Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

Potluck: social networks as an endless game

Friday, June 28th, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “endless games” and how they apply to content. From SCVNGR’s game dynamics playdeck:

Endless games: Games that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual games that can refresh their content or games where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.

This same mechanic is at work within almost all social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even Quora. It’s a simple concept: every time you return to any of these social networks, there’s something new for you. Something to read, something to discuss, a funny animated GIF, a link to explore — and on and on. The fact you’re getting something new and unknown whenever you return to a social network is one reason they have become such a powerful part of digital life.

And that’s why I was quite excited about Potluck — a social network dedicated to sharing links. As a link junky this sounded like a wonderful proposition. From their homepage:

Discover new things your friends think are cool (that you wouldn’t find otherwise!).

Sounded pretty good. I signed up and even sent it to work colleagues and tweeted it out. I connected to around a dozen people on the first day. Found some nice new links. A good start. But since yesterday afternoon?

Zip. Nothing is happening. Just tumbleweeds rolling by.

What motivation do I have to return to Potluck?

Zero. There’s nothing new there.

Critically, because it’s only very new and I only have a few connections, of course there’s likely to be little there. Where are the link suggestions? Trending links? Popular links? There is literlaly no reason for me to bother ever signing in again. Am I missing some part of the site? Or is it really just meant to be like this?

Potluck has failed at creating a sense of an endless game, and for me that means it’s failed entirely as a social network concept.

It’s incredible that a product with such an impressive team behind it (Evan Williams and Biz Stone to name just two) could be launched like this. This isn’t even beta.

Potluck describes itself as The best house party you’ve ever been to. On the internet.

Alas, this seems more accurate…

Forever alone

The unsurprisingly connected world

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

On BBC News today there are some lovely visualisations of global flight paths by Michael Markieta.

This reminded me of a visualisation by Facebook by Paul Butler showing global friend networks done several years ago — both in visual appearance and similarity of the data presented.

Here are the two compared:

Flight paths versus Facebook friends

The similarities, of course, are not surprising.

Without comparing the datasets directly, it’s hard to find any definitive insights, but a few things that look interesting:

  1. Social networks with the Hawaiian islands are stronger than the flights (it’s a long flight I guess, but the beaches are good right?)
  2. Chinese mainland connections through Facebook are not as pronounced as the air traffic. But Facebook isn’t as big in China as it is in the West
  3. West Africa has stronger connections through Facebook than through flight paths (again, not surprising)
  4. Western Europe is heavily interconnected in both maps, but moving east this reduces in density… but Moscow is a large hub in both maps
  5. Australia and New Zealand prefer to keep in touch through Facebook rather than flying across the Tasman

I’d love to compare these datasets together along with similar stats from Twitter, Baidu/Weibo in China and VK in Russia/Eastern Europe.

Can anyone else see any other interesting similarities (or differences) in here?

Your year in review on social networks: Twitter vs Facebook

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

On December 12th I noticed a link on Facebook: “2012: Your year in review”. Boldy it proclaimed:

“A look at your 20 biggest moments from the year including life events, highlighted posts and your popular stories.”

2012 in review

I love these ‘end of year reviews’. They’re one of the best things about the close of the year — looking back over the year that was and reliving highlights (and often lowlights). Some of the more interesting ones from 2012 were Google’s Zeitgeist 2012, 2012 Year on Twitter and The Atlantic’s 2012: The Year in Photos.

Naturally I was really interested to see a personalised year in review from Facebook. Given that I use Facebook a lot — and therefore Facebook knows a lot about me, and has a lot of my data — my expectations were quite high.

Unfortunately, my Facebook year in review was woefully underwhelming. (If you’re friends me on Facebook, you can see my Year in review — or see your own — which is hopefully more interesting than mine).

So why was mine so underwhelming?


A single serving site story: Epilogue

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

In July 2011 I wrote about the story (so far) of — a ‘single serving site’ I created spoofing Chelsea FC’s ‘revolving door’ history of managerial changes — and whether new coach André Villas-Boas had indeed been sacked yet.


Spotify and Facebook: No more guilty pleasures

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The full implications of Spotify and Facebook’s love-in became quite apparent today. The first point of controversy: you now need a Facebook account to create a new Spotify account. I’ve already got a Spotify account and a Facebook account so this didn’t really bother me, even though I think it’s a strange and exclusive move (as in, excluding non-Facebook users).

But when I got home this evening and logged into Spotify, it dawned on me that Spotify and Facebook really, really want me to combine my accounts:

Spotify Loves Social


Facebook design changes: user experience and the user environment

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

So, Facebook rolled out some new design changes today. From the moment I heard about it, I think everyone knew that it’d be big yet ultimately dull news.

As one friend put in a succinct Facebook update:

That time of the year has come again – Facebook layout changes

Side effects will include a barrage of posts from people who claim it has caused them distress, anxiety, agitation, blurred vision, hair loss, insomnia, diarrhoea and erectile dysfunction.

Users hate change. Redesigns at best are met with softly spoken praise; at worst with fury and backlash.

As a designer I always try to stifle my inner-user when dealing with a new design. I try to understand and appreciate the thought behind it, knowing only too well how much time, thought and discussion has been put into every minute detail.

But what also really fascinates me is after using a new design of a site, seeing what others think of it, and trying to reconcile their thoughts with not only my own opinion of the design, but what I think was the strategy behind the design itself.

A single serving site story

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Several years ago Jason Kottke coined the phrase ‘single serving site‘ to describe websites that have a single purpose: often to provide a simple answer to a question. The web has had a long history of these sites, ranging from whether Kayne West is still a douche bag or not (apparently he still is) through to whether former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has been arrested yet (yes, thankfully).

In fact the controversy over Rebekah Brooks and NOTW spawned many of these sites: starting with and now This year it seems the single serving site has become quite a feature within British online culture — starting off with football-themed sites such as back in January and then which popped up in May.

In late June, Chelsea FC appointed André Villas-Boas as their new manager. Chelsea managers are often the victims of fickle owner Roman Abromovich’s thirst for success; since he took over the club in 2003, there have been eight managers in total (including Villas-Boas). A few days after the announcement I wondered if anyone had setup a site about whether he was still manager or not. It appeared not, so I thought I’d grab the domain and contribute to the meme, and also try to put a nice visual layer on top for some fun.

Has André Villas-Boas Been Sacked Yet


Google +/- ?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Three days in to using Google+ and it’s clear the platform is really well executed and highly polished.

However, the few threads going on in my stream are all related to Google+ itself — almost like a meta social network. As one friend remarked:

‘Right, since it seems Google+ is the place to talk only about Google+, i’ll continue the trend: Create a Circle, and then delete it…. enjoy the animation :-)’

Since it’s currently invite only, it’s understandable that activity on the network is fairly light. But what’s a social network without the social side? I wonder if Google are restricting sign ups just to ensure the service doesn’t collapse under the influx of users?


User experience and the touchy subject of personal taste

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

I signed up to Songkick yesterday: a great idea for a site that lets you track when your favourite artists are performing nearby. I chose to login using Facebook Connect and got this list of suggested artists:


Coldplay as the first recommendation? I can’t stand Coldplay!

I found myself quite indignant at being recommended I like Coldplay. But it’s not really about Coldplay, it’s about being suggested I engage with something I really don’t like. (So if you like Coldplay, please just think of your least favourite band in this scenario!)


The slow decline of Flickr

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

I used to be a Flickr addict. I would shoot as much as I could and upload at least a few days a week. But the past few months, I’ve found myself spending less and less time on the site. Why?

Flickr Stats
Part of it is definitely the improvement in Facebook’s handling of photos. Facebook now provides higher quality images and the ability to share my photos with a much larger selection of friends.

And that’s where I think Flickr is starting to fall behind: there is a distinct lack of updates and new ‘features’ on the site. Twitter and Facebook are always tweaking their interface (with varying degrees of success and often with a fair bit of controversy). But the last major interface update I can remember was to sharing photos in March 2011. And that was hardly a massive new feature.