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I Changed Facebook

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 10:44 PM

Okay, that’s a bold-faced statement, it’s true. Maybe I affected the change more than anything.

Since moving to New Zealand I’ve noticed an annoying trend come about. When I try to write a note on someone’s wall or send them a private message, it will occasionally fail. With the wall, you are given a red error message telling you that the wall is unavailable and to try again later (admittedly, the word choices aren’t the best since what’s really happening is that there has been a hiccup in the AJAX POST and it just needs to be resent). Your message is still there so you can just click the submit button again. In contrast, when I tried to send a message the only way to not lose what I had written if it failed was to use a web developer add-on I have installed into Firefox for my work. When you send a message, the form fields are all disabled to prevent you from accidentally sending it multiple times. This is nice, unless the message never sends. A little notice from one of my other add-ons let me know there had been an error, and the page would never rewrite itself to show this newest message in the thread. I would have to manually re-enable the form and resend the message, not something your average user is going to know is even possible, let alone how to do it.

One day I got sick of it and emailed Facebook about this issue, thinking it may be an issue in their code. I didn’t expect an actual response, but a few days later I had a message asking for information about my browser version, plus some screen shots so they could try to figure out what the problem was. After doing this they got back to me with the unfortunate news that the problem was with my Internet connection, which was my second guess. Oh well, at least they were good enough to work with me on understanding the issue. I suppose when New Zealand decides to upgrade their telecommunications network it will all be good, I can survive.

And then a few days later as I sent a message to a friend, crossing my fingers that it would go without error, I noticed something different! The sending failed, but this time, instead of hanging and leaving my form disabled for me to manually fix, it auto-re-enabled itself! There is no message to the user to let them know they need to try again, but the fact that they recognized through my report that some users may have this issue through their connection (no fault of Facebook’s) they decided to give them a bit of help through a minor user interface upgrade. Minor, but it makes things immensely more convenient for me!

This sort of support and recognition and solving of minor issues in an otherwise impressive application is what makes a development team stand above the rest. Facebook is continually making minor adjustments to their UI, listening to their community, and making their social network the modus operandi benchmark for everyone else.


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