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 Zuckerberg's followers on Facebook Live!
Check out our team's pitch to Mark Zuckerberg in the video below!
Posing the Question
Every Friday, Mark holds a Q&A session, inviting interns and employees to ask him questions about the company and state of Facebook. The questions usually range from being playful to serious. Getting up to ask Mark a question can be pretty scary. But the question I had in mind had been bugging me for quite some time. It was something I thought about before I knew I would even intern at Facebook. I waited a few weeks and then asked my question:
"My friend passed away a few years ago. I felt like I never found a proper way to grieve him on Facebook formally. I didn't have the chance to attend his funeral so all I could do was write him a wall post. Eventually, I stopped writing letters because I noticed others were stopping as well. The sharing experience felt a little too public, making me feel self-conscious about it.
I didn't want my personal letter to him to show up in other people's news feeds. Right now, when someone gets memorialized, nothing about their timeline changes. You can even still see their last status update. Is Facebook working on ways to improve this experience? Are we thinking of ways to help users connect and cope after losing a loved one?"
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.
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 quickly formed within a few days, consisting of both full-time employees and interns. We were ready to hack together to make a difference.
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)
Understanding the Pain Points
At the start of the hackathon, we didn't know too much about the needs or behaviors of our target audience. We had a general idea of what their needs were but knew we were only looking at the tip of the iceberg.
How do you memorialize an account? What does it mean to be a legacy contact?
After an initial discussion, our team reached out 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."
Creating a Shared Space
We went back to the whiteboard and started considering the type of content people share online when they lose someone. We found that friends and family would cope by writing letters, sharing stories, posting photos and videos on the individual's timeline.
People would take the time to write heartfelt letters and share memorable photos only for it to end up looking like a regular, generic wall post. These posts looked disorderly on the individual's timeline. We wanted to provide people with a way to celebrate a loved one together in a positive light. Our project, Remembrance, was a feature that lived on the timeline of the memorialized account. 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.
Notes vs. Wall Posts
The purpose of the space is to bring friends and family together and celebrate the best moments of this individual's life. Friends can decorate the space by adding in photos, videos and memos in the format of a note.
The content, in the form a Note, real makes it stand out from being just another regular wall post. This helps add a personal touch to the reflections created. We wanted to mimic the experience of flipping through a scrapbook. To get a better sense of the scope of this project and to see more of the user experience, make sure to watch the team's presentation to Mark at the top of the page.
Every year, select teams are chosen to pitch their idea to Mark. But we were one of the first few teams ever at the company to pitch to Mark 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:
After we presented, our team took the time to go through the public comments left on the livestream. 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 both 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 the future outcome of this project. Stay tuned for updates!