Why Facebook shouldn't replace the Wall with Timeline

The other day on Facebook, I was visiting a friend's new Timeline and came across an interesting comment:

"Timeline makes Facebook SO confusing. It takes me back to Myspace days."

I mulled over that comment for a few days and now I have some thoughts.

Timeline is a great retrospective, but not a great way to live in the now.
Timeline is visually attractive, but far less usable. It doesn't work for people who live out their daily lives on Facebook. Its focus is on summarizing the past, not living out the present. People use Facebook to interact with friends about what's happening right now, not to browse through what they did between 2006-2011. Timeline is too much like a yearbook to be useful for people who live out their active lives on the social networking site.

The Facebook Wall and Newsfeed differ from Timeline in one very important way: they were one column.
Timeline is far less scannable and takes a lot more work to parse information because of the two-column format. Facebook is trying to solve an issue that's existed as long as social profiles have been around: how to fit more information (specifically status updates) on a screen. Unfortunately, it's just not natural to move the eyes down the screen in sometimes diagonal, sometimes horizontal patterns. What's worse is that it takes mental processing to figure out what post to look at next. The reason the Wall was so successful (along with Newsfeed) were because you didn't have to move your eyes. You could consume information by effortlessly scrolling down the page.

People left Myspace for Facebook because it was cleaner and simpler to use.
Because of the customization Myspace allowed, profiles were messy and out of control. The comment above is worrisome because it sounds like the average internet user is starting to feel the same way about Timeline as we used to feel about Myspace profiles: too cluttered, too busy, and not useful enough to be worth it.

--

Overall the look and feel of Timeline is nice, and its definitely the most visually stunning product Facebook has built. But Timeline should be relegated to a retrospective view - something that strictly summarizes your life, not something that tries to play out every minute of life as it happens.

Putting my life into perspective

Elon Musk is pushing the human race forward

I admire Elon Musk because he is not afraid of taking on the challenge of solving big problems. He has an impressive resume, but I want to focus on Tesla Motors and SpaceX, which are two companies he founded using much of his own money. Through these companies, Musk is developing technological advances that are pushing the human race forward.

The work of Elon Musk’s companies makes the accomplishments of the average tech startup look trivial. Reading about Musk makes a person reconsider whether or not they should be working on improving ad performance on the Internet when he or she could be helping to put a man on Mars.

murtza.org

I haven't been able to get this post out of my head since it made it on Hacker News a couple weeks ago. It continually makes me put my life into perspective. Sure, I'm building cool things, but am I doing anything that will make any lasting impression on society?

Most people will agree that we don't all need to do (nor are capable of doing) something on the scale of Elon Musk. But personally, I'm not satisfied with settling with the scale of work I'm doing now (nothing against it). I just want to do something much, much bigger. I want to make it into history books for doing something great.

Look out, world. Here I come.

The biggest iOS 5 bug you've never heard of

There is a huge bug when Group Messaging is disabled in iOS 5. I'm shocked Apple hasn't fixed this yet.

Today a friend sent out a text message blast, announcing they got a new phone number. Shortly after, I got text messages from three random people I don't know. I was confused how these people got my number, but then I realized they were replies intended for my friend who sent out the text blast.

If you've ever used the Group Messaging feature, it's supposed to thread messages sent to groups, showing the person's name above their reply. But in order to use this feature, you have to explicitly enable Group Messaging.

If you don't enable Group Messaging, messages from anyone who replies will be sent as text messages to everyone on the thread. But what's worse: your reply will, unbeknownst to you, be sent to everyone on the group message. The problem is that there is absolutely no indication your reply will be sent to anyone other than the person you're replying to. If you don't have Group Messaging enabled, it's pretty cut and dry: your reply should not be sent to the entire group.

I kind assume this is an Apple backward compatibility "feature," but I'm not the only person surprised by how this works. In this Apple Support thread, representatives from both Apple and cell phone companies were shocked to discover replies get sent to everybody on the thread.

Apple really screwed up on this one. If you have Group Messaging disabled, you shouldn't be getting replies from people you don't know. But more importantly, your reply shouldn't be sent to a group of people without your knowledge.

The biggest err on Apple's side is the lack of communication of how this feature works. You can't just change how text messaging works without informing people. There needs to be instructions around the Group Messaging feature that explains if you turn the feature off, your reply can get sent to a whole host of people without your knowledge or intent.

Good vs. Excellent

I have a friend who is currently job searching. He's extremely qualified but keeps getting turned down for positions because his salary requirements are too high. While the rejection can be disappointing, getting turned down by employers who don't want to pay for an employee of his caliber is actually for the best. Here's why:

There is a difference between working for an employer who is willing to pay for a good employee vs. an excellent employee. And if you're excellent at what you do, you shouldn't want to settle for a company who would only pay you for a good job.

There was a time where I found myself without a fulltime job for a couple months. I could have easily settled for a lower-paying job instantly, but the reason I didn't wasn't because I was greedy or because I thought I was "above" lower-paying jobs - it was because I wanted to work for a company who recognized my value.

I believe I provide a very specific, and specialized service in the web industry. As such, I wanted to work for a company who saw the value in hiring a person with specialized skills such as myself, rather than hiring an average, more general designer. I was fortunate enough to find a company who understood that a person of my skill came with a higher price tag.

It's rare to find a company who holds this higher standard, but if you can find a company like that, it's totally worth it. You're going to find more satisfaction in the work you do, not because of the salary, but because you know the company recognizes every bit of value in your work - because they're paying the premium for it.

Coincidences

I'm in Holland, Michigan this weekend for Finish Weekend, a great concept put on by Collective Idea. Yesterday I met some new people that, as it turns out, I narrowly missed crossing paths with before.

The first was a fellow attendee to Finish Weekend from Lansing, Michigan. As I was scanning through his tweets, I discovered he checked into a delicious taco joint called Torchy's in Austin about a month ago. I remember vising Torchy's when I was in Austin last month, and knew I was there around the same time. A quick look through my Foursquare check-in history showed me that we checked into Torchy's in a two hour time difference from each other. Two guys from two different parts of the world who almost crossed paths in a place they were both visiting.

Later that night, I met a girl (we happen to share the same name) who lives here in Holland who was sporting a beanie from a company started by some guys I went to college with in Southern California. That led into a conversation about how she lived in Southern California for a while. Turns out she worked at a restaurant right next door to the Starbucks I practically lived at for my four years of college, about 15 minutes from where I live.

A while back, I posted a picture of a car I was following with a notable license plate frame. A few months later, I spotted the same car about 20 miles away (original post here). I posed the question, "How often do we drive by the same people and never realize it?" But the story above just gets weirder. You can't tell from the picture in the post I just mentioned, but the building just outside of the shot is the Starbucks which is right next door to the restaurant the girl worked at.

It's crazy to me how often we can discover these things about one another, and how common it actually happens. Our lives are more intertwined than we realize. Just imagine if we stopped and got to know everyone we passed by in life; if we just took the time to get to know people, what kind of other crazy stories and coincidences would we discover?

Strip out unnecessary features

If you buy a 4G hotspot device, would you also expect it to come with a built-in microSD card reader?

Dustin Curtis recently ranted about all the junky devices Motorola keeps pumping out. They sell a multitude of devices, all of which tout one minor form factor feature over the others. Compare that to Apple who keeps it simple, doesn't give in to the whims of finicky consumers (who don't actually know what they want), and continually builds a single, solid product. Motorola tries to give users "the features they want" with a variety of options whereas Apple often leaves things out in lieu of a better overall user experience. And history has shown that users will lean toward the better experience.

No sooner had I read his post than I experienced this first-hand. I've been trying out different 4G mobile hotspots in the past week. Some work great, and others leave you scratching your head.

Samsung makes a device for Verizon. It's one of the smallest 4G hotspots, and it just works. It does one thing and does it well: it gets you online at incredibly fast speeds. There's no screen on the device itself; it has an admin panel you can access for all the nerdy details. On the device, the only lights indicate signal strength on either their 4G or 3G networks.

Now compare that with offerings from both AT&T and Sprint. They offer a product made by Sierra Wireless. These products are a little clunkier (larger) and both sport on-screen displays. But the part I was really surprised about is they both have built-in microSD card readers.

One question: Why?

At what point would I ever want a microSD slot in my 4G hotspot device? Is that actually a selling point?!

I just don't get it. I can't think of a single case where a microSD card reader would come in handy. Chances are if you've got a microSD card (like in a camera), you've also got the device you used it in, and if you've got the USB cable to connect your 4G hotspot to your computer, chances are it's the same USB cable you'd use to plug the original device straight into your computer.

A 4G hotspot with a microSD reader is like buying a car that also washes your dishes, or a TV remote that doubles as an MP3 player. Why don't these products just focus on doing one thing and doing it well?

Device manufacturers are giving their product designers too much freedom. Just because you can add a "feature" doesn't mean you should. Does it really make sense? Will anyone ever use it, or will it just complicate things? Manufacturers need to start thinking about if a particular feature makes sense in the grand scheme of their product.

This same principle extends to web apps. In FolioHD, my co-founder and I are constantly wrestling with the hard reality of not adding features. Adding features is easy. It's not that they might not come in handy; it's that they complicate the usability. And if they are secondary features, you run the risk of losing the vision of your product and the reason you created it in the first place.

Cutting features is one of the hardest things you have to do. It's easy to come up with ideas. It's hard to pare down. Don't give users the world. Give them what they need. And if you keep it simple and do it right, you'll have a greater chance at success.

Who are you to decide how much money I make and how I should spend it?

I normally relegate my political posts to my politics blog or the popular Douche of the Day, but this is something I had to share with everybody.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for about a month now. To me, the protestors symbolize much of my generation who don't want to put in the necessary effort to achieve success. They'd rather take handouts than work hard to succeed.

Today I shared a link on Facebook to the story about Peter Schiff, a CEO who protestors dub as part of the "1%." Schiff visited a protest to have an honest conversation about their demands. (I suggest watching this video before continuing.)

After I shared the link to the post, a friend of mine from college wrote a comment saying what the protests mean to him (emphasis mine):

It's not that he needs to pay more in taxes; he just needs to make less money. More of the money made by whatever company he is CEO for, needs to donate more and put more back into the lesser paid employees. Why does the person who cleans the toilets for a company like his make barely enough, when he himself stacks more money in a year than he or his dependents could even spend? That's all I really disagree with. Corporations are corrupt in the sense that their business practices in such a manner that does not coincide with the CEO's belief in the value of life. Being CEO, he has the power to change that, I will protest with OCCUPY for that change.

I'm sorry, but who are you to decide how much money a CEO is allowed to make? Who says you should decide how profit should be spent?

The leaders of companies spend long days for years to achieve the success they have. They miss time with their families to see their businesses succeed. People are motivated by making money, so if people who start companies aren't incentivized by a big payday for becoming successful, what's the point in even trying at all?

On top of that, many of the protestors are protesting against the bailouts that banks and financial instutions received over the past few years. However, it's surprising to me that none of them seem to realize that the bailouts were institued by the guy they voted in as president, Mr. Barack Obama. Why do they continue to go after the institutions who were the beneficiaries of the bailouts rather than the guy who handed them out in the first place?

To those older than me, I'd just like to apologize for my generation. We are a generation raised under the belief that we should be handed success rather than achieving it on our own. We would rather complain about not being able to find a job than to actually go out and make ourselves marketable. But I maintain that success is achievable; it just has to be pursued.

In college, I took on a handful of internships, then began several entreprenurial projects of my own in addition to having a fulltime job. I want to be successful, but I realize it's not something that is going to be handed to me. If I want to be successful, I have to make it on my own. I wish more people my age understood this concept, rather than making fools of themselves complaining about the unjustness of society.

Success is achievable. People should spend more time pursuing it than asking the successful to share their success with them.

The worst mistake you can make as a user experience designer

There is nothing worse than navigating your mouse to click a link, only to find out the link was actually a dropdown menu. But it's too late, because you already clicked the link, so you're already being taken to a new page.

Example:

The problem? There is no indication this is a dropdown menu. It just looks like a link to a regular page.

So how should it work? If it's a hoverable area, the area shouldn't be clickable because you don't want to take the user to a different page if they click it. I wish more UX designers understood this basic concept. I cannot begin to explain the spout of frustration I just dealt with internally as I just ran into this on Verizon's website.

I am a terrible person

Nine years ago, my next door neighbors next door moved in. Today they are moving out.

And today as I left my house and drove by theirs, I watched as they loaded boxes into their SUVs and realized that I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually talked to them. In fact, I can count the number of interactions on one finger.

Time flies, but I never realized they had been there for nine whole years.

My justification for never getting to know them is because of their unique family situation, and the fact that they aren't the type of people I would normally spend time with. But my "justification" of the situation doesn't make it right.

I often complain that America is becoming less and less like the America that my parents grew up in. People aren't as kind to each other anymore. People look out for each other less. That's why I'm a fan of Texas. It's the last bastion of hope for American tradition and values. But today made me realize that maybe I'm just as much of the problem as anybody.

So here's a challenge for you today: reach out to someone you don't know - maybe someone you've seen for years but have never taken a moment to talk to. Take the initiative to be friendly. We were made to live in community with one another. Don't make it to the point that I have where I've realized I've wasted almost a decade to reach out and be a friend to the people who live right next door.

Apple loves to make incomparable comparisons

If there's one thing Apple likes to do, it's to tell everyone how awesome they are. At the beginning of every iPhone announcement, you can bet on them to give stats and metrics for at least a half hour about how they're killing the competition. But today, they used a metric that bears absolutely no validity, and thus required me ranting about it.

While Tim Cook was sharing that over 300 million iPods have been sold to date, he went on to make this comparison:

"It took Sony 30 years to sell 220,000 Walkman casette players."

Yeah. Okay. Thanks Tim. Good for you.

In other news, I've made more money in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 100 years combined.