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Helen Popkin
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msnbc.com
updated 10/27/2009 8:26:21 AM ET 2009-10-27T12:26:21

The only thing constant about change is that it sucks.

For proof, look no farther than the 300 million-plus Facebook users who spent last weekend coming to terms to the social network’s latest, but certainly not last, redesign.

The Twitter-like filter-free home page everyone hated a few months back was gone, and the default feed everyone missed so much was back — sort of — though some “friends” are suspiciously absent. Now equipped with a crazy random happenstance of an algorithm, the News Feed seems to update whenever it wants, with whatever info it feels like.

There’s a “Live Feed” option, too, that seems to run in a different time zone. And now, Facebook is more all up in your business than ever before, suggesting users reconnect with estranged acquaintances and write on the walls of people they don’t even know.

No wonder Facebook users are rattled and confused. According to a statement from the company, the changes were made according to user input, though as one reader posted on Technotica’s Facebook profile, “I'd like to know who they asked that wanted these changes … I have yet to see anyone on FB who is happy with them.”

Technotica posted a question to its Facebook profile, asking users to describe what they hated and/or like about the redesign. The first 60 responses were almost immediate, with nary a positive comment to be found.

“It's like waking up to find your Mother has been replaced by an evil fat Aunt with a mole atop her eye,” posted Nick Kupsey. “That horrifying and disorienting.”

Indeed, while PC World quoted “social network guru” Robert Scoble saying, “Overnight my news feed went from something that looked pretty cold and lame to something that has tons of warmth,” many average end users echoed the sentiments of Kupsey.

“I can’t STAND it,” Rey Acevedo posted about the redesign. “Now I have to hunt and peck to find things that used to be right there, and I still can't find any rhyme or reason of how it's sorting it to begin with.”

Scoble may enjoy the fact that only the most popular status-inspired conversations are rising to the top of the News Feed. It’s the same popularity contest Google uses for its top search results. Average end users, on the other hand, don’t dig the wonky new algorithm that choses what News Feed items you’ll see, and when.

What’s more, the News Feed bears little resemblance to the Live Feed.

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(Even the social-network savvy are discombobulated by gaps in conversation. Such a change will certainly not ingratiate the grandparents flocking to Facebook.)

“Dumbest redesign YET Facebook,” posted Jim Beeler. “You can change the News Feed to Status Updates, however you now have to click in three places instead of one.”

Beeler managed to wrap his head around the latest changes and concluded that there were better options Facebook could’ve gone with. “Here's an idea,” Beeler wrote. “Have a News and Status Feed and a separate Quiz Application feed. That way the stupid quizzes and apps can be easily ignored by those of us who blocked them all anyway. It seems they are trying really hard to suck as much as MySpace does.”

To be sure, there are plenty of fellow Facebook users ready, willing and amazingly able to explain the changes to fellow users. A bunch of people even made videos to let you know how to get the “old version” of Facebook back … or at least the latest “old version” of Facebook, via a series of drags, drops, cleared caches and deleted defaults. Even following it to the letter, however, may not fix all the latest ills.

“I tried turning off the Add Friends option,” posted Ellie Beck in her delineation of downgrades. “But I still see everyone adding friends and fanning things.”

Then there’s Facebook’s amped-up attempts at indoctrination, the latest shakeup to the social network’s algorithm that, like your mom, seems to know what’s best — be it how you take in your friend updates or even which friendships to pursue. While judgment may not be programmed in the software, you have to wonder.

“Stop telling me to reconnect with my friends’ parents, the also-jilted woman who I once sat next to on an airplane, my long lost massage therapist, my one-night stands, and that creepy guy who was my partner in anthropology who I only friended for the purposes of the academic quarter,” Megan Kale posted. “I get it, Facebook. I'm an easy friend.”

Break the social contract by friending Helen A.S. Popkin on Facebook, or discover new and exciting ways to be annoying when you follow her on Twitter.

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