02 February 2012

Open Graph apps on Facebook: more than music and videos

After the announcement some half a year ago, January saw the introduction on even more Open Graph apps on and impressive figures about the engagement with the original launch partners, especially Spotify. I’m still very weary of the idea of sharing everything you do on Facebook, from music to food to every article you happen to click on; it’s not just that I don’t want to deal with the noise from others, but I feel most of this isn’t at all relevant, neither for my friends, nor for me on the longer run. Let’s not forget all this activity from frictionless sharing is stored in your Facebook Timeline and theoretically accessible years from now. The only Open Graph app I don’t find creepy so far is Goodreads; and that’s mainly because it’s avoiding both of these caveats: since I don’t usually read more than one book per week there will be a very low noise level for others. Also, picking up a book is not something you do casually, it requires a longer time commitment and conscientious effort, much more so than playing 3-minutes long songs that can simply pop up automatically from a playlist. And, as such, the reading habits will tell you much more about that person than the stream of music she or he plays and will stay relevant for far longer.

Facebook update from Open Graph app in the TimelineAs with any app, it’s probably a good idea to check the privacy settings to insure random people don’t get access to your intimate tastes – or to make them all public, if you prefer. You can find them under ‘Account settings’ ► ‘Apps’; there you can specify the default visibility for individual apps. While Open Graph updates are normally clustered together as a ‘recent activity’ box on the Timeline, you get additional finer-grained control over the display in the ‘Activity log’: filter the updates by app from the top-right drop-down menu, then click on the empty grey circle on the right side to either hide stories from the timeline or ‘show’ them, effectively making them stand out on their own as a regular status update.

But, in the usual Facebook fashion, they ignored some of the fine details when building the interface. About the same time they introduced the frictionless sharing, Facebook also added the ability for users to choose the types of updates they receive in the news feed, on a list or from a friend. Naturally, content generated by Open Graph apps had to have a separate category, but the labeling is misleading, if you ask me: ‘Music and videos’. First of all, even if the majority of content is probably generated by music sharing, there are lots of other apps that have nothing to do with music, so users won’t expect those updates to disappear. The name also introduces the expectation that you can hide videos this way, which is not the case because Facebook treats those as links to a website, rather than the video content to which they point. Hopefully with more Open Graph apps and increasing variety someone at Facebook will find a more transparent way to integrate them with the filter controls.Facebook update from Open Graph app in top feed

Facebook minimize TickerOn a related note, I noticed yesterday that the infamous ticker, introduced precisely so you won’t miss real-time updates from frictionless sharing, can now be hidden; there’s a small button on the top right side to toggle it on and off. Another addition to the ticker – not sure if that’s new, I only saw it now after using Goodreads more often and inviting some friends to join – is a button to view the full update. In case of Goodreads it leads back to the site; I suspect this button is only active when both the originator and the viewer it are using the app together, to increase the interaction between them.

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