Facebook Makes Time Nonlinear Again; Nobody Rejoices

Posted By Debbie on May 16, 2013

Oh Facebook. Remember when the Timeline was not really in time order? And then they changed it back? Facebook is now experimenting with comments being nonlinear. But not everybody is getting it, so it’s either an A/B test or a slow rollout.

I’m hoping it tests badly. Facebook comments are a conversation among many people. If you show them out of order, the conversation will no longer make sense. Facebook assume people will comment in some sort of threaded way, but they might not. Let’s not assume anything about 1 billion people!

Here is a screen shot of two posts that showed up next to each other in my news feed. One has this “new” order for comments (they appear to be arranged by likes, but who knows) and the other is just a standard, linear dialogue. Click to enlarge:

ScreenHunter_08 May. 14 17.51

There are now 100 comments to that post. I have to wonder if anybody got confused by seeing a comment they posted in response to someone end up ABOVE the original post to which they were replying.

I can’t believe I even have to write about this. Who works in UX at Facebook? Anybody? I wouldn’t even want to work there. Seems like a culture of shoot first, go through proper UX steps later.

UX and UI inconsistencies can unnerve people. People generally don’t like change, and they especially don’t like change that feels like a downgrade of any sort. If it’s frustrating, confusing, or disappointing, people are likely to dislike it. This is inconsistent. Sometimes I have to type my comment at the top. Sometimes my comment goes at the bottom. Why? It’s not like it’s explained to me that if I type at the top, something different or special happens. Evidently nothing special happens. But there are two different interfaces.

Also notice in the top example when comments were posted. They’re all over the time number line. Even that just bangs my brain a bit.

Can you think of anything site that posts comments out of time order?

I’m thinking of every discussion forum ever. Comments under blog posts. Comments under Mashable articles. Comments under news articles. I can’t think of a single example where someone decided that time shouldn’t be linear, and comments should be arranged out of order.

I’m not sure who at Facebook thinks that making time appear out of time is something people will find clear, helpful, consistent, and enjoyable. What testing was done and how did these things test? Was testing done before this was just unleashed on some Facebook users?

Can I please suggest that companies test really new ideas and interfaces before just slapping some A/B test together and changing live experiences?