Why developing on Facebook sucks + some thoughts on e-social

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facebooksucks_headlineWell, I certainly don’t claim to have “the” answer to everything, this post is just about why I think developing on Facebook sucks.
Is this just a lack of consistency or a “seem to be really badly developed platform” issue ? or is it something else, a frustration that comes from an ideal that I just can’t forget.

But I’ll try to be objective and I’ll start with what I think is a lack of consistency.

No consistency

No, absolutely none. Whether you’re on a canvas page (application canvas page), an application tab or outside Facebook on a “Facebook Connect” site (should probably be named “Facebook Graph” now…), this thing just doesn’t work the same way at all (well it does more and more to be honest)

I appreciate the efforts made by Facebook to bring some consistency to the whole Facebook concept but this is far from being done and all those bugs and changes that happen at any time without even any warning make it really hard for developers and people to use it right.

But what does Facebook bring to developers ?

In case you don’t really know I’ll explain it very shortly:
basically, it enables any Facebook application (any kind of external websites, fan pages and application pages) to allow you to connect to them with your facebook account. In that way, you allow them to use your facebook data (depending on the authorizations that you provided).
Amongst others, they can:

  • get your friends data
  • get your posts
  • get your likes
  • get your links
  • set/get your status
  • get your name, first name, last name
  • get your sex
  • get your language
  • get your location
  • post messages on your wall or on friend’s wall on your behalf
  • and many, many other things.

The concept is full of possibilities and looks great, but the Facebook platform is in the way.

Things that don’t work right or why is it a “seem to be really badly developed platform”

In a few bullet points, I’ll try to write down what I actually feel when developing on Facebook:

  • it feels like you can’t use all the possibilities Facebook claims to bring the way you would have wanted it, meaning in an “open way” (the way they claim it is)
  • it also feels like you sometimes have less possibilities inside of Facebook than outside of it.
  • lack of consistency between what can be done inside and outside of Facebook. Application tab page doesn’t allow you to do the same things than in an application canvas page (and we are still inside of Facebook), while outside of Facebook, thoses limitations seem to have disappeared. Why being outside of Facebook would give you more “power” than being inside of it ?
  • things are unclear and you need hours to get to do something that would have taken 5 minutes to explain.
  • not every functions provided by the Facebook API work the same way inside and outside of Facebook. Sometimes it doesn’t even work, and this sometimes happen to be inside of Facebook… (ex: friends invite in application tab)
  • The workflow doesn’t seem logical at all (invites, stream publish, status change,…)
  • FBML, IFrame, HTML, no HTML, etc… this complicates everything. Even their “own” JavaScript (“FBJS”) makes it very difficult to do something right. Sometimes it’s even impossible (try to dynamically change the height of a flash movie)
  • one day it works, the other it doesn’t“. Changes happen any time. Sometimes it even breaks your application and you can’t do nothing about it except post a message on a forum and hope for it to return to it’s “normal” state.
  • etc…

In overall, this is the lack of consistency and stability that makes developing on Facebook a real nightmare. You spend hours and days trying to find a way to do something that should be very easy to do and sometimes you end up realizing that there is a bug that still hasn’t been solved since last year or that it is just impossible to do while on a “normal” website it would have been a trivial thing to do.
When reading forums, I always see people wondering how this or that can be done and I’m always surprised to see all the people who have tried numerous “hacks” that don’t seem to work for everyone or at all any more…

You know, I can understand why it has been developed like “this” or “that” or how can a program become an ugly thing that is lacking consistency, I’m a developer as well, but when they make so much money, I think the least they can do is to make something consistent and ergonomic.
What they don’t seem to be able to do.

And what ?

I know… and what ? where does this lead ? I don’t know, just to more honesty. And I think honesty change people.

Some thoughts on Facebook and e-social

To be honest, I’m not a big “e-social” guy. Some people even like to tell me that I’m not very “social” in general but I don’t think so. I just don’t want to need to appear “good” or “happy” or “productive” or “confident” or “social” or “open”, … . I just don’t really want to play this game. Or maybe I do.

But what does that mean to be “social” ? according to Wikipedia, it “refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence“. In other words, it means to be “interactive”.

I won’t explain my whole point of view about our Universe and who we are, but simply said: we are all molecules, atoms, particles, matter and thus, according to Einstein, energy.
In this way, it doesn’t really matter whether we are interacting with a flower, an insect or a human, as we are all the same in the end.

What I’m trying to show is that whatever we do, it is an interaction. The Universe is a big interaction, the law of Causality that we think we are all subject to.
In my opinion, interaction = relationship (as everything is interaction).

According to some philosophers, the meaning of relationships is a mirror in which to see yourself clearly. In other words, what we do, we do it to discover ourself, to learn about ourself. When we talk to someone, we do it to “see” ourself. Which I think is mostly true (not always)
I invite you to read this post on this subject as it is quite interesting.

My point is this: I don’t think we need all of this to realize ourself, to be happy. I think it is mostly “dressing” (“de la poudre aux yeux” in french) and doesn’t really bring what we are looking for in the end.

I’m not saying this whole thing is useless, I just think it is being misused and overused.

This is what I think Facebook brings: a false solution to a simple need. It is useful for many things but it is overused and most of the time misused. As internet is.

Facebook

I think Facebook is dangerous and interesting, open and limited.

On one hand it is reshaping the internet and the way we interact with people and “things” within and outside of it. They have brought a lot of good things and ideas but the openness they claim to have or to allow is not what they want us to think.

They close us to use their “widgets” and to “like” things the way they want us to like them. This also brings some kind of consistency (in the end ;)) all over the web and that is a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m a bit sad to see this. To see that it is now becoming the only way to “be”, to “like”, to “hate”, to be “social”. I’m a bit pessimistic here and probably talking like this was the only thing existing on earth to communicate but I find it sad that people put so much importance in it.

So why am I developing on Facebook then ?

To make money ! and also because it’s interesting. But I also think I would feel less frustrated if I would be developing on Facebook without a client behind my back.

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4 Comments

  1. I agree, no consistency. The FBML app was awesome and everyone developed apps and such to work with FBML….now it’s gone.

    I hate facebook because they took away one of the ONLY cool features that there was to customize your own page and make it look different. I am referring to the removal of the FBML & Extended Info Apps that use to work on the SIDE WALL. Now you can ONLY post lame stuff that is ONLY FACEBOOK’S lame apps/boxes like the ‘photos’ ‘video’ ‘events’ that EVERYONE has.
    At least with the FBML you were able to put up cool images and banners on the side wall.
    It took a while to figure out what would work on the side wall and what wouldn’t, and guess what, now all that time was wasted for nothing since it was all taken away.
    Now, facebook absolutely sucks more than it did before…if that is possible.

    Now everyone is screwed and can’t make their page look nice anymore. Does anyone have any ideas that will work on the side wall (if at all possible)?

    Thanks.
    -ER

  2. This post lacked consistency (haha). Also, Interaction ≠ Relationship. You can interact with anyone on the street and fail to have any sort of relationship with them. It is when you connect with someone and establish that connection mutually that you have a “relationship”. You also need to look at the different contexts of the word Social – to me, it means doing things with friends in real life. Not over Facebook.

    But seriously, Facebook’s limitations are of real concern to me and I will soon be embarking on a journey through Facebook API with an army of coders behind me. The only problem will be Facebook’s limits.

  3. probably that consistency ≠ reality.

    As for interaction and relationship, have a look there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship and you’ll see the word “interaction” used in the definition. Not that it really matters in the end because as, like you say for the word “social”, you need to look at the different contexts of the word.

    Anyways, thanks for passing by and have a great time with facebook.

  4. Thanks for posting this information, I agree on some of your points, interesting to read everyone’s thoughts, thanks again. :-)

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