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Facebook: Timeline (Developer Preview)

Ok,
If you want activate Timeline then read the reference at the bottom. But it’s convoluted and you’d be better off waiting until next week (5th October).


This requires Developer status which, unlike Apple, is entirely free but a bit weird.
But what will you get with Facebook Timeline???
Read on…
First Impressions:
Well, I guess that the most disappointing thing was that I can’t really test the privacy and publicity of the new Timeline profile as the new layout is only visible to fellow developers. So I’ll need a non-friend Facebook developer to check out my profile and send me a screenshot please!


At first glance, the new Timeline is certainly not clean and crisp. It’s a disorientating and confusing mish-mash of everything you’ve ever put up on Facebook. The construct does become clearer though the longer you stay with it.
Essentially, everything is -as you would expect from a Timeline – ordered by when it was added, or if possible/available a date intrinsic to the item. Some Photos will have embedded dates. Some events you have added have embedded dates (birth, graduation, marriage etc.). These build up the Timeline, represented by a vertical blue (isn’t everything) line down the centre of the profile page. You can move up and down the Timeline and there I also a mini-Timeline on the top right that acts as a shortcut bar to specific dates.


Getting started:


Extremely helpfully, there is an introduction to this menagerie. The Tour is essential for the first time you visit, otherwise you will miss features. Oh, you’ll find them eventually but here you can be one step ahead of the curve.
Tour: Cover


As mentioned in my earlier post, the first thing to get right is your Cover image. This is top, front and centre and easily the most obvious thing on the page. Choose something that best represents you as you see yourself and you’re away! Perhaps an heroic stance nex to a volcano, perhaps?
Tour: Views


Views are available from little thumbnails under the Cover. Each allows direct access to standard functions from your point of view. Friends, Photos, Maps and Likes are all grouped together each under it’s own view and thus thumbnail. Personal shortcuts, if you like.
Tour: Activity Log


The only part of the Timeline only visible to you absolutely. The Activity Log is all you have done. Ever. You can change who can see posts or even delete them completely (though I believe the same rules on shared items will apply as ever did.)
A sort of life editor, I suppose.
Tour: Stories


What it says on the tin. Basically everything in chronological order. When you added them. Review what you’ve done forever and ever and ever. Of course al neatly ordered by time added to Facebook. The hear and sole of Timeline.
Tour: Star or Hide


You can mark an item as important by giving it a star. This expands that item to make it far more prominent, similar to the Cover.
Or you Hide an item from the Timeline. You get to see an entry marked “You have hidden stories” when viewing that part of the Timeline but everyone else will nothing.
Or you can expunge an entry completely. The effect of this needs testing. Will it simply be hidden from you or if there are comments does it remain with those ‘commenters’? What about an item that has been ‘liked’?
What about shared experiences? Photos you uploaded but tagged other people in? Or the same but with Places? That is part of their stream too, no?
Tour: Life Events


That effectively ends the tour but you get one last item and that involves how easy Facebook have now made it to add various life events and such. An easy to find Status Update panel will allow you to add anything, including all the Places and Photos if you wish, and associate it all with whatever you wish.
Also, an interesting feature, the dates and places associated with a large part of your Facebook Timeline can be updated, making Photos and events much more relevant and accurate.
Nice touch.
Other Tweaks and Pokes:
One interesting feature passed over a little in the Tour is the ability to associate everything with a custom date, but more intriguingly, a custom Place. You can then build Maps from that data. It would be an interesting feature if you can publish snapshots or custom maps on you Timeline permanently. Say, for example, publishing your work Stories on a Map that is only visible to Work colleagues? It doesn’t seem to be that sophisticated yet. Maps are available from the Views thumbnail.


Final Result:
The privacy angle will have to wait until general release but the overall effect is quite impressive. Not sure I’d want it as my lead page into Facebook instead of the current Home screen but it is pretty cool. The only issues I can see are that you will have to think hard about the visibility of items. You can now change each and every item, even hide them but for some of us this would take a fair while.
No one can see anything they couldn’t before (quotes Facebook) but it is easier to look at a persons Timeline and find out all sorts of things from their past. So be prepared to dedicate some days to tweaking visibility or hiding items that should not have been ‘General Release’ or Public in the first place. You’ll also finding yourself trying to build a more descriptive and more representative Public Timeline. That means promotion some items to Public from Friends or Friends of Friends.
By and large although it is a radical tweak, Timeline is an interesting and potentially powerful addition to Facebook. I think Facebook should allow users to choose between to the old and the new but history with all the Web 2 companies (Facebook, Google, FourSquare etc.) would imply that this will be wholesale and absolute. And final – no old profile.
People, you will be scared by how easy it is for your ‘stream’ to be viewed now but remember, visibility hasn’t changed just how quickly others can get too it. An item shared to just Friends is still limited to that distribution.
More powerful now (and probably the reason for the change earlier change) is the Timeline combined with Lists/Groups. You can now lead two lives (or more) on one Facebook feed. Publish something to Work colleagues and another to Family and, unless someone is on both, the will see very different Timelines. Except the Cover, of course.
Conclusion:
You won’t be given a choice but send some time getting the historical stuff accurately categorised, timed, and so fort will pay dividends later. And of course ensuring that your new stuff is correctly labeled, timed and distribute in the first place will help.


Is it a Stalkers paradise? Well, only if you aren’t reviewing older items, not limiting distribution appropriately or not Listing your friends. There is more responsibility for youth protect yourself as your data is now much easier to find and read.
Very interesting and impressive bit of Web 2.

References:
Mashable: How to get Timeline now
Facebook About Timeline
Facebook
First attempt

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About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.

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