A Message From Facebook: It Looks Like You Were Going Too Fast And Misusing This Feature, So Your IP Address Has Been Blocked

In classic facebook fashion, it seems that a new mechanism was uncovered in the last few hours at the time of this writing that wasn’t quite fully baked. It appears to be some sort of traffic monitoring system to help stop bots from spamming the system, but the end result so far is a TON of users getting an unhelpful error on the top of their page, reading

“It looks like users on your current IP address were going too fast and misusing this feature, so this IP been blocked from it for up to two days”

Sweet Facebook, glad to hear from you too. Not only do I have no idea what you’re talking about, I also don’t have any idea what to do. Yet another example of a seemingly innocuous error message from a developer’s point of view that is actually very unhelpful–and worse, disturbing–when reading it as a user.

Now if you’re hitting this page from Google and just wondering what to do, I won’t bore you; here’s the simple solution:

  1. Hit Start
  2. Type “cmd” and hit enter. A command prompt will open.
  3. Type in    ipconfig /release    and hit enter
  4. Type in    ipconfig /renew      and hit enter
  5. Enjoy your Facebook

 

Solution aside, let’s look at how we could have made this error message better. First, note the opening informal language: ‘it looks like’. I actually see this as a good thing in that it makes the interaction more casual and less like a brush with authority–good. Moving on, we get to ‘your current IP address’, and here’s the first bit that could really confuse users. What constitutes an IP address? I would conservatively bet that ~30% of facebook’s users have no idea what an IP address is, and even then the remaining 70% probably wouldn’t know if the IP address being referred to is literally their own computer’s IP or if it’s their access-point/router’s IP (which nearly EVERYONE is behind nowadays). Some guidance on this bit would really help anyone troubleshooting the problem without Google.

Continuing, we get to ‘misusing this feature’. What feature was I using, exactly? Heck, a user logs in and is immediately using 5-10 features depending on how you cut it. And then we get to the consequences for your naughty ways: you could be blocked from it (the said feature?) for up to two days. What a great way to send your users into panic mode! Such a great error message.

Now, given the mistakes, let’s take a shot at how this should read:

“It looks like users on your computer’s current IP address were potentially misusing the <insert feature here> by making too many requests. If you have any issues with the <said feature> in the future, please see this page for support.”

We basically just give the users the complete picture, remove any blame from their part, and avoid the consequences all together by giving them a solution should they come into effect.

Now, for fun I visited a Facebook Community Forum page with nearly a hundred comments from users all within about an hour of my viewing. Obviously there was a lot of complaining going on, but the comments getting the most votes by users were those jokingly criticizing the new ‘speed limit’, bashing the grammar of  the message, or even calling it out as a threat (which is completely justified in my opinion).

As you can see, it looks like this could get some negative PR should this error show up in a large number of users’ newsfeeds–and it could all simply be avoided by some good UX.

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7 Comments

  1. CC
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t renewing your IP through CMD change your local IP address? I dont see how that could work…

    • Brent Grossman
      Posted November 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Heya, sorry about the late response (email filters are being overzealous). You’re correct about ‘ipconfig /release /renew’ just refreshing your local IP from your router.

      I’m not entirely sure why this works, but perhaps the script that’s serving this error detects a user from that value, or some combination involving it. Whatever the case, it works.

  2. abby carroll
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    didnt work for me :(

    • Brent Grossman
      Posted November 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Hey Abby. Is your error the same error that’s being reviewed here? Secondly, are there any errors in the command prompt when you entered the commands?

      Apart from that, unfortunately, I don’t have any leads for you

  3. abby carroll
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    i have no idea whats happened my whole fb page layout has changed have notifications on the right now… My last one said im blocked from posting or creating pages until the 14th now :(

  4. tommy
    Posted January 30, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    hit start?? wot start?? wheres that? wot you talking about? ~I have no idea how to do your suggested procedure.

    • Brent Grossman
      Posted January 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      If you are running Windows 8, just hit the Windows key on your keyboard. Now, proceed to step 2 :-)

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