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Hey guys, I am a Facebook engineer working on this.

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.

-Eugene




A couple things.

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.


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.

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.


...And many apps don't make it 100% clear that wall spam is going to be the consequence of your choice, or that not sending spam is an option.

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.


Technically incentives are not allowed, but most apps resort to emotional tricks. Best applied psychology experiment ever.


Wait until you deactivate your facebook account.

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.


...this is a really valuable communication...

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


I'm pretty sure you'd solve #2 if you let users completely block apps from their wall. I block every app-related post I can. I use facebook to see what my friends say, not to see what apps they're using.


>let users completely block apps from their wall

/ 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.


Can you elaborate on why penalizing an application when someone hides content is a ridiculous measure of spamminess? It seems like a perfectly fine measure to me, noting that nothing about hiding content based on the percentage of users that hide it implies that it's actually the actions of a few impacting the experience of many.


" 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."

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.


Both—

> We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account.

—and—

> 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:

http://www.lostgarden.com/2011/03/gdc-2011-game-of-platform-...

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.


That's right, because of

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.


So is possible now to attack a competitor's app by flagging it as spam from multiple accounts/IPs?


Be careful that you're not banning legitimate apps because a few users really hated them and went out of their way to get them taken down. I remember this being an issue recently with DMCA takedowns of innocent FB users.

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.


Could you provide some assurance that that appeal form will actually lead to some fruitful response? From the posts on your forums, it's quite clear that every single "appeal" thus far through the provided mechanism has been automatically rejected as final by a non-human process without any valid explanation.


Just want to say that this is a good response, and I'm happy to see the communication here along with acknowledging that you guys failed to communicate this enough ahead of time. I hope that HN is receptive to this communication, so we can continue to see more of this.


No it's not a good response. Shoot first, ask questions later? They should have a) let the developers know what they need to fix the apps and b) stop these apps from posting to the wall (not ban the apps altogether)


My reading of the response is that they understood they made a mistake, and that was the good part, admitting the mistake, but I suppose it is open to interpretation.


As a FB user,I'd like to say that I turn off all applications that appear on my feed- no exceptions. This does not reflect on the spamminess or otherwise of individual applications. It just means that I only use FB to interact with other people. So you should not draw any conclusions about the character of applications from the fact that I removed them from my feed. I'm sure a lot of other users act in a similar manner.


Reading the forums, it seems many have already had their appeal rejected. Will Facebook restore those apps?


Are you talking about "Hide", "Report as Spam", or both? Because I hide stuff all the time.

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?


Hides count against the app. More comments count in favor of the app. And you don't have to be a user of an app to review it or influence whether it gets banned.


Source? I don't disbelieve you, I'd just like to read this in black-and-white myself for maximum astonishment.




I wonder, did you read about this on hacker news or some other blog first? Are you guys monitoring the forum/bugzilla/support requests, or you just wait until it gets to the HN frontpage?


You're supposed to comment out banApp(); when you first push these sorts of things, duh!


Glad you responded - some reassurance that the affected apps/data are not (yet) lost/wiped out might help those wrongly impacted by this.




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