A month without Facebook: what I missed most

Today I reinstated my Facebook account after disabling it four weeks ago. I took a break because I was caught in an endless loop of reading status updates and playing games. For me, Facebook was a huge waste of time.

This week, I noticed what I missed the most: a decent way to keep up with the news without being totally overwhelmed with content. (And here’s a really good post about how the news feed works.)

Despite its inevitable flaws (how can it possibly work perfectly when you consider the staggering number of people using Facebook?) the News Feed is an invaluable method for keeping up with busy sites via Facebook pages. Twitter lists, or subscribing to big sites via a reader such as Feedly, move too quickly for me. This is because they pull in every post in the feed.

The risk of missing something is always there. But you’ll never be able to read everything. The News Feed is a pretty solid way to read content from the sites you enjoy.

If your News Feed is clogged up, why not clean it up by unfollowing any friends or pages that are flooding your feed?

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Internet Explorer worldwide usage: the state of play

With Windows 10 released today, along with the new Edge browser (that we should assume will ultimately kill off IE – it should already have happened!) it’s a good opportunity for a quick rundown of the status of IE on the web.

Stats

Netmarketshare.com has a good browser market share chart. The IE bits:

  • IE6: 0.52%
  • IE7: 0.26%
  • IE8: 13.58%
  • IE9: 6.76%
  • IE10: 5.55%
  • IE11: 27.22%

Automatic updates

The lack automatic updates in IE doesn’t help to get people onto the latest version. However, that all changes with Windows 10, as the Edge browser will support automatic updates.

However, it’s not a perfect scenario as this article shows.

A Change of Scenery: getting my music back online

Over the last few years, I’ve probably spent more time reorganising my personal site than actually working on new material to put on the site. I was in a bit of a creative drought, and just wasn’t 100% happy with the various personal sites I’ve tried to put together over the last few years.

I’m hoping today’s efforts will be a foundation to build on, rather than something to tear down and rebuild later in the year. Check it out: Music by Ben Barden

That was the easy part. Here’s the fun part: A Change of Scenery

The music player uses the brilliant jPlayer, which I’ve added to the sidebar and used to make a playlist of all 20 tracks from that album.

An added bonus is that if you click one of the track names in the text on the left of the page, it’ll start playing that track. Also, if you grab the URL, it should have the track number in it – so if you come back to the page later, it’ll autoplay that track. Otherwise, it won’t play anything until you choose a track (or click Play to start track 1).

Hope you enjoy some of the tracks.

Write better posts – let your blogging ideas stew

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post suggesting you should write ideas when you think of them. An idea is just an idea – you should get it into a published post as soon as you can.

However, I’ve recently had a few ideas that I haven’t written up immediately, and the resulting posts have come out really well. Why is this?

Losing interest in ideas: good or bad?

I have several lists of topic ideas for my blog. When I think of an idea, I add it to a list. It can take a while before it becomes a post – if it ever does.

Taking too long to act on a post idea can mean you lose interest in it, and it gets shelved. But if you lose interest, maybe it wasn’t that great to begin with.

Why let an idea stew?

Writing down a post idea and coming back to it later gives a sort of sanity check. It allows you to get over the excitement of the idea and review it with a clear head.

The luxury of time also gives you a chance to form a more complete opinion of a topic. Posting an idea straight away can result in a relatively raw post, which might be what you’re aiming for. If you’re looking for something fully-formed, let the idea stew for a bit longer.

Of course, this logic doesn’t apply if you’re publishing breaking news or other time-sensitive content.

UX 101: put the cursor in the first field

When loading a page where a form is the focal point of the page, always put the cursor in the first field. This allows the user to start typing immediately.

A good example is when you go to create a new blog post at WordPress.com. Have you noticed how it works?

  1. When the New Post page loads, the cursor goes right into the Title field.
  2. After typing your title, hit the Tab key. Now you’re right in the Body field.

The little details make all the difference.

There’s an exception though. If there’s a search box on a page where the main function isn’t search, don’t put the cursor in the field. If the user scrolls down when the page is still loading, the cursor can make the page jump back up to the top so the search box is visible.

Putting the cursor into the first field is really useful for speeding things up for the user. You’ll notice it the most if you have a lot of repetitive data entry to do. Anything you can do to reduce a mouse click and get the user started much faster will help to make your screens a joy to use.

Posting links on Facebook: choose visibility or higher stats

Stats are a form of social proof. If you see a post with zero likes or tweets, it looks like nobody liked it enough to recommend it to their social followers.

In reality, it may be because the post is too new, hasn’t been found yet, or the site is quite small and all of its posts have relatively few stats. But when a post has very low social stats, it can give off a bad signal.

Do posts containing links get seen less?

There’s a tip going around on Facebook. If you include a link in a status update, it may get seen by fewer people. However, if you write the Facebook post and post the link in a comment, this should not occur.

In “Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works” (TIME) it’s suggested that users who click one type of content a lot will see more of that content. Here’s the relevant quote:

The post-type is also a big factor, as Facebook hopes to show more links to people who click lots of links, more videos to people who watch lots of videos and so forth.

There are a couple of reactions to this. One is “how dare they try to show me more of what I might like – just show me everything”. Another is, if you do this as a publisher, you’re screwing with the algorithm.

One slight issue is if you don’t often click links but you do want to click links from a particular person. However, if you genuinely don’t want to click links, publishers who try to get around the alleged decrease in showing of some links may become unpopular with readers.

The real impact of putting links in comments

If I post a link on Facebook and people like the Facebook post, add comments or share the post, it clocks up Facebook stats for that URL. So if I have a Facebook button on that post on my blog, I’ll see the numbers going up.

Conversely, if I post on Facebook saying “link to follow” and then post a comment, the numbers on my blog will not accumulate.

Which would you rather have: potentially increased visibility from readers who might not want to click links? Or potentially higher numbers recorded against your posts, thereby improving your social proof and hopefully getting more people to interact with the posts in the first place?