Opinion » Cybernaut

Timeline — a reason to switch to Google+?


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I've never been one to complain (too much) about Facebook's frequent user interface updates — most of them have been annoying at best and after a few minutes to orient yourself you can generally figure out where everything is and get used to it. Not so with Timeline, the new interface that displays your information — posts, links, pictures, videos — chronologically instead of in the familiar list. Some of it anyway.

I have a few design objections, from the oversized photo in the header to the way your eyes are unnaturally pulled left and right to read posts instead of guided gently downwards in the way we're all used to.

My main issue is the fact that I can't seem to find anything — even links that I know were there a few days ago before the person made the switch. I'm sure if I dug down I'd find the link, and if I commented on those links I can usually find them again in Notifications, but if anything Timeline appears to bury as much information as it shares. Timeline, in a nutshell, replaces your Wall.

Facebook is phasing in Timeline gradually — right now it's in beta testing and only available as an option. It does have its fans and a lot of people have made some pretty cool Timelines for themselves and their businesses.

But it's just not how I use Facebook or see myself using it in the future. I rarely add photos or post videos and probably only update my status every week or so. It's great for communicating with friends and family members and learning about things like babies being born and birthdays coming. It's great for being invited to things. I also use it for work, and Facebook — with 900 million members — is a great way to find people that move around a lot or haven't had a landline in 10 years.

I don't spend a lot of time fussing over the appearance of my page, which is what Timeline requires if you want it to look half decent.

I spend 99 per cent of my time reading status updates and a small amount of time on pages for people, groups and events. I spend next to no time on my own profile, and other than a few status updates there really isn't much there to interest anyone.

At this stage I really don't know if Timeline will be the straw that breaks this camel's back and sends me running to the best alternative right now, which is Google+ — until more of my friends, co-workers and family members make the migration to Google's social network it's a pretty tough sell, even if it is pretty good. The "Circles" feature is just one example of a superior feature, letting you group your contacts in different ways to ensure that people you work with don't see posts that are intended for friends, and so on.

Some reviewers have said that they don't like Timeline enough to stick with Facebook, while one article on HubPages suggests that the only purpose it serves is to increase ad revenue by making it easier to Graph Rank your interests and activities. According to the writer, "Graph Rank" is the algorithm that "determines what events are important to advertisers at any particular time.

Post a song, bam, it is on the front page and will stay there. So will your pictures and maybe your status, but probably not too many of them.

Facebook Timeline needs to make room for your interests that appeal to advertisers rather than your interactions with your friends.

And, all the negatives aside, there are a lot of people out there who like Timeline and recommend making the switch.

They like the title image and the way the layout lets you present the details of your life you think are most important — as well as the ability to present photos chronologically, going back in time as well as going forward. They like the way you can post important events that straddle both columns and give them higher priority, as well as the ability to hide items within your Timeline.

In the end, it's all about choice.

At least until it isn't a choice any longer.

Bill C-30 flap is growing

A bill that would give the police the ability to snoop through your private information without requesting a warrant has drawn a lot of fire recently, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's didn't do Bill C-30 any favours by suggesting that the only people who should worry were those trafficking child pornography.

In response, the international hacker group Anonymous has targetted Toews and a Twitter account called Vikileaks surfaced that shared details about Toews divorce.

Circus aside, Bill C-30 does bear watching — including a provision that allows the police to request information regarding people from ISPs without a warrant.

The ISPs don't have to comply, and it's a good bet they won't unless there's a life and death reason like the abduction of a child or the case concerns them directly. For more, visit www.michaelgeist.ca.


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