Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry…

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Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry on how awful the project and exec team was.

I’m still pissed about the bait and switch they pulled by telling me I’d be working on Chrome, then putting me on this god forsaken piece of shit on day one.

This will be a super slow burn that goes back many years. I’ll continue to add to over the next couple of days. I’ll preface it with a bunch of backstory and explain what I had left behind, which made me more unhappy about the culture I had come into.

I spent most of my early career working for two radical sister non-profit orgs. I was the only designer working on anywhere from 4-5 different products at the same time. All centered around activism and used by millions of people.

It’s how I cut my teeth. Learned to be the designer that I am today. Most importantly, the people I worked for are imho some of the greatest people on the planet. Highly intelligent, empathetic, caring, and true role models for a young me. I adore them.

You might not know who they are, but if you’re reading this then you have definitely seen their work. Maybe OpenCongress, or Miro, or maybe Amara which is Vimeo’s partner transcription service. Definitely Fight for the Future, our internet defenders, which was shortly after me.

I married the love of my life in 2008, started a family, and at some point realized that I simply needed to make a better living. No matter how prolific, non-profits usually can’t provide the type of income that you need for a growing family with huge ambitions.

So as I gained visibility – via @dribbble – I started to field recruiters and consider new opportunities. Mostly little startups. I interviewed at one (Rockmelt) and they passed on me (hi, @iamxande 🤗).

Got an email from Kickstarter (hi, @amotion 🤗). Schlepped to New York and wasted days of time to be passed on by their founders. Then they unfollowed me on twitter. At least I ate some deli. 😂

Then Google reached out. I remember that ”holy shit” moment. “Me!? Are they kidding?? The schmuck who tested out of high school and dropped out of college??” They told me I’d interview to work on Chrome. I was over the moon. I remember Manda tearing up. God I love her.

They gave me a little bit of time for a design exercise. You can see it here in all it’s dated glory: morganallanknutson.com/google/ Click and hold for the overlay. More schlepping from LA and an interview at their silly college-like campus. I was a nervous wreck.

The process felt very haphazard. At one point a front-end dev with a bow-tie grilled me on CSS and asked some super dumb questions. My advocate (a sweetheart named Peter) seemed to be rushing people through, quelling their fears. I still appreciate his belief in me to this day.

I felt like I had done ok. The last two interviews that I failed at were real shots to the heart. I took this one incredibly seriously. I wanted this job so badly. I wanted to prove I was worthy.

Weeks went by and I heard nothing. I accepted the inevitable and started responding to other recruiters. It was ok. I wasn’t joining the big leagues. I could play triple-A ball for longer. As long as I got up to SF where the opportunities were.

I took a gig with a failing news startup (lol) called Ongo (hi, @bethdean 🤗). They got me up here. I guess it was a bit of a Hail Mary for them. In a couple of months I knocked out more work than they could have built in a year with their eng team. Then…

Google got back in touch almost 3-4 months after the interview (who does this??).

I got the job.

To be continued…

If you ever thought that Google+, despite its laudable aims, was rolled out like a shitstorm… image what it must have been like behind the scenes. Actually, image no more – read this thread for a taste of the full horror.

Still Blogging in 2017

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On a blog, I can write about blogging and whimsically toss in self-indulgent pictures of May’s budding azaleas.

Budding azaleas

I can end my career, right here, in a flash. I can rant about the perfidy and corruption of my local governing party, who I devoutly hope are about to be turfed by the voters. I can discuss the difference between O(1) and O(log(N)), which can usually be safely ignored.

On blogs, I can read most of the long-form writing that’s worth reading about the art and craft of programming computers. Or I can follow most of the economists’ debates that are worth having. Or I can check out a new photographer every day and see new a way of seeing the world.

Having said that, it seems sad that most of the traffic these days goes to BigPubs. That the advertising dollars are being sucked inexorably into Facebook/Google and away from anyone else. That these days, I feel good over a piece that gets more than twenty thousand reads (only one so far this year).

When I wrote about 20 years of blogging, this was the kind of thing I meant when I talked about why it’s important, to me. But Tim says it better.

Why You Should Never Use MongoDB

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Disclaimer: I do not build database engines. I build web applications. I run 4-6 different projects every year, so I build a lot of web applications. I see apps with different requirements and different data storage needs. I’ve deployed most of the data stores you’ve heard about, and a few that you probably haven’t. I’ve picked the wrong…

The story of how the Diaspora social network adopted the hip new database technology without for a moment thinking about whether it was the right database technology.

Living In The Future

Eurovision Night 2012.
Eurovision Night 2012. In a moment of surreal awesomeness, Matt R holds a mirror up to the webcam in order to show Gareth the collection of whisky that’s just outside of his field of vision.

Sometimes it’s really like we’re living in the future. Exciting new technologies keep appearing, and people just keep… using them as if they’d always been there. If tomorrow we perfected the jetpack, the flying car, and the silver jumpsuit, I’ll bet that nobody would think twice about it.

Recently, I’ve had two occasions to use Google+ Hangouts, and I’ve been incredibly impressed.

The first was at Eurovision Night 2012, which was quite a while ago now. Adam did a particularly spectacular job of putting together some wonderful pre-Eurovision entertainments, which were synched-up between our two houses. Meanwhile, he and I (and Rory and Gareth and occasionally other people) linked up our webcams and spare screens via a Google+ hangout, and… it worked.

It just worked. Now I know that the technology behind this isn’t new: back in 2004, I upgraded the Troma Night set-up in Aberystwyth to add a second webcam to the Troma Night live feed. But that was one-way, and we didn’t do sound (for lack of bandwidth and concerns about accidental piracy of the soundtracks to the movies we were watching, of all things, rather than for any particularly good reason). But it really did “just work”, and we were able to wave at each other and chat to each other and – mostly – just “share in the moment” of enjoying the Eurovision Song Contest together, just like we would have in person when we lived in the same town.

At the weekend, I was originally supposed to be in Lancashire, hanging out with my family, but owing to a series of unfortunate disasters (by the way; I’m walking with a stick right now – but that’s not interesting enough to be worth blogging about), I was stuck in Oxford. Despite torrential rain where I was, Preston was quite sunny, and my family decided to have a barbeque.

A Google+ Hangout with my family and I.
I join a Google+ hangout at my (late) father’s house, where the rest of my family are having a barbeque.

I was invited… via Google+. They didn’t have Internet access, so they used a mobile dongle plugged into a laptop. I connected in from my desktop computer and then – later – from my mobile phone. So yes, this was at times a genuine mobile-to-mobile multi-party video conference, and it was simple enough that my mother was able to set it up by herself.

Like I said: living in the future.

Eurovision Spectacular 2012

As I’m sure you’re aware, Saturday marks the final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, the musical highlight of the year. You may also know that there’s been a long tradition among our group of friends to have a Eurovision Party to mark the ocassion, generally hosted by Adam. If you’ve somehow missed this event, then here’s some background reading that might help you understand how it came to be what it is: me, 2005; Liz, 2005; Paul, 2005Adam, 2006; Adam, 2007 (1); me, 2007; Adam, 2007 (2); Matt R, 2007; Adam on Paul’s blog, 2008Adam, 2008; Adam, 2010; Adam, 2011; me, 2011. Like I said… a long history.

For the last few years, though, the population of Aberystwyth has been dwindling, and Adam’s parties have turned from an immense hard-to-squeeze-everybody-in ordeal to a far more civilised affair. While simultaneously, groups of ex-Aberystwyth people (like those of us down in Oxford, and those who are up in the North) have been having their own splinter satellite parties.

And you know what? I miss doing Eurovision Night with you guys. So this year, we’re going to try to bring Eurovision Night back to its roots… with technology!

Google+ Hangouts
Google+ Hangouts. One of the technologies that will bring us closer this Eurovision Night.

Here’s where the parties are at, this year:

  • Adam’s house, in Aberystwyth – mission control
  • New Earth, in Oxford (hosted by Ruth, JTA, and I) – technical operations
  • …and… anybody else having one this year? One of you up in the North, perhaps?

If you’re one of the usual crew, or one of our newer friends, come on over and join the party! Or if you’re going to be watching from further North (Liz? Simon? Gareth? Penny? Matt? Matt? Kit? Fi?), let me know so that I can bring you in on my proposals for “sharing the experience”, drawing together our votes, and whatnot.

And regardless of whether you’ll be joining one of these parties in person, or not, I hope you’ll be joining The Party at Adam’s and The Party on New Earth digitally. If you’re among the 17 people who are actually on Google+, come and join us in our Hangout! Dust off that old webcam and point it at you or your little party, make sure you’re in Adam or I’s “circles”, and then log in on Eurovision Night and join us via the power of the Internet! You’ll have to provide your own crisps and beer, and (unless you’re at Adam’s) you’ll need to bake your own cupcakes with adorable European-flag icing, too, but at least you can be part of the moment with the rest of us.

See you online!

Pay To Post

I see that Facebook is experimenting with allowing you to pay a nominal fee to make sure that your posts end up “highlighted” over those of your friends’ other friends. That’s a whole new level of crazy… or is it?

A screenshot of Facebook's new "Highlight" feature.
A screenshot of Facebook's new "Highlight" feature. For about a quid, you can push your wall posts to the top of everybody's list.

I’m not on Facebook, but I think that this is a really interesting piece of news. The biggest thing that makes Facebook unusable (and which also affects Twitter) is that people will post every little banal thing that comes to their mind. I don’t care what you’re eating for your lunch. I don’t want to read the lyrics of some song that must have been written for you. I really can’t stand your chain messages (for a while there, after I hadn’t received any by email for a few years, I hoped that they’d died out… but it turns out that they just moved to Facebook instead). If you’re among my friends, I know that you have some pretty smart and interesting things to say… but unless I’m willing to spend hours sifting through the detritus it’s buried in, I’ll never find it.

Social Media Citation. The littering fine tickets of the digital generation.
Social Media Citation. The littering fine tickets of the digital generation.

But this might work. If the price sweet spot can be found, and it’s marketed right, then this kind of feature might make services like Facebook more tolerable. When you’re writing about a cute picture of the cat you’ve seen, that’s fine. And when you write something I might care about, you can tick the “this is actually relevant” box. You’ll have to pay a few pence, but at least you know I’ll see it. And if I want to churn through reams of “X likes Chocolate” (who doesn’t?) and “Y is… in a queue for the bus” then I can turn off the “only relevant things” mode and waste some time.

The problem is that the sweet spot will vary from person to person, and there’s no way to work around that. Big Bucks Bob can probably afford to pay a couple of pounds every time he wants to push some meme photo to the top of your feed, but Poor Penniless Penny can’t even justify ten pence to make sure that all of her friends hear about her birthday party.

Google+ tries to use heuristics to show you "top" content you might be interested in.
Google+ tries to use heuristics to show you "top" content you might be interested in. It feels less insidious than charging you, as Facebook will, but it still doesn't quite work.

It’s a pity that it won’t work, because a part of me is drawn to the idea that economic theory can help to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in our information-saturated lives. Turning my attention to email: of all the cost-based anti-spam systems, I was always quite impressed with Hashcash (which Microsoft seem to be reinventing with their Penny Black project). The idea is that your computer does some hard-to-do (but easy-to-verify) computational work for each and every email that it sends. But in its own way, Hashcash has a similar problem to Facebook’s new system: the ability to pay of a sender is not directly proportional to their relevance to the recipient. If my mother wants to send me an email from her aging smartphone, should she have to wait for several minutes while it processes and generates an “e-stamp”, just because – if it were made any faster – spammers with zombie networks of computers could do so too easily?

Yes, I just equated your social network status, about what you ate for your lunch, with spam. If you don’t like it, don’t share this blog post with your friends.

hashcash token: 1:20:120511:https://danq.me/2012/05/11/pay-to-post/::UVHo081pj6bSDWkI:00000000000001sxI

Hello, Facebook; Goodbye, Facebook

Well, that was a farce.

tl;dr: [skip to the end] I’m closing my Facebook account. I’ve got some suggestions at the bottom of this post about how you might like to keep in touch with me in future, if you previously liked to do so via Facebook.

The Backstory

A little over three weeks ago, I was banned from Facebook for having a fake name. This surprised me, because I was using my real name – it’s an unusual name, but it’s mine. I was interested to discover that Claire, who shares my name, hadn’t been similarly banned, so it seems that this wasn’t part of some “sweep” for people with one-letter names, but instead was probably the result of somebody (some stranger, I’d like to hope) clicking the “Report this as a fake name” link on my profile.

Perhaps somebody clicked their way through to this page, and claimed that I was not a "real person".

There are many, many things about this that are alarming, but the biggest is the “block first; ask questions later” attitude. I wasn’t once emailed to warn me that I would be banned. Hell: I wasn’t even emailed to tell me that I had been banned. It took until I tried to log in before I found out at all.

The Problem

I don’t make much use of Facebook, really. I cross-post my blog posts there, and I keep Pidgin signed in to Facebook Chat in case anybody’s looking for me. Oh, and I stalk people from my past, but that’s just about the only thing I do on it that everybody does on it. I don’t really wallpost, I avoid internal messages (replying to them, where possible, by email), and I certainly don’t play fucking FarmVille.

Once, one of my Facebook friends invited me to FarmVille. They're not my Facebook friend any more.

So what’s the problem? It’s not like I’d be missing anything if I barely use it anyway? The problem is that my account was still there, it’s just that I didn’t have access to it.

That meant that people still invited me to things and sent me messages. My friends are smart enough to know that I won’t see anything they write on their wall, but they assume that if they update the information of a party they’ve Facebook-invited me to that I’ll get it. For example, I was recently at a fabulous party at Gareth and Penny‘s which they organised mostly via Facebook. They’d be forgiven for assuming that when they sent a message to “the guests” – a list that included me – that I would get that message: but no – it fell silently away into Facebook’s black hole.

The Farce(book?)

Following this discovery, here’s how I spent the next three weeks:

  1. Facebook gave me a form to fill in when I tried to log in, explaining their “Real Names” policy and asking me to fill in my real name and explain “what I use Facebook for” (“Ignoring friends and stalking exes, same as everybody else,” I explained, “Why; what do YOU use Facebook for?”).
  2. It then asked me to scan and upload some government-issued photographic ID, which I did. It still wouldn’t let me log in, but it promised that somebody would look at my ID soon (and then destroy their copy) and re-enable my account.
  3. I periodically tried to log in over the next few days, without success: I was to wait, I was told.
  4. After about a week, I received an email from “Rachel” at Facebook, who explained the “Real Names” policy and asked me to provide my REAL name, and a scan of some photographic ID. I replied to explain that I’d already done this once, but complied with her request anyway.
  5. Another few days passed, and I still hadn’t heard anything, so I filled in the Contact Forms in the Help section of Facebook, asking to have my request processed by an actual human being. I provided by ID yet again.
  6. Another few days later, I received an email from “Aoife” at Facebook. It was pretty-much exactly the same as the earlier email from Rachel. I replied to explain that we’d been through this already. I supplied another pile of photo ID, and a few sarcastic comments.
A real person, with a real name, holding two examples of his real government-issued photographic ID. I wonder how long it would take a smart person to look at a scan of that ID and say, "Yeah, this person's real enough to be allowed to post pictures of cats on his wall, again."
  1. Another couple of days passed, so I dug up the postal addresses of Facebook’s HQ, and Mark Zuckerberg‘s new Palo Alto house (he’s tried to keep it secret, but the Internet is pretty good at this kind of detective work), and sent each of them a letter explaining my predicament.
  2. Yet more days passed, and we reached the third week of my ban. I replied to Rachel and Aoife, asking how long this was likely to take.
  3. Finally, a little over three weeks after the ban was first put in place, it was lifted. I received an email from Aoife:

Hi Dan,

Thanks for verifying your identity. Note that we permanently deleted your attached ID from our servers.

After investigating this further, it looks like we suspended your account by mistake. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.

Thanks,

Aoife
User Operations
Facebook

The Resolution

So now, I’m back on Facebook, and I’ve learned something: having a Facebook account that you can’t log in to is worse than not having a Facebook account at all. If I didn’t have one at all, at least people would know that they couldn’t contact me that way. In my situation, Facebook were effectively lying to my friends: telling them “Yeah, sure: we’ll pass on your message to Dan!” and then not doing so. It’s a little bit like digital identity theft, and it’s at least a little alarming.

I’ve learned something else, too: Facebook can’t be trusted to handle this kind of situation properly. Anybody could end up in my situation. Those of you with unusual (real) names, or unusual-looking pseudonyms, or who use fake names on Facebook (and I know that there are at least a dozen of you on my friends list)… or just those of you whose name looks a little bit off to a Facebook employee… you’re all at risk of this kind of lockout.

Me? I was a little pissed off, but it wasn’t the end of the world. But I know people who use Facebook’s “single sign-on” authentication systems to log in to other services. I know people who do some or all of their business through Facebook. Increasingly, I’ve seen people store their telephone or email address books primarily on Facebook. What do you do when you lose access to this and can’t get it back? When there’s nowhere to appeal?

And that’s how I came to my third lesson: I can’t rely on Facebook not to make this kind of fuck-up again. No explanation was given as to how their “mistake” was made, so I can’t trust that whatever human or automated system was at fault won’t just do the same damn dumb thing tomorrow to me or to somebody I know. And personally, I don’t like Facebook to seize control of my account and to pretend to be me. I come full circle to my first realisation – that it would be better not to have a Facebook account at all than to have one that I can’t access – and realise that because that’s liable to happen again at any time, that I shouldn’t have a Facebook account.

The Conclusion

So, I’m ditching Facebook.

Goodbye, Facebook.

None of this pansy “deactivation” shit, either – do you know what that actually does, by the way? It just hides your wall and stops new people from friending you: it still keeps all of your information, because it’s basically a scam to try to keep your data while making you think you’ve left. No, I’m talking about the real “permanent deletion” deal.

I’m going to hang around for a few days to make sure I’ve harvested everybody’s email addresses and pushing this post to my wall and whatnot, and then I’m gone.

If you’re among those folks who aren’t sure how to function outside of Facebook, but still want to keep in touch with me, here’s what you need to know:

  • I like email! Remember email? I’ve always preferred it to Facebook messages anyway – that’s why I always reply to you by email, where possible. My email address is pretty obvious – it’s my first name @ this domain name – but if that’s too hard for you, just fill in this form to get in touch with me. If you’re up for some security while you’re at it, why not encrypt your email to me.
  • I like instant messaging! I may not be on Facebook Messenger any more, but we can still chat! The best way to get me is on Google Talk, but there are plenty of other options too. Here’s how you do it. Or if you’re really lazy, just check at the top of my blog for the little green light and click “Chat to Dan”.
  • I like blogging! Want to know what’s going on in my life? I never updated my “wall” anyway except to link to blog posts – you might as well just come look at my blog! Too much like work? Follow my RSS feed and get updated when I post to my blog, or keep an eye on my Twitter, which usually gets links to my new blog posts almost as soon as they go up.
  • I like sharing! I’m not on Google Reader any more, but when I find fun things on the Internet that I enjoyed reading, I put them in this RSS feed. Subscribe and see what I’ve been looking at online, or just look at “Dan is Reading…” in the right-hand column of my blog.
  • And I’m not opposed to social networking! I’ve just reached the end of my patience with Facebook, that’s all. Look me up on Google+ and I’ll see you over there (They also have a “Real Names” policy, which is still a bit of a problem, but I’m sending them a pre-emptive “Don’t ban me, bro!” email now)!

Ironically, the only Facebook accounts I’ll have now are the once which do have fake names. Funny how they’re the ones that never seem to get banned.

Banned From Facebook

Apparently I’m too cool for Facebook.

The message I see when I try to log in to Facebook. Sadly, I'm also prohibited from using Pidgin to connect to Facebook Chat, which is just about the only thing I use Facebook for these days.

Okay, that’s not what that message actually says, but that’s how I chose to read it. It turns out that my name isn’t real. I went through their forms to tell them that “no, really, this is my name”. They also asked me “what I use Facebook for”, to which I – of course – answered “chatting to friends and stalking exes, same as everybody else – why, what do YOU use Facebook for?” But when I submitted the form, it just ran me back around in a circle back to where I started.

Also: Facebook! Is that exposed HTML code in your message? Dear me.

I’d be less frustrated if I didn’t just send them a copy of my driving license earlier this year, in order to prove that my name was really my name. I guess that the media claims that Facebook keeps all of your information indefinitely aren’t true, and in actual fact they have the memory of a proverbial goldfish.

I’d be more frustrated if I actually used Facebook for anything more than pushing blog posts out to people who prefer to see them on Facebook, and occasionally chatting to people, thanks to the wonderful pidgin-facebookchat plugin.

So on average, I suppose, I’m pretty indifferent. That’s the Facebook way.

My Name Is Me

My Name Is Me. I choose to participate on much of the Internet by my full name. I say “full name”, rather than “real name”, because the term “real name” is full of loaded connotations. For example, I (still) periodically have people insist that Dan Q isn’t my real name, because it’s not the name I was born with. It doesn’t matter to them that it’s the name I’m known by to pretty much everybody (except my mother, who still calls me Daniel). It doesn’t matter that it’s the name on my passport or driving license. To them, it’s not “real” because to them, real names are either those acquired by birth or marriage, and somehow nothing else is valid. And that’s without even looking at the number of times I’ve been discriminated against because my name is “too short” for ill-designed computer systems.

That doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that sites like Facebook and – in the news recently on this very topic – Google+ demand that full “real” names are used on the profiles of their site users. If you don’t use the name that appears on your government-issued documentation (if you have such a thing), then your accounts on these sites are liable to be closed. By the way: the same is theoretically true of your Google Profile, too, so even if you’re not on the Google+ bandwagon and you, say, use a nickname in your Google Profile, your account is still at risk.

Now, I can see the point that these policies are trying to make.  In fact, there was a time that I’d have naively agreed with them. They’re trying to make the Internet a safer, more-accountable place. But in actual fact, there’s a real risk that they’ll make the Internet a lot more-treacherous for some people. I shan’t bother listing folks who are affected, because others have done it far more-thoroughly than I ever could.

But I shall point you in the direction of my.nameis.me, where you can read a little more about these issues. Thanks.

Deliciously Silly Password Restrictions

After hearing about the recent purchase of social bookmarking service del.icio.us by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, I remembered that once, long ago, I had a del.icio.us account. I decided to check if my account was still alive, so I trekked over to del.icio.us and took a look.

Delicious as it appears today.

The site’s changed quite a bit since I last used it. It took a while for me to remember what my password was (it was an old, old one, since before I started using passwords the right way). It also appeared that the site still knew me by my former name (it really had been a while since I last logged in!), so I updated it with my new name.

The next step was to change the password. I generated a random password:

#AOOZ*Qs9xsj6^bT@MtN4rq1!0FK&2

But when I went to change my password, it was rejected. Apparently it didn’t meet their security rules. What? That 30-character, randomly-generated password, containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, and special characters… isn’t secure enough?

A little investigation (and some experimentation) later, it turns out there’s a reason: my password must be insecure, because it contains my surname!

I have a single-character surname. That means that a 30-character password will (assuming a dictionary of 26 letters, 10 digits, and let’s say 20 special characters) have about a 40% chance of being rejected on the grounds that it contains my surname. The longer my password is, the more likely it is to be rejected as insecure. My experiments show that “abcdefghijklmnop” is considered by delicious to be more secure for my account password than, say, “@Ubj#JeqPACrgmSQKn9qRYMBM9nPOj”, on account of the fact that the latter contains my surname.

Silly, silly, silly.

Disapora Invites

If anybody’s interested, I’m lugging around a sackload of Diaspora Alpha invitations. If you’re the kind of person who’s likely to want one, then you’re probably the kind of person who already knows what Diaspora is, so I shan’t go in to any further detail here.

Leave a comment if you want one, being sure to fill in the “Email” field of the comment form with the email address you’d like your invitation sent to. See you on the flipside.

Facebook Annoyance Of The Day

(rambling, ranty; I saw something on Facebook that pissed me off, and ended up ranting about the whole social media scene – no offence meant, and I’ve deliberately picked no examples from anybody I know or care about)

It’s not as bad as setting up a Facebook group to recover your friends’ mobile numbers after losing your phone, which I’ve complained about previously, but there’s a particular bit of behaviour that I’ve seen a few times on Facebook that really pisses me off.

Yes, in a world of geeks complaining about Facebook, I’m the geek who complains about Facebook users.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Let’s have a look what’s happened here. Person 1 wants Person 2 to do them a favour: a little household chore: putting something in the post for them. So they went to Facebook, logged in, went to Person 2’s wall, and wrote about it there. What?

I’ve put together a quick list of other possible ways that Person 1 could have passed on this message:

  1. Facebook Message – If you really were logged in to Facebook already, and even you were already on the page of the person you wanted to send a message to, it would only have been one more click to send a Facebook Message. This would have given you more options, in case you needed them, and would have meant that you didn’t have to tell every single one of Person 2’s friends about the mindless dull minutiae of an event that matters to (at most) only two people.
  2. E-mail – Remember that? It’s fast, it’s simple, and it doesn’t involve filling your friend’s friends’ news feed with crap that has no relevance to them (or, in fact, to anybody).
  3. Text message – There’s almost nobody left without a mobile phone, and I’d hope that you had your (presumably) housemate’s number: why not drop them a text. It’s typically even faster than the previous two suggestions, and you don’t even have to open a web browser. Hell; if you’re going to go that far, why not make a phone call (we can still do that, you know, even on modern mobiles).

I suppose that this mini-rant is actually a roundabout way of answering a question I get asked from time to time: Why can’t I post to your Facebook wall? I get asked this question about once every three or for months, and the answer is related to my complaints about the poster, above. Not being able to write on my wall isn’t part of the half-dozen or so layers of privilege I group my Facebook contacts into: writing on my “wall” is deliberately something that only I can do, no matter who you are.

And that’s because I don’t see the point. Why do I want a medium to which my friends can post messages specifically to me in full view of the rest of the world? I can fully understand why you’d want to write on your own wall – hey, it’s not that dissimilar to blogging – but what possible motive can you have to want to say something to me “in front of everyone”, except if perhaps it’s more important to you to be seen to be saying something than it is for me to hear your message?

If you have something to tell me, then tell me: call me, text me, instant message me (I’m on basically all of the networks), e-mail me (encrypted, if you prefer), or even fill in the form on my web site: I’m a really easy to get in contact with. If you have something to tell the world, or all of your friends, then put it on a blog, Tweet it, put it on your Facebook wall, or something. I can’t see any legitimate use case that I care about where you’d want to leave a message specifically for all of my friends.

I suppose while I’m full of rantyness I ought to explain my stance on Twitter, too. I had a Twitter account, once. I get it; I see the point. Microblogging; yeah, that’s a clever idea: sharing clever snippets of information, URLs, and whatnot without the hassle of having to type in your blog address and put it there. It’s not much hassle, but you sometimes feel a little like a cheater when you write a blog post of only a couple of sentences (but that hasn’t stopped me doing it from time to time). So I signed up for Twitter, found my friends and followed them, and gave it a go.

I read what my friends wrote, and I wrote about what was of interest to me.

Maybe it’s just my friends, or maybe it’s just that blogging works because it takes effort, but most of the tweets I would see fell into only a couple of categories. The first category are those tweets which are actually interesting, and are incredibly rare. The next category is those tweets which are half of a conversation about which I don’t care – a friend of mine talking to somebody I don’t know about something that doesn’t matter to me: you know, the thing I really hate about the way that people use their friends’ Facebook walls. The third category, and the most numerous for some of the people I followed, is tweets that surely have no value or interest to anybody at all. I don’t care that your bus is running late or that your boss has a new haircut. Why are you telling me this!

Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Some of my friends produce consistently clever and interesting stuff on their Twitter feeds. Although these also tend to be the same people who write interesting things on their blogs, or who talk to me regularly, or who share fun stuff with me on Google Reader, and who generally otherwise keep me posted with what’s cool and interesting in their lives.

I’ve heard people say to me that my complaints about Twitter are invalid because I use Facebook (thereby carrying the implication that it’s just as bad). And it is just as bad – about 50% of the folks I know on Facebook type such drivel into their “walls” that I just don’t read them. But the difference is that I don’t have to. I can still use the useful Facebook features (contact details sharing, photo sharing, stalking) without having to get into the shitty “what my cat ate for dinner” stuff that seems to be the entirety of what the Twitter experience is about.

Me; I like blogs. A well-written blog post (with a sensible title: I’m looking at you, LiveJournalers) is something that I can read now, or later, or skip. Skipping tweets isn’t the same experience at all, because you’ll soon find yourself at “Oh no! That made the cat throw up!” and wonder what you missed (hint: fuck all). So I think I’ll stick to reading folks’ blog posts, logging into Facebook every couple of weeks, and checking a handful of my friends’ Twitter feeds once in a blue moon. Is that how it’s supposed to be done? I’m not sure, but it’s the only way that I’ve found that works for me.

Or perhaps I’m missing something.