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Introducing the New Profile (facebook.com)
141 points by michaelnovati on Dec 5, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 106 comments

One thing that's fascinating me is how they're letting this update deploy virally, by itself.

You sign up for the new profile and your friends are going to see you did. If several of your friends do it, you're going to see that a number of them did. This is bound to be at least somewhat convincing, given that you trust your friends more than the faceless evil of Facebook Corp, and therefore it might be worth doing, and your curiosity will be piqued.

Given Facebook's history with negative feedback around new features, this seems to me like the most brilliant part of the entire new profile - and it's very subtle, too.

Yes, it seems to be working very successfully. The tour of the new features that appears after one's profile is upgraded was great too. Here's hoping they follow this model for future features.

> One thing that's fascinating me is how they're letting this update deploy virally, by itself.

Are you saying it's opt-in only for everyone? My friend got the new profile automatically, though I did not. I see that I can choose to get it manually, but the FAQ also says you cannot revert.

Perhaps I've misunderstood your comment. I would be really impressed if the feature had total viral deployment (i.e. opt-in only for everyone), and if it allowed you to change back to the old profile at will.

I imagine they'd seed a few million profiles to start with, so probably a few people ("a few million" equates to "a few" in the Facebook ecosystem!) got converted over to hotstart things. Not surprising, really.

Allowing you to change back to your old profile at will wouldn't be a very feasible move, I'd imagine. You want to move your userbase over to the new code as soon as possible so you can start iterating on that for everyone, without worrying about maintaining two versions.

> Allowing you to change back to your old profile at will wouldn't be a very feasible move, I'd imagine.

I agree. It would be a real headache. That's why I would have been really impressed if they did it. Or rather, I would have been really impressed if they found a way to do it that wasn't a headache. :)

I'm impressed by how small the teams remain at Facebook. His profile shows that he worked on this profile revamp with only 6 other people, as well as Chat with 5 others, and the iPhoto exporter himself at a Hackathon. While there have been reports of Google's teams burgeoning in size, it seems that at least for now Facebook is keeping them small. Obviously, these products have had perhaps less depth than Wave for example (which had a 30 person team http://www.businessinsider.com/why-google-cant-build-instagr...). But, still, it says something about Facebook that they are attempting to keep team size small.

This also implies that Facebook grills their engineers to the point where engineers would get exhausted so easily. Executing huge features with small teams is very great for the company, but does that necessarily mean it's a great place to work? For instance, recently graduated people would be very suitable for Facebook because they are young and single (as in not married). However, people with families would less likely to work for Facebook.

Does it? Not necessarily. At my previous employer I was one of several team leads and we almost always broke into 4-8 man teams.

One of my biggest takeaways from doing that for a couple years is how dramatically productivity can swing based on factors like the texture of the project, the clarity of the goal, the freedom of the TL to make judgment calls without needing to get approval from a BA, morale, the quality of the spec (note that quality != length), etc.

No reason a small dedicated team cannot build large products with reasonable deadlines and a balanced lifestyle. Though, in the interest of full disclosure, in my opinion 50 hours a week is fully balanced and a team can run at 50 hours pretty consistently without ill effects if they WANT to and are HAPPY with their mission and job.

It's so easy to find reasons for adding another person to a team, but much more difficult to identify when things like groupthink have become a problem as a result of those additions.

Related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks%27s_law

"Nine women can't make a baby in one month"

I've never liked that saying. Nine women can make nine babies in nine months, you're just running up against fundamental limits with the nine month thing. Of course there are fundamental limits in software engineering as well, but they're much more difficult to identify than the length of time it takes to make a baby. The argument that fundamental limits exist is not an argument not to try and get to those limits.

Yes nine women can make nine babies in nine months, but they're all going to be born in 9 months (give or take), which doesn't help you have a baby in 1 month. If you plan it right, you can have 1 baby a month with a 9 month delay, but again that's 8 months too late for a deadline.

The saying here is essentially akin to too many cooks spoil the broth. Put it this way: 1 brick layer can lay 9ft of brick in 9 days (no factuality here). If you're building a wall you can only go one row at a time. 2/3 brick layers will speed up the process. However 9 brick layers won't produce a 9ft tall brick wall in 9 days because 6 brick layers will be sat on their arses drinking coffee.

9 brick layers can produce 9 9ft walls in 9 days, but won't be producing a 9ft wall in a day 9 days continuously working as a team.

The statement doesn't preclude that work can be produced efficiently, for example you could easily have 4 brick layers build 4 9ft walls - AKA a house - in 9 days.

The aim is to find your fundamental limit and work with it. If you need a baby every month, sure plan ahead and you could have a baby monthly starting in 9 months, if you can account for that 9 month waiting period. You will never get a baby in 1 month with a team of 9 women and only 1 of them being pregnant.

I think you just said the exact same thing as the person you were replying to, no?

Perhaps the most convenient change is that all 4 display ads are now above the scroll line, even on my netbook. Thanks Facebook!

Basically, the new profile has become more ad-friendly than what it used to be, user friendly. No, I don't like the way my communications (Wall Posts) have been sidelined and ads have become the most prominent feature in my profile page.

I was scrolling the comments wondering if others saw that as well. Maybe their internal designer won his bid for the new design by making the ads more prominent.

they're wider too, and immediately beneath semi-relevant content...

And Facebook told me that you (my Facebook friend) already had signed up as soon as I visited that page from the link submitted here on HN.

annoyingly, it published a story about this to my friends; one that I can't delete.

I wonder why Facebook moved away from easy Twitter-style status posting. It used to be (about two versions ago) that the "what's on your mind" textbox was open by default and it was easy to post a status. For sometime now, you have to click "Status" first to do it, which almost seems like they'd like to discourage users from doing it?

Based on the analytics at a startup I used to work at, photos are a much better driver of user engagement than status updates. I'm guessing the same is true for facebook, and anecdotally, most of the facebook comments I receive are on photos and shared links, not status updates.

Wow.. my feed (primarily non-technical) couldn't be more different. I'd estimate it abouts 80% status updates and comments on the same.

If the status update is mundane like "am eating a bagel" and you have a really funny photo of eating a bagel then the photo is definitely going to win the comment competition. If you use the status update intelligently, like tweeting about something that will interest your group then you can have a good discussion going on with just a few simple lines. Like a Tweet on FB Wall.

Actually from what I understand, only a small number of users got the change you're describing, and that happened when they introduced Questions (which neither I nor many of my friends have yet--I still have the "Twitter-style status posting")

I applied for the Questions beta months ago, but didn't hear anything back. I have the non-Twitter-style publisher including a link to post a question, however it doesn't actually work. Quite strange.

When you click Status, it auto-focuses. So isn't it still a one-click process?

It looks like the update is mostly with photos, but I would really prefer an update to the tagging system. Easier control of who is allowed to tag you, what they can tag, and who is allowed to see it.

I think there should be a couple use cases facebook always protects from, and proves that they aren't going to hurt the person. Here is one:

"Mary is an abused spouse, beaten inches from death once upon a time by her abusive husband. She has since left him and moved to another city entirely, in hiding."

Nothing in the system should allow any information about Mary to leak out. Not pictures of her, not her updates, not her level of participation in the site even. Your tagging is broken if you allow her to be tagged or captions to point her out.

Twitter needs that feature too to prevent people from Tweeting that they just saw Mary at the local store or something.

If you think about your request a little more, you'll see that it's not plausible. There's a reason why people who really need to hide (e.g. witness protection) may have to change their names, cut off old connections, etc.

I've wondered a few times how witness protection works in the world of Facebook. I can totally imagine someone's picture being randomly spotted by a 4-hop connection, being tagged and the cover being blown. Anyone have any interesting research on this subject?

I would be very surprised if the Marshall Service doesn't have pretty straightforward guidelines about what sorts of things to avoid when under witness protection. I would expect that having a Facebook account at all is something to avoid.

I can see a situation where eventually the idea of not having a Facebook account is in itself something unusual, in which case they might need to refine the policy, but I suspect that currently, it boils down to "don't use Facebook, don't use Twitter".

It's very plausible in facebook's scenario. Allow Mary to flag "Do not show pictures with me in them to the public" in her profile.

This is not the case with twitter, as you pointed out, but for facebook, it is.

Is this not possible now?

Account->Privacy Settings->Customize->Pick whatever you want to customize and you can choose who to share it with.

Not to mention without going into customizations, you can just choose a "blanket" level which can be that only friends can ever see anything about you.

The feature required they don't have now is "Block pictures with me tagged in them from public view". Only "Take them off my profile page"

You're talking about pictures that other people have taken, which happen to have you in them?

I understand what you're saying, but I really can't imagine this makes any kind of sense to implement. They aren't your pictures, after all, and other people have a right (probably even a legal right) to those pictures.

When I had a Facebook account, I thought it would be nice if I could configure it such that if somebody tried to tag me in a photo it would automatically show a comment to them saying either:

User x has opted out of being tagged in photos. You will not be able to tag them.


User x has requested that people don't post photos of them on Facebook. Please take this under advisement before posting such photos. You might want to ask their permission first.

Yes, I'm talking about those.

Facebook seems to partially agree with me on this, as it allows you to not show the tagged pics on your profile page currently with a setting. I mean, "Those arent' your tags, after all, and other people have a right to those tags".

I think that's reasonable. Any person tagged in a picture can prevent it from being public. It can be implemented so that the most restrictive permissions carry through, but as I write it that way and reflect upon Facebook's history and stated attitude, it sounds naive.

I think that's very unlikely to happen. People who hadn't been abused would use it widely. Facebook, like Google, wants you to spend as much time as possible on Facebook, which means moving as much as your life into Facebook as possible and making things about others public by default, because that translates to more pageviews. Facebook makes money selling ads, so the more pages you view the more ads they sell. This is their principal motivation.

Keeping things locked-down goes against both precedent that Facebook itself has set and the easy way to get more pageviews. There is probably a market for such a locked-down social network for people in witness protection or secret agents, but I don't think Facebook is very interested in the space.

Your argument strikes me as knee-jerk cynicism.

Facebook wants to be around for a long time. Facebook wants people to get value out of their site. This isn't a get-rich-quick scheme where the objective is to strip-mine their users. A necessary condition for Facebook making any money is that people enjoy their service. If they don't implement it, it's because they don't think it'd be valuable to enough people to be worth the opportunity cost of having people implement it, not because they think it would hurt ad revenue.

It seems to be a popular sentiment that any ad-supported company hates their users, and I don't get it. It's true for spam but it isn't true for companies that want to be around for more than a year.

If they really loved their users, and their users really loved them, it surely would not be hard to have an ad-free, monthly subscription service.

Look at Angry Birds, why would they even want to sell paid apps anymore with the amount of revenue they can earn from advertising within the game?

The point isn't to allow her to also use the site (which would be alright). It's to make it so the site doesn't inadvertently disclose her location (as google buzz did for instance when it first popped up).

Giving people control over when they are tagged is really the issue here (and is why my comment was posted in response to that).

It would be nice if facebook pursued the design goal you've outlined, but it would be irresponsible to interact with the facebook system as if that goal had been achieved and cemented for all time.

I think the guiding principle for Mary, or any user, should be that she doesn't type anything into a web browser that she doesn't want publically known and tied to her real-life identity.

> I think the guiding principle for Mary...should be that she doesn't type anything into a web browser that she doesn't want publicly known

That was Eric Schmidt's answer a while back too, but I'm not sure it's adequate anymore.

As PG has remarked, more and more of the tools we use to interact with the world are becoming software (and as all software is increasingly web-enabled & socialized, that's often indistinguishable from "typing it into a browser" for purposes of this discussion.)

We're essentially telling people who have very legitimate reasons for wanting to protect their privacy that their other option is to become a Luddite hermit. Is that really the best we can do?

It's a tough question to answer as an entrepreneur, because it probably is a much smaller opportunity, and by definition doesn't enjoy the same viral loops - - but I wish it's one that we as an industry would spend more time on.

"We're essentially telling people who have very legitimate reasons for wanting to protect their privacy that their other option is to become a Luddite hermit. Is that really the best we can do?"

Not exactly. We're telling people that they're not going to have privacy, period. We're assuming that privacy is dead. You might think it's still something that can be salvaged, but lots of people assume that the world is moving to less privacy whatever we do. Which is why we should be education people from the start that, whether we like it or not, anything they type into a computer is basically public.

I especially like Scoble's thoughts on this. He says, rightly I believe, that anything that is a copy-paste away from becoming public, isn't really private at all. He also had the fun adventure of having many private emails being made public as part of lawsuits against Microsoft.

Also, you might want to read about The Transparent Society: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society.

Well, this is a broader issue than I was addressing in the grandparent. There may well be devices which we regard as essential to modern life which are potentially infringing on our privacy (I occasionally wonder whether my android phone is listening to me... it would be so easy to bug it.) But facebook is not essential to modern life. At least, I get along without it just fine.

While that may be good advice for Mary, it is infuriatingly inadequate as a response to the problem. This is like when it was discovered that passenger airbags exploded with such force[0] that they were able to decapitate short women and children (and short men, but there are fewer of them), and the response was to suggest that they not sit in the front seat anymore.

When a change to a system adds a frill for a large group at the cost of making it more dangerous for a small group, glibly responding that the small group should just not use the system is inadequate.

[0] The force was calibrated to protect a typical adult male who was not seatbelted. Which would be fine if not for the HUGE negative side effect.

I don't think its even good advice for mary. The issue is that friends and family and co-workers will STILL post her identity online. She should be able to 100% control facebook's publishing of pictures in which she is identified.

This is response to a tagging comment because its not the user which puts her identity out there, but her friends, co-workers, etc, tagging her, even if she is not a member of the site. You interact with facebook wether you want to participate in it or not.

The only way to stop this now is if they allow you to block all pictures you're tagged in from the public (they pretty much do allow that now, except it just takes the tag off, not the actual picture).

Facebook really shouldn't be waiting until they're brought up as defendants in a wrongful death/battery suit before ferreting out these last bits of stupid over sharing.

You know you can do this already, right? People can tag me all they want in photos, only I see it.

The control are there and they're not that hard to find (IMO of course). Is your problem that they're not there, or that they're not easy to use?

You can currently hide another users photo from public view if they tag you in them?

If so, where?

No you can't hide the photo, that'd be impossible. You can however make sure no one else sees you're tagged in it.

It's not impossible, it just means that any individual would be able to censor a photo they're in from other individuals of their choice. Whether that's desirable is open to argument, but it's certainly possible.

So Facebook would have a staff dedicated to verifying that you are in the picture? How would they handle identical twins?


I love how that looks. They put all the useful information into a nice bit-sized block, yum... all that's missing now is the guy's SSN.

don't make that information public, and don't friend people you don't know and you will be fine.

You forgot: Make sure you stay logged in constantly, checking for changes, just in case Facebook change their privacy settings again and make stuff public that previously wasn't.

A brief synopsis of sexual predilections would be nice, too.

A team from MIT did that already. Mining is easy, and even easier when FB provides so much.

The layout of that block smells like Flickr-envy.

The comments on that page are actually very interesting to read. I try to do my part to filter by voting down what I do not like and voting up what should be addressed. That is just how it is when you allow 500M users to say their view regardless of age group and other demographics. You get a multi-layer of " I want this , this and not this " but then a next person says the opposite. Some people want it to stay the same ...others welcome change.

They are not joking around when they meant that they wanted to make the world more social. Because of this change my dad realized where the Poke Button was located. Go dad.... If you remembered the boxes' (Top Friends ,Gift Boxes etc) removal a while back you would see that (at least to me) the current change made sense. Now the focus really is in the interaction with the user (info,photos and wall are packed in the top middle) and their interests not the "glitz and glamour"

Now the real item that needs /that I hope it is not really a need.. I cannot tell Facebook what they can and cannot do/ to be addressed is the 10% of friends option ( this has been discussed in other formats 10 friends,8 friends ..etc). The everyday user does not interact with all of their "Friends". If you can force me to choose only 10 or so of my real friends to interact with ..those that I mail,sms,send messages, actually see outside ... that would be great.

If you could even couple notifications with Facebook Chat on your phone ... FBM (FaceBook Messenger) /BBM/ . Just an alternate reality thought.

I just realized that Facebook uses data more structured than their crushed competition. The relational database pundit in me rejoices.

I'm upset that they won't let you put programming languages into the "Languages You Speak" box.

There's gotta be at least one Facebook engineer lurking on this post. If so, how about a fix? :)

...and just like that, Facebook revamps profile to add Twitter-like sharing, MySpace-like focus on pictures and media, and LinkedIn-like employment, education, and projects details.

This is brilliant. It's good ole Facebook with Twitter + LinkedIn + MySpace. Executed brilliantly!

I'm a little curious as to what you mean by "Twitter-like sharing". Wasn't the old way more like Twitter?

I'm largely talking about where I see Facebook going, rather than just this specific update.

Overall, I think the Twitter-like feature updates have been numerous and obvious.

Well then you're missing something that some of us haven't seen. Could you answer his question instead of vaguely sidestepping it, please?

The specific features happened when status updates changed from being a minor (in the right sidebar) to major part of the website, with the large 'What's on your mind' box at the top. It was a while ago, rather than being specific to this update.

Another change that must be fairly recent:

If you admin a fan page, you can now see instant info on each post, including number of impressions and percent of feedback..

"174 Impressions Raw number of times this story has been seen on your Wall and in the News Feed of your Fans ยท 0.57% Feedback"

Weird. I definitely did not have that on pages this September, when I was actively managing a page for an event. I'd have been very happy if I had.

From my perspective this is more structuring of data. If you look at the profile in the example its a very clear organization step.Advertisers will now have a better and easy targeting mechanism than the usual demographics info.This I think is more of user training where people enter the data on how facebook wants to see it; why would a friend of mine who has known me long enough need information in this structure?

Facebook is now going to be able to sell super targeting techniques to marketers. Google relied on machines to do this, Facebook just asked its users to do the same;needless to say its a master stroke :).

Why do people care so much about minute differences in terms of functionality and layout on facebook?

No one cares that much, but changing something for 500m people will always cause a discussion.

You'd care if Hacker News changed in functionality and layout.

They'll only care for a few weeks.. like every other time facebook has altered something. I'm personally in favor of the new look, and I think a certain degree of change is healthy now and then.

I'd be happier with "a certain degree of change" now and then if it didn't always require a full privacy audit on my part to find whatever new opt-out pain-in-the-ass they've slipped in without telling me. They've proven themselves so untrustworthy in this regard that even the updates that seem like they shouldn't have privacy effects need to be audited; and of course it doesn't matter that a particular update doesn't have a privacy violation, because you still need to run the audit to be sure.

Can you elaborate on this or provide some examples? As far as I've seen, the only time facebook hasn't stuck to precisely to users' privacy settings are straight-up bugs, that have been immediately fixed.

Because the world spends 700 billion minutes every month looking at facebook.com

Because the stakes are so small.

In the guided tour and blog post, it says that the photos displayed at the top of your "new profile" are "recently tagged photos". Most of the ones that keep showing up for me are very old. Is everybody else experiencing that?

It also seems like the order of the photos is somewhat randomized when I go to view all of my photos (as opposed to being reverse chronological order). Weird.

Yeah, same here. It seems a bit buggy; a couple more examples: it's impossible to say you live in Paris, France (only random cities elsewhere in the world named Paris), I can't turn on chat while looking at any of the profile pages (but can turn it on on any other page), etc..

"Share: Question" doesn't do anything (ajax 404).

Hehe, yup, I checked too. :-)

Its interesting to see how Facebook keeps on coming up with changes in its UI every now and then. Take one look at Orkut in its current state and you have enough reasons to assume that either they don't have any designer working on it, or even if they do, they simply aren't putting enough resources.

I simply love the idea of letting you tag people in the employment history box, and list the projects you've worked on. See http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1223.snc4/1555...

Give it 3 months before LinkedIn follow suit. fb Keeps morphing ideas into new realities. I have never seen short cycle iterations at this level ever before. They make it extremely difficult for a new player in this space to ever keep up with the level of innovation and change facebook has baked into their culture.

The facebook of last month is too dull and less-relevant than the facebook of next month. Well done, and I salute Zuck for not selling out in the tech world as so many others have.

My comment on the page, pretending FB is going to read it:

> I like the additional structured data. Even if I had time to figure out how to structure my Facebook data the way you've done it with this release, it doesn't help much because my friends would have to pick apart the structure. It's a framework where you can expect certain things to be in certain places, like Ruby on Rails.

I was annoyed when they made everyone convert interests to links to pages, but it adds more edges to the graph, and graphs between entities (starting with people) has always been a big part of Facebook.

Looks like Facebook is going for the social resume play w/ the jobs/projects page -- unlike LinkedIn, you add WHO you worked with, which makes all the difference. Just missing whose contribution you "liked" to get a professional endorsement graph.

I definitely won't be making use of that. I go out of my way to keep my professional contacts and info far away from my Facebook profile. I use LinkedIn for professional contacts, and I keep that decoupling quite intentionally. My privacy settings on Facebook are cranked up about as high as I can get them, while my LinkedIn info is largely public.

Interesting that FB notified a 'pending' friend (someone who's friend request I have not yet accepted) that I have switched to the new profile. Seems strange...

I like it, but the Education info seems buggy. I added half a dozen classes to my college, and now have half a dozen college entries each with one class. :-(

>Featured Friends

>You can now highlight the friends who are important to you, such as your family, best friends or teammates.

Cue increased drama in 3...2...1...

Is it just me or are the advertisements when viewing a profile larger and more in focus?

New profile, but Last.fm still loads blank in Chrome after several months.

developer build? mine screws up a few pages

I thought it was going to be just the dev build, but in Chrome stable it doesn't load either. So, not sure why saying so provokes downvoting...

http://last.fm? Loads fine for me in Chrome.

No, Last.fm Profile (in Facebook).

any one know how i can switch it back to the "old" one?

Seconded. I tested it out, and I don't prefer it... but I can't find a way to switch back. Anyone know how to switch back or is it even possible?

not sure how much to read into this, but the comments on the Facebook discussion are overwhelmingly negative

Every Facebook UI change is the worst change ever since the last Facebook UI change.

The comments on that page hurt my brain.

"As you can see, Mr. Anderson, we've been keeping our eye on you for... some time now" <slides FB profile dossier across table>

I wonder how long their software deployment process takes. I do not see this change, nor do I see an option to switch to this change.

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