Gabi Knows More About Your Facebook Profile Than You Do
Jul 10, 2012 5:00 AM PT
But those kinds of posts are often scattered amongst updates that aren't so intriguing at all: info automatically posted by apps, check-ins for Tuesday-night get-togethers halfway across the country, in-jokes you were never in on, etc.
The diamond/rough ratio in most of our News Feeds is way too heavy on the rough, and Facebook itself doesn't always do a great job of sorting it out for you.
Gabi is an app for iPhone that presents your Facebook info in a completely different way, helping you sort through the most popular, controversial and relevant things being said and shared in your network.
Gabi Doesn't Look Shabby
First off, Gabi looks absolutely nothing like Facebook's normal interface. It's not a News Feed so much as a news grid. The color choices and layout seem to take a page from Microsoft's Metro interface. This isn't something to replace your iPhone's official Facebook app; more like something to accompany it.
Using Gabi, of course, requires you to relinquish your Facebook login credentials. The app wants permission for your profile info, your events, photos, and friends' profile info. It'll also ask for permission to access posts in your news feed. Gabi's creators say it's 100 percent private and that there are no external servers.
Gabi's main interface is divided into three main rows: Newest (orange), My Best (brown) and Friends (blue). The rows will be mostly empty when you start. You fill them by asking questions.
Putting Gabi to the Question
This isn't a Siri kind of inquisition. The questions are basically pre-formulated. Touch the "+" button on the left side of a row, and you'll see a menu of six topics -- subjects like Interests under Friends, Photos under Newest, and Statuses under My Best.
Choose any of these, and a question will take form, with a few options for fine-tuning. Say you pick Newest and then choose Statuses. Gabi will present the question "Which of my friends' statuses are most liked?" Liked can be toggled to talked about. Or under My Best and Fans: "Who of my fans is liking/talking about my pictures/videos/links/statuses?"
Arrange your question, and the answer will be presented as a new window added to that row. Tap the window and you get a ranked list of posts that fit the question's criteria. You can sort by time (today, this week, all time) and tag posts. After you've backed out to the main interface, you won't need to sift through all those levels if you want to ask the same question again; the window can be recalled and refreshed whenever you want. Tap and hold to eliminate the window.
Who Said What?
Gabi didn't quite whittle my feed down to a hit parade of solid-gold musings , and it's very possible some interesting bits were ignored simply because nobody else bothered to like or comment on them. But sorting posts by relevance and popularity does seem to eliminate a lot of the typical Facebook dandruff that tends to pile up in one's News Feed.
Gabi's apparent goal is to save us from informational overload. Maybe it does that too well. I found parts of its interface to be particularly stingy with info.
When browsing through a sorted series of posts -- for example, today's most "inspiring statuses," the ones that got the most commentary -- there's no immediate indication of who's speaking. You'll see a list of the original posts, but no info about who made them. Tap the post and the identity will be revealed, but while flipping through the feed it's apparently impossible to attach a name or voice to the words. Even though these are supposedly the most intriguing things being said on Facebook all day, without knowing which of my friends said them, it's hard to get interested in any of it.
Strangely enough, my most "inspiring photos" are credited with a name -- but text-based posts aren't.
The boxes containing the text of these posts are also pretty small. Most of the time I won't see more than a dozen words before the comment trails off with "..." Again, it makes it harder to get interested.
The two factors combine to water down the experience. There might be a lot of lively conversations going on here, but unless I make the effort to dig into each and every one of them, all I see when I browse through are the muttered, half-told stories of strangers.
Gabi presents a completely different way of looking at Facebook. Its overall interface is interesting, and its method for sorting out posts will shake away a lot of the less-useful updates you might see through the network's standard News Feed.
However, once Gabi has cut the fat and grizzle away, it could stand to be a little more generous with the information it's deemed worthy of your attention.