Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Dear Facebook, get your stuff together.

June 10, 2011

This post has been a long time coming, is multi-faceted and angry. If anyone who works at Facebook reading this, I would like you to read my whole post, but if you don’t want to do that, read this: I would pay $50/month to have phone/live-chat access to someone who could help me deal with problems similar to the ones I describe below. I’d even pay if you provided timely email support. Submitting a “help” form and waiting 3 weeks for a response is not a viable business proposition.

I work for a company called boom. reactive. Among other things, we help companies out with their Facebook pages. Here are some problems I’ve been having recently.

Section 1: Merging places

An important part of this job is claiming existing unofficial pages and merging them with official pages. This has always been a pain, but for reasons that I understand and to some degree appreciate. Unofficial pages get created (to the best of my knowledge) when someone “checks in” to a location using Facebook on their mobile device, and can’t find the location for some reason, so they create their own. From there, other people check in and all of a sudden, in the case of one of our clients, there were 1,226 check-ins and 277 likes at an unofficial page.

Fortunately, whoever created the page used the company’s phone number in the “information” section. Facebook allows you to verify page ownership by answering the phone and entering a PIN number. “Great,” you might think. “All you have to do is tell your client to answer their phone and send you the PIN number.” Exactly.

So we did. We claimed the place. Then Facebook did what I wanted it to do. It said “Do you want to merge this page with an existing page?”

Yes Facebook! It is like you are reading my mind. That is exactly what I want to do. So I select the page I want to merge it with and get an error that reads approximately this: (in retrospect, I should have taken a screen shot).

“We’re sorry. The locations are too far apart to be eligible to merge. They will remain separate places.” Wonderful. I initially assume that this is my fault and that I had the location of the official page listed incorrectly. I checked:

The two pages that I wanted to merge not only had IDENTICAL street addresses, and their Bing Maps displayed on the Info page are nearly identical as well. I made an overlay here so that we can see how far away these places allegedly are (despite having the same address):

Essentially, well within the margin of GPS error.

So, now I’ve got two separate places. Back in the old days, there used to be a merge places option for admins on the right sidebar, like this:

That’s not there any more. They got rid of it without any warning and merging places is no longer possible. So now I’m stuck with two different places. I could delete one, but then I’d lose over 1,000 check-ins and 270 likes. That’s not good for any business and shouldn’t be necessary.

Section 2: Creating Places

I’m not done with you, Places. There are other headaches that you cause me daily. Another one of our clients who’s page we setup is a food truck. Unlike most food trucks however, they are in the same location every day. This is great for Facebook because it allows them to be a “place” and allows people to check-in there. That means they should be able to offer check-in based deals. All of these things are great!

There’s the nice telling me that if I enter a valid address, users will be able to check-in using Places. The only issue is, that is a valid address, and people can’t check-in there using places. It isn’t possible. Instead of seeing a map when they go to the info page, they just see the street address. Oddly enough, when you click on that street address, it takes you to a map, which certifies that it is a valid address.

This is a problem across the board. We can’t register our own office as a Facebook place for the same reason. It is ridiculous.

There should be a work-around. I should be able to check-in to a place, make an unofficial page and then merge it with the existing page. However as we saw in Section 1, that isn’t possible.

Section 3: Tagging Businesses

Another thing… About a month ago, I read a post regarding the ability for people to tag business pages in Photos. I read it, I got excited about it and I tried it and it worked. Then I encouraged fans of one of our clients to tag the business in pictures so that they’d show up on our wall.

Sure enough, they couldn’t. I had my partner do it. He couldn’t. Some people could tag some businesses, some people could tag no businesses. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to who could tag what. Why?? And a month later, why is the feature still not rolled out properly? This shouldn’t be a big deal.

Section 4: Where do we go from here?

Despite problems listed above, I believe Facebook is a great way for friends to connect with each other and for businesses to connect with customers in ways that were never possible before. The product has already changed the way people communicate and allows for more people to stay in touch than was ever possible before.

The problems I’ve listed above are clearly more complicated than I understand and I’m sure they’ve been removed or changed or not yet implemented for a reason. What I guess I would like is more communication. A blog post that says “We’ve removed the ‘merge pages’ feature because x y and z. It will be back once we figure out how to work through these problems” or “We’re having Bing integration problems and your new pages might not be showing up as places. Bare with us as we figure this out.”

Instead, if we have questions we get directed to a Help section who’s responses provide mainly vague and common-sense responses. Alternatively, we can browse through the nightmare that is “help discussions” or send off a response that is unlikely to get answered in anything that resembles a timely fashion.

This is a pain in the butt for me, and it is my primary job to work on company’s Facebook pages. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for shop owners who are managing pages themselves. What I’d imagine happens is that they get frustrated and they quit. They stop using their pages or they never offer deals because things change without warning, the system doesn’t work like it should, and there is no efficient way to get real answers about what’s going on.

Which leads me to my point in the first paragraph. Facebook has real customers and they need real customer service. They want businesses to have pages, but when businesses run into troubles beyond the rudimentary FAQ page, they are left with nowhere to go.

I don’t think it would be unreasonable for Facebook to offer a service where you can speak to a person or chat with them on within a browser. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to charge for it either. I’d pay a lot for it. A small business owner may pay a lot less for it, but it is still something I think a lot of people would be use.

Alternatively, they could offer better explanations about when they add, remove or alter features. Either way, something’s gotta change.

p.s. I really like their facial recognition feature and don’t know why people are so mad about it.

further reading: Ars Technica has had problems with Facebook as well, but on a much larger scale. You can read about it here.

Advertisement

March, a month in review.

March 29, 2011

I’ve tried not to do too many “life-update” type blog posts on this blog thus far, instead focusing on analysis of things that other people are doing, but a lot of stuff happened to me this month, so I’m just gonna roll with it. Everything is divided into sections. There’s still some music stuff here. Just skip over the things you don’t care about. Click through to read the rest!

Read the rest of this entry »

March Madness Quadruple Bracket

March 17, 2011

So, I filled out 4 brackets this year (more on that later). I like having my brackets with me on paper form, but don’t like carrying around 4 sheets of paper. Here’s the solution I came up with:

(click the image to bring up a full-sized version which you can print out. you’ll probably have to click “scale to page”)

Preview: The Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck

March 2, 2011

I’m not ready to review this yet, but this album is streaming on NPR right now and fantastic.

Click here! NPR Music: The Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck

Tennis: Cape Dory

February 3, 2011

Tennis: Cape Dory

Artist: Tennis
Album: Cape Dory
Label: Fat Possum Records
Release Date: January 18, 2011

Read the rest of this entry »

Building My Hackintosh

January 17, 2011

Not to be confused with last week’s “My Hackintosh Build” post which can be found here. That post details the exact hardware, the cost, and compares it against an iMac with similar hardware. This one is about the actual work of building it and getting it running.

Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as I would have hoped, but I’ve made it. I am typing this post on a brand new Core i5 computer running OS X. Most rewarding of all, I built it myself. Everything major works. Life is good. Some of you may be wondering: How’d you do it? What problems did you encounter? Was it worth it? This post will answer these questions. It will also serve as a bit of a jumping off point if someone is thinking about building one themselves. Hit the break for a detailed description, pictures and more.

Read the rest of this entry »

(adj) having or exerting a malignant influence

January 12, 2011

Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

– The Chromium Blog

Not Evil

Google believes in the openness of the internet. They idealistically believe in supporting only 100% unambiguously royalty free video codecs. H.264, while close, does not meet these standards. It is controlled by an advisory board that has made a commitment to have no licensing fees ever, but only for non-commercial use. For Google (and Mozilla, which has already taken a stand against H.264) this isn’t good enough.

For these reasons, Google will be phasing out support for H.264 in Chrome. This move will accelerate the implementation of the WebM standard and help ensure the longevity of free codec use on the internet. Google will do their part by converting their YouTube videos all to WebM and for the foreseeable future making them capable of running in Flash, H.264 and WebM until WebM achieved parody with H.264 technology in terms of hardware acceleration, stability on mobile devices and battery life performance. Once that happens, Google and their services will stop supporting H.264. We believe that these standards are achievable and will work our hardest with software and hardware companies alike to make this a reality for all users on all platforms.

Evil

Google will do almost anything to handicap iOS at this point. It is already on its way to the lion’s share of the smartphone market and it wants to keep it that way. It wants to do to iOS what Windows did to the Mac OS: sub 10% smartphone market share

What better way to do this than to leverage its three most valuable assets: Chrome, YouTube and Android. They haven’t announced lack of support for H.264 in YouTube or Android yet, but it is only a logical extension to their current rationale for dropping support for the codec on Chrome. Once this happens, browser makers far and wide will start suporting WebM videos. Content producers will do the same. Knowing that older browsers don’t support that format though, Google hopes that they will turn to Flash as their backup. This covers pretty much everyone on the desktop, but who does it leave out on the YouTube fun? iOS users.

In an effort to marginalize iOS’s market share, Google is willing to announce the removal of support for the most popular video codec in use today. Let’s make this clear. Google is not omitting a popular feature from a future product, as Apple did with Flash. They are removing support of a feature from an existing product. People who use Chrome today have support for H.264. People who use Chrome a year or two from now won’t.

By the time that Chrome no longer supports H.264, Google hopes (fingers crossed!) that the WebM standard will have gained hardware acceleration support, stability on mobile devices and have a minimal effect on battery life. Then, they can put it on Android phones which will likely have a significantly larger market share than iOS devices by this time. Steve Jobs expressed disdain for WebM in the past and Google hopes that he will be too stubborn to go back on them when (if?) WebM achieves parody with H.264.

While all of this is happening, Google hopes more developers will go back to Flash. That’s something that everyone who is afraid of Apple can support, right?

Like all polarizing arguments, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.