Stepping Away from Facebook

I’ve made a conscious decision to spend less time on Facebook. I was going to start this post by saying “with regret” but actually that’s not it at all. I couldn’t really care less and I don’t think anyone else could either, which is kind of the whole point.

I’m not leaving it or deleting my account, just breaking the cycle of checking it twice a day or more and posting just to perpetuate others’ habits.

So, why the step back? For a while I’ve felt uneasy about the addictive nature of it. I reached a stage where even though I didn’t particularly like it any more I was still feeling scared of missing out. I thought I’d initially just not look at it for a week and see if I missed it. I didn’t. And I haven’t been back on since. For about a  month. Now I really sound like an addict. :)

I found that even though I have 150+ “friends”, there weren’t many active users. I was only interacting with the same handful regularly. I also think that there are probably a whole host of others who just go on, read, but never post or interact – just voyeurs. This not knowing who’s watching/listening makes me uneasy. I post on Twitter but that’s just public. I only write on there anything that I’m happy for anyone to read, and it’s generally very dull unless you’re really into web development when it’s just moderately dull. :)

Another issue for me was that it was making me dislike people who I do genuinely like in real life. People present a persona on social media and it can be quite different from the real person.

There’s a lot of bragging, attention seeking, fishing for compliments and campaigning, all of which I can live without.

Some people, who are great company in reality are just painfully boring on Facebook. There are a lot of what I’d call “single issue posters”. So, everything from that person is about a political party, a sports team, a band or their kids. Sorry, it’s not personal, but I just don’t share your interest.

It’s not all ridding myself of a terrible affliction. There is a down side too. There are a few people who post the occasional gem which makes me laugh a lot. And I do get to hear about some things that interest me.

I can’t help feeling that the people who really matter to me still matter without Facebook. Whereas I once saw Facebook as a convenient tool for keeping in touch and extending reality, it’s now become something else, a place for people to present themselves through very controlled filters. Everyone’s doing a PR job on themselves.

I’ll probably be back at some point but for now I just feel better staying well away from it all.

If Facebook had a Yawn Button

At the moment Facebook has 3 ways you can interact with posts: Like, Comment and Share. All three of these do slightly different things but they all contribute towards a post’s popularity score, which determines how likely it is to appear in people’s news streams. It makes a lot of sense for users to be shown content that people like or interact with (comments could be negative) rather than content people are indifferent to. In short, it’s a system designed to reward and promote interesting content.

Facebook is cleverer than this. It records which other users you interact with most and gives their future posts priority in your stream so you see more from those people you have historically found interesting. Good job Facebook barons!

I think we need the opposite, a way of penalising and demoting the content that we find boring. The way I imagine it working is having a Yawn link with the other options. The main difference with this one is that it would have to be anonymous. We don’t want people to be offended, cause tension or break up friendships. It’s also not intended as a way of judging the quality of other people’s content – what one person finds interesting might be boring to someone else or maybe it’s an in-joke that they just don’t get. It’s about filtering the right content for the right people.

The Problem

My issue with Facebook right now is that everyone just broadcasts everything to everyone, nothing is targeted. When you write a post you have the option to decide who sees it. You can select individuals, exclude individuals or set up your friends in groups and choose which see it and which don’t. But nobody does. It’s very odd. Think of the last thing you posted on Facebook. Imagine taking that content and putting it into an email and sending it to everyone in your address book. You wouldn’t. I’m sure even though most outgoing people would maybe untick one or two contacts. And this all means that we end up reading lots of content that really isn’t ever meant for us. And the whole Facebook experience becomes irrelevant and ultimately boring.

The Solution

If I post something and it gets 1 Like but 20 Yawns it’ll make me think twice about posting something like that again. But I thought everyone was into learning JavaScript frameworks? I guess you’re all just weirdos. :) What it will do is, the next time I’m enthusiastic about some nerdy tech thing, it’ll make me think about who might be interested and I’ll share it just with them. In this particular case, there’s a fair chance it’ll be nobody but that’s fine.

My Firefox Add-ons

I use Mozilla Firefox as my prefered web browser. Firefox allows you to expand its functionality by adding on mini programs. These are called add-ons. I thought I’d share some of my favourite add-ons.

AdBlock PlusAdBlock Plus
This add-on blocks adverts in web pages. It collapses any content being imported from ad servers. You should see how small the Yahoo! home page becomes without its advertising. There are no more sponsored results on search engine pages, only organic results. It allows you to manually create exceptions, pages where ads are allowed. Where it detects any Flash content it displays a tiny button so that you can manually block this content.

XmarksXmarks (formerly Foxmarks)
This is a Bookmark or Favourites synchronisation tool. Put simply, if you use more than one computer it keeps your bookmarks or favourites consitent. I use three different PCs and find this tool invaluable.

If you use Twitter this is very useful. You can stay connected to your Twitter account without the need for having the site open. Any new tweets are popped up in a bubble at the bottom of your browser window. Clicking on the status bar icon allows you to read tweets or tweet yourself quickly and easily.

FacebookFacebook Toolbar
Similar to the Twitter tool this keeps you up to date with happenings on Facebook via small pop up messages in your web browser. The toolbar allows you to update your status in the browser, see how many items in your inbox, view your friends in a sidebar as well as share the content of the page you are currently browsing.

DiggDigg Toolbar
This makes it quick and easy to share the content of the page you are browsing on Digg. With one click (“Digg This”) you can submit a new URL to Digg to share with the online community.

DeliciousDelicious Toolbar
Like Digg this allows you to add and share online bookmarks to Delicious with a single click.

For web designers, developers or anyone working with graphics this is an eyedropper tool for picking colours. By clicking the tiny icon in the status bar you geta crosshair which when clicked on any pixel on screen gives the colour references in both Hexadecimal and RGB 0-255 values. This is incredibly useful if you see a colour you want to use. It also has the option to copy the various colour values straight to the clipboard.

Web DeveloperWeb Developer Toolbar
Quite specifically for the web designer or web developer this toolbar has buttons which strip down the web page in the browser window to its various elements. You can view just CSS (styling), just images, identitfy different layers (div tags) – just about anyhting you might want to know about a page is there.

If anyone reading knows of any other useful add-ons please feel free to share.

Online ways to launch a website

3... 2... 1... lift off!In the offline world when you create a new publication, like a brochure or catalog, you need to plan its distribution. You need to get it in front of your potential customers. Online is no different.

Too many people out there still seem to think that having a website built is the job done. Get a website and then sit back and wait for people to visit it. Wrong. The offline equivalent is having your brochures printed and then leaving them in their boxes. Just building a website is not enough.

So, what can you do to distribute it and get it in front of your online customers? Here are some simple steps that should help.

Firstly, you need to change the way you view the website compared with a more traditional printed brochure. The website is not equalivalent to a brochure. Your website in isolation is not worth anything. No, really. It’s completely worthless. Without any way to reach it it may as well not be there.

The way to get it out there is by creating links to your site. These can be links in emails, on other website’s pages or on search engine results pages, like Google.

To get your site to appear in the search engine results you need to let the search engines know that it exists. You can either submit it to the search engines manually or just create links to it from other sites and they will find it and do the rest.

For more information on building links please see my other article Links, link exchanges and strategies.

It takes time to build links and get found through the search engine results pages so what else can you do? Well, this may be stating the obvious but tell people. Tell everyone. And I mean everyone. Even the people who you don’t think will be interested may know someone who is.

Ask for feedback. Approach people and say you need their help and value their opinion. We all love to feel important, valued and that we can help someone else. Send them a link and ask for their feedback. Most of them will take a look and if they’ve had a quick look it will increase their chances of remembering your site in the future.

Win win win! One of the easiest ways to get people to visit a web page is to incentivise them, put something in it for them. Running a competition is good. This will not only pull people in but may also have a viral effect as people forward links to your web page to friends and family. It also provides an opportunity to capture their data (only with their permission, of course) and approach them again in future.

Use social networks. By posting a link on facebook or twitter you can reach huge numbers of people in minutes and if they like what they see it can really snowball.

In short, when you’re budgeting for a new website like Click here to read more about Carlson Knives you should add in some budget to launch it or it may not provide you with any value.