Daily Archives: March 19, 2009

Facebook: clutter vs. conversation.

While I still support Facebook’s right to continuously seek product improvement, I’m worn down with how the new setup clutters the feed with trifles. The noise-to-signal ratio has increased tremendously. Thus I status-lined the following pledge:

Tim Nekritz will not add any new applications (I have too many already), take any quizzes or answer any note tags. I feel like spam is crowding out actual conversations.

Eight people commented affirmation and, while it was short of the dozen people who enjoyed my posting the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks link, I think junk on the feed is frustrating a lot of people. Sure, I enjoy throwing the occasional sheep (or other item), appreciate the droll humor in sending a can of Utica Club in Upstate New York Gifts (or Utica Gifts) and understand wanting to save the environment through Lil Green Gifts. But every new app just brings more spam, more notifications, more clutter on the feed, multiplying like kudzu until I can’t see the interactions that matter more to me.

One of my real-life interests is something I call neighborhood sociology, or studying what makes for a good or bad neighborhood. This often involves mowing your lawn, picking up litter, shoveling your walk and the like — personal responsibility. I’m fortunate that my physical neighborhood even supports one another, whether by clearing a neighbor’s snowy driveway or by banding together to get a drug dealer kicked out of the neighborhood.

At the very least, we should hope people can avoid overly littering their friends’ feeds, but there also comes a time to take back the neighborhood. You can complain about the new look, but if I have to see you took the Which Secretary of State Do You Most Resemble? quiz, which came up William Seward, and you choose to publish this to your news feed and tag me to do it, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.

Yet before the last two “improvements” (scare quotes intended), Facebook allowed greater customized control over the feed; you could filter (+/-) what kinds of information you receive. I mainly want to see status lines, conversations, photos, links, interesting media shared. I could care less about quizzes, who threw what at whom and who brought whom a virtual drink. Why can’t I still customize my feed to either eliminate or reduce the flow of unwanted items? This isn’t a hard function.

But while we wait to see whether the user polls running 94 percent against the new Facebook look have any impact, there is something we can do. We can keep our own little corner of Facebook from constantly littering the rest of the community. Let’s be good virtual neighbors.

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