Facebook as a Genre

facebook_candidates.gifAs students and, increasingly, faculty move into Facebook, the slew of applications catering to their needs have been slewing fast, sent forth by the release of the API back in May. While many of these merely add on a new infective meme to the wildly-popular social network, other applications offer the possibility of collaborative writing through Madlibs, Choose Your Own Adventure, and even more ordinary forms, such as short stories and poems. What follows is a very abbreviated survey.

[Note, below, Daily Active Users (DAU) numbers are current as of the writing of this post. The percentage represents what proportion of the total users the DAU represents.]

Presidential Buddies

If you’ve used Facebook for any time, you know that you spend a lot of time (in internet minutes) getting updates about your friends and acquaintances. It’s like checking in with the gossip maven: Who is friends with whom, who joined what, who added which application. For its upcoming issue, Bunk Magazine has released Presidential Buddies, a Facebook application that allows you to add the current U.S. Presidential Candidates as your friends to follow their exploits in a satirical critique of their drive to captivate generation YouTube.

This Social [F]utility allows you to:

  • Add the candidates all as buddies at once.
  • Find out their latest shenanigans.
  • Show em what Facebook-stalking is all about.

The piece updates every time you reload to let you know what the candidates are getting into now. Although much of Facebook borders on parody or silly social networking, this is one of the few applications to directly mock the updates of Facebook in your own profile. More importantly, it marks Bunk entry into the latest genre of electronic writing, Facebook Apps.

Writer Response Faceboook

Of particular interest to WRT readers are applications that allow Facebookers to write stories (and also often essays, poems, plays, and screenplays) collaboratively or in communities with others. Here are several, listed loosely in order of relevance to WRT.

SugarCane [10 DAU, 7%] by Peter Wood, Christopher Moore, and Patrick Lea. The first Choose and Create Your Own Adventure System on Facebook.

sugarcane.gifFollowing the directions you were given, you carefully make your way along the path, and eventually find an animal trail leading into the hills. Although it would normally be very difficult to locate, there are signs that many people have passed this way recently.

It is getting very late when you come across a well-prepared camp area. Someone has prepared a lean-to under a rocky outcropping, and cleared an area of vegetation such that a fire can be built without setting fire to nearby grass and bushes.

It strikes you that this could be a good spot to stop and sleep under cover.

sugarcane_mapReaders choose between Stopping and Camping overnight or Carrying on. Readers can add new pages and choices through an interface that combines a wiki-style editor and a menu-driven set of links. Although only beginning to gain users, this application may be the adventure may become the choice of facebook reader writers.

Stories [225 DAU, 2%] by Ashot Petrosian, allows you to compose stories with your friends. This popular application is predominantly a chain-story authoring application, although it’s very light weight which helps encourage us to use them and share them.

Fill in the _________ (Plural Noun) [72 DAU, 1%] by Crimson Apps. A Madlibs style storywriting application. To write a tale, you merely remove [Plural Noun] from your tale before you publish. Writers who “play” the story, fill in the blanks before they see the story. Unfortunately, the authors cannot edit the stories once they’ve been released.

Web Story 2.0 [75 DAU, 3%] by Antonia De Lima, Davide De Lima, and Jonathan De Lima allows you to write stories and share them with others. Users can choose to write a “Chain Story,” “Profile Story,” “Public Story,” “1 to1 Story,” Group Story, Private Story, Public Story. In the “Profile Story,” the last few lines of your story will appear in your profile.

Fluxword [18 DAU, 8%] By Aaron Clifford. is part storytelling application, part writer’s tool. Fluxword:

Allows you to get feedback from other users on your writing, as well as being a great place to go and read stories written by Facebook users.

Fluxword seems particularly useful for getting feedback on already-written works.

Telephone Game [987 DAU, 5%] by Hungry Machine LLC. Based on the children’s game, this app asks you to:

Write a sentence and send it to your friends. Someone changes it in some way and passes it on. Its playing the Telephone Game, but with all your friends at the same Time.

Most assume web transmissions to be direct and without possibility for such transmission problems. Playing Telephone online might trouble that assumption.

Storyline [411 DAU, 4%], Write a chain sotry with friends.

Stories by Us [11 DAU, 6%] by James Chheng, another collaborative writing application, although this time with constraints as “you choose a list of words that each friend must use when they add to the story.”

Collaboration by Ryan Gravener allows you to write a movie script with your friends.

Poetry Shout (324 DAU, 4%) by Crimson Apps allows users to submit poetry to share and get feedback.


The Nonfiction stories can all presumably also be used for writing Fiction. The following applications all allow users to write and share stories.

Friend Stories [1,005 DAU, 2%] by Renaud Visage, Kevin Hartz, and Arnav Khare.

Shared Memories [494 DAU, 11%] by Jambool

Testimonial Applications:

  • Testimonials [188 DAU, 3%] by Shady Inc.
  • Testimonials [104 DAU, 3%] By Jayant Agarwalla and Rajat Agarwalla.
  • All my Testimonials [28 DAU, 2%] by Vinit Bhansali

Typical functionality is summed up in All My T’s:

Write Testimonials for your Friends and See what they write about you.

Many of these writing applications hold potential for use not only in collaborative authorship of artistic writing, but the workshopping and collaborative essays that many of us teach. Students might prefer this venue to a Blackboard, and it still maintains a level of privacy. However, for most of the applications, since you can only share with your “friends,” students would have to “friend” their teachers, which may be a bit more than either side desires.

What remains to be seen is whether your friends will be more or less likely to participate in these collaborative efforts over Facebook as opposed to through the mail or even in person. Certainly applications that require little daily effort with high friend interaction seem to have greater viral potential. But Facebook is a strong vortex of time-wasting and procrastination, which suggests that your friends will participate at least until an newer application comes along.

[Does anyone have statistics on the rates at which Facebook users “drop” old applications?]

Other popular add ons…

Speaking of other applications, Facebook has of course many games with links to digital character art. Here is a selection of notables:

The current most popular is Pet Dragons [17,350 DAU, 49%] by Craig Schwartz. In the application, you can:

Raise a newly hatched dragonling, and help it grow. Fight other dragons - anyone on Facebook with a dragon could be a target! Being attacked? Call on your friends for help! Can you be the strongest?

A more popular genre is the Do-something/send-something to your friend applications:

Water Fight, Love Ice Cream, Drinks,Make a Baby with your Friends,

These are extensions of the basic mode of Facebook, sending and receiving messages, passing notes, distracting one another, networking, etc.

Of course, not all is polite in the world of Facebook. You can buy and sell essays and “legal papers” through the application of that name by Gazhoo.com.

[Needless to say, I could go on, but my vampire just bought your Zombie a Drink].

8 Responses to “Writing that Gets in Your Facebook”

  1. 1 Jeremy Douglass

    Mark, this is an excellent survey. Do you know if any other social networks have similar app platforms that support fiction exchange?

    This whole thing reminds me of a Niesz and Holland quote from 1984, in which they essentially suggested that the future of interactive fiction and hypertext was what we would now point out as Google Docs:

    What the genre [of interactive fiction] might look like in two decades, it seems impossible to say, given the rate of technological change. As we write, for example, the genre is advancing yet another technological step. Nationwide computer networks connected by telephone now maintain programs called “electronic novels.” These admit totally free-form fictions: the original author simply starts out the story, and then anyone who wishes can add a chapter. These are, then, multi-author fictions, written not by one or two or even a dozen authors but many, probably anonymous and probably casual and playful rather than authorially committed to writing a Novel with a capital N. In principle there is no limit to the number of possible authors, nor is there any reason in principle why such a novel need ever come to an end. The network makes it possible for the writing to go on and on and for the novel to exist in indefinitely many versions. In effect, the reader-writers are acting out T. S. Eliot’s dictum: the best response to a poem is another poem-although Eliot probably did not have this situation in mind. (Niesz and Holland. “Interactive Fiction.” Critical Inquiry. v11.1. 1984. p126.)

    I suppose the caution here is to not describe Facebook Apps as a genre, except with one’s tongue (Bunk-like) firmly planted in cheek. Apps are after all anything computational, which we know covers an awful lot of territory.

  2. 2 Ruth Page

    Hi Mark,

    I’d like to add my thanks for this great survey. I hadn’t realised there was such a lot of writing going on in Facebook, and will check this out for sure. I’ve been doing some work on the narrative potential of blogs and become convinced that patterns of online interaction are creating new story genres (not just using new technological platforms) so your post has given me some new leads to follow. Thanks again,


  3. 3 Kim

    Wow, I had no idea these applications existed. I was curious today and tried looking up for some “writing” applications for FaceBook and your blog led me to the right direction. Thanks :)

  4. 4 MyScribeWeb Writers Resources

    Thanks for the info Mark, great research.
    I have also found some writing sites that encourage the same concepts as you describe. I guess the most common concern for writers wanting to take part is one of copyright issues. Compilations [digital editions] of poetry for instance have been published from material gathered from chain story telling. When the original author eventually includes his/her work to a publisher, well……..

  5. 5 Lina

    well done on compiling the list! I guess, muds are moving to Facebook…

  6. 6 Mr Johnson

    Interesting that the title of this webpage is “Order Cheap Viagra Online” LOL

  1. 1 Choose Your Own Adventure on Facebook « Angela A Thomas
  2. 2 Writing applications popular in Facebook « Digital/Trans Media, Writing, and Education

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