I'm a social-networking addict. I'm never away from my Twitter stream, I always check Facebook for friend updates, and Friendfeed is probably my favorite Web tool this year. I check out Hi5 to catch a glimpse into the future, head back to Friendster from time to time, and can't help but check in with LiveJournal every few months when I feel nostalgic.
But for all that work with social networks, I've also become a somewhat critical and cynical user. And anyone who suffers from my same addiction probably has as well. That's why I've compiled this list of some of the most annoying social-networking quirks that affect us all.
Sometimes, updates get to be a bit too much. It's not that I don't like them--I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to--but when I'm constantly inundated with new relationship status updates, virtual good purchases, and status updates, it gets overwhelming.
Thankfully, many social networks allow their users to control what kind of updates they receive, but even then, it's tough to decide what you should and shouldn't see. Maybe you don't want relationship status updates for everyone, but there are a select few that you do want updates about. Worse, status updates need to be kept on, but for some, you wish it was turned off. It's an awkward balance, but changing content settings usually helps. I spend most of my time in those settings prior to using any service before I get going.
I realize the term "Fail Whale" really only pertains to one service--Twitter--but it does get annoying when any social network is down. Granted, many of these issues happen when a social network is in its infancy, and over time the sites become more reliable. But again, as a social-networking addict, I find myself using new social networks each day and downtime is a constant occurrence.
During the first four months of 2008, Twitter experienced uptime of just 98.72 percent, for a grand total of 37 hours and 16 minutes down. Bebo was down for 14 hours during the same period and Hi5 trailed slightly behind with 13 hours of downtime. More popular sites like Facebook and MySpace kept downtime to under three hours.
Am I the only person who's annoyed by that? I realize maintaining a popular service isn't easy and scaling is a major issue, but more uptime means more user satisfaction, which is a key component in the success (or failure) of any social network.
Inordinately long beta periods
Beta periods are important to the growth and development of any social network. I'm a firm believer that, when used properly, they help the company find lingering issues to fix before the network goes live to an even larger community. Even better, they do a fine job of creating a viral-marketing campaign through beta testers who are impressed with the service and share that sentiment with friends who cannot yet access the site.
But sometimes, beta periods get a little out of hand. To me, a beta period that lasts too long tells me that the company knows there are problems and is simply unwilling, or unable to rectify them. So in order to cut down on negative feedback, it keeps the site in beta when it shouldn't be.
Maybe management forgot to take the beta sign down or its waiting for a special moment. Regardless of the reason, the longer a service is in beta, the sooner I lose confidence in it.
The fight with size
I hate to say it, but sometimes, social networks are too big. Try finding your friend with a unique name on Facebook or MySpace and you probably won't have too much trouble--there aren't that many people named Apple out there. But if you try to find your old friend Tom Smith, you'll probably have more trouble finding him than you should. Sure, there are advanced search options that try to help you narrow it down by location, but what if you don't know? After college, he went his way and you went yours. The chances of you finding him are slim. And as Facebook and MySpace add more users, it's even getting difficult to find less popular names. You wouldn't believe how many people on Facebook share my last name.
But it's not just trying to find old friends that can get frustrating. When you want to add an app to Facebook, it's almost impossible to find exactly what you're looking for without searching multiple times. Due to the incredibly high number of apps on the service, simply inputting, "card game" isn't going to cut it. I'm all for having more apps and widgets on social networks, but don't you think it could be arranged better to reduce search time? I'm guessing that would make the entire community much happier.