Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

scoble says jump

Scoble on Facebook, October 14:

I think it sucks because it isn’t scalable and falls apart at 5,000 contacts. It pisses me off more and more every day because of that scaling wall.

Damn I wish I hadn’t locked my rolodex in this trunk.

Scoble on Facebook, July 28:

I’ve been on Facebook, what, about six weeks? I have more than 4,000 friends...


Why? Because Facebook is now a media distribution network (among other things).

I’m in the media creation and distribution business.

In fact, I can’t add more than 5,000 friends in Facebook so the audience size of any one person will always be small. But the passalong is huge. The app platform there works the same way — virally.

Sometime in August, Scoble first hit the limit on how many friends a person can have on Facebook. Since then, he has been on an increasingly caustic campaign to have the limit changed. This is a remarkably skewed perspective.

Facebook has well over 36 million members and 300+ employees. According to him (via Facebook employees), thousands have also hit the 5,000 friends limit, but still a very small percentage. I'm truly amazed that Scoble expects the company to move this request to the top of their priority list. Obviously, he has remarkable influence, but this strikes me as an abuse of that influence.

First, he was aware of the limit long before he reached it. In fact, it appears to have struck him as a reasonable limitation at the time.

Second, he first reached the limit and began requesting that it be increased in August. It has been just two months since he started pushing for the change, yet he is so frustrated with the limit that he has greatly reduced his use and relentless promotion of Facebook. Twitter is his current love (understandably so), but Twitter can only hope they don't misstep or otherwise impede his use of their (free) service. The web hath no fury like Scoble scorned.

In a follow-up post today, Scoble reports that Facebook employees have told him hat the friend limit is due to scaling problems which occur when a friend list reaches that level. Does he expect that an issue that only became remotely common recently should be immediately resolved? He surely understands the level of complexity involved in such a change and the company's obligation to the other 35+ million users to maintain a growing, stable platform. The fact that the company has built such a remarkable site and application infrastructure that has handled unprecedented growth is a phenomenal accomplishment. They are obviously aware of the current limitations and are determined to address them. I think patience is appropriate at this stage.

Imagine if I signed up for the free version of Basecamp from 37signals, used it for a couple of months, discovered a missing feature or limitation (not a bug), and requested a solution. This is all pretty standard behavior. After two months of waiting, though, the feature still hasn't been added and now I'm angry. I begin criticizing the company at every turn and threaten to leave if they don't address this immediately. "It's been 60 days! How much longer do you expect me to wait?"

If I went around saying such things, they'd put me away. I have complete confidence that 37signals wouldn't listen to my demands, and thank God for that. I don't want the software companies I depend on to drop everything because a few vocal users say "Jump!" and threaten to leave with they don't get "How high?" as a response.

Demands, remember, about a free service.

I have no doubt this Facebook limitation will be addressed as Facebook continues to build its infrastructure to handle 100 million user or more. I think it's a reasonable request that will improve the service for a small, but significant, number of users.

As much as I respect Robert, though, such a reasonable request is a completely unreasonable demand.