Facebook Platform team discusses Profile Redesign and Application Reputation System at first Developer Roundtable event

Facebook Developer RoundtableFacebook hosted its first Developer Roundtable event in Palo Alto today, bringing dozens of Facebook developers together for a more personal discussion surrounding Facebook’s upcoming redesign of the profile page and new application reputation system. The developers ranged from the largest on Facebook to those just beginning. I got permission from the Facebook Platform team to share my notes from today’s meeting with you here.

Representing Facebook were several members of the Platform team, on both the product marketing and engineering sides. First, Tom Whitnah presented on the application reputation system. Then, Sasha Rush discussed the upcoming profile page redesign. Finally, Sandra Liu Huang and Ruchi Sanghvi took general Q&A. Several other Platform team members met with developers during small group breakout sessions.

Here’s what was discussed – the emphasis is mine:

Application Reputation System – Tom Whitnah, Facebook Software Engineer

  • We’re trying to establish a reputation system for applications that is a proxy for user affinity and user experience. Are users happy with the profile box, the notification, the request you just sent, or was it misleading?
  • When calculating application viral channel allocation limits, recent data is weighted more. This means if you change behavior, your limits can improve. However, your historical performance still has an impact.
  • We’re still trying to make the system more mature. For instance, if you accept a request to view a message but actually get something else, that’s a bad experience and we need to capture that.
  • We want to expose more data without giving away more tools to game the system. But we do plan on giving more granular (i.e. per-notification and per-invitation) statistics.

 Profile Redesign – Sasha Rush, Facebook Software Engineer

  • The main goals of the redesign are to help users communicate and share information more efficiently, generate more meaningful activity, and increase user trust. We want the Feed to be really good, and users to be really happy – the Feed is not an ad channel.
  • The 4 major components of the update are: 1) The Wall-Feed combination – we’re merging the most important communication channels on the profile page into one, 2) The About tab – think of it as an extension to the static information you currently have on your profile, 3) The introduction of Tabs in general – there will be 3 by default (Wall, About, and Photos), and apps can add more, and 4) The left column – the same left column will appear on both the Wall and About tabs, and apps can add boxes here.
  • With the new profile, it will become increasingly important for applications to create meaningful feed stories. The main purpose of the feed is changing from what you’ve done to content you’ve created.
  • Users will be able to create content in-line on their and others’ feed stories. There will be a publishing flow. Any app that emulates our wall will fit in here.
  • Users will approve “big” feed items you create using Feed Forms. “Small” feed items can still be automatically published.
  • Tabs are really interesting – they allow you to put everything that users have done in your app right in their profile page. We will be following a limited canvas page model – we will pull FBML directly from your server, but some interactions will not be allowed. For instance, we won’t be allowing auto-play Flash on the profile.
  • Users may be able to add some app content to the right side of the About tab. We will give applications templates to work within here. The templates will contain images and can link back to the canvas page, but think about the content as a generalized comma separated list.

Q&A – Sandra Liu Huang, Facebook Platform Product Marketing, Ruchi Sanghvi, Facebook Platform Product Manager, and Sasha Rush

  • On the launch date – we are targeting late spring at this point. The sandbox will be open to developers well in advance.
  • On adding tabs – the exact flow is still under internal debate, but it will be a very explicit choice – not automatic or on by default.
  • On About tab limitations – can’t auto-play Flash, won’t give the viewer’s ID due to privacy, willing to take suggestions for how to handle it differently if the viewer already has the app.
  • On application about page reviews – they’re too spammy to take into account for the application reputation system right now – it wasn’t built by the Platform team so it has some issues (snickers from colleagues).
  • On the left column – the same left column will appear on the Wall and About tabs. There will be a height restriction, but we’re still deciding what it will be. There will be a limit to the number of application boxes users can have on their profile page, but that is also still up in the air. We were just talking this morning about whether to allow users to choose their own maximum number of boxes or not.
  • On the migration user experience – we’re not sure exactly how we’re going to allow users to choose which profile boxes to keep above the “extended profile” fold, and which to hide.

Overall, the mood of developers was appreciative but concerned. Very appreciative for the Facebook Platform team inviting developers in to have a conversation and solicit feedback and input regarding upcoming changes, but nevertheless concerned about the potential overall impact of the profile box redesign.

It was clear in today’s meeting that many details regarding the profile changes are still not finalized and will potentially be impacted by feedback from the developer community. Developers are encouraged to send feedback to the Facebook Platform team at developer-feedback AT facebook DOT com.