribe. And then what do you REALLY have? You didn’t grow your list. You just taught me that if I want to work with you, you will put self-serving interests first, and delay me getting what I came to get. Maybe I can get what you have from someone else who will act like my time and personal information are more valuable.
Another of these approaches is like-gating on Facebook. In case you’re new to the term, this is where you offer something to people but they can only see it or have it if they like your Facebook fan or business page.
The interesting thing about that is that it assumes that people who are interested in your business don’t already like your Facebook fan page. So either your Facebook page isn’t that interesting or people aren’t really that into you (or something else). Unliking a fan page is really easy. One click, maybe 2, and it’s easy to find. Which means it only ends up serving as a temporary obstacle.
And all those likes can work against you.
Facebook looks at your fan page and sees how many people interact with it. Do you get likes? Comments? Shares? And when you get a low percentage of those, Facebook says aha this page isn’t that interesting, let’s show it to fewer people. That means that if you have more likes but from mostly uninterested people, you are potentially killing your ratio of engagement. Now, instead of 20 people out of 100 being involved in your page, it’s 25 out of 200. That will actually work against you on Facebook, where algorithms rule, and in a bad way.
Facebook previously dropped the hammer on forcing people to approve a Facebook app (that grabs all your personal info and possibly your friends’ personal info) in order to see or get something or enter a contest. Now, you won’t be able to force people to like something to get the scoop, get something, or enter a contest.
That’s a win for user experience. Let your Facebook fans or mailing list subscribers be people who naturally want to opt in and might stick around and be engaged.
In another “we don’t care about user experience” move, the Facebook website for their upcoming developer conference doesn’t include the date on all pages.
They’re linking right to the schedule from their Facebook page, so you might bypass the home page showing the event date.
Maybe they think that their even is so awesome that if you are interested in it, you KNOW what day it is and don’t need to be told.
In case they update it to show the date, here’s what the top of the schedule page looks like today. Click to enlarge.
Maybe I’m just a power user on the end of a bell curve, but I think Facebook privacy has a long way to go. Here are some of my suggestions for Facebook.
Block Anybody and Block By Email Address
Right now, if Person X blocked you on Facebook, you can’t see them to block them. And you might REALLY want to block them. If they unblock you, you won’t know it. They might read or comment on your public stuff. You will be damn surprised. And by the time you go to do something about that, they’ll have blocked you again. This means we need Facebook to let us block people, even if they have blocked us.
And I’d like to block by email address. I may not know what real or fake name someone is using on Facebook. But I may have an email address that matches an email address Facebook knows. Let me block those people so that whatever name or account they create, Facebook knows I don’t want them seeing me ever. Period.
Heck, blocking by domain would be great. What if someone I deeply distrust has his or her own domain. He could create endless email addresses there. I’d have a hard time knowing them to block them. I’d love to tell Facebook anybody with an email @______.com should be blocked.
Blocking By Specific Targeting
Let’s say I have some really bad exes (I do!). Let’s say I want nothing to do with anybody from their world. And I don’t know enough names to keep blocking them all. I would love to be able to tell Facebook that anybody who is friends with Person X (or a certain email address) AND isn’t friends with me is auto-blocked. That way, as he adds new friends, I have them blocked. If he makes a dummy account and friends himself, which I can see at least one of them doing, he’d be blocked.
And if my Block By Email Address were in place, I could also block an ex by knowing the email address of a couple of people in his circle. I could tell Facebook to block anybody friends with his best friend… or Mom… or sister. That’s then likely to include him no matter what name or email he used to sign up.
I’d also like to block by Page or Group. I know a few groups that really attract some crazies. A few FB pages too. I’d love to tell Facebook that if someone is in that group or likes that page and isn’t already my friend, block them all.
Apps Getting My Info MUST Be Double Opt In
Right now, if a friend of mine approves a Facebook app that grabs her friends list and friends’ info, I have no idea that’s happened. I had no say. I may not have approved that. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Before some “Hot YouTube Videos” app is grabbing my name so it can send my friend fake emails from my name (which might look real to her and fool her more than the typical spam), we should BOTH have opted in and approved that app. If we BOTH did, then we got what we deserved. But I would like to see Facebook apps not able to access ANYTHING about me unless I approved them. Sounds so logical, right? Yet, it’s not how it works.
You might say that poops on the whole idea of the graph. I don’t care. This is about privacy, control, and my info, and I didn’t opt in to anything about me being given out.
Let Me Use My Last Initial
I’d like to be Debbie L. That would be harder for people to find me. My not-that-common last name wouldn’t be given out because my friends approved an app for this sick little girl who needs your likes. Facebook won’t let me do that. So while people are named “NoLastName” and other weird things to get around this, I just say Facebook, let us use a last initial.
Block By IP and Other Matching Data
When eBay suspends a member, their policy is that they don’t want you back under any name. They often suspend other accounts they think are yours or connected to you. And if you try to come back and they put 2 and 2 together, that new account will be suspended too.
Facebook should be that smart. If I have blocked Person X but he closes his Facebook account and opens another with some other name and email, Facebook should be as smart as eBay. They should be able to say with reasonable certainty that it seems to be the same guy. We should pre-emptively block this account too for Debbie.
Friends of Friends Are Strangers. Keep Them Out.
Facebook will show some things I post to Friends of Friends. Facebook should realise that my friends’ friends are strangers to me. I don’t know or trust these people. In fact, I have plenty of friends who add ANYBODY that sends them a friend request. That means some of my “semi-private” stuff is now being shown to scammy strangers. Facebook needs to be smarter and keep things from people who aren’t my friends.
Better Removal Of Fake and Scammer Accounts
I’m tired of getting messages and friend requests from accounts that are clearly fake. If I can look at them and know they’re fake, Facebook has to have an automatic way to weed these out. But of course, that would skew their advertising numbers since some of the fake accounts are there to click on ads and like pages, not to spam me. So many scams. Facebook should care and do more, and blog posts I read keep saying they won’t.
These are just a few ideas that I think would really help with privacy.