Robert Scoble
Why FriendFeed's designer, Kevin Fox, is to blame for FriendFeed being too difficult to use: he f**ks with affordances. (UPDATE: he answers me toward the end of the comments with a GREAT set of answers).
August 9, 2009 - Comments disabled - Share
Affordances. They are important. What does that mean? A door knob "affords" being turned. It almost demands it. Yet FriendFeed is screwing with things like links. Here, click on "hide." That should just hide one item, right? That's the affordance. Yet you'll soon find there's a whole world stuck under that little link. You can hide Tweets. You can hide me. You can hide all sorts of stuff. - Robert Scoble
Is it difficult to use? - Manuel Mas
Hmm.. is it difficult to use?! - Orli Yakuel
It's a peace of cake - Mark
i heard larry wall once say about perl "make simple things simple, and hard things possible"... the simple things are definitely *not* simple in ff, increasing the learning curve right at the start... i rekon if they fix that... they have it made! :) - simran
Ooooo. One does not often see Robert swear. He's really worked up about it. Care to respond Kevin?? - Roberto Bonini from iPhone
#2 Look at the time stamp. Did you know that's also a link? Where's the affordance? Not there. Yet did you know you can click that and that is your permalink? Many people have trouble figuring this out. But here's an ultra affordance killer. Did you know you can click it twice and get a popout menu? Not many people do. Kevin has overloaded links with too many features and he has broken the affordances of what links usually do. - Robert Scoble
Orli: actually, yes, it's difficult to use. - Robert Scoble
Scoble: You may be right now that I read what you had to say. I don't think there is a proper FAQ/guide for all the little details hidden in FF. - Manuel Mas
And noses were designed to support eye glasses. - Todd Hoff
well I just managed to wipe out my entire friend feed account when I was trying to add a new one for a different twitter account - NW Angel
I agree - too many possible results from a given action. Manuel, no one reads FAQs and if you need to, the app is DOA - Sameer
Well, I don't see it as difficult to use. Its more that there are many things in here hidden that would aid users if there were more upfront. - Manuel Mas
Most of us get basic functionality out of the site with how things are at the moment. - Manuel Mas
Look at this complaint too about FriendFeed being difficult to figure out: Seth Goldstein runs a tech company. He's a geek. Adverse to more pain than a lot of us. Yet he can't figure out how to delete a list. He's not the only one to tell me that FriendFeed is too difficult to figure out. FriendFeed still needs a design rethink to make these issues go away. - Robert Scoble
Sameer: Agree. - Manuel Mas
Valid points, Robert, but a complex interface, once learned, becomes simple, too - although that's not the best design philosophy for a massively public website. - Aaman (Clone of FF)
Its the visual impact of seeing too many options even if you dont use them. V. overwhelming for the try and buy new comer - Sameer
I think it is one of the worst UIs on the web today. Which is why I hardly use it. It violates all the rules of good design. Stuff is not obvious, it is not easy and it is not even quickly learn-able. I've spent years in product management and really, this is one of the worst. - Shripriya
I think the issue here is Discoverability. There are a lot of little hidden secrets to FriendFeed that become obvious only after you've figured them out. They're not very obvious on their own. Personally, it doesn't bother me but that's because I know it. If I were a new user, I'd be at a loss as well. It seems to me that the primary design goal at FriendFeed is a minimal UI (perhaps at all costs). - Akiva
Roberto: I can't think of another web app that messes with link affordances the way that FriendFeed does. Can you think of one? - Robert Scoble
People who figure out how to use a system are often the last ones to recognize how difficult it is to use. It's a self selection thing. - Ken Sheppardson
But affordances are subjective and reliant on the end-user. Take the @ sign or hashtags for instance. Unless you're talking about Apple, it's hard to blame a designer for affordance rule enforcement. - Sam Harrelson
There is a balance with "affordances" though -- if you have a very complex set of features you could have a knob/button/link for every feature but that would not work either - Brian Sullivan
@Robert, do you think FF need More Icon? - abdellah
Sam: we've all clicked on hundreds of thousands of links. We all have an idea of what happens when you click a link. - Robert Scoble
Sam, the @sign in Twitter was emergent - something users created. - Sameer
Sure, but I've seen lots of platforms use the date function as a permalink enabler. - Sam Harrelson
Manuel, agree. Robert, I wouldn't say it's difficult, but confusing (or useless sometimes). I'm not sure it's a design problem though. - Orli Yakuel
abellah: an icon is probably better than a link, yes. I know that Kevin (from an interview I did with him more than a year ago) likes sparse UIs. He is of the school that you just watch where people trip over themselves and then build UI for that. I think that's smart, but I wish that FriendFeed would iterate its UI faster to pave paths where people are having troubles. - Robert Scoble
Robert, sorry, but you're late on this trend too :) First, being not to follow everyone on Twitter. FF ui has always been terrible. Most tech people I know don't understand how to use it. And I think I use less than 10% of the available features. - Shripriya
I like FriendFeed as it is. It's obviously a power users tool as is, but then I wouldn't want it stupid simple reminiscent of installing a Windows OS. There just needs to be a decent screencast on the home page explaining all the features. No one reads FAQs these days. Video Game designers just turn the first level into a tutorial for 99% who won't read the manual and I don't mind. Maybe FF needs a tutorial when you first sign up? - CannonGod
Think about the affordances of FF and compare them with Twitter. Then compare the relative effectiveness of desktop / mobile applications developed for both. There is not a one good app for FriendFeed. This is because of the MANY "extra shite" links and an overly complex API, not because of popularity differences in the services. - Michael Owens from iPhone
Holy shit this item is already in Google: -- Google is going real time! - Robert Scoble
Great designs shouldn't need tutorials. - Manuel Mas
@Sameer right, but we created the @ sign to do a certain feature. Folks on have their own signifiers. That will inevitably happen here as well as folks grow comfortable with this platform. - Sam Harrelson
Shripriya - I think most people who come back dont find it confusion. Its the first timers that run away - and thats FFs biggest problem. - Sameer
Needless to say, we all love Friendfeed, but we also need a Greasemonkey script to learn which service was posting into the time-line, and the entire issue of groups/rooms really needs a rethink because it's so hard to find any, especially If you're a newcomer.. - Nir Ben Yona
Engagement is deep; Adoption is sparce. - Sameer
TV ads (at least in australia) are considered misleading if "a person of slightly less than average intelligence" misinterprets them... i think you will find that it takes "smart techies" a while to figure out the nuances of ff, not saying everything should be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, but the defaults that way would give everyone a great start... especially when introducing innovative stuff (like "the live web") :) - simran
Scoble: That Google real time thing is even more impressive than this discussion! - Manuel Mas
Manuel - Yes. I like to say that if you need to write a manual for your product, it's too complicated. - Jeff Harbert
Shripriya: I've been complaining about this stuff both in public and in private for a long time. And I wasn't behind in following everyone on Twitter. Come and study how I use FriendFeed to follow small groups of people closely, especially for Twitter. - Robert Scoble
Wow, this did get into Google fast. - phil baumann
Robert: Holy shit, that's impressive - - sod Twitter I say, if you're in marketing then you need to get on FriendFeed for instant Google indexing of a subject! - CannonGod
@Manuel there will be always a need to manual and tutorial, people have to sell or to promote so event if you have to explain a basic evidence, write a document make it in pdf format, sell it or share it, but for the sake of simplicity please never ever do FB style document. - abdellah
UI design is a very difficult thing to do because so many people have different ways they use things. However, I do agree with you Robert that FF does need a redesign to make more of the feature more user-intuitive. - Jack Wilson, K4SAC
Sameer - I've been back many times, I still barely use it. All the stuff Robert mentions, I had no clue. And its not worth my the time investment. - Shripriya
i would expect to see the tweet before this one.. - Orli Yakuel
Robert - the twitter thing (ie. unsubscribing and not following everyone) was a bit of a joke. But on FF, you are the biggest proponent. If you can't get them to change, no one can. - Shripriya
Agree Sam, but Twitter nor expose a gazillion features in the core app.. Its about managing the "first impression is the lasting impression" thing - Sameer
Here's the interview I did with Kevin last year: Shripriya: yeah, I keep hearing that from other people I try to evangelize FriendFeed to. One guy, who is a tech advisor to celebrities in Hollywood told me they will never use it because it's too hard to figure out and because there aren't good mobile clients for it, like there are for Twitter. - Robert Scoble
Jake - :) - phil baumann
@Sameer That's true for a certain demographic, but I look at sites my 8th graders frequent often and I have no idea how they put up with the features. Or take an xBox 360 controller... lots of buttons that do way too many things for my old 30 year-old mind, but my students find it intuitive. - Sam Harrelson - 18 months ago you said their UI was brilliant :) - Mark
Shripriya- thats ok. Plenty of people I personally know that have signed up for Twitter and never come back because they couldn't find a use case. No app is for everyone. Its about appealing to a large number of folks that see relevance. - Sameer
Wow, not only is this indexed in Google, but the Likes are getting indexed as well. Don't see the comments indexed yet, tho. - Sam Harrelson
Maybe FF will always be the power aggregation tool online that only a few use. But is the "few" large enough? I wonder. - Shripriya
47 emails in my gmail inbox already from this thread (as i commented and said follow updates on twitter)... surely they can batch them at least by the minute... after all... email isn't realtime :) - simran
Search results for "I don't get FriendFeed" - - phil baumann
Mark: you took me out of context. I said it both sucks AND is brilliant. That is true. Even today. - Robert Scoble
@Robert, can I add that UI is so clean that functionality are just a part of the design, they need to make more light on them (hey they are all blue link the same sized blue link) :) - abdellah
The missing mobile client certainly is a downer. I love a lot about FriendFeed, but lack of a *good* mobile client, and other minor annoyances may keep me from staying here. Sure I know I will come back from time to time (and I haven't left yet), but not sure I can live here on a daily basis like I can with Twitter because of the great clients for my desktop and phone, like TweetDeck. - Timothy Federwitz
Sam, the feature laden apps you mention that your students use, have intent built in them. The purpose is known before you came. XBox = don't do homework. Hell, Id learn how to use very button too :) - Sameer
I think FF is a different beast altogether and not as easy to create a mobile app for, based solely on service functionality and what we actually do here. - Manuel Mas
Tim: that's why I like the IM integration wtih GTalk. Gets around the site UI and works great on the mobile as well. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Scoble: I think this was a pretty rude way of giving your feedback. Why are you being so provocative lately? - Eric Florenzano from iPhone
difficult for who? the basics are easy....getting the most out of all the tools available is a different story but at least the tools are there. Not so in twitter - Craig Shipp
Sameer: Yep, good point. Similarly, I see FriendFeed having a very useful apparatus in my work/personal flow as a news/twitter/info client. I mostly use it via IM but also find the site pretty intuitive for how I use it and prefer it over Twitter, etc. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Eric: because no one engages unless you make a strong point and I sure wish Kevin would fix this stuff so I can evangelize FriendFeed better. - Robert Scoble
Craig: I have shown FriendFeed to many hundreds of people over the past year and I keep getting this complaint over and over. - Robert Scoble
I disagree with that approach Robert. A strong point is not always necessary. Most times it's a turn off and sets the wrong tone. Sure you get a lively discussion, but half of it is trying to explain you're not reallllly upset about it. - Bwana ☠
It's fine to complain but I don't see any useful suggestions here from Robert or any other commenters. A problem without a proposed solution is essentially a whine. - Brian Sullivan
Bwana: we've been complaining about these issues for more than a year. And I am upset about it. It keeps me from having a good time evangelizing FriendFeed. Just search here for how many people don't get FriendFeed. And those are the ones who'll tell you in public. - Robert Scoble
Just reading this, I have learned 4 things I DID NOT KNOW about friendfeed functionality. - Liza + = ?
Back again, to say FF still isn't cool! - K.N. Ajit Narayan
Robert: I couldn't disagree more. Please don't fall into that Arrington/Loren Feldman trap. People engage in a more constructive way when the topic is interesting. Just look at Leo's shows for proof that I'm right. - Eric Florenzano from iPhone
I didn't say this wasn't a case for a strong point, I'm simply stating it's not always necessary per your statement "no one engages unless you make a strong point" - Bwana ☠
Liza: that's another reason I did it in a strong way. I knew it would get engagement. WHen you get engagement your item gets spread to more and more people and that helps out the community overall. - Robert Scoble
Timestamp? Click, double click? Permalink? I wish I knew all of this before. - Liza + = ?
Ultimately the best thing to happen to FriendFeed would be the mass proliferation of 3rd party apps that offer a better user experience overall. Let the market sort out best functional IxD. How many highly active Twitter users use regularly? Not many, because there are several Twitter apps that afford a more active Twitter experience. Without them, Twitter would be news from 2006. - Laura Scott (@lauras)
I disagree. I came here because I agree with the point (as I stated in another thread), not because of the strongness. You may attract certain types with that, but not moi. - Bwana ☠
I also show twitter and friendfeed to a lot of new Internet users and they get confused easily. I think the only solution is to show one simple process and then after they master that for a week or so then show them another feature. - Craig Shipp
The best level of engagement that I've seen regarding Leo Laporte is when Arrington called him out openly and there was the big fuss of him getting thrown off the show. Just saying. - Michael Owens from iPhone
Eric: OK, heard and understood. But name another designer who does stuff with links that Kevin does. That needs to be pointed out strongly, I think. But then I get crazy about design, especially when people keep telling me over and over that FriendFeed is too hard to use and figure out. Even Liza, who has been here a lot, didn't know all that stuff was "hidden" under the affordance of the link. - Robert Scoble
Robert - I appreciate your sharing this info, but it feels strange that all of this seems like a secret. Intention is bizarre. - Liza + = ?
So Robert, do you really think Kevin and FF are actively ignoring this issue? - Bwana ☠
Bwana: yes. Why? Because it's been like this for 18 months. - Robert Scoble
As a user, I do feel like it is intentionally hidden. - Liza + = ?
Interesting - Bwana ☠
It isn't about ignoring. It's about continuance. These affordances have been here since FF started. - Michael Owens from iPhone
Michael: and they f**k with the affordances that everyone has learned on EVERY OTHER WEB SITE. This is why I used strong language. - Robert Scoble
Oh, and the "new ui" upgrade that happened a while back did nothing but add to the hidden complexity - Michael Owens from iPhone
Robert, The UI's difficulty is best expressed in comment threads with a huge number of comments, such as yours - - Aaman (Clone of FF)
And I am tech savvy, not an idiot, but the argument is, oh, you just aren't enough of a techie to get it. - Liza + = ?
I think the beauty of friendfeed is the fact that it can be used as a very basic tool but also has the power to do much more in the right hands - Craig Shipp
Who are the right hands? - Liza + = ?
And once these get fixed, the real thing that people can't figure out is what is new. On every other website there's an affordance for that. Even in SimplyTweet new Tweets are green. Quick, figure out what is new here that you haven't seen from the last time you were here. You can't. - Robert Scoble
Robert speaks truth. - Bwana ☠
Craig: That's the biggest copout I've ever heard. Maybe Kevin needs to go bak and read "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. - Michael Owens from iPhone
Liza: people like me who click on everything looking for secret features. :-) - Robert Scoble
Don't Make Me Think ( by Steve Krug may be the kind of design you are looking for. - Todd Hoff
@Todd: great minds think alike - Michael Owens from iPhone
Robert: but even uses the date affordance as a permalink. I understand the concerns about the mass of feature clarity here, but I don't see that particular date/link function as a standard bearer. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Scoble: OK point taken. So let's make this constructive: what should they do to fix it? For the timestamp, my suggestion is to make it bluer and underlined--which everyone associates with links. Do you agree? How can they fix the hide functionality, though? I'm struggling to think of a way. - Eric Florenzano from iPhone
Liza: I found a lot of bugs in WIndows 95 by unplugging my mouse and trying to use the entire UI via the keyboard. But then I'm weird. Most people will never try anything. In fact, Google's own research shows that fewer than 1% will click on "advanced search." These weird affordances are even harder than THAT to figure out. - Robert Scoble
So if this doesn't change, FF may not get as wide of an adoption that it deserves. Hide, permalinks, and little things make a huge difference. The technology is too good for this to be its downfall. - Bwana ☠
Not having older items shaded or otherwise marked as old does effectively contribute to noise. - phil baumann
I'm not saying friendfeed can't be made better. I'm just saying it can be used from a basic level with little training. - Craig Shipp
I was accused of working for Friendfeed at an event 2 nights ago, for being an evangelist, and I still know very little about the functionality. AND I do like to think, I do click on a lot, but I also appreciate the intention of inclusion. - Liza + = ?
Eric: I would NOT put two hidden features under one link. They need a tab of "customizations and secret features" and put all that stuff there. - Robert Scoble
I'm not sure it's ever going to change at this point... which is sad - Bwana ☠
Liza: everyone knows I'm so excited about FriendFeed that they whine when I don't bring it up. Seriously. It's funny. - Robert Scoble
Whoops sorry Michael, didn't see yours. But it is a good book. Affordances is a bit abstract. He does a good job making the idea concrete. - Todd Hoff
what social site is better? - Craig Shipp
Twitter made a big improvement with contextual menu, such may add a value in FF too. - abdellah
Craig: define better. Twitter is easier. Facebook has more hooks and more users. - Robert Scoble
Which social site has the better UI? - Bwana ☠
Bwana: which is why I used strong language. - Robert Scoble
Until FB and twitter update in real time they aren't even in the game as far as I'm concerned - Craig Shipp
Robert: Twitter has the best UI? - K.N. Ajit Narayan
better UI!! ask myspace ugly by purpose. - abdellah
The problem is w/o knowing the affordances, Newbies create too much noise, feel embarassed and retreat - felt that but did not retreat - Liza + = ?
Facebook used to have a great UI imho. It's changed so much, now I can't find anything - Bwana ☠
FF has the better UI would be my guess. But better is such a subjective word. - Brian Sullivan
K.N. define "best." It's certainly easier to understand than FriendFeed is. Especially if you use a great client like SimplyTweet on my iPhone or Seesmic on my desktop. - Robert Scoble
Scoble: I'm not sure about the tab idea. It would add a lot of visual load on ever pageview. Instead, I'm thinking maybe if hide was a hover dropdown. When you hover over it, it says "Hide just this item", and "Hide all items like these" so that you know what you're getting into. This could work just like the top subnavigation items in many websites, which people are familiar with. Thoughts? - Eric Florenzano
Agree Twitter's UI is great - was in a studygroup of power users - most of us use web interface with multiple browsers rather than Tweetdeck, b/c simplicity is preferred. - Liza + = ?
Eric: this is why I'm not a UI designer. I like your solution better. - Robert Scoble
Hover is an evil thing in a real-time interface - Bwana ☠
I may repeat it but contextuel menu, yes do it well, that all , FF have to do that , twitter have done it. - abdellah
i hate chasing links - Bwana ☠
Bwana: Ahh yeah, good point. Maybe it would have to pause realtime (considering you are actually doing an action) - Eric Florenzano
Robert: Was talking about Twitter, the site...It's really easy to work with, provided you are not following too many people.. - K.N. Ajit Narayan
On FF you can type in the box and hit enter. How difficult is that? - Craig Shipp
Yeah Eric, it would have to - Bwana ☠
Even this thread is hard to read. No ability to specifically reply etc. Another reason I rarely visit. - Shripriya
FF used to pause real time whenever you your cursor was over a posting or its comments-- somehow that feature got removed. - Brian Sullivan
Shripiya: This conversation will definitely stink unless you find the hidden permalink - Bwana ☠
lisa, that's one thing and four words :) - Craig Shipp
Which supports Robert's argument - Bwana ☠
I don't know if I will be able to handle a better FF - Craig Shipp
I went to grab a glass of water, and have no clue what is going on now - see what I mean? - Liza + = ?
@Craig Oh for sure you can remember the alpha version and when beta come. - abdellah
Maybe using IM is best, don't know, but, for now, I find it labor intensive vs. Twitter. I like BOTH, and I will continue to use BOTH, but that does not mean there are not simple fixes to improve the UI. - Liza + = ?
@liza no you know for sure what is going on , you know that this thread is about "....", you remmeber what you have said before, you remember the person for whome you talked so for sure you know were you are at the discussion. - abdellah
It would be nice to see some of the FF team on this discussion, Kevin Fox in particular. - phil baumann
I want to reply to indiv comments, it is impossible unless I say @robert or HEY BWANA, that is silly, crappy design. Am I missing something? Plus, everyone calls me LISA not LIZA, so I can hardly answer the questions directed at me without looking for both. - Liza + = ?
Robert should have cc'd the FriendFeed feedback room - Bwana ☠
Phil: it is Sunday and they do need some time off of their work. Hopefully Kevin will show up tonight or tomorrow. - Robert Scoble
Liz: yep, I love FF's IM integration. I've got a popout window open on the side of my desktop and can keep up with things (from this thread and everything I monitor on FF) much more easily. - Sam Harrelson from IM
LIZA - not lisa or liz, ha ha - Liza + = ?
With that said, I love FriendFeed's comment UI. That's what hooked me to the service - Bwana ☠
Robert - I am clicking on everything in site, so if I blow up something, oops, sorry. - Liza + = ?
Liza apologies. multi-tasking fail. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Glen, yep, that's where discoverability comes in. Things should be easy to discover based on visual cues. It shouldn't be like playing a game of Myst. - Akiva
UNaffordances - Liza + = ?
Robert - yeah, even if they read this tomorrow, there's good stuff here that's important if the service it to grow in use. - phil baumann
Say it with me folks : User-friendly-ability. We HAZ NONE here. - Sean
Robert - now that you are here, I also think it is a mistake to expect users to choose FF or Twitter - recently you have backed off and choose to use both, BUT many of your "followers" are testy with those of us who use both. Until FF is easier to use, I will use both. That is my choice. Positioning FF as Twitter hating is bad move, ppl. - Liza + = ?
Who is positioning FF as a Twitter hater? Some people hate Twitter (I personally think Twitter is a waste of mindwidth). How does that have anything to do with FF other than the fact that they post on FF? - Brian Sullivan
Brian, do a search, you will find MANY ppl are positioning FF as anti-twitter, and I don't agree with the approach. I personally get a LOT of grief from both sides of the fence for using both, and I am not going to pick a side just b/c others tell me I should. - Liza + = ?
Kevin - yes, that is a frustration. - phil baumann
Kevin, totally agreed with that comment, especially when using via the iPhone. It's nice to see comments per OP, but the UI for managing things is horrible and wastes a lot of time, denting my enthusiasm for more participation. - Sally Church
Officially PISSED OFF - using IM FAIL. Opens new page for every feed. Then I respond in Gtalk and get unknown command. F this. Time to breath deep and try not to explode. - Liza + = ?
Liza, type in "help" for the list of commands in IM or there's a list on the site. Not sure about the page thing... I don't get that in GTalk. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Liza: consistently when people meet me they ask "what is next after Twitter?" I don't answer FriendFeed, I wish I could. - Robert Scoble
I don't like help menus or reading instructions. I appreciate your efforts, but I am just pissed off in general b/c I like to figure things out on my own. I can't spend yrs clicking on FF for hidden treasures. - Liza + = ?
People always ask me why should they use FriendFeed over Twitter.... it gets old after a while - Bwana ☠
Robert - exactly, if we knew what was next, it would be dull. Beauty in playing, mashing, exploring. - Liza + = ?
Wow Robert, way throw out an HCI term! Are we going to discuss GOMS or Fitts' Law next? :-) - Bill Welense from iPhone
Bwana - I gave it a shot yesterday with some success in the last day. - - phil baumann
Robert - nice comment. Would love to tweet it to share, but don't know how to isolate it on this f-d up interface. - Liza + = ?
Liza - I'd like to be able to tweet comments they way Disqus allows it. - phil baumann
This is Liza frustrated and cranky, sorry for letting my evil twin out, but this feed triggered it. #blamescoble - Liza + = ?
I'm wondering if FriendFeed will remain the domain of us geeks. Is that a BIG enough market for their business model though? - Jim Connolly
I secretly hope so, Jim. Twitter was great in 2006 B.K. (Before Kutchner) when it was populated only by geeks :) - Sam Harrelson from IM
Holden: Well, I'm pretty sure someone hopes to make some money from FF. - Jim Connolly
Sam: I have to admit, I would hate to see FF flooded like Twitter is. - Jim Connolly
The fact is Robert that These problems have never crossed my mind. Actually, come to think of it. A unified settings page would be nice. However. Just becuae the UI is unconventional, going against the grain, does not mean it's a bad UI. I'd love to see a mockup of how you would do it better. - Roberto Bonini from iPhone
Holden: I didn't say it wasn't great. I still use and love Twitter. I just miss the good ole days. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Don't even get me started with a wish list of options. - Liza + = ?
CONFESSION: I did not know until now about double clicking on the time-link to get a pop-out window. - Jim Connolly
Holden: Twitter's a spam-filled hunk of crap. - Jim Connolly
Holden: You may not automatically see a business model, but they would have had to produce something to get $$$ funding. BTW: Twitter's got the audience, though. It's where the people are. Only reason I use it. - Jim Connolly
Friendfeed is not difficult to use. It is so intuitive. I love that I can easily block certain things, search for items that have a specific number of likes, see a user's likes, etc. It's wayyyyyyy easy. - Ben Hanten
Ben: A lot of new users tell me they can't figure it out. - Jim Connolly
they're not trying then, Jim - Chris Heath
If this was put up to a vote, I would vote to have a better FAQ, but I would definitely keep the design as free of extra buttons as possible. - Ben Hanten
Hmm, wow, lots of comments fast on this post. Too bad it's a Sunday, I imagine Kevin is up to other things right this second... - Jason Wehmhoener
Can someone help me find the link to create imaginary friend? - Krishnamoorthy
Holden, well that's their loss if they can't 'get it' - friendfeed is simple and IMHO if you can't 'get it' then that's your problem, not friendfeed's - Chris Heath
the Imaginary Friend function is now a part of Groups. for example, I created a private "group" with my wife's name and brought in all of her feeds since she's not on FriendFeed. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Ok, the imaginary friend thing is a different story. Awesome concept; but way too much work to add a bunch of users. - Ben Hanten
I think a good start would be to have a totally different "entry point" for setting up hiding rules. Also, defaults might need to be reconsidered. Is it the best to always start off by showing everything from a user? FF already asks you to select your "top five" feeds you want to show off in your profile... Could it make sense to only show stuff from people's top five by default, so one needs to opt-in to get any more of their feeds? - Meryn Stol
Perhaps a big, dedicated "mute Twitter" (though I'd prefer "Kill Twitter" ;)) button would also make sense. After all, Twitter is in itself responsible for most items - and thus most potential "noise" - on FriendFeed. - Meryn Stol
you can still quickly create an imaginary friend (as Sam said it's part of groups now) but if you don't want to choose the private group setting yourself just go here - Chris Heath
maybe i'm wrong and an imaginary friend is different than a private group, but the functionality seems the same - there was a discussion a few months ago about this: - Chris Heath
Chris, yep... good point. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Imaginary friends are easy to setup, but... you really should be able to do a whole batch of them. - Ben Hanten
Ben, it's rather janky, but my students have private Twitter accts for labs in my class that I read and interact with using the Imaginary Friends + private Groups feature. Plus, I have a nice archive of all student activity that I can search through. Not a great solution, but a good workaround for my extreme case. - Sam Harrelson from IM
there's a lot on the friendfeed roadmap, and i think that's one of the items... if you participate in the friendfeed feedback room you can get lots of answers to these types of questions - Chris Heath
Interesting topic. For me personally I use FF for reading rather than contributing or commenting, and via mobile more than the web, but I do agree the UI isn't the best. I would like a google reader or better still, a Feedly style interface. I want to know about what I haven't seen that's in my groups or feeds. And I want that simple and easy with no hidden features or maybe simple and expert interfaces. - Keith Bennett from BuddyFeed
It's not the UI that's keeping the mainstream from using the site. This is akin to asking why the mainstream has yet to discover the wonders of traditional message boards. Fact of the matter is most people don't have the desire (not to mention spare time) to continually engage with a stream full of random social media tidbits on a regular basis. But if that's your cup of tea, I think the UI is excellent for sharing, discovering, and keeping up with the real-time chatter. - Aviv
Kevin, it's pretty simple to get to your likes. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Has Kevin Fox responded to this thread? - Manuel Mas
Not sure he should -- seems like Robert made vicious and personal attack -- and a lack of response might be appropriate and classy. - Brian Sullivan
I certainly wouldn't join into this pile-on if I were Kevin. "Oh hey, I noticed you all were kicking me while I was trying to have a weekend, here I am now, go ahead for another round!" - Jason Wehmhoener
On the bright side, you know your service is about to hit mainstream when your biggest cheerleader starts to hate it (see Twitter). - Aviv
Aviv: nah, that's not a good predictor. - Robert Scoble
One thing I would like to know is, where is the link in friendfeed to the application key? I always have to search it from google. - Ru Viljoen
it's unnecessary to be brutally rude RB but these comments are valuable, we are expecting alot from 12 FF supergeeks, they cannot be perfect but they are incredibly good already. - Thomas Power
I think "hide" was perfectly designed. The user doesn't get smacked in the face immediately upon loading a page in friendfeed that resembles the control panel of an old fashioned telephone switchboard. One simple hide link, that the user will click when they want to hide something, that then asks what you want to hide. It's called not overwhelming the user with too much info at once, revealing it only as it becomes necessary. What would be the alternative? A whole row containing various types of hiding options always visible? That would overwhelm everyone with clutter and send all of us running for the hills. - April Russo (FForever!)
April: they can put a lot of functionality into "settings" that would also do the same thing as hide does today. Most people don't figure out that the hide link has extra functionality. - Robert Scoble
It's better than what facebook does, which is to hide their multi-function hide button, until you hover over the item. I'd rather have it the friendfeed way and at least know it's there by looking and not by having to play "find the invisible features" game by moving my mouse all over the page waiting for all the little facebook easter eggs to make themselves known. You have no idea how long it took me to even discover that facebook had a hide feature. I was being flooded with stupid mob wars and other app crap on my home feed, wishing facebook had a hide feature like friendfeed. - April Russo (FForever!)
And I don't understand how any twitter user could possibly not know that the timestamp is a permalink. Timestamps on twitter are permalinks too. Ok, the clicking again thing was a bit of an easter egg, but how else could you add a nifty little feature like that without adding any clutter? Even if you gave a full tutorial FAQ, how on earth could you present all these little extras in a way that doesn't overwhelm a newbie and make them run away without reading the huge FAQ? - April Russo (FForever!)
Missing the point, not about geeks vs non-geeks, even geeks disagree on UI issues,and it is dismissive and insulting to act as if mainstream is not geeky enough to understand crappy UI. My opinion matters, and it was not until a fellow geek, Scoble, brought it up that anyone acknowledged that there may be some UI issues. - Liza + = ?
I know of a site that has worse issues, for example, clicking the RSS icon on a page takes you to a forum thread with a gazillion posts explaining how to subscribe to the content you want, using all the custom crap they have. You basically have to learn how to build your own RSS url before you can subscribe. And don't click the "Mark" button on a forum thread there unless you want to see a popup menu with 9 options, some of them completely unrelated to others (bookmark, mark read/unread, set star rating, add to todo list to reply later) - April Russo (FForever!)
FF may be messing with affordances, but I don't see it as f*cling with them. I see it as an attempt to innovate. The 'nonintuitive' behavior is a bit of a PITA, but it adds richness to the app. It is also innovation in action. The most painful upshot of suck innovation ia the fet associated with playing with a UI's functionality - you might end up breaking something really important or deleting something valuable. Documentaionight help, but to expect docs on an app that changes so rapidly presents it's own challenges. - Jason Miller from iPhone
JCUnwired That is not helpful or constructive. Stick to one-sided debates. - Liza + = ?
Funny thing is though... I have used Excel and Word without ever reading a manual. Now I'm pretty ninja at both but never had any formal training. Neither has about 95% of the people I know how use it, yet everyone I know has worked it out enough to use it well. See, they have these things up the top like File, Edit etc that hold the functions. Those things are not always required and are hidden in there rather than having big buttons that take up real estate on the screen. I see FriendFeed as a application, a platform. To make it dead simple straight out the gate would mean making the UI to complicated once you get it. I don't NEED all the functionality once I get going. I agree better documentation would be good, but it's out there, just not in an official sense. The way I learnt much of how to use Office was by asking other people and discovery. People having been spouting how simple to use Twitter is...of course, it's friggin Notepad. In fact, you actually need third party apps to make it manageable. FriendFeed is an all in one package that doesn't need outside help to be functional so of course there is going to be a learning curve. If I hired an assistant to help me with typing some letters, they may find Notepad simple to use, but I much prefer them to learn the power of Office so I can be professional. - Johnny
Well put johnny - Mark from iPhone
Which social app has the best interface? Easy Facebook. - John Hardy
As far as I can tell "affordance" and "discoverability" are different ways of looking at the same concept. And I've been complaining about the timestamp thing for a long time. - Karl Knechtel
I've been complaining about FF's ease of use since I started using it. I'm glad there's some traction on it. ridiculous that the time stamp is not displayed as a (permanent) link. - jbrotherlove
Never mind that the timestamp isn't displayed as a link. The problem is that it makes no sense for the timestamp to be the thing that is clicked. - Karl Knechtel
I like it, its a nice gate. It keeps FF tech based. It keeps things relevant. Its an Acid Test. There are plenty of alternatives. And those alternatives that cater to everyone, are full of Blither Blather. If you pass the gate, and pass the Acid Test, you learn about the community and the discussion. With a robust Community and Discussion, Self Policing and Spammers are annihilated. Self Healing Robust System. - Robert Higgins
Apostol Apostolov, Ana ( ) has confirmed that they're on the issue of adding recipients and groups after posting an item about a month ago - - Chris Heath
I totally agree with Robert HIggins & Johnny Worthington's recent comments - Chris Heath
Robert, thanks for your thoughts. Three quick responses: affordances aren't something that someone fucks with, they're something that a designer gives to a design and it's fine to say that you don't think I'm designing a product with proper affordances or strong enough affordances, but the implication that I fucked them up is that I took the gestalt natural affordances of something and broke them. I'll go out on a idelogial limb here and posit that there's no such thing as a 'natural affordance' but that instead all affordances are imbued, explicitly or through iteration, by the designer. - Kevin Fox
The above distinction is important because the argument then becomes one of whether or not FriendFeed has been imbued with proper affordances or not. Now naturally the answer varies from person to person, as it does with any UI for any product. FriendFeed is trying to balance functionality with simplicity and, as is the case for any product with that task, any point on the spectrum could be criticized for either hiding too much of the complexity or showing too much, even at the same by different people. - Kevin Fox
So the strategy then becomes, as has been mentioned here, one of making the simple things easy and the complex things possible. The most common tactic to enable that strategy, and one we rely upon a lot at FriendFeed, is that of progressive disclosure. This works for some people and not for others, but it's usually an excellent way to make a UI that's not intimidating to a new user, and smooth out the learning curve so that by using basic features like 'hide' they're gradually exposed to more powerful and complex features at the right time, when they're more confident with the product and are ready to take it to the next level. - Kevin Fox
As for the timestamp also acting as the permalink: Well, you're absolutely right. This is a completely improper affordance that only makes sense if you happen to be familiar with blogs that use the same convention. Fixing this (with something less heavy-handed than a link that says 'link' or 'permalink' or (gasp) an icon of two links in a chain) is high on our list and I want to fold it in with several other pieces of functionality (such as the pop-out version that you get if you (cringe) click on the timestamp, and then click on the timestamp of the *next page*. - Kevin Fox
When we get that worked out in a way we're happy with then we'll roll it out. Until then, it's also important to consider user confidence, and that tweaking a UI too often when trying to find the right answer makes users less comfortable with the design and their ability to manipulate it, even if they don't consciously notice any change. For this reason a few things stay rough a little longer until we have what we think is the right answer, not just a stopgap one. - Kevin Fox
As always, thanks for the feedback, and for trying to make FriendFeed a better place. - Kevin Fox
Wow - Bwana ☠
Wow. +500 xp to Kevin. - Sam Harrelson
Kevin I love you because you explain why you are messing with the affordances! :-) - Robert Scoble from iPhone
Doesn't sound like they're ignoring it to me, Robert :) - Bwana ☠
Bwana: me neither! Glad Kevin explained. - Robert Scoble from iPhone
I'm liking this article simply because of Kevin's explanation of why things are the way they are here on friendfeed. He knocked that one out of the park. - Scoble, Alex Scoble
Kevins camp. In Japanese there is one word for beauty. Kirei. Actually, it is the same word for Clean Kirei. 奇麗 FF for me is clean and beautiful. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" Leonardo daVinci - Robert Higgins
So if we're going to change the time stamp from being a permalink, can we use it to sort posts chronologically? That is the one affordance no one can discover. - Andrew Smith
I didn't read the full thread, but reading the top and (what is at this point) the bottom really helps me understand what the UI people do. Thanks Robert and Kevin! - Andrew
Big props to Kevin Fox. - Sameer
Kevin rocks. Even on a Sunday night. They pay me to say stuff like that at work. The thought of having to step up to the plate anytime 24/7 with that level of professionalism is daunting, to say the least. So yah, big props to Kevin Fox. - Jason Wehmhoener
I actually like the current UI. I like the feature set. I agree it DOES need a more intuitive and quicker way to know about and learn the deeper features. - George Hall (Australia)
There is something to be said for having the conversation first - then Kevin calmly explaining his pts. It gives others a chance to respond honestly, and then Kevin gets far more valuable feedback. Selifishly, I also like the fact that I can see others' views - many who did not address UI issues but showed a defensive sense of entitlement (see Louis's chart on new adopters)...Robert, thanks for taking it mainstream, b/c I have tried, others have tried, but it took this stream to get users to engage. The winners are those who learn from each other, the losers are those who don't bother to listen. - Liza + = ?
Great responses Kevin. For the record, I'm a fan of the "progressive disclosure" approach. - Mike Doeff from iPhone
Really great points, Robert. I've learned some things because of this discussion. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. - Brian Adrian
One answer to Kevin. Blogs, since the beginning of when I started to use them used the "permalink" or "#" convention. I guess the thing is that in FriendFeed the CSS here is hiding the blue underline, so people don't know that the time stamp is a link. It's tough designing for the web, I know. That's why I don't do it. At least very often. :-) - Robert Scoble
Twitter uses a time stamp as a perma-link as well. </fuel to fire> - Bwana ☠
Yeah. I just tweeted about that myself. </more fuel to fire> - Dennis Jernberg
Fascinating. Didn't know about the timestamp as permalink, but I didn't suffer from unnatural affordance issues prior to reading this discussion either. Not an ubergeek, but I don't suffer. So, maybe FF is not "above the heads" of the average, but merely yields enough at any level to meet whatever the particular need might be, wacky affordances or not. And people who avoid it because it is "too hard" need to toughen up a bit. This is 2009 and the Internet, after all. - Martha
Also, the "Share" link exposes the permalink as well which I think was a great addition to alleviate the time stamp confusion. - Bwana ☠
Wow. How did Kevin get those 5 paragraphs contiguously posted? Copy-paste-post. Copy-paste-post? Or is there some other secret weapon not yet released? - Nick in Manila
Nick - I'd bet 1000 gil on Notepad/Textedit :) - Bwana ☠
I'm waiting for the twitter theme for friendfeed, to show people exactly how easy FF is to use considering its features and exactly how braindead twitter's UI is. - Andy Bakun
Nick & Bwana: Textedit and copy/paste/post. As I was c/p/p-ing I thought about how I could make a tool using the API to allow for this kind of thing, then envisioned how that would break FriendFeed and banished the thought. (and then I just commented about it anyhow. Oh what have I wrought? I am become death, destroyer of words.) - Kevin Fox
Bwana: hey, at least FriendFeed's designer listens and answers back. That might get more mud thrown his way, but a whole lot of love too. Personally Twitter's design isn't very good, but everyone thinks it is because it doesn't have many features so they perceive that as simplicity. I perceive it as inferior but that really pisses off the Twitter types and they start arguing with me about stuff like the above. - Robert Scoble
Robert - I was just thinking that. We would NEVER get this kind of interaction with a Twitter dev on a work day. - Bwana ☠
Part of me knew Kevin would address this at some point. It was merely a matter of when. - Bwana ☠
I hope this thread/conversation doesn't end any time soon, either here on this post or elsewhere. I want FF to be the best it can. - phil baumann
I think FF is waaaaaay easier to use than Twitter and recently started using FF to follow my twitter feeds. Images and videos are inline and comments are threaded (no silly @ replies). I only wish more of my friends were on it!! (also, it would be nice if comments were formatted with the commenters name first which seems to be the convention on most sites i.e. "May: blah blah blah"). - May
To go back to the top a little bit: does anyone think it ISN'T weird that not all the links on FF are blue? Not just the time stamp: the service your content was imported from, your name at the top of your profile, and the time stamp are all non-blue links. Is there a logical reason for those inconsistencies? I've never understood that. - Andrew
Awesome explanation by Kevin. I happen to love FF's progressive disclosure. I think the 'hide' feature is a great example of this. You could argue that they might make the second stage a bit more obvious, but it's still a lot better than a huge drop down menu at the start. - Ben Reierson
Even Twitter has a ramp up time. It took me about a month of working it to get comfortable with it. Only slightly longer than it took me with Twitter. And it is light years better in most every way. I agree with Robert's desire to enforce change through public criticism, but I think it important to keep it in perspective: FF is generally a better experience on all fronts. Kudos to Kevin Fox and the rest of the team. I feel confident they are more than capable of seeing issues and resolving them. - Martha
i never really had a problem with that Andrew, and I never had the problem with the permalink either... if your mouse changes from pointer to finger, then it's a link and you can see the destination in the status bar - Chris Heath
Andrew: I actually hate blue underlines. Designers have hated that affordance for years. They look ugly. They make text harder to read. I'm in Kevin Fox's camp on that one. Get rid of underlines! Just make affordances that people can figure out without being told about (like clicking twice on hide or clicking twice on the time stamps). - Robert Scoble
robert, i don't get your clicking twice on hide problem... hide seems fine, and while i don't use it much i don't recall clicking twice, like with the timestamp - Chris Heath
Chris: normal people don't mouse over every word in a UI to discover whether there is a secret link there. Also, explain how hovering over "hide" would tell a user that there's different functionality there if you click twice on that word? - Robert Scoble
Chris: if you click twice on the word "hide" you will get different UI that will give you different choices. If you click twice on the time stamp you will get a popout window. Not intuitive at all. - Robert Scoble
when i click hide i get an undo and hide options links, that seems the correct UI - i agree with you on the timestamp, but the hide thing isn't the same - Chris Heath
Chris: Hide does act differently, I agree, but most people, in my experience, don't look at the second page because they don't expect to see more options. Remember 99% of people never click on Google's Advanced Options. Do you REALLY expect people to click twice on Hide? I don't. And even if they did, shouldn't those features be in settings too? Where people expect to find them? - Robert Scoble
i don't buy your beef w/ hide, but i agree on the timestamp - i also agree with you on not having to hover everything to see if it's click-able and also don't like underlining, so there needs to be some other visual cue of the link/feature - Chris Heath
sometimes features do need to be learned/taught and everything can't be intuitive... i think we might be overshooting our ideals for usability. remember the days of three ring binders and books and manuals for using any given system or software package? we've come a long way, but users do have to learn some things. i think friendfeed has done a good job of making the site usable for the n00b, but also keeping it clean and simple for power users... it is a fine line and they cater more toward the power user now, but that doesn't take away from the initial usefulness yet allows for you to add on functionality as you find/learn it. - Chris Heath
Given a top complaint about FriendFeed is too much noise, Hide needs to be more intuitive. - Bwana ☠
Since I still get the dumb blonde / not techie treatment from many, I am going to go w/ it and say that even I figured out hide early on. The timestamp stuff was news to me. - Liza + = ?
I'd wager at least half of FriendFeed doesn't know about the second page of hide options. I've had to explain it countless times and a ton of people didn't even know you could selectively hide services based on comment/like behavior, etc - Bwana ☠
Kevin, Thanks for listening and major props for taking your time to listen to constructive critisicm. - Jack Wilson, K4SAC
9/10 of the folks that use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc don't know all the features and functions. Having every single function be completely intuitive and/or labeled is not needed for mainstream acceptance or usage if that's what we're all worried about here. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Every single function, I agree. Hide, needs to be more intuitive. - Bwana ☠
Bwana, I agree as a power-user, but how many folks would actually use "Hide"? It's an edge-case function that will/would never catch on with the mainstream. I just don't get these complaints. - Sam Harrelson from IM
Sam: you're right. But I didn't get this kind of pushback when I evangelized Twitter and Facebook had many more hooks to get people into their system than FriendFeed does (and keep them there) and even Facebook doesn't have a lot of the weird affordances that FriendFeed does even though it's more complex. The complaints I get consistently on FriendFeed (a lot of which have to do with seeing too many things that they don't want to see, like people who they didn't follow, but also I keep getting complaints that FF is too hard, as seen above) tell me it isn't what it could be. Glad to see that Kevin agrees. - Robert Scoble
Oh, and the number of comments here tells me a lot of people feel very passionately about FriendFeed and want it to be better, even if they are telling me I'm full of it. - Robert Scoble
The complaint is noise. There's too much. There's too many duplicates. I don't want to see "X". These are complaints I see and answer often. The solution is hide and they don't know about them. It's not a power user function imho. - Bwana ☠
FF lost a lot of users during the initial launch because people didn't know about or want to properly hide unwanted stuff. - Bwana ☠
"FriendFeed is full of baby photos" Classic complaint. Solved by hide. - Bwana ☠
It's always the user's fault. Always. - Rahsheen
Robert, I got on Twitter around Thanksgiving of '06 b/c of your evangelicalism (thank you/curse you btw!). But the concept there was/is much more easy to grok. Of course folks are going to think FF is hard b/c it is hard. But to bastardize JFK, "we choose to go to the moon and do these other things in this decade not b/c they are easy but b/c they are hard!" - Sam Harrelson from IM
friendfeed isn't hard...unless you think a blank piece of paper is hard. - Scoble, Alex Scoble
Depends on your definition of hard. Some people think complicated or inconvenient is hard. - Bwana ☠
Alex, have you ever written a book for a publisher that loaned you money and expects the money back? A blank piece of paper is incredibly hard! - Sam Harrelson
Look at lists. Very powerful tool of FriendFeed, but for some, it's too much work. Some may call it hard, some may call it.... too much work :) - Bwana ☠
Sam: but this blank piece of paper can write itself thanks to the integration with other sites :) - Andrew
I know in the apps I've tested, if the UI was difficult for the end user, they would avoid using it. - Bwana ☠
Andrew, you are completely right. Good point. I'm thinking from a contributing point of view (b/c I'm a teacher and I always want to influence, etc) but you're right. - Sam Harrelson
Alex: is blank paper sort of like a blank Wordpress entry screen? I get it then. - Robert Scoble
Seeing a real-time stream of the full conversation is highly desirable and one of the best features of the service. I design and use software all the time and didn't know about the time stamp link until someone told me about it. Robert is doing them (another) favor by using controversial language to bring attention to the issue. I bet we see an update in a week or two and the service will be better for it. - Chip Ramsey
I can see it now: if entry["from"]["id"] == "scobelizer": theme = "lots-o-links" - DGentry
either that, or entry["body"] = pigLatinize(entry["body"]) - DGentry
Wow ... Great dialog. Kudos to Kevin for his comments! I have demo'd Friendfeed for more people than I can count. Most of the issue has to do with people's time vs value (or just fun). Is it harder than Facebook? NO! Nobody says you have to use it all and 9 out of 10 people I've demo'd Facebook for have NO IDEA what a permission is (Think about that ... and the defaults?!). Twitter has oversimplified things. When the FF crew thinks the 'product' is ready and the word really gets out, there's no doubt in this guys mind that it'll be everywhere (plus .. ugh ... there's always the Feedback Group ... It's still there). - Charlie Anzman
Then ... The Friendfeed Browser and OS! - Charlie Anzman
Robert, given Kevin's responses, you might want to edit/tweak the Original Post/headline. I wish there was a way to promote the comments so they were 'pinned' to the OP - Aaman (Clone of FF)
Aaman: what's an OP? The headline? - Robert Scoble
Yes, the Original Post - I wasn't familiar with the term myself, and saw it first on this very thread, then googled it. (It can also mean Original Poster) - Aaman (Clone of FF)
Glen: I'm not scared of feeling dumb. I feel dumb every day given the quality of the people I hang out with. - Robert Scoble
@Kevin: wondering if there could be a link that would take you to a page that would show what features have been added, disabled, or removed. - Harold
Matthew: you make sense. I've locked the comments here so you can see Kevin Fox's reply without digging back too far. - Robert Scoble