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Facebooks Missing Feature

I have just been going through and editing the Social Media Roundup for tomorrow (submissions closed by the way). As part of the process I have gone through the major social media sites for insights. One thing that is common to almost all of them struck me as missing from Facebook. What is it?

Discoverability.

Did I just make up a word? My dictionary thinks so …

I define “Discoverability” as the ability to discover or be discovered. Facebook lacks this but Digg, Del.icio.us, Blogs, Forums, Stumbleupon don’t just have it, they make a major feature of it.

Think about how you last discovered a cool site, a new blog, a great forum. When you last subscribed to a blog you didn’t subscribe and then see if you liked it I imagine, first you discovered it then you subscribed because you liked what you saw.

Facebook is based on a premise of already knowing each other. Many people I have connected with on Facebook I met through blogging and added them later. I think Facebook needs some sort of feature that encourages and eases the process of “surfing” from one profile to another. That makes it easy to find other people like yourself.

What do you think? Is there an opening there for a Facebook application? Am I missing a feature that is already there? Let me know in the comments …

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Comments

  1. I think you’re spot on, Chris. One of the reasons why I don’t use Facebook so much is because I already know most of the people through some other means (friendship or blog-related etc.).

    If there was some way to ‘stumble’ through profiles in a related profession, for example, I’d be more inclined to spend extra time using the site.

  2. I think you’re spot on, Chris. One of the reasons why I don’t use Facebook so much is because I already know most of the people through some other means (friendship or blog-related etc.).

    If there was some way to ‘stumble’ through profiles in a related profession, for example, I’d be more inclined to spend extra time using the site.

  3. You know what, I’ve never even been to Facebook – don’t know a thing about it. Just heard it was for high school kids and never have bothered. Stumpleupon is great and is a major traffic source for my site.

  4. You know what, I’ve never even been to Facebook – don’t know a thing about it. Just heard it was for high school kids and never have bothered. Stumpleupon is great and is a major traffic source for my site.

  5. Synchronicity! I was just on Facebook now, and thinking exactly the same thing.

    Unless someone is already knows where to find you (what name to look up), there seems to be no way to find a specific individual, let alone a way to discover new people who share your interests.

    In fact, it seems to me that Facebook assumes that even a newbie has great familiarity with their whole setup.

    Profile, groups, “wall” and friends – that’s all pretty basic, sure – but “poke”? What’s that supposed to do, other than annoy people much as it does when a schoolkid pokes the kid in the next seat?

    And then there are those “werewolf” and “zombie” and “superpoke” invitations… can’t for the life of me figure out what these things are, let alone the benefits!

    Mind you, I’ve only been on Facebook a short time so perhaps all will become clear in time.

  6. Synchronicity! I was just on Facebook now, and thinking exactly the same thing.

    Unless someone is already knows where to find you (what name to look up), there seems to be no way to find a specific individual, let alone a way to discover new people who share your interests.

    In fact, it seems to me that Facebook assumes that even a newbie has great familiarity with their whole setup.

    Profile, groups, “wall” and friends – that’s all pretty basic, sure – but “poke”? What’s that supposed to do, other than annoy people much as it does when a schoolkid pokes the kid in the next seat?

    And then there are those “werewolf” and “zombie” and “superpoke” invitations… can’t for the life of me figure out what these things are, let alone the benefits!

    Mind you, I’ve only been on Facebook a short time so perhaps all will become clear in time.

  7. On Facebook you can share sites with your friends and anyone connected to you. Wouldn’t you consider this function and ability to be discovered. When you share it, it becomes part of the news feed so everyone connected to you can see it. If they like it, they’ll past it to their network of friends.

  8. On Facebook you can share sites with your friends and anyone connected to you. Wouldn’t you consider this function and ability to be discovered. When you share it, it becomes part of the news feed so everyone connected to you can see it. If they like it, they’ll past it to their network of friends.

  9. I like Facebook for a different reason: to be able to keep up-to-date on my kids’ friends activities. Finding people on Facebook is much like finding them walking down the street – which I think is fun, but it’s different from the other sites.

  10. I like Facebook for a different reason: to be able to keep up-to-date on my kids’ friends activities. Finding people on Facebook is much like finding them walking down the street – which I think is fun, but it’s different from the other sites.

  11. BTW, I like the word. πŸ™‚

  12. BTW, I like the word. πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Chris! Great post! But I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. While in theory the idea of being able to “surf” a site like Facebook to find like-minded people sounds good, and can even help you be discovered by more people, the reality is a little more scary.

    This is the reason why I left MySpace. Too many total strangers were trying to be my friend, many of them teens. It was just creepy.I’m almost 30, so I want nothing to do with underage kids on the internet.

    I like Facebook because this problem doesn’t seem to exist. All my friends on Facebook are people I actually know, in person, offline. I see them face-to-face, talk to them on the phone, so I know who they are. I also like Facebook because it has some good privacy settings. For example, only my friends can see my profile.

    I totally understand where you’re coming from about “discoverability”, I just don’t think Facebook is meant for that purpose.

    Good post though! Even though I disagree with you it’s still thought-provoking, which is a sign of a good blog!

  14. Hi Chris! Great post! But I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. While in theory the idea of being able to “surf” a site like Facebook to find like-minded people sounds good, and can even help you be discovered by more people, the reality is a little more scary.

    This is the reason why I left MySpace. Too many total strangers were trying to be my friend, many of them teens. It was just creepy.I’m almost 30, so I want nothing to do with underage kids on the internet.

    I like Facebook because this problem doesn’t seem to exist. All my friends on Facebook are people I actually know, in person, offline. I see them face-to-face, talk to them on the phone, so I know who they are. I also like Facebook because it has some good privacy settings. For example, only my friends can see my profile.

    I totally understand where you’re coming from about “discoverability”, I just don’t think Facebook is meant for that purpose.

    Good post though! Even though I disagree with you it’s still thought-provoking, which is a sign of a good blog!

  15. Chris,
    I have rarely used Facebook but I think that the idea is it should not be easy to find people who are not already connected to someone you are connected to. If it is too easy to discover others then it is too easy to use the system to spam others.

    You bring up an interesting point about the entire Web experience. It is easy to create content, but it is hard to get noticed. The real world is not much different. As I think I told you before, I have been working on a means to enable people to create greater awareness of things they find useful, important or valuable. The trouble is I keep finding in it the same flaws I see in Digg, Stumble, Technorati etc…It is too easy to game them. I think I am close but it still needs some work.

    If you are interested I would be happy to discuss this with you, or others who can say how they would contribute: programming (I can do SQL, it’s the Ajax, and XML I need help with), design, or statistics, I would be happy to have some help. It might just make some money but that is not my objective.

  16. Chris,
    I have rarely used Facebook but I think that the idea is it should not be easy to find people who are not already connected to someone you are connected to. If it is too easy to discover others then it is too easy to use the system to spam others.

    You bring up an interesting point about the entire Web experience. It is easy to create content, but it is hard to get noticed. The real world is not much different. As I think I told you before, I have been working on a means to enable people to create greater awareness of things they find useful, important or valuable. The trouble is I keep finding in it the same flaws I see in Digg, Stumble, Technorati etc…It is too easy to game them. I think I am close but it still needs some work.

    If you are interested I would be happy to discuss this with you, or others who can say how they would contribute: programming (I can do SQL, it’s the Ajax, and XML I need help with), design, or statistics, I would be happy to have some help. It might just make some money but that is not my objective.

  17. I agree with Roger and Brad. Actually, I was going to say more, but they have basically said everything. I guess the only thing I would add is that, in a social networking atmosphere, I like the idea I can control who is seeing what… aka no lurkers. However, on the other hand, anyone who wants to can and do lurk my website. So I can’t say that I am logical, but that’s just how I feel about it currently.

  18. I agree with Roger and Brad. Actually, I was going to say more, but they have basically said everything. I guess the only thing I would add is that, in a social networking atmosphere, I like the idea I can control who is seeing what… aka no lurkers. However, on the other hand, anyone who wants to can and do lurk my website. So I can’t say that I am logical, but that’s just how I feel about it currently.

  19. @David – Yeah I think I would spend more time on it too. There must be a way to do it without opening up for too much abuse …

    @mark – Facebook can be useful apparently but I admit it hasn’t been for me so far

    @Jen – I have been on a while and am still waiting for the lightbulb to go off so maybe not πŸ™‚ It is like I am surrounded by lots of people who get it while it just goes over my head.

    @Shortshire – So it is more deliberate than surfing, right?

    @Rebecca – It’s that “introduction” thing that I think is a barrier, you might want to gently observe for a bit before you actually make yourself known?

    @Brad – Yup it could get scary, and I know what you mean about the random contacts, but I wonder if there is a way to just allow some public surfable face while keeping the random nutters from getting too close?

    @Roger – That gaming aspect is a real tough nut to crack isn’t it? Unfortunately it turns out to be an arms race usually

    @Rhett – In real life I am not one of those people who finds it easy to make introductions so I guess I am a natural lurker. The more outgoing of my friends call that “standoffish” but it is more that I take my time. Same thing online, I don’t want to make any sort of commitment (even “friending”) before I actually know a bit about the person, unfortunately Facebook says you have to say they are a friend before you can do very much.

  20. @David – Yeah I think I would spend more time on it too. There must be a way to do it without opening up for too much abuse …

    @mark – Facebook can be useful apparently but I admit it hasn’t been for me so far

    @Jen – I have been on a while and am still waiting for the lightbulb to go off so maybe not πŸ™‚ It is like I am surrounded by lots of people who get it while it just goes over my head.

    @Shortshire – So it is more deliberate than surfing, right?

    @Rebecca – It’s that “introduction” thing that I think is a barrier, you might want to gently observe for a bit before you actually make yourself known?

    @Brad – Yup it could get scary, and I know what you mean about the random contacts, but I wonder if there is a way to just allow some public surfable face while keeping the random nutters from getting too close?

    @Roger – That gaming aspect is a real tough nut to crack isn’t it? Unfortunately it turns out to be an arms race usually

    @Rhett – In real life I am not one of those people who finds it easy to make introductions so I guess I am a natural lurker. The more outgoing of my friends call that “standoffish” but it is more that I take my time. Same thing online, I don’t want to make any sort of commitment (even “friending”) before I actually know a bit about the person, unfortunately Facebook says you have to say they are a friend before you can do very much.

  21. I tend to agree with Brad. I like that I can’t be easily found be lurkers and trolls on Facebook. If you’re my friend on Facebook, it’s because I either know you in the offline world, or because I feel that we have a good enough online relationship to let you into my “personal space.”

    As much as Facebook is about social networking, it’s also about being able to control your network.

    I’m all for open communication and networking but, in the case of Facebook, I like that it’s difficult for people to find my profile, unless they already know who I am.

    As a side note, I hate when people don’t use their real names on Facebook. I have a friend who uses the name “More Val Kilmer than Val Kilmer.” When he first tried to add me as a friend, I rejected the request. Only when he sent a second request, detailing how he knew me, did I realize who he was, and accept his friend request.

    It’s hard enough for people to find you on Facebook, there’s no need to use aliases–that just makes it difficult for the people that you WANT to find you.

  22. I tend to agree with Brad. I like that I can’t be easily found be lurkers and trolls on Facebook. If you’re my friend on Facebook, it’s because I either know you in the offline world, or because I feel that we have a good enough online relationship to let you into my “personal space.”

    As much as Facebook is about social networking, it’s also about being able to control your network.

    I’m all for open communication and networking but, in the case of Facebook, I like that it’s difficult for people to find my profile, unless they already know who I am.

    As a side note, I hate when people don’t use their real names on Facebook. I have a friend who uses the name “More Val Kilmer than Val Kilmer.” When he first tried to add me as a friend, I rejected the request. Only when he sent a second request, detailing how he knew me, did I realize who he was, and accept his friend request.

    It’s hard enough for people to find you on Facebook, there’s no need to use aliases–that just makes it difficult for the people that you WANT to find you.

  23. I understand that, and can see how important it is to keep a personal space. I’m wondering though if there is a way they can have a public-facing feature for stuff you might want to be available for anyone to see?

  24. I understand that, and can see how important it is to keep a personal space. I’m wondering though if there is a way they can have a public-facing feature for stuff you might want to be available for anyone to see?

  25. All the positive points that people have mentioned about Facebook – don’t those apply equally to LinkedIn?

    Not trying to strike a match here – unless it’s to shed a little light! That’s a real question, and I’d love if someone could explain the difference… preferably in point form, and in words of one syllable.

  26. All the positive points that people have mentioned about Facebook – don’t those apply equally to LinkedIn?

    Not trying to strike a match here – unless it’s to shed a little light! That’s a real question, and I’d love if someone could explain the difference… preferably in point form, and in words of one syllable.

  27. Great idea, you should get it coded and sneak in a link back to ChrisG πŸ˜‰

  28. It is a little more deliberate than surfing. It shoves it right into the news feed and it takes up more space than people making a new photo album. It gives a screen shot of the site. If you want to show a video than it actually has the video up. Digg and the other social engines give you more discoverability but facebook gives you a little bit longer term traffic (I know it’s a bad phrase, but not sure how to explain it) because all your friends go to the site and it’s up on people’s walls for days.

  29. Great idea, you should get it coded and sneak in a link back to ChrisG πŸ˜‰

  30. It is a little more deliberate than surfing. It shoves it right into the news feed and it takes up more space than people making a new photo album. It gives a screen shot of the site. If you want to show a video than it actually has the video up. Digg and the other social engines give you more discoverability but facebook gives you a little bit longer term traffic (I know it’s a bad phrase, but not sure how to explain it) because all your friends go to the site and it’s up on people’s walls for days.

  31. Facebook users having the option to a) “stumble” in categories similar to stumble upon and/or b) “stumble” based on our interests in our profiles is great.

    Global/local community. Facebook another brick in the wall?
    The network walls between local communities in facebook make it a digital sandbox thats fundamentally walled off. For instance, I couldn’t learn from anyone outside the DC region right now.

    Sure privacy settings are important, but not all our data needs to be private. I just don’t want nefarious folks knowing my contact info (addy, phone, email). Otherwise, I really don’t care. Clearly folks are willing to give up some of the privacy constraints of Facebook. Look at myspace. Look at blogs. In fact, Plaxo launched recently to consolidate your social networking life (the new buzz word is “life stream”) It has variable settings in terms of privacy. There is no reason why Facebook can’t do the same… And my guess is that things will move in that direction. If I want to live my life outloud, digitally and otherwise, why can’t I???

  32. Facebook users having the option to a) “stumble” in categories similar to stumble upon and/or b) “stumble” based on our interests in our profiles is great.

    Global/local community. Facebook another brick in the wall?
    The network walls between local communities in facebook make it a digital sandbox thats fundamentally walled off. For instance, I couldn’t learn from anyone outside the DC region right now.

    Sure privacy settings are important, but not all our data needs to be private. I just don’t want nefarious folks knowing my contact info (addy, phone, email). Otherwise, I really don’t care. Clearly folks are willing to give up some of the privacy constraints of Facebook. Look at myspace. Look at blogs. In fact, Plaxo launched recently to consolidate your social networking life (the new buzz word is “life stream”) It has variable settings in terms of privacy. There is no reason why Facebook can’t do the same… And my guess is that things will move in that direction. If I want to live my life outloud, digitally and otherwise, why can’t I???

  33. I just signed up to Facebook today, giving into all the hype.

    There were two things I “discovered” that were fun.
    1. Finding old college friends – way better than MySpace
    2. The iLike music quiz.

    I think the discoverability factor for Facebook is deepening relationships with your established network. You can learn cool things about people you already know.

    Which is not something you get from Digg or StumbleUpon.

  34. I just signed up to Facebook today, giving into all the hype.

    There were two things I “discovered” that were fun.
    1. Finding old college friends – way better than MySpace
    2. The iLike music quiz.

    I think the discoverability factor for Facebook is deepening relationships with your established network. You can learn cool things about people you already know.

    Which is not something you get from Digg or StumbleUpon.

  35. That’s right. Orkut has that feature, you can browse through yoru friends, friends of friends and so on. It’s hard to know more details, if an user chooses to keep their profile private as well.

  36. That’s right. Orkut has that feature, you can browse through yoru friends, friends of friends and so on. It’s hard to know more details, if an user chooses to keep their profile private as well.

  37. @Jen – LinkedIn does have a lot of the same benefits but facebooks applications (and API) has given them the edge I think

    @Glen – Heh, not a bad idea but I wouldn’t want to sneak anything πŸ˜‰

    @Shortshire – Do you use it yourself? Friend me up so I can see it in action πŸ™‚

    @Nathan – I think someone will build something in for the live outloud types πŸ™‚

    @Nathania – A couple of people found me through mutual contacts but I think it is not as easy as it could be even if you know who you are looking for.

    @Thiru – I might have to look up orkut when I have time

  38. @Jen – LinkedIn does have a lot of the same benefits but facebooks applications (and API) has given them the edge I think

    @Glen – Heh, not a bad idea but I wouldn’t want to sneak anything πŸ˜‰

    @Shortshire – Do you use it yourself? Friend me up so I can see it in action πŸ™‚

    @Nathan – I think someone will build something in for the live outloud types πŸ™‚

    @Nathania – A couple of people found me through mutual contacts but I think it is not as easy as it could be even if you know who you are looking for.

    @Thiru – I might have to look up orkut when I have time

  39. I just logged into Facebook this morning and, lo and behold, it appears that there is going to be a Public Search function coming soon. Currently, they’re giving users the ability to opt out of the public search.

    Not only that, they’re going to be allowing search engines to index it!

    Here’s the details:

    Check out your Public Search Listing

    Now people can search for this listing from Facebook’s Welcome page. In a few weeks, it may also be found through search engines like Google.

    You can control whether you have a public search listing, and where it appears, from your Search Privacy page.

    Read more…

    Since your search privacy settings are set to “Everyone,” you now have a public search listing. This means that friends who aren’t yet on Facebook will be able to search for you by name from our Welcome page. Public Search Listings may only include names and profile pictures.

    In a few weeks, these public search listings can be found by search engines like Google. No privacy rules are changing; anyone who discovers your public search listing must register and log in to contact you via Facebook.

  40. I just logged into Facebook this morning and, lo and behold, it appears that there is going to be a Public Search function coming soon. Currently, they’re giving users the ability to opt out of the public search.

    Not only that, they’re going to be allowing search engines to index it!

    Here’s the details:

    Check out your Public Search Listing

    Now people can search for this listing from Facebook’s Welcome page. In a few weeks, it may also be found through search engines like Google.

    You can control whether you have a public search listing, and where it appears, from your Search Privacy page.

    Read more…

    Since your search privacy settings are set to “Everyone,” you now have a public search listing. This means that friends who aren’t yet on Facebook will be able to search for you by name from our Welcome page. Public Search Listings may only include names and profile pictures.

    In a few weeks, these public search listings can be found by search engines like Google. No privacy rules are changing; anyone who discovers your public search listing must register and log in to contact you via Facebook.

  41. My previous post doesn’t appear to have worked, but after logging into Facebook today, I got a notice telling me that it’s going to be opening up to public search (i.e.: it will be indexed by G & Y).

    More info at GigaOM.

  42. My previous post doesn’t appear to have worked, but after logging into Facebook today, I got a notice telling me that it’s going to be opening up to public search (i.e.: it will be indexed by G & Y).

    More info at GigaOM.

  43. Oops…messed up the link in that last comment.

  44. Oops…messed up the link in that last comment.