Aftermath Of A Failure: The Influence Project.

With only 30k registrations, 1.5M uniques (many of whom likely had to restart their computers after visiting the Flash leviathan), and a laughable outcome, Fast Company’s Influence Project would only be an embarrassment if it were more convincing in its attempt to appear legitimate. The email from the editor (note the positioning of uniques as folks who “came to the site to show their support.”):

Bob Safian here, the editor of Fast Company. I want to personally thank you for participating in our online experiment, The Influence Project, last summer. More than 30,000 people signed up, and more than 1.5 million individuals came to
the site to show their support.

We promised to highlight all participants who submitted photos in the November issue of the magazine; that issue is now rolling out on newsstands across the country. (The cover image is of Lance Armstrong.) You can also view the final
results of The Influence Project–and zoom in on specific photographs–at

I hope you found The Influence Project a worthwhile experience.

Thanks again,

Bob Safian


Fast Company

p.s. We have set up a special landing page for Influence Project participants who want to subscribe to Fast Company. As a token of our appreciation, the price is just $8 for a one-year subscription – and we’ll mail you the November issue
next business day (USPS first class). Go to

The Influence Project: An Exercise in Bad Design

Fast Company recently launched their Influence Project, an ambitious endeavor that aspires to answer the question: “Who are the most influential people online now?” It’s a pedestrian enough concept- measuring participants’ influence by the propagation of their personal URL. The catch: It’s easily the most poorly designed design and implementation of this concept to date. A few points:

  • The site takes a full 1:20 to load, if it loads at all. The balk rate will be phenomenal. Moreover, if someone clicks on a participant’s unique URL and decides not to wait for the Flash monstrosity to load, the click is lost (I tested this a few times). This effectively weeds out anyone with a job or a life, which makes one wonder if the project will ultimately reveal the most influential single unemployed people online (in attracting this audience, The Influence Project may actually cause a brief drop in traffic to
  • The UI is gratuitous and meaningless. It’s a cluttered collection of profile pictures, each sized to indicate the owner’s “influence.”  It leaves one begging for TouchGraph.

The most striking thing about this project is that the extraordinary friction in user experience will yield an outcome that the most influential people online won’t pay attention to. Hopefully the results will be summarized in a format that is more accessible than the project itself.

Facebook 2010. Mistah Kurtz, he ain’t so dead.

Jeff Jarvis penned an interesting piece on how Facebook should handle the current fiasco. Among his more poignant recommendations is that Facebook ought to recognize how much their defaults matter.”

While this seems like great advice on its face, the thing that is so troubling about this whole episode is that Facebook, at its scale,  knows the value of op-out more than any company in the world. Facebook understands that most people won’t bother to opt-out, and those that try to opt-out will be confused by the process and implications. Facebook is deliberately trying to increase the value of profiles, drive traffic, and increase the reach of its ad network.

The simple notion of having them delete your email address after you’ve already deleted your profile couldn’t have been made more complex.

Facebook, in response to the maelstrom, has suggested that: You’re pointing out things we need to fix.” The problem with this defense is that it’s disingenuous. No small amount of thought that went into to disaggregating features and regrouping them into a morass of default opt-out options. In fact, since the new privacy features accomplish exactly what Facebook wanted, the fix to which they’re referring is not the design or outcome, but rather palliative: more carefully masking their intentions to avoid a quell.

Facebook has become a complex and invasive list business masquerading as a trusted platform for personal interaction. The mass market deserves better.