Today I Learned Why Facebook Is Ultimately Doomed

I’ve been reading a lot lately about why the Facebook boat is destined to sink.

Opinions and reasons are as plentiful and varied as the cosplayers at Comic-con (read Matt Silverman (Mashable) and Eric Jackson (Forbes) for two differing yet equally valid opinions), yet for me there can be no greater reason than diminishing user trust.

I’m not going to rehash all the usual arguments about difficult and misleading privacy settings, user interest decreasing over time, or that the service is simply trying to be too big and the off-putting complexity that presents to users. No, instead I’m going to post this picture…

TIL Why Facebook Is DoomedThe advert, as you can see is plainly for something on the naughtier side of the internet, and even though people have a right to do what they want online (within legal reason), what got me was that the name and face attached  to the advert were those of someone who I know. I’m not going to say who, for obvious reasons, but I will say that he’s got a wife and kids and I’m sure she wouldn’t (and probably not he) wouldn’t be happy knowing that his one-armed surfing preferences are being displayed to everyone on his Facebook contact list.

How can Facebook ever expect to maintain users and community when they can’t (either through ineptitude or unwillingness) keep our private habits from our friends, let alone advertisers?

Yes, the guy in question is partly to blame, but the flip side is that he, like the majority of Facebook users is not tech savvy in the way which the people reading this post are. He, like the rest of the unwashed masses simply don’t care about Facebook privacy.

I suspect he’ll start caring about it now if his wife sees the same advert in her sidebar, but like most people privacy doesn’t matter until it’s taken away and there’s a damaging consequence.

It’s issues like this, regardless of who caused them, be it Facebook, the user or a third-party that will cause the community to lose trust and without the community Facebook is worth absolutely nothing.

If Facebook wishes to survive long-term, it needs to learn to protect users and their data, not only from rogue advertisers and spammers, but also from themselves as unfortunately the masses are either unwilling, incapable (which I doubt) or simply don’t care enough to worry… until it’s too late.

Killing Off My Public Facebook Page

Currently there’s about 130 of you guys following the Facebook page “PaulOFlahertyOnline” and many of you who are following that page are also friends with me on my personal Facebook profile.

The advent of the “subscribe” button on Facebook has made the public page obsolete and frankly just a pain to update, as everything that ends up there is already being posted publicly on my personal page (so if you’re subscribed you can see it), and… let’s be honest, I don’t update that page a lot but I do pump a lot of good shares through my personal Facebook.

So, here’s the deal, in a week or so I’m going to kill off the PaulOFlahertyOnline page and simply stop posting to it, but, in order to stay up to date and still get all of the content I find around the web, you can just pop along to my personal profile and hit the subscribe button.

I’ll even add a button here (this may not show up in an RSS reader so you’ll have to click through to the post) so you can subscribe easily.

Facebook fb_xd_fragment Problem – .htaccess Solution

FacebookSara was trawling through Google Analytics for our sites and noted that a number of posts showed their URL’s with an appended “?fb_xd_fragment=” like this:

http://sitename.com/postname/index.php?fb_xd_fragment=
http://sitename.com/postname/?fb_xd_fragment=

This is a known Facebook bug with the “Like button” and one that Facebook probably won’t resolve as it has been ongoing for quite a while now. It hasn’t been a huge problem for us and happens a negligible amout of times, for instance according to Google Analytics it happened on only 631 out of nearly 1.84 million pageviews on Geek Is Awesome in the past 30 days.

Still, that’s 631 times that users were confronted with a blank white screen and had to refresh, and 631 times that AdSense and other advertisers ads were shown but couldn’t be seen by the reader. 631 times too many in my book.

Eric Enge posted a solution over on Search Engine Land back in June, but I think this solution may be simpler and have just finished adding it to a number of our sites. Eric’s solution may be more complete in that it may work better on things like WordPress Network (multi-site) installs but this simple .htaccess solution should work for everyone else by doing a 301 redirect back to the post URL if the bug occurs.

Eric also noted that some of their posts were showing up in the search engine results with the “?fb_xd_fragment=” attached, which is of course a potential content duplication problem. We’ve not seen any results for our sites in the SERP’s with the fragment attached but this solution (found on the Webmaster World AdSense forum) should solve that too as it provides a 301 redirect for the fragment.

Anyhow, enough rambling, here’s the bit of code to drop in your .htaccess file.

#Redirect For Added FB Fragment
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^fb_xd_fragment=.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1? [R=301,L]

Hope this helps and remember that if you’re using something like WP Super Cache in WordPress don’t forget to hit the “update mod rewrite” rule button after adding the code so that it doesn’t throw that message at you telling you that a difference has been detected.

As always – you’re mileage may vary and any comments, questions and / or improvements are encouraged.

Explicit ‘href’ Problem With Facebook Comments

On all of our sites which are using Facebook comments we’re currently getting the following warning:

Warning: this comments plugin is operating in compatibility mode, but has no posts yet. Consider specifying an explicit ‘href’ as suggested in the comments plugin documentation to take advantage of all plugin features.

Facebook has (again) changed the code for displaying Facebook comments and wants it to look like this:

After the <body> tag:

<div id="fb-root"></div>
<script>(function(d, s, id) {
  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=OURAPID";
  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Where you want your comments to appear HTML5 OR XFBML:

HTML5:

<div data-href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
data-num-posts="20" data-width="610"></div>

XFBML:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

This is what we are currently using where the comments appear (XFBML):

url="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/" numposts="60"
width="610" publish_feed="true" migrated="1">

If we move to the newer code it becomes:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

It’s fairly obvious that FB is moving away from having the XID as the post identifier in favor of “href” but if we move to the new code then all of our comments disappear.

I’ve tried replacing the “url” with “href” in the old code, and passing “href” alongside “url” in the old code to no avail. It did result in the warning disappearing but at the expense of all the comments disappearing as well.

I’ve also tried passing the XID to the new code, XID with the post ID, adding the XID with “migrate=’1′” and numerous variations there of.

It appears to me that the only way to make the warning disappear is to switch over to the newer code which uses “href” instead of “url” and lose our comments in the process.

Obviously we don’t want to the lose the thousands of comments we’ve built up since switching to FB comments and we don’t want to move away from FB comments as they’ve provided a massive increase in interactivity on our sites, but this is an annoying problem.

Has anybody else come across or developed a solution for this yet? Am I missing something glaringly obvious?

The Google+ Badge Is Horrendous

It’s well known that I’ve already surrendered to my Google overlords and fervently chase each new product they offer with the enthusiasm of a horny teenage boy trying to catch his first glimpse of a real pair of boobs, so when I choose to put fingers to keyboard to complain about something, you’d better believe that I’ve got a serious gripe to get off my chest.

About two weeks ago we set up Google+ pages for all of the Scrw Media sites but have yet to actually start posting content to them for two reasons:

  1. There’s no workable means to automate the posting process. We’re a small operation and unless I plan on staying up 24 hours a day and am committed to posting to Google+ every hour on the hour, I don’t yet see a reasonable way to get all the content from all of our sites on to the network in a timely manner.
  2. The badge which allows people to add your site/page to their circle is horrible. Not horrible – horrendous. It’s a mega f-ugly.

Google-Plus-Badge
Seriously Google, what were you thinking when you can up with this ugly ass badge? It’s inflexible – you can’t change the height, you can’t change the width. You can’t change anything.

You have a choice of 5 terrible badges (6 if you count the text link), 3 of which are just icons and the standard badge and the small badge are the same damn width. 300 inflexible pixels that many a website won’t be able to easily incorporate into their design.

* Conspiracy Theory Warning * Unless of course that’s what Google wants, as many of the sites using G+ will also run Adsense and this will force them to increase the width of their sidebar and as such they’ll probably upgrade to the more lucrative 300 pixel wide ads – *End of conspiracy theory*

It’s obvious that Google does not want to be considered a Facebook knock-off, but when it comes to the Facebook “like buttons”, “like boxes” and other site add-ons, Google could do a lot for themselves by “borrowing” a little bit of inspiration.  Yes there are lots of issues with Facebook’s implementations but aren’t we supposed to be learning from and improving upon the competition?

Moot: Facebook and Google Do Identity Wrong

In a passionate speech at the Web 2.0 summit, 4chan founder Christopher “moot” Poole says that Google and Facebook “do identity wrong,” and that people should not be tied to just one identity on the web. He doesn’t really propose solutions, but he brings a lot of valuable food for thought to the table.

Hat-tip: Mashable.

Facebook’s Pattern Matching On Comment Moderation Sucks Ass

We’re using Facebook comments on some of our sites and it’s working great, commenting on those sites has increase immensely but I must say that the pattern matching for blacklisted words sucks royal ass.

We’re using the “standard Facebook restrictions” to keep things relatively clean but I have to wonder about that when I need to moderate comments that get caught by the filter because they contain words like (real examples): glasses, mass, pass and classic.

The problem? Each one of those common words contains the term “ass” somewhere inside the word. Surely Facebook could code a fix for this for this?

Masturbatory Post Much Ben?

Facebook’s F8 conference is later today and Mashable’s Ben Parr  has managed to write an almost 500 word wank fest where he says nothing more than “I’ve seen it, you haven’t, everything else is shite and I’m in love with Zuck” (okay maybe he didn’t say he was in love with Zuckerberg but I strongly suspect this particular man crush goes beyond the norm).

I have seen what Facebook is launching on Thursday, and it’s going to change the world of social media. And while I won’t talk about the mind-boggling things Facebook will be launching, I will say this: The Facebook you know and (don’t) love will be forever transformed. The news that will come out of Facebook during the next few weeks will be the biggest things to come out of the company since the launch of the Facebook Platform.

And:

But these changes are just the beginning. The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook. These changes will make Facebook a place where nearly everything in your life is enhanced by your social graph. These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could.

On Thursday, developers will be elated, users will be shellshocked and the competition will look ancient. On Thursday, Facebook will be reborn. Prepare yourselves for the evolution of social networking.

This isn’t journalism. It’s a fluff piece. It’s self-indulgence. It’s a sneaky wank in the fanboy closet. This reads more like Ben Parr and by extension Mashable, is on the payroll of Zuckerberg’s marketing machine rather than feigning a semblance of actual reporting.

I’d like to say that we expect better of Mashable, but these days….

Still, this post annoyed me more than most.