Returning to Facebook

About a year ago I decided to leave Facebook for three primary reasons.

  • Privacy issues.
  • I was getting less out of the network than I was putting in.
  • Trivializing human interaction.

Through the month of October and November I’m going to re-explore those points. Perhaps the way I feel about them will have changed. While I don’t think I’ll ever fully come to terms with their privacy settings and policies, it’s hard to remain critical of a product I haven’t tried in a year.

Around last year, I felt like I was posting into a black hole; content and statuses in, nothing out; nothing about it felt social. I was also in immediate contact with many of my friends on a day to day basis. Today those friends are scattered across the country and globe. I return to Facebook to give their mission statement a second chance.

…give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Sharing is not what concerns me, and my Twitter feed is pretty open. It’s that I’ve been feeling disconnected, let’s see if/how/why or why not Facebook alleviates that.

Making of FiveTimer for Android

I had just come back from Iceland and a summer of otherwise developing an Android app for the trip. With all the design and programming paradigms still in my head I decided I should try to make another one. I’ve always wanted to port FiveTimer from iOS to Android, but the time or opportunity never presented themselves. I decided to undertake it as soon as I got back.

That was about 15 days ago. The whole process took just over two weeks! Rather than taking everything over at once or at random, it was broken down by most to least essential. Wunderlist was a huge help in doing this breakdown, in the end FiveTimer was 44 discrete tasks.

By the first week I had a basic timer that had some scramblers. At the middle of second week I had more scramblers, a statistics viewer, a timer with 15 second countdown, and hold to start. In the last few days I was scrambling to make sure that the app looked decent in all screen sizes and the 3×3 and Square-1 scrambles didn’t make the UI hang too much (threads are cool).

Through this whole process I was uploading a .APK to my site for a few beta testers to give me feedback on. Without whom the initial release of FiveTimer would be pretty sub-mediocre. A small localization error for example would crash the app whenever the timer was stopped, this was due to the time strings being formatted with a comma instead of a period, never would have caught that one on my own. A huge hand goes to the beta testers.

In the final weekend I noticed how much my table was flexing when I would slam the cube down as if I was on a stackmat. It struck me then that why should we be touching the screen to stop the timer at all? Drop to stop was implemented, and then with a sensitivity slider a day later. It was a “why haven’t we been doing this the whole time” kind of moments.

Even when the app went into production there were still changes to be made and bugs to squash. An “add time” button was a welcomed addition for example. FiveTimer for Android is actually well ahead of its iOS counterpart right now and I intend to carry over the add time and drop to stop, let me just do a few solves first.

Deleting Facebook

Most people know about deactivating Facebook (and my experience without it). What they don’t know is how to permanently delete it. On a help page, hidden away, they provide a link to delete all of your Facebook data if it’s been deactivated for a few weeks. The other day I decided to take that plunge and totally get off Facebook. I started by downloading all of my data with their archiving tool, and then using a third party tool to download all the photos I’m tagged in. Everything was all squared away, then, several things happened, making me almost forgetting why I was there.

I have a friend studying abroad in London and having not talked to her for a while I struck up a small chat with her. The value of spontaneously communicating with a far off friend is invigorating, needless to say it was probably the last thing I expected to do when I woke up that morning. Suddenly I never wanted to leave Facebook again, the interaction was invaluable. While chatting away and browsing idly between messages something else happened.
I was bombarded by dozens of statuses and posted pictures on the Facebook wall. Not necessarily just from people I haven’t seen in a long time, but people I recently broke up with, and even people I saw just yesterday. All this struck up a totally different flurry of emotions; not good feelings, a feeling that my life was not as great as theirs. The statuses were written in a voice that did not sound like the friend I actually associate with, there’s more bragging and facaded voices, never negative. Then, in the pictures everyone was smiling and having fun parties, which I would never have been aware of otherwise. I didn’t like any of it.

Again, the only thing saving this experience was the conversation with the friend I was involved with. It was still the best set of words I have exchanged recently. As the conversation was coming to a close I decided not to permanently delete my data, just deactivate my account again (redeactivate?). I definitely still do not like Facebook, there will hopefully be a day when I can delete everything, by that time Facebook will be yesterday’s MySpace and I won’t lose too many contacts. Today even though I’m not on Facebook, it’s where at a moment’s notice, all my friends are available for conversation, among other things.