By David Cushman, MD, 90:10 UK
Some quick thoughts on Facebook’s latest iteration (as revealed at its annual F8 conference on 22 September). The moving 'stream of news' from folks you know has been pushed into the wrong place. It should be in the centre. Facebook should instead push top stories to the edge (as Twitter does with Trends).
The reason they have got this wrong is the reason Facebook is headed in the wrong direction full stop. It can’t find a way of making value without slapping ads on. It is therefore forced into thinking it is a mass media play. When you think like that you get led by the lowest common denominator (most ‘liked’ over most relevant) that leads you to ‘top stories’ and to placing them in the centre.
Facebook is treating your ‘friends’ as one big community. You only get to choose who you share with once. It should at least be every time you share. Twitter’s trends is another (in some ways worse) case in point. It surfaces the most shared, not the most relevant - among everyone. Top Story is kind of ‘trends among friends’. Which is something I previously advocated twitter should do. But now I see it in the flesh and actually working, I realise how even this delivers most liked, not most relevant — even if it is ‘most liked/shared’ among your friends.
For example, when I checked in on Facebook this morning my experience of it was a top story which was a very funny video involving British chef Nigella Lawson (also available on Youtube, on the open web). The video is entertaining. It would entertain many. But it sure ain’t relevant. Because it gets liked and shared by many of my friends (and presumably their friends) it stays on top story position. Meanwhile, in a side-thought at the side of the page potentially more relevant stuff ticks by.
What is needed is a way in which you can select, every time, who you wish to share with. Friends may have things in common but that does not mean they share common purposes. Communities do. And communities of purpose are much more adhoc in nature than Facebook is built for. They are much more like the way conversations develop in twitter — aggregating around a common thing for the time that thing matters to those taking part, moving on to the next as and when the need is solved or the next emerges. Communities of purpose get together to achieve things — from answering a quick question to making a solution to shared need. Friends hang out.
And this is Facebook’s challenge. Communities of purpose have to be much more adhoc than it is built for — yet this is where the true value (making things with people rather than sending messages at them) resides. The Top Story thing reveals how far off Facebook is from cracking this, or perhaps even understanding it. It is why, instead, they must attempt to be a media platform. Because media platforms are nice and simple for selling ads on - instead of coming up with ways of creating real value with communities.