Undocumented “spouse-finder” feature in Facebook

With all the hoohah over Facebook’s mini-feed feature, one new service was exposed that I didn’t see in the documentation anywhere. Rather than setting up a simple match-making service, the folks at Facebook have pushed the envelope with their online, add-a-spouse feature.

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I was about to send off a hearty congratulations to my colleague when I realized that it was an odd hour to hitch up (unless you’re in Vegas) and that this strange, out of context blip on my social news channel was more likely the result of Cody beginning to fiddle with his newly minted profile.

Intrigued, I decided that I too would like to announce my marriage of eight years in the dark of night just for a laugh. I set out to edit my profile and look for the section where one might identify one’s marital state. There it was, on the under the basic tab, “Married to. . . ” The ellipses drifting off in the distance, just waiting for you to type your spouse’s name. Yet, instead of taking a random string and saying, “Thank you, and good day,” Facebook assumes that your bride, is also on Facebook and that that what you really want to do is find her profile and link to it. So instead of being able to identify my wife’s name and introduce her to my budding community – I’m shunted off to a list of ladies also named Izumi that I might like to, and this is really one of the great moments in interface design, “Add as Spouse”

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I have no doubt Facebook is a great place to meet people but there’s something unsettling about seeing a list of 79 alternative wives that can be “added” with the click of the mouse. I haven’t had the nerve to actually click on any of these links for fear of what would happen at the other end. Would the alternative Izumi get a coldly worded confirmation notice from me asking a few terse questions about how we hooked up and to indeed confirm that we are joined ’til death do us part? Does it send flowers?

Clearly this is just a glitch in their UI desgin where another feature just got ported over without really thinking about the impact but it does point to another thing that has been bugging me about Facebook, it’s all about feeding stuff in but never letting it out. The ability to add an RSS feed to your profile is a cool trick. I don’t actually hang out in Facebook too often so this is a way to let my off-network vitality drive my Facebook profile. Funny thing is, none of the links drive back to my site which is spawning all this activity! From Facebook’s perspective, it’s all about keeping users tied into a self-referential experience on the Facebook servers.

This, keep ’em on our servers, perspective is why I’m given a list of Izumi’s to marry from Facebook’s community. It’s about “user lock-in” – a term I’ve come to loath. Heck, I’m given more freedom when I choose my interests on my profile! Here I’m given a blank, white box in which to enter books and music I like – here I could have actually *used* some direction as to what other people are calling things they call “interests.” I just realized, upon review, that identifying “kids” as one of my interests could probably be interpreted differently. A little direction here as to the best way to say you spend a lot of your time hanging out with your offspring would have been welcome a couple of months ago when I set things up. Hope I’m not on any kind of watch list anywhere.

Ok – keep the, “hey old-timer” comments to a minimum. These UI bugs are still whacked and they’re going to need to get these straight before opening up to the general public which does include people that are married with kids.

Come on Facebook – you can do better than this!

2 Replies to “Undocumented “spouse-finder” feature in Facebook”

  1. “I was about to send off a hearty congratulations to my colleague when I realized that it was an odd hour to hitch up (unless you’re in Vegas) and that this strange, out of context blip on my social news channel was more likely the result of Cody beginning to fiddle with his newly minted profile.”

    Ha! Seeing as my fifth anniversary is coming up next month, you are either correct in your assumption, or maybe Facebook is experiencing the same scalability issues that are starting to make MySpace painfully ssssslowwww…

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