Another change, are we all ready?

When people logged into Facebook yesterday, they were treated to another interface makeover.  We’ve seen various changes over the past while as Facebook tries to be more like Google Plus in the security department.  The concept of lists has been a new one for folks.  I think that moving to lists has been easier on the people who are accustomed to using Google circles.  Facebook even made it easier by making some assumptions and started seeding the lists for you.

Working with an interface is a great deal like a good pair of jeans.  It just fits nicely and becomes a comfortable way of doing things.  When changes come along, it’s like buying a new pair.  I looked for a video from one of my favourite shows “Are You Being Served” to insert here but couldn’t find the clip that I wanted.  In the series, they would “knee” clothing so that it fits – I wish I could have found it.  So, back to the new jeans.  You complain about them until they’ve gone through the wash a few times and eventually you become used to it.

I suspect that the same thing will happen with Facebook.  There’s a great deal of complaining right now and you can read many people threatening to pack up and move but you know that they won’t.  They’ll work with the interface until it becomes familiar.

I do have some concerns though about what’s happening though.  The screen display which used to be clean, crisp, and functional is now overly full of information.  Normally, information is a good thing but I think that it’s become more of a distraction than providing value to the user.  I am also a bit concerned on a couple of other fronts.

Roll back the clock and you may have been a member of a BBS (Bulletin Board System).  Crucial to managing your BBS was the activity log.  This showed every login, message, file transfer, etc. for every user.  It allowed the system operator to monitor how things were running, in real-time.  This new scrolling Facebook window showing your friends activity as it happens is a modern take on this.  It’s not that this is new information; it always was available if you poked around but it’s now in your face, distracting the main reason you logged in in the first place.  Like the chat availability window, you can momentarily turn the interface off – just click your name in the top right of the screen – but the new interface returns as you start to do things.  So, it seems to be here to stay.

The other feature that’s in your face pops up should you choose to play a game through the system.  I can now see all of my friends’ attempts at wasting away their time.  As I type this, Jeopardy and Scrabble seem to be the distractions of choice.  Now, it’s not that I have a problem with people doing that – I’m a sucker for a game of Family Feud or Wheel of Fortune myself – but should I need to know who is playing a game or, more importantly, should anyone else know what I’m doing?

It’s not like complaining is about to change anything.  Developers may listen to feedback but changes are made for whatever reason on their end.  It’s not like we’ve paid for access to the service financially – instead we pay with exposure to advertising and a certain amount of donation of our privacy.  I just spent some time watching the information scroll by and, perhaps I’m paying too much attention, by I just saw a friend of mine who posted her cell phone number.  By digging deeper, it’s also possible to see who is friends with whom based upon their interactions with others.  It’s a little disconcerting.

I’ve already spent some time going through my lists of friends and am getting serious about who is in what list.  While I thought that I had pretty good security in place, that was in the old paradigm.  With the new one, I’m not so sure.  If nothing else, this will make me think more about what’s in place.  As I was poking around, it seemed to me that it might even be easier to de-friend everyone and start again!  Not like that’s going to happen, but it just seemed that way.  I think it’s easier with Google Plus because I’m starting a network there…at Facebook, I’m modifying things based upon changes on their end.

But, that’s just me.

As I’m doing this, I realize that it’s not a quick job.  But, I also worry about our students.  How are they learning how to handle the new interface and the new security if they’re not being taught?  And even if they manage to do something about it this time around, what happens when the next changes are made? Are we all ready to look at it now?  Are we all ready for the next changes?

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