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Business Technology

Just how bad is Facebook at programming?

Cute picture of my son today.  Huge smile as he looked through a Holy Crepe.  He had eaten out some of it and looked to the camera; cute as ever.  Gotta have this as my profile picture.  Facebook profile, upload picture, wait….wait….wait some more.  Finally it uploads.    Sometimes it doesn’t of course.  Go to Twitter.   Same objective.  But hey, it magically shows me a preview of the picture instantly.   And wow, I can even crop it to the part most relevant to a profile picture.   Must be rocket science.  The boffs at Facebook haven’t figured it out.   Some ultra secret patented method Twitter is using…  The picture even uploads faster at Twitter!  Must be they have more money for better servers…

Or Facebook is simply terrible at designing their infrastructure.  And no, it’s not about the scale of the exercise.   Facebook has always been a terrible platform.  Sure, we don’t get as many major hiccups anymore, but does anyone there even bother to test the user experience?   Tech journalists and social media pundits have a field day with every major overhaul.   Facebook cause pages are created demanding we change back.   Plug ins appear to make it “look like the good old Facebook”.   They never work.

Because Mark Zuckerberg is still carrying the mentality he had when he started.   He is more concerned with the people gaming his system than the experience of the rest of the users.

Here is a simple example.   Accepting friend requests.   You may never even consider this if you get 1 or 2 per day.  But anyone building up fake profiles and trying to amass a lot of Facebook ‘friends’ might have two or three hundred friend request to accept.  No, there is no “accept all” button.  Because Mark, knows some people will abuse it.   If you really are a popular person, just starting on Facebook and you have 250 friend requests, you have to click them one by one.   And of course the buttons aren’t at the same place.  No, that would be to easy to get an automated script monkey on to.   As you accept one friend request, it morphs into something else so you have to physically scroll to the next right position of  “Accept”.

There are dozens of examples like this.  Most people with just one genuine personal account, will not even notice them.  What they will notice and what we all experience daily is just a really really bad user interface.   They build little hoops for cheats but penalise everybody else while they are at it.    The fact that it has never been done in this scale and that it has to serve billions of very different customers is no excuse;  many of the niggles I have with Facebook are due to the fact that Zuckerberg is obsessed with people that are as sneaky thinking as him.  And he can’t think of clever algorithmic ways to get over it.   In a sense, Edgerank is this magic ingredient.   And all the recent changes are a move in the right direction.

Now let’s hope Edgerank gets good enough so that Zuckerberg relaxes the stupid interface hoops some more.  You can now accept hundreds of friend requests from the left button directly which is faster.  When I see an “accept all” button I will know Facebook has finally got a real and stable business model.