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Human Facebook, featuring me

This is a lazy way to get the project back on track. My friend Alayne sent me some questions when I asked for suggestions on who to profile.

So, I decided to answer them and update things a little bit. I haven’t done many posts for a while, because real life has been busy and a free blog is the easiest thing to toss over the side. But, I’m hoping to get back on track.

You launched the Human Facebook Project on May 26th, 2010. How many interviews have you done?
I’m not entirely sure, a couple of dozen for sure. I have picked them all pretty randomly, although I did poach a few people who I knew had compelling stories to tell. Almost everyone I’ve approached has been open to the idea. Three people have said no, and all three of them have been journalists. I don’t know what that means, but I suspect it’s interesting.

So you have interviewed about 30 people, but yet you have 376 friends on your Facebook page. Do you have plans to include all your Facebook friends?
Yes. Although there’s the inevitability of some really awkward exchanges. When I first thought of the project, the idea was to cold call a Facebook contact and just strike up a conversation. I did that twice, and it was just too jarring for both of us.  So now I contact them via e-mail usually, and then do the interview over e-mail as well. Conversations are fine, and I make a point of contacting them either through the process or after, but there’s something a little more civilized about letting people think about their answers and take their time. I’m not trying to catch anyone out, I just want to say hey.

What is your decision-making process when deciding which of your friends to profile?
Usually I just go by who is active on the newsfeed. But now, I’ve blocked about 75 per cent of my feed for a bunch of stupid reasons. I’m really fickle with Facebook, I close the account a few times every couple of months. Usually it’s because someone I barely know says something on their page that annoys me, and then I realize I’m having a real-world response to some stupid online nonsense. So that’s when I back away slowly. I’m thinking the best way now is just to open my contact list and pick the first name that catches my eye. But in reality, I’ll probably stick to the people I know will be interesting, at least for now. That said, a few of the best interviews I’ve posted started with very low expectations.

Have friends approached you to be included in your project, either by direct request or hinting around? How does this make you feel?
Not really. I’ve put out a few broad requests on Facebook to see who wants to be involved, and there hasn’t been much response. But, people often suggest other people. The site is a fair bit of work, I estimate each posting takes about three hours from start to end. So I’ve been kicking around the idea of allowing people to interview their Facebook friends, and then have me post it on the site.

Of all the interviews you have done, was there one that stands out as being your favourite (and why)?
I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I really liked the one I did with my friend Marc, which was about things he liked to barbecue. But, you can’t really compare that with a story about someone who lost her husband while pregnant with twins. And then there’s a few like the one I did with my Facebook friend and colleague Lisan, who I didn’t really know that well ahead of time but feel like I know better now.

Which interview has received the most attention (either by site visits or comments)? Why do you think this is?
By visits, it’s my friend Bill who staked out the Kawarthas looking for Fergie – the duchess, not the Black Eyed Pea. And, sorry Bill, it has nothing to do with his story and everything to do with the bikini shot of the singing Fergie that I linked to in the post. If you ignore that one, it was Sarah – a Kingston colleague who got hosed from the Whig and found a new career in radio. I think it was popular because it was brutally honest, she found a new job but didn’t just turn the page. She’s still pissed, and you get that honesty in the interview. Also, there may have been a picture or two of her – the posts featuring women tend to outdraw almost three-to-one. Again, don’t know what it means. I suspect it has something to do with perverts. Overall, most new posts garner about 500 page views in the first couple of days and then pick up hits here and there afterward.

Did you set out to accomplish something with this project and if so, what was it and have you accomplished that yet?
I think the point was to force myself to interact with the people on my Facebook list, rather than just creep them once in a while in a passive manner. From that standpoint, it’s been a success. I’ve even met a few people in real life, and I’d never have done that if not for the Human Facebook profiles we did. But, there are hundreds of people left on that list. Frankly, I’m not sure I want to talk to a lot of them. Which really puts Facebook in perspective, I think.

Is your employer aware of the Human Facebook Project and if so, what do they think of it all?
I told them about it to make sure it was OK, but I’ve never heard anything from them about it… I assume it’s cool.

What is your favourite part of doing the Human Facebook Project? What is your least favourite part?
It’s been fun to interact with people, and it’s an opportunity to ask questions that probably wouldn’t come up otherwise. When it’s honest and pure, it works great. A few times it has come across as boring and contrived, and that feels like a failure. Which sucks, because that’s a waste of everyone’s time. The least favourite part is easy – pestering people to answer their questions. So if you’re reading this and have questions in your inbox, for God sake, go answer them.