Discussions on Facebook

For the last couple of days I’ve been involved in a Facebook discussion of 12 people, 34 messages so far. It’s taking place as a message thread — showing up in my INBOX. I’m trying to capture the pros and cons of Facebook message platforms –

1. Message threads.
You can add many of your friends to a message and then the default is that everyone will see everyone else’s replies to the thread. This is better than e-mail (even threaded e-mail, I think) in that the messages all appear to be part of one virtual document. The big drawback is that ONLY those who were on the original message see any of the replies.

2. Discussion board topics
Well, these can have the same characteristics of Message threads, but at the moment there’s no easy way to notify people about the creation of a topic. If they’re a friend of the person who created the thread, they may notice it in their news feed. If they reply once, they’ll get notified of future replies. But how are they first notified that the topic exists? For groups where the members check in quite often, this can work. But for communities that are just making the transition from e-mail lists, it seems awkward. This is where a better news system for groups would be an awesome feature.

3. Posts and tagging
A friend has experimented with creating a post and then tagging the post with the names of the folks she wants to read the post. They’ll then be notified of the tag, and she had good success in getting several people to comment on her post a few days ago. This is limited, though — she said 30 people? — and seems to be turning “tagging” on its head, where a tag generally means this post is *about* someone, not that the post is “of interest” to someone.

The fundamental problem seems to be a limitation on how Facebook republishes information about groups and pages — there’s nothing like an RSS feed for the changes in the group, at least none that I’ve found.

But an auxiliary problem is how the conversion will work for groups that are currently “living on e-mail lists”. What’s the pull to get them to Facebook? Is there one that’ll appear in the short term?

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