interested

So, Facebook recently added an event response option called ‘interested.’ As you can see, for the above event, my response is ‘interested.’

In order to present this new ‘interested’ option for events, Facebook eliminated the ‘maybe’ option. I have some mixed opinions on the change. I’m writing this post and it’s 8:28pm, so you can probably put your money on the fact that I’m not going to Dino BBQ’s Ugly Sweater Party. Would I have answered ‘maybe’ had the option been there? Probably not. Although I’m genuinely interested in the event, I knew I wasn’t likely to be around, so I wasn’t going to make it.

I like this feature of ‘interested.’ It lets me express that I have interest in an event (to help promote it to my friends), but at the same time not obligate myself (even a bit) that I’ll be going. It’s the truth: I am interested, but I’m not committed to going. It makes total sense from the user standpoint. ‘Maybe’ is an incredibly weak word. It invokes no sense of confidence or excitement, and it probably puts some sort of guilt on the person if they don’t end up showing. Plus, there are a lot of types of ‘maybes,’ so it’s non-trivial to guess the meaning of why you’d want to say ‘maybe.’ ‘Interested’ solves this issue pretty well in my opinion.

SO WHAT’S THE STINK?

It really, really sucks from the perspective of someone running an event (from my experience so far). One of my most active engagements on campus at RPI is something I founded with a few of my friends called Rensselaer TALKS. We run a semesterly TED-like event as well as a monthly coffee & doughnuts morning lecture series, Tidbits. For all of those events, we do most of our marketing via Facebook.

What ‘interested’ has essentially done to those events is give us an even less predictable event attendance. Attendance matters for us a lot, especially for Tidbits. It helps us plan how much coffee & doughnuts to buy, it helps us figure out how many seats to set up, etc., etc.. So, when a user is presented with this choice:

interested2

If they’re not absolutely 1000% sure they’re going, they won’t put ‘going.’ They probably will put interested, or just leave the event untouched. When they put interested though and on the admin side of the page we see:

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We have no idea how many people to expect. We used to have this handwavy theory that 90% of our ‘going’ group would go and around 30% of our ‘maybe’ group would go. ‘Interested’ doesn’t say a damn thing, so we’re left in the dark guessing how many people will go. Turns out we had roughly 27 people attend, and I bet 0 of the ‘interested’ folks went. It’s so hard to tell, and for that reason, it’s been a painful transition to ‘interested’ from ‘maybe.’

To tie things up – I just wish Facebook had started with ‘interested.’ Or event better, let event creators choose the language they use. That would have been nice. Maybe when you run huge events on Facebook, the current system is good, but for the medium college-sized audience and a small events page, this is an annoying issue.