Facebook, IOS, availability and service design

I have been traveling – I’ve been away teaching an ITIL intermediate course (continual service improvement – CSI). So I’ve been using my iPhone to access Facebook, and very convenient it is too.

I made two embarrassing mistakes, though. I posted what were intended to be general, social comments to entertain friends to a group involved in discussing service management (the excellent Back2ITSM group) – most inappropriate of me. Of course, when I discovered this, when I got home, I deleted the post – but it made me think about why I made this faux par.

One excellent feature of IOS, the operating system (based on Unix, of course, which is one reason that it, like the Mac’s OS/X and, indeed, Android, work so well) of the iPhone and iPad, is that it keeps the state of its applications (‘apps’ to everybody now..) when you stop using them. This means that you don’t have to start at the beginning, logging in and then hunting for where you were before, making it much quicker to get back to whatever it was that you were up to previously.

The reason that this feature has been designed into IOS is based on the service management discipline of availability management. If you have an outage of any sort, your ability to use the service is, of course, compromised until you get back to where you were before – this is called the ‘down time’. Much of downtime is involved in fixing the problem and restarting it all, maybe the ‘phone, the operating system and your application. The final bit of that, though, is getting back to where you were before. By saving where your are, and what you are doing, IOS reduces that final stage of recovery to a minimum. It also makes it easy to switch between different apps with a minimum of fuss, knowing that what you’re doing in one will be kept there until you get back.

All excellent stuff, but there’s a snag. This was what led me to make my embarrassing mistake. I thought that I was just using Facebook and, as I’d expect if I was using the safari on my mac, I thought that I was at my main page, so my post would be for my friends. I had, though, previously, posted a comment to #Back2ITSM so I was there – and my picture and comment ended up, inappropriately, in that group.

What can be done about this? Well, from one perspective, it’s all my fault, really, I should have remembered what I was doing. I also should have looked at the screen more carefully, because it did have a label saying that I was in the group, not on my main page, or the newsfeed page. I know other people have made the mistake, though, so one solution would be for Facebook to make it clearer (maybe with different colours for the different screens, not just a label) where you are. This would resolve the basic problem.

From the point of view of design, however, the message is a little different. The real problem was that my experience on a browser (Safari – though they all work the same way) on my Mac was different from my experience on IOS. The solution, in the long term, must be for Mac’s operating system, OS/X, to move closer to giving the same experience as that in a mobile device. This is, indeed, what Apple is doing – I have only just downloaded it, but Snow Leopard (the latest version, after Lion, of OS/X) is, apparently, much more similar to IOS, so my Mac experience should become more like my iPad or iPhone one.

What a pity that the lovely new Macbooks don’t have touch screens….

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