Note: This experiment is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Apple, Wes Anderson, or the Tenenbaum Family.
Another Note: This experiment is not about user interface, or touch gestures, or mobile apps. It’s about an experience and a product. It’s about relationships to people. The interactions that I’ve visualized below are far from final. I was mostly playing with how an interface could make me feel about the people it represented.
I’m a failure when it comes to Facebook. My friend count is below average. No one ‘likes’ my stuff. And I never quite finished filling out that section of my bio where I list all the bands I like and movies I’ve seen.
Or maybe Facebook has failed me. It’s not because the ads the serve up are irrelevant — sometimes they get close. They’ve done a great job reminding me of birthdays. And I’ve never questioned where to put squishy pictures of my cute baby. I know how to use Facebook, but I don’t. And when nearly everyone in my home country under 50 is on this thing, I have to ask what I am missing.
But there is a fundamental promise that has gone unfulfilled. It’s the promise that playing around with this awkwardly named website will make your relationships with the people you care about better (yes, I know the history of the name, but just think about it — Face? Book?).
I know Facebook has grander ambitions. It wants to be the clearing house of the internet, the home page, the portal, the town square, the identity infrastructure for the planet, all Facebook all the time. But something about the content and interactions on Facebook screams at this fundamental core: connect with the people you care about. And yet there is so much that pulls me away from and prevents me doing just that.
I guess what I want out of Facebook is clarity. I want that promise of better relationships front and center, and I want the activity that they are putting in front of me to clearly reflect that goal.
And I know this sounds like a humble vision for the Facebook empire. But as a product, Facebook as a tool for better relationships is probably one of the most desired and universal value propositions out there, next to Foodbook, Shelterbook, and PhysicalSafetyBook.
So I started playing around with something I am calling Knitt. Knitt is not a reduction of the entire Facebook platform. It is one simple tool that could live alongside many others. Knitt works like a to do list of kindness, a reminder to be mindful. It’s job is to learn who you are closest to and help you stay close or get closer.
Knitt could even be super smart. Imagine you have been out of touch with a friend for a long time. One day, that friend comes to town and calls you up. You hang out, and suddenly, you’re good friends again. Knitt picks up on the increase in interactions, and instead of a bi-annual reminder to send a shout-out to that friend, Knitt increases the frequency of interactions for that rekindled relationship.
Knitt would work both ways, helping you forgo frequent interaction with more distant acquaintances without forgetting them, and also helping you interact more often with the people that matter most. Knitt wants you to spend less time with Knitt and more time communicating and being with your own kind and kin.
What excites me about Facebook, and about ideas like Knitt that could build on top of it, is that the connections are there, the relationships largely defined. There is a ton of potential to make peoples’ lives better, and when Facebook can deliver on that promise, I’ll be glad I signed up.
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