The NY Times launched a new mobile site today.
Michael Gartenberg reviews the new Times mobile site.
It’s cool that Digg links to Scripting, and even better that they link from their mobile version to mine. What’s coming next must be a web that works for mobile users, where we never click a link to a page designed to be rendered on a big-screen.
Facebook does an about-face. 🙂
Best wishes to everyone at Podcamp which kicks off this evening with a party at Harvard Law School (5:30-7:30PM tonight, Pound Hall, #213.). Wish I could be there, but there’s lots going on here in California. Have a great time, and do lots of podcasts! (Duh.) 🙂
Amyloo wonders if Steve Gillmor was invited to speak at Office 2.0. That would make a lot of sense.
Last night we had a dinner for people running East Bay startups. It was a first meetup, I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in quite some time, which was really good; and some who like myself are East Bay newbies. We decided to do this as a regular thing, however I am not organizing it, I’m better at participating than organizing. 🙂
For some reason there’s less startup activity on the east side than on the other side of the bay. Not sure why, but I see this as a chance to bootstrap something more thoughtful and with more longevity. I hope it doesn’t become super-heated and bubbly. And I also hope there’s a streak of doing-good that isn’t part of the Silicon Valley culture.
Okay Facebook did good.
But Facebook also did bad.
Good: Bring innovative new feature to users at no charge, and not in response to competitive pressure.
Bad: The users had no control over the new feature.
Let me explain.
The feature they introduced tells users what’s new with their friends. It makes people more efficient at browsing the network of Facebook users they’re connected to. It’s a feature I understand because, as Rex Hammock points out, it’s very much like the River of News aggregators I’ve been developing since 1999.
Facebook is absolutely correct that no new information is available now that wasn’t available before, but only in a theoretic sense. An example might help explain how the users feel. Suppose you lived in a small city of 5000 people, on a small street that 20 people walked by every day. Because of the way the streets are aranged, most of the 20 people are neighbors, people you know well, the kind of people you trust to watch your kids if you have to run some errands. You leave the gate to your yard open because there’s a nice shade tree there, and you leave a bowl of fruit out because you want your neighbors to feel welcome as they walk by. Come sit a spell and visit, life is good. Maybe two or three of your neighbors come for a visit a day. They get to rest, and you get to catch up on the gossip of the day.
Then the city changes the way traffic flows, you still put out the bowl of fruit and your gate is still open, but now instead of 20 people passing your property, 2000 people pass. And you only know 20 of them! Now your yard is filled with strangers, people with odd habits. The same rules apply, your gate is open, all passers-by are welcome, but the result is very different. Someone should have given you a heads-up letting you know this change was coming. Maybe you would have put a lock on the gate and given keys to your friends.
Now, on a much larger scale, with Facebook’s user base, the heads-up has to be done by word of mouth, and opt-in. Instead of forcing all the users to make sense of this all at once, bootstrap a new network on your old one, call it Facebook Plus, or Facebook Big City Life, of Facebook Now, put some futuristic imagery out there, and require users to sign up for an upgrade to their account, which would work thusly.
Suppose I upgraded, and my friend Jane (in my network) also upgraded. Then Jane has a News page, and on that page all my changes show up, along with the changes of all members of her network that have also upgraded. I also have a News page and Jane’s updates show up there, as do all the changes of members of my network who have upgraded.
Now change comes gradually, and users drive the change. When I run into Joan at the bookstore and she tells me she broke up with her boyfriend, I realize I didn’t see that on my News page and ask if she’s upgraded. Now I, a user, her friend, explain how it works. She decides if she wants to participate or not. That’s what users are complaining about, and rightly so. They need to control how their network sees them. They’re entitled to. This was the implicit deal they had with you, and you broke it. You did good by moving the product forward in an innovative way. And you did bad by taking the users out of the loop.
Later: Facebook does an about-face. 🙂