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Remembrance

Facebook Company Hackathon 2016, Judge's Choice Award

Our hackathon project aims to redefine how our loved ones are celebrated and remembered on Facebook's platform.

Remembrance brings together friends and family members from around the world to share their favorite memories of a person in one shared space. Interning at Facebook this past summer, I learned what it means to drive and deliver impact. Since our team won the Judge's Choice Award at the company-wide internal hackathon, we had the rare opportunity to pitch our idea to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, CTO Mike Schroepfer, CPO Chris Cox and VP of Engineering Jay Parikh. 

Our project demo was broadcasted to all of Zuckerberg's followers on Facebook Live. Check out our project demo to the board members in the video below. 

 

Every Friday, Mark holds a Q&A session, inviting interns and employees to ask him questions about what's going on at Facebook internally. 

There was question I had wanted to ask Mark about for quite some time. I never found the courage to bring it up until a few weeks into the internship. This is what I asked:

"A friend of mine took his life a few years ago. I never felt like I could properly grieve my loss online through Facebook. Friends and family members could only write wall posts on his profile to remember him. Many people, including myself, felt uncomfortable writing these personal notes and messages on his wall as they were so public for everyone to read. People started sharing less and less as time went on. It's not a pleasant experience at all. What is Facebook doing to improve all of this? How can we help family members and friends cope with their losses in a more connected way?" 

Mark answered by saying that although it is an important problem to tackle, there currently isn't a lot of emphasis on changing the current experience. I wasn't totally happy with the response and others felt the same way. 

 
 Our team (from left to right): Vanessa Callison-Burch (Product Manager, Consultant), Lea Cody (Product Design Intern), James Wu (Engineer), Zola Bridges (Engineering Intern), Tiffany Jiang (Product Design Intern), Nivedita Chopra (Engineer), Chirs Lee (Engineer), Jordan Brown (Engineering Intern)

Our team (from left to right): Vanessa Callison-Burch (Product Manager, Consultant), Lea Cody (Product Design Intern), James Wu (Engineer), Zola Bridges (Engineering Intern), Tiffany Jiang (Product Design Intern), Nivedita Chopra (Engineer), Chirs Lee (Engineer), Jordan Brown (Engineering Intern)

Later that week, others reached out to me asking if they could help me build on the idea and make a prototype for the upcoming hackathon.

A team started to form within a few days. Both full-time employees and interns were on board to help build the idea. Meeting together at the start of the hackathon, we realized we didn't know enough about the experience that our audience faces. We had a general understanding of their needs but didn't understand the full picture. We barely knew any information on how to memorialize an account. What is a legacy contact? 

We directed these questions and more to Jed Brubaker, a UX researcher at Facebook who focuses primarily on studying death in relation to social media. He helped answer many of our questions and shared with us conclusions drawn from relevant user studies.

  • "People feel like they can't openly grieve on Facebook because their personal messages gets broadcasted in News Feed to an unintended audience."

  • "Legacy Contacts feel like they don't have enough responsibilities to handle. They are not motivated to be in charge of these inactive accounts."

  • "There's a lot of social psychology around how people grieve on Facebook. People are uncomfortable about it. It's a sensitive topic."

We started considering the type of content people share online when they lose a loved one.We found that most people would cope by writing letters, sharing stories, and posting photos on the person's timeline. People would take the time to write heartfelt letters only for them to be presented as generic wall posts. We wanted to provide people with a way to celebrate a loved one together in a more positive and pleasing way. 

 

We developed "Remembrance" as a private space for friends and family members to celebrate the life of their loved one in a more fitting manner.  

The legacy contact would have the ability to set it up and customize it to their liking by adding in a photo and personalized message. People would then click into the feature to view the "album" of images and letters. Although it's a public feature that any friend can access, it's private because the content that gets shared within, doesn't show up in other people's news feeds. This was an important aspect we wanted to tackle. People should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts freely and shouldn't have to worry about an unwanted public reaction.

 
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Friends can decorate the space by adding photos, videos and memos in a scrapbook manner.

Posts made within the space appear as Notes. These are distinctly different from regular wall posts. A different typeface is used for Notes which gives the content a more formal look and feel to them. There's also a greater feeling of personal touch added to the reflections. Visitors to the space can go through the shared memories page by page. The experience is reminiscent of looking through a photo album on Facebook. 

 

Every year, select teams are chosen to pitch their idea to Mark. We were one of the first teams to present our work on Facebook Live.

Our demo was streamed to all of Zuckerberg's followers. We had over 3.8 million views from around the world! It was really touching to read through all the comments from the livestream and see what people had to say about Remembrance. Overall, we got very supportive comments and a lot of people telling us that they would benefit from this feature greatly. We pulled a handful of quotes to showcase here. Many people supported our vision for a better way to celebrating the lives of our lost loved ones.

  • "It might be Morbid (sic), but for those that are terminal, it would be great to know Remembrance is there and you will be remembered."

  • "I think Remembrance feature is really great. I will like you to add a donate function especially for Africa where we contribute to help the family bury the loved one and support the family left behind."

  • "That's a good idea. I had a friend who passed away and every time people post comments, you kind of want something more personal for them."

  • 'Love the Remembrance feature - a place for people who have lost a family/friend to mourn, support, remember, heal, and be restored ... might help those realize that the sun is still indeed shining and life still has a purpose and a future."

 

Given the positive reviews we received internally and publicly, the Protect and Care team has decided to add Remembrance to their H1 Roadmap for 2017.

I wish I could continue working on this project but it has now been passed on to the hands of full-time employees and researchers. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such passionate and driven teammates to turn this idea into a reality. I am excited to see where this project goes next.