The Spam Of Facebook And The Usefulness Of Web Applications

I have this standard joke because it’s my line of work, which really didn’t exist too long ago: “The internet’s a fad, it’s just going to go away.” While it might be dramatizing it, I do feel that it is if we don’t improve the user experience of applications and websites, like Facebook, so they aren’t just marketing spam. While end users may not be the brightest bulbs in the world, they’re not stupid, and they know when they are being fooled.

I like FaceBook. I’ve hired people off of FaceBook, and find it more useful from a profile standpoint (but less entertaining) than MySpace, but not as useful as LinkedIn. However, I had to do some housecleaning the other day, and I deleted over 100 applications.

Part of the problem is how most of these application developers design the applications, and nothing is a better illustration than what my online budy Andy Sternberg pointed out using an application on my own profile — that since I’ve installed an application, there’s this implicit “wow, Patrick must really like it.”

No, I don’t like it. My friends are selling me, and I’m not getting any of the profits.

A lot of these applications and even some websites, like (I’m not just bringing them up because I interviewed there years ago, but because I know the CEO knows better, and the David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times also brought it up) are using shady ways to promote themselves, like harvesting friend lists and so on.

Note to application developers — if the applications are usable, engaging, and cool, people will use it in droves. They’ll tell your friends. They won’t worry about being forced to tell 10, or 12, or 20 friends. Facebook probably doesn’t know how it’s damaging their reputation, or if they do know, how to fix it.

That Scrabbulous application is engaging.

Texas No-Hold ‘Em Poker is engaging.

FriendFeed is engaging.

Selling friends is not.