I’m starting to think about a workshop on Facebook that I’ll be doing at a couple of AAUW state conventions next spring. I may start using this space to write up notes and test ideas. If you’d like to be more involved in the workshop development, or would like to have me attend your state convention, let me know.
Facebook crossed the 300 million users threshold last month — and it continues to be a grand experiment. Somewhere there’s a group that’s figuring out how that very large population can best communicate with each other, while maintaining the Facebook principles of simple, streamlined user interface and a focus on messages from one person to another (as opposed to messages from groups/organizations to people). As things change without warning, this can be disconcerting. Following the Facebook blog can help, but we are still pretty much powerless to effect change in the Facebook juggernaut. I find it best to just “go with the flow” and tweak around the edges when my motivations for using Facebook don’t mesh completely with the Facebook view of the world.
Anyway, Facebook’s recent change to the “home page” allows users some control over what they as they first bring up Facebook:
- The default “news feed” shows some collection of items that Facebook predicts will be “interesting.” Their algorithm is clearly undergoing some changes and has occasional hiccups when it will emphasize something from a week ago even though you’ve checked Facebook regularly since then.
- With one click you can change the “news feed” to a “live feed” that shows, in most recent first order, all the traffic from your friends — what they posted on their status, notes they wrote on others’ walls, links they posted, pictures they uploaded, friends they made, groups they joined, and more. This is more information than appeared on the old home page, but is closer in spirit than the edited news feed.
Note that both of these view are configurable. Look for an “edit options” down in the lower right. In the news feed options, you can hide friends and fan pages that you don’t want to hear about on a quick check of Facebook. In the live feed you have a “hide” and a “show me more” for both friends and pages. You can also change the 250 default limit on the number of friends who will appear in these feeds. Note that you can still “hide” friends and pages (and the applications they may use) by clicking the “hide” at the top right of a particular story for the options that pertain to that story. Any users you’d hidden before carry over to the new views.
There’s also an option that some are recommending to configure the home page view by looking at the left hand side and dragging “status updates” to the top of the list, above “News feed”. [You may need to click “more” to see the “status updates”.] This, then, shows status updates from your friends — but doesn’t appear to show their other activities that would appear in the “News feed” or “Live feed”. Therefore choose this carefully.
Another option is to create “friend lists” that will then appear in that right hand menu. Add Jane, Sally, John and Paul to a list called “relatives” and you can then click the “relatives” list to get caught up on all of them. Spend some time thinking about how you group your friends, maybe who you’d expect to see at the same party, put them into groups and then you can click through to see their content in the context of each others remarks. This doesn’t prevent you from “introducing” someone from one area of your life to someone from another area (one of the key benefits of Facebook), but it may cut down on the information overload — especially if you have a “really important” list that you drag to the top of the left hand column so posts about those folks will be what you see when you start Facebook.
So, keep in mind that Facebook is offering a way to “follow” friends and acquaintances that is sometimes hard for our brains to absorb — particularly for those of us who remember when phone calls were expensive and communicating over long distances usually involved paper. Facebook hasn’t figured it out perfectly, but they’re trying. Take some time to experiment with different options and find one that works for you and the circle of friends and organizations you’ve chosen to follow. And be prepared to change again in a few months.