You Gripe, Facebook Listens

By  |  Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Facebook LogoDo stuff. Make mistakes. Listen. Learn. Fix. That’s a corporate culture that just about any company would be pleased to claim as its own, but Facebook really lives it. And since the whole point of Facebook is to help millions of people express themselves, it it makes its mistakes in public in a way that few companies do. Fortunately, it also does its listening and learning in the open, too.

I kind of like Facebook’s new, more Twitteresque home page-or at least am willing to give it a chance–but evidence seems to suggest I’m in the minority. And Christopher Cox, the company’s director of product has posted about changes that Facebook is making based on user feedback. He mentions lots of them, most of which involve providing more control over the content that gets displayed and/or making it easier to find important stuff. (And maybe the new design does obscure some significant items: I just noticed that I had a backlog of eleven friend requests, because they no longer occupied prime real estate at the top of the right-hand column where they were easy to spot.)

Anyone who’s ever redesigned anything used by more than a handful of people knows that change is hard. We certainly heard immediately from unhappy campers every time we gave PC World an online or print makeover during my time there. The best you can do is listen hard, be good at distinguishing between things that are unpopular because they’re new and those that are unpopular because they’re bad, and be careful about assuming that one or two extremely agitated users represent the view the majority of your users. (Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.)

I once had a smart boss who, when I asked him for money for a PC World redesign, asked whether changing things that are already successful was an inherently bad idea. The answer, of course, is that it’s far better to change something that’s successful before the world passes it by than to play catchup later. (I told him that, and we came up with the dough.) But it’s fair to say that change is inherently risky–but that the Web mitigates some of the risk, since you get immediate feedback and can just keep on changing until you get things right. With print magazines, it’s possible to make changes that readers despise, and not even know until months later when you find that they stayed away from an issue at the newsstand in droves.

I can’t think of another company in tech that’s better at handling change than Facebook. Kudos to it for having the right attitude, and I hope that Facebook fans, no matter how irate they may get, give the site credit for trying to do the right thing. Even when it takes multiple attempts.


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. JJT Says:

    I have to agree on this front, Harry. It’s not that bad, actually. I like the redesign, but I will be the first to admit that there are elements that can be shifted. Notifications should be more prominent, and I find the placement of posts on the right strange to say the least. Still, I like the main “stream” in the middle.

    The outpouring of emotion over this change, though, is a bit crazy. I have had to deny two requests from people asking me to join their “Lynch the Facebook Redesign” group. It’s not that bad, people.

  2. Kent Says:

    I’m with both of you. It seemed like a fine redesign to me as well and I’m most amused by how freaking worked up people can get about these changes. Being a software product manager myself, I don’t envy the heat that sites like Facebook get whenever they attempt to improve their user experience. It’s impossible to make everybody happy.

  3. SoahmZ Says:

    As Kent above says, “It’s impossible to make everybody happy.” However, the main goal is to make as many people as possible happy. That said, it is the minority of the Facebook users who are happy about the redesign. I don’t think it is fair to say that the redesign made life easier for the majority of the users.

  4. Mark A. D. Says:

    Dear Harry, I have NO idea where you are getting your information that Facebook is a company where “You Gripe, Facebook Listens” or practices “Listen. Learn. Fix.” If you will please share with me your source I will gladly study up on it. Are you saying this is Facebooks official policy statement because I have never seen it published anywhere in Facebooks official rules policies and procedures. Harry, if you will please take only a few minutes and do an on line research of complaints about Facebook you will quickly come to realize Facebook does not have customer service and does not care at all about its members! Also, please call Facebook or email Facebook customer service with a concern and see for yourself that corporate Facebook is in reality a “Disgracebook” when it comes to customer service. With this in mind please read the following based upon thousands of complaints about Facebook. Thank you for your time and interest.

    “The Dark Side of Facebook AKA “Disgracebook,” or “Facebooks Complete Lack of Customer Service”

    The unaired dark side of Facebook, or should I call it “Disgracebook” because of the extremely poor disgraceful way Facebook treats its memebers. The reason I say the unaired dark side of Facebook is I have yet to see anything announced on the prime time major news outlets about the disgraceful practices Facebook uses on its members. The Internet is bursting at its seems with unhappy disabled Facebook members who have posted thousands of complaints everywhere it is possible to post complaints about Facebooks complete lack of customer service and mean spirited disregard for concerns, questions and feedback from members and former members.

    On Mark Zuckerber’s, the founder of Facebook, Facebook Fan Page Mark states “I’m trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share.” I am glad Mark says he is “trying etc.” because, in my opinion, he certainly has NOT accomplished his mission. Facebook is one of the most closed undemocratic uncaring unsocial business operations since the formation of the Gestapo. Facebook operates carte blanche without regard of a due process of rights for members Facebook deems unworthy to be members of its social network service and therefore, disables their account. Facebook justifies its policy and actions under the euphemism of “protecting members” from “repeated actions that could be construed as spam,” and from anything Facebook makes up as a threat to its security. Facebook is an omnipotent uncaring broadly defined automated bureaucratic security service mechanism with unpublished specific rules that are violated without knowing it. If this is not Gestapo like policy, I guess I do not know what it is because it certainly is un-American to say the least!

    Furthermore, in my opinion Facebook is not a social network service. When joining Facebook you are, in reality, joining a money making “computer program” complete with automated responders but is set up to look like a social network service operated by real people. Is it any wonder Facebook members are treated with total disregard for being feeling thinking real people? I have yet to know of a computer program that is able to feel and or to reason. When someone calls Facebook you are treated rudely and crassly informed to use their computerized automated services which do not reply when used or quickly transferred to an automated answering service to which there is no reply.

    I strongly urge anyone interested to please research what I am informing you of because I assure you the situation I have explained is the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. Until the media and or dressiness community takes notice of and makes public “Disgracebooks” inhuman treatment of people Mark Zuckerberg and his staff and money making computer program will continue to fill up trenches behind Disgracebooks California headquarters with unworthy disabled members.

    One final comment. If Disgracebook is treating its foreign members as poorly as it treats its domestic members Disgracebook is not only giving itself a black eye it is giving the United States of America a black eye. Is there anyone out there who cares enough to tell the world about Facebooks dark side and hopefully helps Facebook become a user friendly social internet service?

  5. Nancy McInerney Says:

    I too have had a horrible experience with customer service at Facebook. Twice no my account has been disabled, the first time after weeks of me pleading for someone, anyone to just let me know what is going on, they finally emailed me and apologized and had no other explanation. Now, it has happened again. I have been trying to contact someone but to no avail. I have no idea why they disabled my account. I doubt I ever will!!!

  6. elizabeth johnson Says:

    I am very frustrated with Facebook. My account was disabled with no warning. I only post pictures of family and info about my father who is in a nursing home. I also paid for a membership to Jib Jab so I could send ecards and jib jab videos.vI cannot get to the membership I paid for OR any of my photos.

    No reply from Facebooks customer service…

  7. Betty Fields Says:

    I need to know why have facebook been disabled? There is nothing I did wrong because I never got to use it. Please tell me something or tell how to delete it from my pc. This is crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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