Friends for Sale: Facebook Application Seminar Critique

Friends for Sale Logo
Friends for Sale

“Friends for Sale” by Ryan’s team. As I came slightly late and as this was the first group to present, I admit that I didn’t really pay much attention at what Ryan was saying.

However, a skim through the slides seem to indicate that Ryan might not have presented all that he’d prepared, or did he intentionally NOT to talk about the slides? After all YinChao has dropped this module some time last week and thus making Ryan’s team a two-man team.

Honestly, the idea of “Friends for Sale” quite interesting. You get to “Buy” your friends as pets and assign them to do random things, and all without his/her approval. I think these feature are the selling point of this application.

buy friend

During the presentation, Ryan did mention that the application is viral. However, I don’t remember him elaborating further on how FFS achieve its viral status. In my opinion, “Friends for Sale” leverage the Facebook notification feature for the viral-factor. Your friends are automatically notified on every instance of your actions to him/her, whether you’re buying him/her and you’ve assigned some jobs to him/her.

step1
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 1
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 2
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 2
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 3 & 4
Work - Friends for Sale: Step 3 & 4

The viral part comes into play when you assign your pets to do some “actions” to your other friends, even to friends who might not even have added Friends for Sale. So if non-app users receive notification when you’ve done something to him/her, the non-app user might just be provoked enough and add the app just to react to the initial user’s action. Thus producing a natural viral process.

Ryan also mentioned that using the app fulfill friend’s ego, and he attempt to explain this using Maslow’s hierarchy and 7 sins. However I think Ryan didn’t really elaborate much on this point. I think he assume that it’s apparent to all of us how 7 sins and Maslow’s Hierarchy applies to Friends for Sale, which is not entirely true as I have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy but I’m not too sure how it plays a part the apparent success of Friends for Sale. A quick check with Wikipedia tells me that Maslow’s Hierarchy is more commonly used to represent the priority of needs in a pyramid with the largest and lowest levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top. Honestly, I’m even more blurred at the fact that he mention 7 sins. Although I’ve heard of the 7 sins, but I don’t really know what are the 7 sins. In my opinion, the 7 sins are just inference and it isn’t stated explicitly in the Bible. Wikipedia mentioned that

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices which has been used since early Catholic times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin. The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

So how exactly Maslow’s Hierarchy and 7 sins translate to Friends for Sale remains a mystery to me.

Like all other successful Facebook application, there seem to be a recurring theme. There must be some kind of Time-sensitive element to give users reasons to come back to the app. Leaderboard – leveling up system -> Like Mafia Wars…. lv600++. I wonder how many hours have been spent playing the game @@.. In Friends for Sale case, it’ll be the viral work you get to do to your friends to earn more money. Virtual money can be used to buy more friends as pets and thus making the user rise higher and higher on the leaderboard. Looks like an app will not go too far without some kind of highscore/leaderboard system. Even Causes has it!!

Towards the end of the presentation, Ryan recommended that we should all watch the video interview of the Friends for Sale founder. If the video is indeed that meaningful, I guess he should have at least summarize the video in his presentation instead of just briefly mentioning it toward the end of the presentation. As promised, Ryan has the link posted up on his blog http://sharetheconversation.blogspot.com/2010/02/links-to-interviews-with-chen-siqi.html

Like a lot of successful Facebook App, the back end is not something remarkable. It runs on Ruby on Rails (RoR). This name is familiar because I think I got eliminated in an internship interview last year because I have no idea what’s RoR. A quick check on wikipedia seems to suggest that RoR is quite popular among web apps nowadays, even Twitter runs on RoR. Apparently Chen SiQi (co-founder of Friends for Sale) thinks that RoR is very well-suited for rapid application development and scalability. How I hope I understand a bit more about why it is so, I got lost in the pool of jargon.

We definitely wouldn’t change our choice of framework – Rails was invaluable for rapid application development, and I think we’ve pretty much proven that two guys without a lot of scaling experience can scale a Rails app up. (Chen SiQi http://highscalability.com/friends-sale-architecture-300-million-page-view-month-facebook-ror-app)

Ok, I guess there’s really a lot to learn from Friends for Sale as the co-creators are part-time developers, just like us in the CS3216 class. However, they manage to rise to be the top10 app on Facebook in 3 months. That is a feat and I bet there’s a lot to learn from them. Onward to the Gwave assignment!

At the end, I would like to promote our group’s video for Facebook Marketplace. Thank you Adhiraj, Xialin and Reuben, this video wouldn’t be possible without you! (I’m just a video-editing-monkey!)

Published by

joshuatj

Digital Preservation #digipres. IT guy at @AFA_Archive Asian Film Archive. Malaysian news. PC games.

14 thoughts on “Friends for Sale: Facebook Application Seminar Critique”

  1. RoR seems to have problems with scaling, and it’s rather interesting that they decided to go with it from the start. But overall, good post. Didn’t know the creators of Friends for Sale approached it with so much thought!

  2. Well I agree with you that apps that are successful usually contain stuff like leveling up and includes a leaderboard + time sensitive elements to make people get addicted. And this is not what is happening to facebook games only.

    Nowadays gaming giants are emphasizing on replayability and interactiveness of the game, which is what most of the people want. How do you increase replayability? By creating optional bosses/storyline that needs you to replay the whole game/extend hundred of hours into the game to complete, or by creating insane achievements which takes hundred of hours to complete too..

    How do you increase interactiveness? By introducing multiplayer elements such as online play (Xbox Live Gold & PS3). I think the gaming market has understood and know what the users want. Therefore if you create an app/game that hits the spot, you will be popular..

    – Hong Jun

  3. Hi Josh,
    Actually, I did not manage to cover all the stuff I wanted to talk about as the time was a bit short and I ran into some technical errors. Somehow, the desktop could not show my pdf slides..

    I actually covered how good applications are viral in the first few slides. Siqi summed it up very simply using 3 words: social, engaging and universal. Also, if you look at their application, almost all the touch points (places where users can interact with the application) all contribute to making the user invite more friends.

    Actually, the biggest lesson learnt from the developers of friendsforsale is putting in a plan to scale from day 1. They had a lot of problems with scaling at the start, when they were experiencing crazy growth rates.

    If you look at level 3 of Maslow, most people are looking to affirm their relationships with people they consider quite close. Most facebook apps should try to appeal to this level. I introduced the 7 sins model as a way of thinking what kind of hook applications should consider to attract people. (Any app which shows hot girls will be a hit.. lol)

    I also wanted to draw out the point that the developers were very focused on metrics. This was partly due to their limited resources and also to their discipline. They always did A/B testing and they always used the metrics to validate the magnitude of their changes. I think a lot of people do not know what are appropriate metrics to track for a web app. Hence, they end up implementing a lot of features which do not have significant impact.

  4. I agree with Hong Jun that the PVP element in any game is super addictive, everyone is trying to beat their friends to something, somehow remind me of the 7 sin thingy, pride does play a large part in our life huh?

    In my opinion, alternative storyline that kinda thing is more geared towards serving those hardcore fans’ needs. Not many people would like to repeat the whole game again again and again/go through all the pain to see the slightly different story huh?
    Having said that, it is good to see that company in the gaming industry do take the extra steps to make sure their customers’ satisfaction in playing their games

    is it me or what? i find it difficult to post comment here >.<
    CY

  5. @WiRuS(HongJun) Indeed. However, other than Prof. Ben’s Tankie, I haven’t really seen any other Facebook Games that has real-time multiplayer. Maybe there’s some market out there?

    @Ryan I think presenting using PDF is not such a good idea. The overall memory usage of PDF is much higher than say PPT. Thus, lags is unavoidable especially when you have heavy graphics.
    By the way, what do you mean by “metrics”, statistics?
    On another note, if say we follow the 7 sins model in order to understand why Facebook games are successful, as developers, aren’t we the people who cause others to sin – that’s a bit hard on my conscience. Effectively it’s like saying GAMING are evil! While it is true that “any app which shows hot girls will be a hit”, but are we going to fuel the hit?

    @ChuanYeong I think the trick is to have more re-playability without giving the users a sense of repetitiveness. E.g. “I Know What You Ate Last Supper”, you eat everyday, and thus the experience answering the questions are different each time you play the game.

  6. I was referring to these metrics that they used =)

    Performance metrics
    Page views, speed
    User data (quality and quantity)
    User churn, Number of invites, notifications, mini-feed items, profile clicks, and other channels, ARPU,
    Advertising performance
    Percentage clicked, converted

  7. “Like all other successful Facebook application, there seem to be a recurring theme. There must be some kind of Time-sensitive element to give users reasons to come back to the app. ” Yeah, this way seems very popular now. I think it’s a magic invention. Who is the first guy thinking of this method to let people linger in a game?

    For a developer, technological skills are important. But without sharp commercial sense and creative idea, they can not realize value.

  8. @ Ryan

    It’s very interesting to see your group applying Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs towards the study of Facebook apps. I was hoping that you guys would go more in depth, but perhaps to do it within the 7 mins was impossible. I think that could be a presentation by itself.

    Since we’re on the topic of Maslow, wouldn’t it be interesting to see developers doing something that fulfills the level 5 needs, which is self-actualization? Hmm…

    -reuben

  9. Though I think this app is crappy, I must admit that the idea is good. It allows people to express their appreciation of their friends (by having them as pet). This would also help to raise the esteem of “pets” if they realize that they are highly sought after through this app. As pointed out by Ryan, it definitely makes a good flirting channel. =)

  10. @Reuben
    I think it would be great if developers could do so.. But I’m not sure if the FB crowd will be in the right mood to do that as FB is primarily used for very casual purposes. I think self-actualization is also very difficult to achieve through an application. However, I’m sure level 3 of the pyramid is quite achievable.
    However, the app “Causes” is quite interesting. I’m not very sure, but it seems to make it easy for people to feel good about themselves.
    @Sebastian
    Haha.. Thanks man. I think no one uses IRC anymore for making friends.. Do you feel that the applications like SuperPoke, Pillow Fight are also ways of flirting?
    @Sophia
    Actually, I think a lot of games have that where users have to complete challenges within a certain amount of time. To me, it’s quite similar to those “year-end” sales or “closing-down” sales..

What do you think?