Mary Hodder has a post entitled Email Has Evaporated As a Social Tool where she pointed out that she no longer uses email as a "social" tool. Specifically, she doesn't talk to friends and family over email, instead email is for mailing lists, business and spam. Instead she talks to friends and family on Facebook and over IM.

I'm in the same boat. Most of the email I get at my personal email address falls into three categories (a) spam, (b) bills and (c) stuff related to my blog. There is the occassional “social” email exchange with a friend but that happens maybe once every month or two. On the other hand, I’ve been connecting with lots of people who I haven’t talked to in several years from elementary & high school buddies from my time in Nigeria to relatives of friends who live in New York via Facebook.  I’m now a regular user of the site and there seem to be a number of places where the user experience tends to be frustrating which could be fixed with a minor tweak or two. The problems and potential solutions below

  1. Liberate the Status Updates from the Tyranny of the Web Page (APIs, APIs, and Even More APIs): A number of online services have found that opening up their services by providing APIs that enable users to access their stuff from other sites, desktop apps or on their mobile phones is goodness. However a lot of the Facebook API seems geared towards building apps that are hosted in Facebook, than in enabling more ways for users to interact with their data outside of the Facebook user experience. One example of a place where Facebook could add more value to its users via an API is status updates. If I want to view the status updates from my friends, I have to use the status update page on Facebook. I can’t use a desktop application that can just sit in my system tray like Twitterific does for Twitter nor can I write a Windows Live Messenger add-in which syncs my Facebook status message with my IM status message. I’d use the feature a whole lot more if it didn’t involve so many clicks and navigating to the Website every time I wanted to see what was going on with my friends or change my status.

  2. Allow me to Segregate my Friends by Network: Like most people outside college who use Facebook, I now have two broad classes of people on my friends list in Facebook; people I know professionally and people I know personally. I don't think only beauty queens like Miss New Jersey will have problems once they leave school and have all these embarassing pics from college frat parties now available to people who they meet professionally who "friend" them on Facebook. Currently people can decide to create a new account or delete those parts of their lives they feel will be embarassing in a different social context. Being able to create an album that is only visible to my college “friends” or wall posts that are only visible to my work “friends” mirrors reality and is something that Facebook if they don’t want their user base to outgrow the site when they make life transitions.

  3. Fix “How do you know this person?”: Upon adding someone as a friend, Facebook asks “How do you know this person?” then presents a fixed list of options that seem geared towards college students. There’s are lots of people on my list that I leave blank because there are no options for “attended a conference together”, “works in the same industry”, “fan of his blog”, “is my realtor”, “is my doctor”, “is my accountant”, etc. Instead there are options like “we hooked up” and “took a summer course together”. I can understand that they may not want to allow free form entries but they least they could do is update the list to account for their broadening user base. See the following posts for more on this topic; How do I know this person? Through the Web! by Jon Udell, Social networks as “friend” Nazi (design flaws in Facebook, Jaiku, Twitter) by Robert Scoble and It's time to open up networking, again by Dave Winer.

  4. Put Actual Content in Email Notifications: This is another issue that comes up a lot. Facebook will send you a notification that you’ve gotten a message from another user but not the actual content of the message. The purpose of this seems to be to increase the number of page views generated by users which seems to be working given that the site averages over 50 page views a day per user according to ComScore. Unfortunately, it is also rather irritating. Maybe a healthy balance is to put the content of the message in the email and provide links that take you to the response page directly in the email.   

Speaking of feedback on the Facebook user experience, I wonder if anyone from Facebook will be at the Facebook Developer Garage- Seattle next week? It should be an interesting opportunity to get to hear the perspectives of a broad collection of developer minded people who've been taking the site for a spin.

Now playing: Three 6 Mafia - Stay Fly (feat. Young Buck, EightBall & MJG)