Zuckerberg focus

George Nimeh

Voices


Dear Mark:

You have lost focus. Please get it back.

As a longtime Facebook user, advertiser and publisher, I think your company is losing the plot, and is in danger of repeating the mistakes made by companies like Kodak, Polaroid, Sony, Myspace, BlackBerry and others. Namely, at some point you stopped focusing on delivering things that people really wanted. You have lost focus on the people using this platform, and that’s the first step toward losing touch and becoming obsolete.

So many things that so many people want, and which would make Facebook so much better, go either seemingly unattended or unfixed. You’ve got around 7,000 people working at the company, and I just don’t get it.

Need an example? Try this: Why is it that no one can get the News Feed to remember that we don’t want it sorted by “top stories”? Like most people (I imagine), I want it sorted by “most recent,” but somehow Facebook keeps flicking the switch back to “top stories.”

This happens all the time. And you know what? It pisses me off (and probably millions of other people, too) on a regular basis. How hard can it be to get that right?

Want another example of something simple that repeatedly gets under the skin of a billion people? How about this one from TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher: “I find it so annoying that I can stop notifications on some FB posts or unfollow some posts, but not all the time. Seems totally random.”

Why is that such a mystery?

How about something meatier than setting a cookie? Your search sucks. Sure, I can find people or groups, but it takes a lot of effort to get much else. Photos, stories, links, posts, videos, check-ins, playlists, etc., etc., etc. … A billion people post and share all this stuff all the time, and there is no simple way to find it. It all gets lost. Gone. Poof. Disappears into a deep, dark social-graph black hole.

And this isn’t about optimizing the content posted for brands or ad sales (although I bet there’s some extra dollars in them there keywords). This is about having a search optimized so that people can easily find their holiday pics from dinner two years ago at Grandma’s house.

People don’t search on Facebook because they don’t want to search. No one searches on Facebook because Facebook search sucks.

Back to my friend Mike Butcher. Mike raves about being able to find people via the Graph Search when he is traveling, but despite that, he says, “Now and again I write something I quite like and I can never find it again …”

The really ironic if not tragically funny thing about this little rant is that I’ve written about this before in bits and pieces — on Facebook — and I have no clue how to find what I have posted or commented other than by sifting and scrolling and browsing until I find something. That’s pathetic.

Remember that neat post by Mike Hudack about how the media is responsible for how bad the news is on FB? You know, the one that inspired Alexis Madrigal to write that clever reply? Yeah, that one. You know what the easiest way was to find that post on Facebook when the story was breaking?

Searching Twitter for their names.

You’d get several links straight to Mike’s post. That’s still true today, btw.

Think about that for a minute: Twitter does a better job searching Facebook than Facebook.

And mobile …

We all know how important mobile has become to you and Sheryl Sandberg. Makes a lot of sense. So why is the current mobile app’s News Feed algorithm so bad? It seems to have its own personal (il)logical way of deciding what to show us all, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to change it. This baffles me. The ads are fantastic (seriously), but the fact is that the product and the algorithm behind it are failing millions and millions of people every single day. To quote Hewson and Evans, “How long, how long must we sing this song?

As I’ve said before, everybody seems to know about the problems (including lots of folks at Facebook, I imagine), but nothing seems to happen. The kids are leaving (or are they already gone?). And when something better comes along for the adults, Facebook risks becoming the next Myspace. Personally, I’d rather not see that happen. I bet you feel the same way.

The list of highly successful companies which have gone down the tubes because over time they failed to keep up with what people want is very long … and the time it takes to go from zero to hero to zero is getting shorter every single day.

You have lost focus. Please get it back. Please fix the place.

Sincerely,

George Nimeh

George Nimeh is chief digital officer at Kurier, a leading Austrian media company. Since 1995, he has worked in various management roles with media companies and agencies including the New York Times, Advance Publications, CBS, Red Bull, Organic Online, Iris Worldwide and Iwon.com. Reach him @iboy.



10 comments
Bahmani
Bahmani

Yes but give FB one concession, they are doing a Brownie-level "helluva job!" reaching that elusive and hard to pinpoint any sort of advertising value of the "Social Media Addict" demographic.


They certainly have that market covered. Although is you ask a "Social Media Addict" if they see (never mind remember) any of the ads in small font invisibly placed to the right of their furious flame-out being conducted with a former high school nemesis, the likely answer would be, "Huh?"


While sites like FB and Google have successfully convinced everyone that Advertising is not about increasing sales but about "branding". The scarier realization is that FB has somehow convinced everyone that the FB user is the same as a "normal consumer".


Funny, I never knew that I was a needy, self obsessed, insecure wallflower that required constant validation through carefully scripted events, photos that don't look like me, and elaborate self serving scenarios that depict a far more interesting person than I could ever pull off if I ever met anyone of my "friends" face to face.


But then again my friends are just like me so...

phil28
phil28

 You are so right. I frequent Facebook less and less because when I open my timeline I don't know what to expect. It's unpredictable and often I see items days old. items missing that I just added, and other postings arbitrarily omitted.  But, frankly, it's no more buggy than this site, that doesn't always take comments and is really ugly with the ////// everywhere, even cutting into images.

OperaNow!
OperaNow!

 He won't see this unless you're friends.

Matt_Moose
Matt_Moose

This is so upsetting. George, you're completely out of shape. Perhaps you should deactivate your facebook account and reactivate your gym membership. Go build a better facebook if you think you can.

@iboy
@iboy

@Bahmani I think the demographic (be they addicts or not) is getting older by the day. In terms of the ads, FB is definitely shifting from those on the sides to those embedded in the Newsfeed ... I'm sure you've noticed this as well ... And on mobile - where things are growing like mad - those embedded ads are prominently placed and regularly served. In terms of not knowing that you and your friends were "needy, self obsessed, insecure wallflowers requiring constant validation" ... Well, I think that's the human condition that Zuck tapped into to make this whole thing spin in the first place. It's easy to deny it on an individual basis, but it's hard to ignore the fact that a billion people have signed up and use this thing. 

@iboy
@iboy

@phil28 Thanks for the comment. The unpredictability drives me nuts. I don't want a guessing game as the default platform logic. It isn't supposed to be chatroulette. 

@iboy
@iboy

@OperaNow! You're probably right. It's like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: "Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond"

@iboy
@iboy

@Matt_Moose

That's a great tip ... Maybe I could get one of those treadmills that Fred Wilson was (is?) using and work on a concept while working out! And he and I would have something else in common. And he's a VC with cash for great ideas! ... So you're telling me there's a chance? 

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