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:
- Hit Start
- Type in “run” and a command prompt will open.
- Type in ipconfig /release and hit enter
- Type in ipconfig /renew and hit enter
- 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.