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Facebook says it 'can do better' with its 'Year in Review' slideshows

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 30, 2014
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Facebook inadvertently opened a lot of old wounds with its automated "Year in Review" slideshow feature. While it was meant to highlight people's favorite moments, it also reminded many of deaths, divorces and other tragedies that they tried to leave in the past. The company is clearly ready to own up to its mistake, though. Product manager Jonathan Gheller has apologized to Eric Meyer (whose story about his daughter's death drew attention to the problem) for the insensitivity and declared that the "Year in Review" team "can do better" in the future. While it's not clear what those changes will involve, The Guardian notes that Facebook has already changed the ending of the slideshow from "it's been a great year" to "see you next year" to avoid making presumptions.

For his part, Meyer is quick to note that Facebook isn't the only one making gaffes like this. As he puts it, web designs seldom account for "worst-case scenarios" in people's lives. They frequently assume that you're sharing good news, or that you want to relive every memory. Developers aren't intentionally cruel, Meyer says, but they need to be aware that they could potentially exacerbate someone's suffering when they highlight content. Facebook is just learning that lesson the hard way.

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