Facebook, Friends?

I waste a lot of time visiting social networking sites perusing updates. For the sake of understanding the wide array of news, social, and other information sites I consume on a daily basis, I’ll give you a sample days worth of data consumption:

On My Macbook:

  • reddit (8-10 unique sessions @ 8 minutes per session)
  • facebook (2-3 unique sessions @ 7 minutes per session)
  • google finance (2-3 unique sessions @ 2 minutes per session)
  • miscellaneous blogs
  • AIM conversations (2-3 unique conversations @ 4-5 minutes aggregate time per conversation (average))
  • googletalk conversations (1-2 unique conversations @ 4-5 minutes aggregate time per conversation))
  • surf report / surf pictures (3-5 unique sessions per day / 7 minutes per session)
  • twitter (1 unique session a month. ha!)
  • other referred links (2-3 unique session per day @ 3 minutes per session)
  • reading common/subscribed blogs (1-2 per day @ 8 minutes per session)
  • email (20-30 emails a day @ 2 minutes per email (average))

On My iPhone:

  • facebook (2-3 unique sessions @ 1 minute per session)
  • SMS (5-7 text messages a day)
  • phone calls (2-3 calls a day @ 5 minutes per call (average))

These are my communication and information consumption devices. I’m not going to add all of those up, but my guess is it’s in the range of a few hours (2-4) per day of seemingly random information consumption and communication. Add some work hours, some in person conversation, working out, sleeping, eating, television, and beer, and you’ve got 24 hours.

I’d be willing to bet that your day is pretty similar. Maybe you spend more time (8-10 hrs) or maybe you spend less (1-2 hrs), but you’re spending alot of time consuming information and communicating.

What about the stratification of your list though? Do you visit alot of different sites? Maybe you read a few fashion blogs, or maybe you just spend all day looking at photo albums on facebook. Maybe you send 100 texts a day, or maybe you talk on the phone for hours. I dont know exactly what your breakdown would be, but I know that you spend alot of time, and the way you consume all of this information isn’t perfect.

So what’s out there to make your life easier?

I’ve always wanted to get more out of RSS feeds. I just haven’t been able to. I can’t quite put my finger on why this is, but I suspect it has something to do with the interface of the RSS readers. I just never find myself opening my RSS reader. When I do, it’s fine for reading some articles, but I only have about 3-4 constant blogs / sites that I like to read, and they’re not very hard to type into the URL bar in firefox.

Facebook helps with social interaction. The friends lists are freaking gold, and I bet maybe 5% of facebook users actually utilize them. Facebook could do so much more if they promoted friend’s lists, which maybe I’ll incorporate into this blog post if I dont think I can build something cool with the idea (which i probably can’t, so if you’re a smart web apps programmer then email me ajsolimine at gmail dot com). The newsfeed does vaguely promote friends lists (if you click the little arrow at the right, you’ll be able to sort by lists), but I doubt many people have invested the time into organizing their friends. Facebook has proxied friends lists by creating a decent set of newsfeed controls where you can choose to see more or less of a certain item type (photos, status updates, etc…) or more or less publication resulting from a certain users action.

But that’s kinda a pain in the ass. I know about 2-3 people I dont want to see regularly, and about 7-8 that I do, but besides that, it’s all a crapshoot. I know facebook probably keeps track of who I do view, and autonomously updates my consumption score for that person’s information by a bit. I know this because I see people that I want to see fairly regularly and I see alot of photos (although, then again, about 75% of the engagement on facebook is probably b/c of photos anyways).

Friends lists would improve engagement considerably, at the cost of decreasing discovery of content provision outside of those lists. That is, the information you would be consuming inside of facebook with friends lists would be less dilutive in the sense that you wouldn’t get the “noise” of seeing any events from users that aren’t really relevant to you.

Theoretically, this shouldn’t happen, but we all know that of the 1,293 facebook friends we have, we really only care about less than 100 of those people’s events.

Creating friends lists and prioritizing them would make content consumption so much more fluid. Recommendation engines would thrive, events would be considerably easier to create and utilize, as well as group discussions via group messaging. Group chats with certain lists for project brainstorming, classes projects, or just general fraternizing would be facilitated with friends lists (from a techical standpoint, they would be chat rooms, message threads, etc… that are created from the source (user) and available via Access Control List rules dictated by friend lists).

As many times as people sign into their facebook account, I dont think any of them think of facebook as their social or information storage account. For that, always look to people’s email applications.

If you look at the above list of my daily information consumption habits, Email was the one node that isn’t defined by striated pull patterns– that is– I didn’t log into a site with any information, I was always logged in.

My email account would be the perfect module to receive all of this information. Want new functionality? Create new tabs for new application add ons. Maybe I have a few chats open with groups or users in a chat tab that syncs with my AIM and google talk accounts. Messaging? Obviously in my email inbox. Alerts all come into the main inbox, while other filters provide easier access to blogs I am subscribed to, new links my friends have posted, new conversations with certain friend lists, new photo album alerts, new events posted to certain friend lists, polls, and more. Facebook was close here, but I still don’t see them as a destination solely due to the fact that they did too good getting people to connect.

It seems like such a chore now to go through all of my friends to organize them. Sure I have the little autocomplete widgets, and all I need to do is think of my friends names to begin categorizing them. But that’s seems like a daunting task.

Maybe that’s why twitter is actually appealing. I only have a few friends, so I’m not intimidated to blast things to twitter. Maybe not having a huge audience isn’t so bad after all…

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