We've been getting a lot of user feedback recently, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. In particular, many applications were disabled which posted to the walls of other users and had very high mark-as-spam numbers.
My apologies for the suddenness of the action. The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform. Where we have failed is not providing enough feedback about negative engagement metrics to developers before needing to take this action. This is something we are working hard to fix with the new Application Insights that will be launching over the next few weeks - you will have detailed information about both positive and negative engagement of the content your application generates.
If you think you have been disabled in error, you should have received an email to your application's contact email address with a link to appeal. Just in case, the appeal link is https://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=dev_disa... . Note that no content is deleted when an application is disabled. If an application is re-enabled, all the content posted by the application will once again be visible.
1. I think I speak for everyone on HN when I say this is a really valuable communication to all of us who have worked with Facebook.
2. When a user shares content through an application, you should not penalize the application itself when someone hides that content. I am almost positive this is a large reason why these bans are happening. It is a ridiculous measure of spamminess.
3. You say you are trying to make the platform a better place for users by preventing spammy content from appearing in their feeds. This in itself is fine. But Facebook's actions are making feeds worse, not better. The actions of a few should not impact the experience of many.
PS. Putting up the link to the appeals process is a really strange way to help anyone out. As far as I recall, when my app was banned a couple of months ago, that form wouldn't even work for me.
In other words, just step up and give the affected devs your email address so that you can actually give them a real response. Putting their complaints / concern into what is potentially a block hole inbox isn't very calming.
The problem, I imagine, is that many games provide incentives for posting stuff on other people's walls. That's clearly spam, but also technically initiated by the user.
Send spam: "Click big happy green button to share!"
Don't spam: "Click tiny, scary 'X', which is followed by deliberately confusing confirmation, 'Are you sure you don't want to continue?".
They just keep asking you over and over; eventually you either mis-click or give in.
Then you get some real guilting. Your friends will miss you. Why don't you send some messages now to let them know you're leaving. Awful.
not so sure about that, it's simply a copy/paste of his comment on the forum. I wouldn't hang about waiting for a reply
/ Or perhaps have an option to "block apps in this category". So if I'm clicking on the x for a game's posting trying to entice me in it could offer me the choice to block that game or to block all games.
How this sounds to me: FBlost 7 mil U.S. users May 2011, and one of the biggest exit survey points was wall spam. Some team somewhere was ordered to implement a solution as soon as possible and worry about the fallout from screwing over developers later.
I can't imagine FB will ever get around to reviewing every appeal in a comprehensive manner. But, just in case you're totally delusional, in three weeks or so they'll roll out some new stuff that won't impact in any way the fact they chopped developers' heads off in spite of complying with guidelines. Then, they'll continue going back to being uncommunicative.
You couldn't have taken a few hours to put together a notification? You obviously have the ability to pull together data on all apps and comprehensively shut them off for passing some numeric ratio. Couldn't you have taken, I don't know, 20 minutes and cobble together an email explaining what you'd be doing last night so the devs could at least notify their users?
By the way, this is Hacker News. I'm pretty sure your target audience here could pretty much infer exactly what happened based on anecdotes from the thread and past Facebook maneuvers. The technical explanation could've waited for the final paragraph. The first words into your response ought to have been a big, bold-text "We totally failed at communication and hurt a lot of people because of it. Here are the steps we're undertaking in the future:"
Telling people to go fill out the appeal form is just... I don't know. I don't have anything else to say that is suitable for HN. Bad form, Eugene.
> We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account.
> My apologies for the suddenness of the action. The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform.
—remind me of this talk, well worth reading:
It's openly biased toward the developer who feels wronged, but the point that should get across is: if your business depends facebook to provide you with a userbase, then you bought into a game where you have no bargaining power.
I don't mean to troll facebook or developers using its platform when I say this, but it's high time everyone in the social app scene started treating platform lock-in as a huge threat, and adjust their strategies accordingly.
a) the effective monopoly of facebook in the space,
b) of the secretive facebook-zynga deal and
c) of the sheer size of the developer community who depend on the platform financially and the investments on it
In the current size of facebook (3/4 of a billion), the excuse "but it's a free platform" is not exactly valid. Unfortunately, due to lack of a common standard (opensocial failed) and organization on the part of developers, its imposible to set a strategy. App developers have no protection against the provider.
EDIT: Here's a link to the ars technica DMCA article: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/04/facebook-tak...
Maybe I'm too cynical, but I could easily see some unscrupulous developer figuring out how to spam negative feedback against their competition on FaceBook to get them auto-banned.
Does it make a difference if a user had to explicitly select me in order to send me the message? Does that make it the user's fault and not the app - i.e. does asking consent of the sender give an app immunity?
wow, that's pretty sad. and i thought they were only ignoring my problems.
To be honest though, the forums have never been a way to get in contact with Facebook Staff. The best recourse (which is actually pretty quick these days) is to file a bug report and have developers pile on support and votes. For example, I filed a single bug report last night and had it looked at by a Staff member and priority assigned in less than 12 hours.
It was among the most appalling acts of customer service I've seen from a vendor in my career. They literally did not return our calls or emails and the project ended up cancelled.
Edit: this was ~13 months ago.
Google and Paypal were the ones who started it in our industry, of course, but it certainly seems to be spreading.
Facebook loves being invisible.
It looks like facebook wants to get out of the whole platform game, and simple be an OpenID provider, message platform, and photo host.
30 bugs were reproducible and accepted (after duplicates removed)
4 bugs were fixed (4 previously reported bugs)
Attempting to appeal to Facebook results in a generic email response instructing us to begin the application anew.
Worst of all, deleting our application also deleted the photos our users took. We had a video chat application that allowed users to take pictures together with their friends. Over 1 million photo memories deleted by Facebook. It's just a sad situation overall.
It's really a shame that a big company like this can just stomp all over the little guys, and we are absolutely powerless to them.
Even if we had backups, it wouldn't mean much. Facebook revoked our OAuth access. So we're unable to re-upload the photos for our users.
And, really? They deleted photos that the users uploaded themselves? Or did they go through your app to do so?
Either way, I'd be pissed. And they wouldn't care. :/
I could write a scraper myself, but I know a ton of people who feel the same way. These are people who aren't programmers but would personal copies of the digital snowflakes they've created on that site. It's far more useful to build a Locker connector that anyone can use to sync their contacts, messages, photos, etc.
This was a severe bug despite its misleading title, our users got only blank pages in IE and links did not work . It was pushed on a Thursday , then fixed some time by Monday, then next wednesday it was broken again, and a fix came a week later. [http://www.facebook.com/eggbuddies/posts/10150171378998545] Shit happens a lot more often than one would expect in facebook.
For a better treatise, read this developer's lament:
P.s. I laughed hard when i saw this video: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2594083
(Every Thursday feels like a week?)
Also, using user's feedback may not be an accurate measurement to the quality of the application. There are many methods or bot script that can simulate users to mass complain the application. This is a very common strategy uses by competitors.
all in all, we are still relatively new to for facebook, It may be possible that we did somehow crossed the line in feeds or wallposting, but.is it worth killing off a small start-up because of this?
What's up with the silence from the FBers in the crowd? Not allowed to say anything? Don't know who to forward the issue to? Just don't care?
The vast majority of fb employees wouldn't know anything about this. They couldn't say anything except something w/o any knowledge and cause more problems.
But, I probably shouldn't even be in this thread, because I think that building a huge user base that relies on someone else's closed & fickle platform is a hilarious thing to do.
You think it's hard to contact Google if your Adsense account got shut down, or Ebay if your Paypal account got disabled. And that's even with thousands of people in Adsense; imagine what Facebook's sub-100 platform engineers can do with millions of platform developers.
I'm just speaking out of my ass, but while I think it's unfortunate that there are false-positives, it's a necessary tradeoff for a small company like Facebook with very few engineers.
It's safe to say that facebook is actively trying to push developers away. They have a special relationship with zynga, and that's their cash cow.
I did like Facebook at one point: two or three years ago. Now it's just getting ridiculous.
No human review of banned apps with millions of users.
Moderators who volunteer to build the brand of FB are simply ignored.
The problem is that even if your apps are reinstated, the damage may have already been done.
No, really. Google decided they could scale better if they used computers to do customer service, or just didn't have customer service. In exchange, they didn't charge anything for a lot of their services and told people 'deal with it.'
This worked well for Google! Facebook is staffed extremely lightly given their reach; stuff like this is just going to keep happening. I have no idea if the app developer deserved it, but these 'free to play' broad-reach companies CAN'T provide the service this app developer feels he/she needs, they wouldn't scale properly if they did.
Bollocks. I realize there's probably a lot of app spam, and of course you want to deal with a lot of that in an automated manner, but we're talking about apps that have built up millions of users here, it is in no way unreasonable to expect at least one lowly paid human to look into these cases before shutting them down. A single person could probably clear a hundred of these cases in a day, especially if the automated system gave them info on why it thinks the app should be banned - if it says there are too many negative reviews, that's real simple to check, if it catches a TOS violation, that's also real simple.
Here, it looks a lot like someone (maybe accidentally?) turned the sensitivity threshold too high on the ban-bot and never bothered to check if it was working right because it's not public facing enough.
As far as the Google comparison, to me that's rather unfair, because in the case of Google's app store, they don't tend to go around auto-banning large numbers of popular applications. So whatever algorithms they're using are doing a pretty good job, as opposed to Facebook's, which are apparently flailing like crazy.
Google seems to test their systems well, except for UI changes though.
Another case: SF-Based Yardsellr uses Facebook as the only authentication platform and not only requires all users to use Facebook in order to use their application, it is also very tightly integrated into Facebook Pages and other areas. If Facebook auto-bans their application their entire company shuts down until it's resolved. Imagine the losses.
I've been very concerned with businesses basing their livelihood on top of existing platforms like Facebook or market places like AdWords. It's easy to overlook how quickly your company or application can be banned - especially now that the bots are coming out to play.
This isn't to say that removing the bots solves the problem. The real problem lies in the lack of control you have over your business processes when you build something on top of existing platforms. However, this certainly exacerbates the issue and makes it all the more volatile.
Except that I've never used it but a few times, and never violated the terms.
The rep refused to tell me what was violated and said this matter was closed.
How did you get them to unban your account?
Anyway, you're mixing up first agents. Google didn't put a gun to FB's head, as the old adage goes.
I will never waste my resource in build apps that solely rely on closed commercial entities like facebook, apple. If they choose to ban/block/delete you then all of your hard-work is gone in a second and will leave your users unhappy.
and this can happen to any of us
It doesn't only happen on "closed" platforms.
On facebook and Apple they will just kill your app in a day.
This is why I don't waste any time writing those kind of apps.
What I'm suggesting is that the Facebook apps platform is fundamentally making it easy to post spam so they have to fight it afterward.
Would a better approach be to shore up the platform so that apps are simply unable to generate spam? For example, currently a user can only Allow or Disallow an app. They cannot Allow or Disallow certain permissions. I should be able to use an app while denying it the possibility to post to my wall or my friends walls.
It seems like it's the wrong approach to try to stop the spam by banning apps rather than fundamentally changing the way apps can access person sites and information and make generating spam incredibly difficult.
Now imagine Google dropping you from the index for whatever reason.
How many of us here would be wiped out?
A business that's dependant on a single channel or platform for more than 20% of its revenue/profit is not a real business as much as it is a sugardaddy's dependent?
A) Standard employee
B) Self-employed but at complete mercy of a company (facebook) which does not know you even exist, who's everyday change of mood could wipe you out
Does not really sound like much was gained going from A to B.
With A you're simply lost (in life).
With B you're blind.
Ideally, the best option is to find your own niche without relying "too much" on other's platform.
thus, when apple's developers get screwed and there's no app ecosystem, there is the potential for decreased sales. when facebook apps disappear, i doubt there are a lot of people leaving facebook.
Looks like if there was really developer love, they wouldn’t need to market their love of developers.
This is obviously just another similar data point on this thread, but what I want to add is to the discussion is this idea: why not create an completely OSS facebook? If a bitcoin can exist (and hell, a Linux), why not a decentralized open-source facebook? The core functionality is not that complex, IMHO. Well, Linux is complex and it took decades to perfect... but the need for it was pretty clear and it's proved itself. But Facebook, OTOH, is not a complex operating system or even a super-complex search engine (ala Google). It's simply a network of interconnected user accounts with certain assets assigned to each account (history, preferences, content, etc), and info feeds (transient) delivered to those accounts via various formats.
If such a project were OSS, people would design their own feed sorting algo's, their own notification systems, and most of all their own "spam" filtering systems, as plugins, all of which could mean nobody needs to "go dark" to satisfy the whims of one corporate entity.
Hope FB will react better then G and reactivate their apps.
So it can be done, hopefully the attention in HN will help
At the same time, FB makes lots of money per capita. They could hire a few grunt banhammer moderators.
But yes, I would. If their job was to sort through and find questionable bans, and they knew their job would be on the line if they missed too many, they'd do a decent job. Certainly better than is being done right now.
After all, for the same wages, they could be flipping burgers instead. I know which I'd pick. The nice, cool office.
Course, what's it cost to buy someone in india an office and pay a wage?
The most extreme cases could be decided by a human arbitrator.
Too many developers have their head in the sand and think just because they have 1 million users and a 4 star review rating that everything is peachy. The fact is there are a ton of crap apps that spew out BS. Maybe the user who installed the app thinks it is great to spam all of their friends' feeds, but when those friends hide the app's posts, mark it as spam, etc. then the app is going to risk auto-banning.
I know folks on HN don't play Farmville or spend all day on these apps like fortune cookie, quiz of the day, etc., but bazillions of FB users have nothing but app-generated posts on their walls.
On top of that, facebook enforces FB credits from July, and banned adsense advertising in apps. We are not going to pay 30% of our revenue to facebook for such a crappy platform. We moved our apps to an external website.
If the platform only has games, there's nothing really to spam... It's not like people are watching their wall for activity at that point.
There ARE gaming networks out there, BTW. They just really haven't taken off. Search for 'social gaming site' to find some.