Why is Facebook so addicting?

Post ImageFor those of you who use Facebook this will come as no surprise: I’m addicted. I don’t know what it is about the site, but something has me completely hooked. Lately when I think social networking, I think Facebook – it seems to me they have found the magic formula. And I really want to understand what that formula is.

Here are a few “magic ingredients” that I have come up with:

  • Human Connection. I think it’s human nature to want to be connected to other humans. Obviously, this is the core of Facebook’s product. Sure you can share links and write notes and such, but the core idea is connecting with other people, and everything seems to be designed with this in mind (you can tag people in photos, notes, etc.)
  • User Interface. With the exception of the ugly banner on the left side, the site is clean and the layout is mostly consistent. I think for the same reason people love Google’s simple front page, people love Facebook’s simple interface.
  • News Feed. Aside from being an efficient way to display information, the news feed makes logging into the site many times a day worthwhile. There’s always something new to see. Try to imagine Facebook without the news feed…it’s hard isn’t it? This is a key feature.
  • Almost Live Casual Communication. I think Facebook is great for communication that falls somewhere in between instant messaging and email. Like a simple “hey how’s it going” that doesn’t require an immediate response, nor an entire email message (which would appear in your inbox alongside important messages and spam). The wall is definitely another key feature.

When they first decided to open the site up to everyone, expanding away from their original audience of college students, I wasn’t sure if it would work out. I figured it might make Facebook seem less attractive. Turns out my suspicions were wrong. Facebook is definitely going mainstream.

I’ll think about this some more, but what you do think – why is Facebook so addicting?

Oh, and if we’re not friends on Facebook yet, add me! Here’s my profile.

Ten Years of Visual Studio

Post ImageI missed this last week, but March 19th was the ten year anniversary of the release of Visual Studio 97 – the first release of the Visual Studio product. Rob Caron has written my thoughts exactly:

Visual Studio has come a long way in that 10-year period.

I remember Visual Studio 97. It was sitting around in my Dad’s office, and I asked if I could “borrow” it. Who knows why they had ordered it…they never used it! I might even have the box around someplace.

I love Visual Studio. It’s a great product. More than that, it’s a great environment…and it now forms the base environment of tools in SQL Server and BizTalk Server, among others. Combined with the expanded lineup of SKUs, you could say that Visual Studio is taking over the tools scene at Microsoft!

Despite coming a long way in ten years, there’s much more on tap. Check out the future releases page for more info.

On the Kathy Sierra thing

Recently there was a big furor in the blogosphere about some hate mail that Kathy Sierra received. She cancelled a scheduled conference appearance as a result. Obviously it’s sad and disappointing when anyone receives hate mail, but why is Kathy’s case any different? I’m pretty sure that people receive hate mail all the time (and lots of comments on blogs around the web this week seem to confirm that).

I don’t often agree with Dave Winer, but I do today:

People aren’t going to like this, but it’s true — when a woman asks for a riot she gets one, and almost no one comes to the defense of a man who is attacked. Who’s more vulnerable? Well, honestly, it’s not always a woman.

Those who provided the riot Ms Sierra asked for, unknowingly, I’m sure, attacked at least one person whose health is pretty fragile. I wonder how y’all feel now that you know that. I wonder how you’d feel if that person died in the midst of the shitstorm. Someday if we don’t change the herd mentality of the tech blogosphere, that is likely to happen. I don’t want to be part of the herd on that day, that’s why I won’t join herds.

Hundreds of people (perhaps thousands) have posted about Kathy’s situation and how they think it is awful. How many of them actually mean it? I don’t know, but I think there’s a pretty large echo in here. Especially among the so-called A-listers this week, it definitely seemed to me that speaking out against the hate mail was simply the “in thing” to do.

I never intended to post anything about this topic. I certainly wasn’t about to follow Robert Scoble’s lead and stop blogging for a week. I don’t think Kathy’s case deserves any special treatment. I didn’t want to contribute to the useless echo. In the end I decided to post this simply for my own future reflection.

Here’s some related stuff if you want to find out more:

Yahoo Mail gets better

Post ImageI haven’t used Yahoo! Mail in ages, but two bits of news caught my eye today regarding the service. The first, is that Yahoo! is going to start offering unlimited storage in May:

The unlimited storage will begin rolling out globally in May, and Yahoo expects to have all of its customers covered within a month, except for China and Japan. “We will continue working with these markets on their storage plans,” Kremer said.

Yahoo! is the first of the big players to launch unlimited storage. I can’t imagine Google and Microsoft will be far behind.

The feature is important for further development, as Om Malik reports:

What it shows is that the company is beginning to think of Yahoo Mail as a platform, leveraging cheap storage and a mega audience.

I think the other shoe is going to drop tomorrow when Yahoo in all likelihood is going to announce a Yahoo Mail API, which would open up the service to third party developers.

Really?! An API for a mail service? That would be pretty darn cool, I have to admit.

Read: Yahoo! Mail

Microsoft – ahead and behind at the same time

Post ImageThere’s no question that Microsoft is a unique company. They’re gigantic, and they have an incredible amount of resources at their disposal. The company spends billions on R&D every year too, so it should be no surprise that they are often ahead of the curve when it comes to technology innovations. I don’t know what the problem is, but I continue to be amazed at how they can be so far ahead, and yet so far behind, all at the same time:

Given Microsoft’s statements about a hybrid approach, with online and offline products, the company should be ahead of the pack in delivering synchronization between the two modes…

Yeah, you would think so! But no.

It happened with Ajax, and it’s going to happen again with offline apps. Microsoft developers will know that seamless offline access has been an important part of Microsoft’s .NET message for years, yet it looks like it will be other companies stealing the spotlight. Just as Microsoft had the guts of Ajax in use long before it was known as Ajax, the same will happen with offline apps, especially when Firefox 3 ships.

As a Microsoft developer, it saddens me. They have some amazing stuff going on, but they seem to get lost when it comes to making the new and interesting technologies front and centre in the industry. Is it just a marketing thing? I am not sure.

Read: ZDNet

Notes for 3/25/2007

Here are my weekly notes:

Did you shutdown today?

Post ImageI sure as heck didn’t. Like Engadget asked back in February, “how about we all decide to hold our breath for 24 hours, too?” In case you hadn’t heard, today was International Shutdown Day. Yup, they wanted us to not use computers for a day. Fat chance! Engadget explains:

It seems that a pair of men named Dennis Bystrov and Michael Taylor — bitter victims of the bubble, we suspect — want to perform a social experiment wherein people all over the world boycott computers for an entire day; willing participants are encouraged to click a pledge of sorts on the International Shutdown Day website promising to forgo any and all PC usage on March 24th.

Heh, like that was gonna happen. This is the funny part though:

Still, we’ve no qualms with operating in a much greener fashion, but considering that the protesters’ website is actually up and running on a power-sucking machine as we speak, it makes you wonder who the real hypocrites are, no?

So much for dedication to their cause!

Read: Engadget

I like focused gadgets

Post ImageIt’s very easy to get excited about cool new gadgets and devices, isn’t it? I am guilty of it. Thing is, these gadgets are often far too complex. Their creators often try to cram in too many wonderful features. It happens in software too, but I think the effect is far more noticeable with physical devices. I doubt I will stop getting so excited about new gadgets anytime soon, but I have been thinking about it, and the devices I appreciate most are focused on doing one thing well.

It’s kind of like the 37signals philosophy:

We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.

I wish more gadget makers made that their goal. A camera is a camera. A media player is a media player. A phone is a phone. Why do they have to be combined into one? Usually what ends up happening is that the device suffers. Take my phone for example. It’s great at making and receiving calls, and sending text messages back and forth. As a still or video camera, it totally sucks. And as an audio player? It’s not even worth the trouble.

My camera on the other hand, is wonderful. It’s a Canon Digital Rebel, and it does one thing and one thing only: it takes photos very well. Unlike my phone, which had to be designed to support the extra features (so maybe a little thicker for the camera, an extra button to start the video, etc), my camera is a focused device. Every feature is there specifically to help me take photos. And I appreciate it.

I know the idea is that you could carry less stuff if you had one gadget that did everything, but I’d rather have separate gadgets that do their jobs very well than one gadget that does a bunch of jobs poorly. Maybe one day we’ll have a gadget that can morph into a contextually appropriate focused gadget…but that’s a long way off.

What we have is a failure to communicate!

Post ImageTom Webster of Edison Media Research was on hand at the recent Corporate Podcasting Summit in London, where he talked about a new research report that shows podcasting isn’t growing much. There’s been a lot of discussion about the findings, but I don’t think they are cause for concern. I think Tim Bourquin has nailed it:

I think the survey is flawed from the get-go Frank because if they used the word “podcast” I guarantee most of the general public assumed they were asking “if they had ever listened to one of those homemade talk shows on an iPod.”

So I think it truly is a failure to communicate what we’re talking about. We all still have a lot of work to do.

Ever since day one, we’ve had an “Other Names and Similar Activities” blurb on Podcast Spot. I had an entire slide devoted to the name issues in my Podcasting & Marketing presentation back in January. I blogged about the issue again in February.

Podcasting is just a name. A word we use to refer to an idea or technology or process. That doesn’t mean it’s the only word to refer to those things, or even the best word. And it’s certainly not the first word that will come to mind for the vast majority of the population.

Have you ever listened to or watched a podcast? Wrong question to ask most people. You need to ask them in such a way that you don’t have to use the word podcast. I don’t think the word “podcast” will ever become as widely adopted as the word “blog” has.

If you take a look at the presentation slides (PDF link), stop and think about slide #5. I think I understand what they are going for with the second point, “Podcasting does NOT refer to the downloading of individual MP3s or songs,” but it doesn’t work. It just makes the whole thing confusing. Are they saying a podcast can’t be an MP3? I don’t get it…that’s what the individual being surveyed will probably be thinking.

Podcasting is all about communication. It doesn’t matter what we call it though.

Read: Frank Barnako

The 10 Most Connected Cities

Believe it or not, most people think that North America is the best place in the world in terms of Internet access. They are shocked when I tell them that in comparison to the rest of the world, we suck! Internet access here is expensive, and not nearly as quick as in other places. Finally, there’s a list to back up what I’ve been saying (via WiFi Edmonton):

Through a blend of private and public investment, a number of cities have had remarkable success in providing almost complete connectivity throughout their city limits. For residents in these cities, high-speed access is available almost anywhere and at any time, and often for below-market rates.

Number one is Seoul, and the example I always use, Hong Kong, is number four. The top 5 spots are Asian cities, Stockholm is number six, and at number seven is the first North American entry and it’s not even a city; it simply says, “Various Municipal Projects, United States.” The only other North American entry is Silicon Valley at number ten (even though Mountain View is included in the number seven entry too!)

Clearly, we have a long way to go in making North America the most (and best) connected place in the world.

Read: DailyWireless