How to Switch to the New Facebook Timeline Profile


UPDATE: Facebook has officially released Timeline. You can now activate it simply by visiting facebook.com/timeline and clicking "Get Timeline."

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In case you haven't heard by now, Facebook is totally revamping its user profiles. The new profile will basically serve as a life-timeline, allowing you or anyone else to easily flip back through your life chronologically.

Previously, if you wanted to remember some experiences you had in May of 2009, you'd have to go look up your notes from that month, and then find the photo album you had created. I'm not sure how you would even locate your status updates. Now, you just navigate to that month and all of the top content can be found in one spot.

I am pretty excited about the changes. It may actually get me to use Facebook a bit more, something I rarely do now.

The new profiles aren't active just yet, but there's a way to change your profile over early. I've got the instructions below, and I've already switched mine, so you can check it out to see the new features, although some of them might be missing if we're not friends on Facebook.

How to Switch to New Facebook Timeline Profile Instructions

  • Search for "Developer" and navigate to Developer page.
  • Click "Create New App."
  • Create an app. It doesn't matter what you call it.
  • Once on your app's page, click "Open Graph" in the left-hand sidebar.
  • Fill out the two form fields and click "Get Started." Again, it doesn't matter what you call them.
  • When the next page loads, scroll to the bottom and click "Save Changes and Next." Do this again two more times.
  • Navigate to your profile page.
  • Click "Activate new Profile" or whatever that button at the top is.

Thanks to Kyle Reed for alerting me to the video.

What do you think of the new profile?

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The Cons of Social Networking?

Earlier today Ed Stetzer, the President of Lifeway Research, wrote a blog post entitled “The Pros and Cons of Social Networking.” While I agree with his pros (and would probably add in a few of my own), many of his cons strike me the wrong way. I’ll dive right in. (Bolded and italicized content is Ed’s, emphasis mine.)

  • When Twitter friends ask me to promote their product on my blog or Twitter.
    Stop it.

    Sometimes people ask you to do something for them on Twitter. You’re free to take a look at the product/service and accept or deny their request. You can also ignore all of these entirely. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. If all someone ever does is self-promotion, that’s pretty frustrating, but if someone asks for something once (or every once in a while), I don’t have a problem with that, especially if it’s someone who dialogues with me regularly on other issues. In fact, Guy Kawasaki just wrote a post on using Twitter as a promotional tool, and he says the exact opposite:

    Ask for help. Don’t be shy about asking people on Twitter to spread the word for you. If they like what you do, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s as simple and transparent as that. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for some of us), most people don’t have the chutzpah to ask for help.

  • When conferences ask me to promote their conference on my blog.
    Stop it.

    See Above

  • When people want to argue with me through Twitter.
    Here’s how it goes down: “Do you really think it is right for LifeWay to not sell this or that product?” Yes, let me think, could I have the privilege of debating you about this while 2000 people watch and we put our thoughts into 140 character Tweets? Genius.

    I realize that Twitter is not always the best forum for debate, and that some issues are best not discussed quite this publicly, especially in a format that removes a great deal of nuance. I think I know the issue Ed has in mind (although I obviously could be wrong about that), and it is a sensitive one.

    I do need to mention that before publishing this post I got in touch with Ed. I always want to be careful when being critical. He happily gave me the go ahead to post this criticism, so it would certainly be unfair to say that he’s unwilling to deal with criticism, but rather that he particularly dislikes Twitter for this type of dialogue. When I initially read this point, it seemed to be a repudiation of all public criticism or questioning online.

    That said, I think we can only expect that just as our Twitter followers will say things like “Hey great decision!” or “Loved your blog post on missions!”, they will also actively disagree with and question us as well. We’re free not to engage them if we so choose, but just like in the real world, people are going to express their opinions on social networks.

  • When people do drive by questions.
    For example, I tweet, “Going to be in Chicago for a week teaching at TEDS.” My next tweet is, “Just landed in snowy Chicago.” Then, I get two replies, “Ed, how long will you be in Chicago?” Three words people: READ THE FEED. It’s not as violent as a drive-by shooting, but it’s just as impolite.

    I’m not sure about comparing a drive-by tweeting to a drive-by shooting, but regardless, it’s tough to follow everyone’s complete twitter feed. While I don’t follow as many people as Ed, I do have a few hundred, far too many for me to read every update or visit every profile. Yes, I usually visit the profile before asking this type of question, but if you tweeted about going to Chicago two hours ago, and I sign into Twitter just in time for your “Just landed in snowy Chicago” tweet, then I might ask what you’re doing there. It’s fine if you don’t want to answer. (Although continually ignoring people’s questions on Twitter is rude. Note that I’m not saying Ed does this. He responded to my inquiry.)

  • When people try to discuss blog posts via direct message on Twitter.
    Look, if I wanted to have a private chat about it I would not have posted it on the blog.

    I’m not a big fan of DMs either, but it’s not that big of a deal. (Yes this is serving as notice to my Twitter followers that I prefer to discuss things in the open unless they really are private. Had a lengthy conversation [for Twitter] last night, parts of which were better left for DM.)

  • When people ask me random questions via Twitter.
    “Ed, we have 300 people in our church. How many students should we have in our youth group?” My name is Ed, not “google.” And, that has a lot to do with your community, by the way.

    People are following you and interacting with you because they value your opinion. If they wanted random information on youth groups, they would Google it. They’re asking Ed Stetzer because they want Ed Stetzer’s opinion. If you’ve already answered that question somewhere online or in a book, you can kindly refer them there or simply tell them to search for that content.

    Although, Ed is right that certain questions can’t be answered without context, his youth group example being one. My church of ~1250 as a youth group of around 6. Then again, the average age is something like 27, and I’m glad most people in our congregation didn’t have kids at 15! So I agree, think before asking.

  • When Facebook friends ask me my email address.
    Look– if we are friends, it is right there. This is almost like someone calling me up on my cellphone to ask what my area code is. *sigh*

    Okay, this one I completely agree with. If my e-mail address is on my Info page, then you don’t need to ask me for it. Don’t be lazy.

  • When Facebook friends invite me to an “event” they should know I cannot attend.
    If it’s not a real event, I don’t want to “attend.” If it is a real event and it’s out of state– it’s irrelevant to me.

    When it comes to non-real events, people may not know that you don’t want to “attend.” It’s easy enough to ignore these or simply decline. Yes, if I obviously can’t be there (and it’s not a significant enough event that people would travel for it), then don’t invite me.

  • When people invite me to join their “cause.”
    I am not joining your crusade for or against the “new facebook,” the “reason for the season,” or anything else. You aren’t going to change hearts and minds and overcome the evil one with what amounts to an electronic petition that no one cares about.

    Fair enough, you don’t like it, some do.

  • When people invite me to play some kind of a Facebook game.
    Look– you may enjoy Dungeons and Dragons but I don’t want to play it with you at this stage in my life. I’m not networking here to see your magic castle, become your squire, or fight your mob war. Just sayin’

    Once again, a personal preference (one that I share). I recommend the “Block” feature for most Facebook apps. That way you won’t get that one again. A side note, if you want to play Scrabble or Boggle with me, I might be up for that! But I’m not going to zombie bite anyone.

Ed obviously has a bigger influence than I do online and a MUCH bigger influence offline. I’m sure he is bombarded with far more questions and requests than I am. On the other hand, it seems unreasonable to expect people to only interact with you on your terms.

I suppose the tone of this post is more what I take issue with. It doesn’t seem to be just a listing of things that are/could be frustrating about social networks. It’s not a kind ask for people to stop doing these things. It seems to be a series of complaints about people not acting the way you want them to, and most of the things listed aren’t inherently rude. I don’t always like the way people interact with me online, but that doesn’t make them wrong.

I don’t mind if people ask me to help them promote something. If I like it, I will; if not, I won’t. If you want to ask me my opinion, go ahead. I may or may not have a good answer. Don’t ask me a factual question that Google answers in the first result, but if you want my take on something, go for it. Social networks are communities. Communities are full of people. People dialogue with other people. People ask people questions.

I hope that I have not been overly critical in this post. I suppose that I am not giving Mr. Stetzer the benefit of the doubt at most points, but the way his post is written it doesn’t seem that he is giving his online community that either. Perhaps I misunderstood and there was more humor intended in his post than I give him credit for.

What are your thoughts about social networking etiquette?

Facebook Changes Political Affiliation

Just a quick note to say that Facebook has changed their political description field from one of ideology (liberal, moderate, conservative) to one of party (Democrat, Republican, Green, et cetera). As a Democrat, this doesn’t matter much to me, but there are those who aren’t very happy with the current parties and would rather identify themselves with an ideology than a party. Since I’m not all that invested in this debate myself, I’ll leave the details of this discussion to others.

Social Notworking

Okay, so “notworking” is far too strong of a term, but I couldn’t resist the catchy title. TechPresident recently did a brief review of Hillary Clinton’s new Facebook app, mentioning that it’s pretty good but that it came around a bit late. This got me thinking about Obama’s Facebook app and the my.barackobama.com social network. Obama’s new media staff has done an excellent job of leveraging the Internet (or the Interwebs as some of us prefer), making it one of the driving forces behind the Obama campaign. However, the excitement over this new type of campaigning aside, I have two critiques of areas that I think could be improved upon.

The Obama Facebook application is very robust… once you actually go to the application’s canvass page. However, I would bet that the most important part of most applications, this one included, is the profile box. It is what my friends see when they come to my profile, and this is the part of the application that I deal with most often. I’ve only visited the canvass page a handful of times. When I want to interact with Obama content, I go to the Obama website or to Digg. When I’m on Facebook, I go to my profile, my friends’ profiles, and my feed.

Unfortunately, the profile box for the application is very limited. Currently, all it has is a thumbnail from a video about Obama’s win in the Maine caucuses. That happened over two weeks ago (an eternity on the Interwebs), and four states plus DC have held primaries since then. This space might be better used by feeding it content from a variety of sources like the Obama Digg account (get me to vote for stuff), the campaign blog (keep me up to date with what’s going on), or YouTube (show me one of those amazing speeches). This could be done automatically through a simple RSS aggregator like SimplePie. Alternatively, it could show me the latest actions that my friends have taken in the Obama application, like which stories they’ve voted for or commented on.

My point is that even though I am an avid Facebooker, I rarely get beyond an app’s profile box, and I’m guessing the same is true for many others.

As for the my.barackobama.com social network, my only suggestion is that they make it easier to find friends. Right now you can search by zip code, common groups, and name, but these are only helpful for finding Obama supporters near me (want to guess how many there are in Washington DC) or if I take the time to enter each of my friend’s names (not going to happen, too many friends). Consequently, I only have one friend on my Obama account, even though I live and work in the most politically active city in the U.S. In short, they need to implement a friend finder that searches e-mail contacts, much like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, et cetera all have.

Again, these are relatively minor critiques, but I think they are important ones (especially the friend finder). On the whole, the Obama new media team has done an amazing job. I don’t think anyone predicted that online politics would be at this stage at this point in time.

Facebook Confuses Me

No, no, I know what Facebook is, and I consider myself pretty adept at using it. Facebook the company confuses me. More specifically, Facebook’s designers confuse me.

I suppose the thing that baffles me most is that they don’t utilize the full width of a 1024×768 screen. Their current design creates just a bit of horizontal scrolling on an 800×600 screen. The simple addition of an extra column where applications could reside would alleviate most of problems with overly cluttered profiles. Even all of the empty space underneath the ad in the left-most column could be used for this.

Instead, Facebook’s designers are leaning towards a multi-tabbed layout that would effectively hide a great deal of the information available on a profile. I have quite a few applications installed, but I have them there because I want to paint a picture of my online and offline activity for my friends. I’d prefer this picture not be hidden. I am an active Internet user, so I have the Del.icio.us and Digg applications on my profile. I have a YouTube video player so that my friends can see some of the videos I produce for work. I have the notes app configured to import my blog posts, a posted items box, et cetera. I’ve got the Obama application installed, which is fairly important to me considering I’ve spent a couple of weekends in other states volunteering for the Obama campaign. In other words, my profile is not just a random collection of crap but a carefully crafted picture of my life, both personal and professional, online and off.

I would love to have the tools to make this picture sharper and more focused, but I don’t want to be told what can and cannot be a part of the picture, what is and is not important. I’m not looking for a MySpace like experience. I don’t need to be able to style my profile any way I want. I prefer a simple, orderly layout, but I most definitely want to be able to choose the content that fills this layout.

I know this sounds like I don’t like Facebook. In fact, the opposite is true: I like Facebook a great deal. I use it every day. I just want it to continue to be a place where friends can see who I am, not just the fun facts about me that others deem relevant. Facebook has a page where you can see the proposed changes, and you can send your feedback (and ideas) to profilespreview@facebook.com.