Tag Archives: social networking

Facebook Events Has a Long Way to Go

So I just posted a Facebook event for my belated birthday party. I had read that FB Events had surpassed Evite in usage by a wide margin. Facebook also proclaimed in the help that people who weren’t in FB could be invited and would be allowed to respond. What could go wrong?

First, the famous walled garden reared its ugly head. Yes, you can invite non-users, but their response is limited to yes/no/maybe. That’s it. I asked people to state alcohol preferences in the comments. It turns out that only FB users can write on “The Wall” for your event. Not cool. AND they can’t even specify that they’re bringing other people.

Then I noticed that the number of people who were confirmed didn’t match the list. This is because it only displays thumbnails for FB users. You have to click on a link to show both FB and non-FB attendees. And if you’re not a FB member, you can’t see the full list!

So Facebook Events treats non-FB users like second class citizens. As a host, I am embarrassed for its behavior. I strongly suggest it be avoided altogether unless all your guests are on FB. If you’re in HS or college, maybe that’s the case. But I’m too old to be in that situation.

Even if all your friends are on FB, there is another caveat: FB Events won’t send an automatic reminder. I learned about this tonight through a friend. He was invited to a party 3 weeks in advance. A few days before the party, he got an email from another invitee asking if he was still attending. As you might imagine, he and just about everyone else completely forgot about it. If they hadn’t formed an impromptu phone/email tree, most people wouldn’t have showed up.

Now I’m in the awkward position of having to create an Evite and spam my guests with another invitation. As far as I can tell, FB Events are only good for promoters who are publicizing events that are completely open to the public. For everything else, they suck.

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Personal Do Not Call List

I’ve joined a few different social networking sites, and when I join I want to quickly add my friends who are already on the site. Many have a nifty feature that allow you to upload your Outlook contacts file, which they use to generate a list of existing users. Sounds harmless, right?

The problem is that some sites can be a bit aggressive about it, and if you’re not careful, they will sent invites to your whole contacts list. We often forget who we have in that list. People we haven’t spoken to in years, or those who we had one short conversation with. In short, people who might be little taken aback to find you still had their contact info. And even more creeped out that you want to add them as “friends” on whatever social site du jour. I just installed the latest version of Skype, which includes your Outlook contacts in your Skype contact list by default (you can turn that off, thankfully). It would suck to accidentally call some girl whose phone number I should have purged years ago.

So I created a personal Do Not Call List. I moved every contact that I’d feel embarrassed about contacting accidentally. As I’m a bit of a data pack rat, I cleared out 37 (!) old contacts. I still have them just in case, but I can now export my current contacts without fear. It also makes finding contacts a bit easier.

Thoughts on Facebook

Now that Facebook is open to the public, I’ve joined up and wandered through. I’m a social software buff, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Networks and Exclusivity
Facebook started out as an exclusive network for college kids, and that still shows. It is still divided into networks based on schools, workplaces, and geographical regions (the last of which anyone can join). To get into the school or workplace networks, you need an email address that proves your affiliation. I don’t have one for my alma mater, and I’m not terribly keen on adding my work affiliation.

Profiles and Access
The clean profiles are more reminiscent of Friendster than MySpace. On the one hand, there’s less customization and personalization. On the other hand, you’re not constantly pulling up some garish vision of Hades, a cacophony of top 40 vitriol that will forever haunt your dreams. So you got that going for you. The message seems to be, “We’re a bit more civilized over here, a bit more mature, as evidenced by the many photographs of my alcohol drinking escapades, which is what grownups do.”
     You can only see the full profiles of your friends and those in your networks (and there are ways to further restrict your profile). To clarify, you can verify the existence of just about everyone on there, using browse and search features. But if they’re not in one of your networks, you only see a thumbnail and are limited to sending them a message or adding them as friends. So even though there are millions of members, I can only see the profiles of those in my regional network, which has about 50K people. You can switch regional networks, but only once every 60 days. This is especially annoying for those like me who live on the border of another regional network. I can switch, but I can’t be in both.
     This is probably another reason why Facebook has been called a “walled garden” and the AOL of today. In addition to the general Internet public being kept out, virtual walls exist between the different internal groups. It seems I also can’t see the profiles of those in my regional network who are underage. There are various search/browse filters that can weed them out for you, but I still appreciate the extra layer of protection, because you really can’t tell by the photographs anymore, and Facebook is filled with HS kids.

Identity
Once you start browsing profiles (or just looking at your own), you realize there is virtually no anonymity. Just about everyone goes by their full name. It also makes it much easier to find people by name, especially when compared to sites like MySpace.
     I think this also affects how you craft your identity on the site. You’re probably a bit more cautious. Not as cautious as you would be on LinkedIn, but still… Age, of course, is a factor; the younger the person the “riskier” the profile. This happens a lot: you’ll see a thumbnail of a hot chick in a bikini, instinctively click on it, and see the profile is blocked because she’s in high school. Perhaps this behavior stems from when the virtual walls kept all non-students out, most importantly parents and younger siblings. Or maybe there are just a lot of young girls with poor decision making skills, as Masterchief would say.

Social Focus
The user base skews young, as you’d expect from a site that was students-only until a few months ago. I’m pretty far from ancient, but after uploading my Outlook contacts file it only found two friends already registered. I’ve also seen other user data that shows most members are in school or within 5 years of graduation. You also see a mix of people like me with very few connections, and college students or recent grads with over 100 friends. You hear a lot of buzz about how this is going to be the next big network, but if so, it’s going to start with students and move forward. A lot of people will have more friends on MySpace, and that will continue until the current teens and 20-somethings start aging.
     It also has more of a dating feel than MySpace (closer to Friendster, I guess). Probably because the basic profile questions are similar to sites like Match.com. At the same time, it doesn’t go nearly as far as a dedicated dating site, and seems a little strange to use it as one. I did find a rather brilliant 3rd party application called Matches. It allows you to anonymously communicate your interest to someone. They get notified they have a secret admirer, but your identity isn’t revealed until they indicate they’re also interested in you. If this sounds familiar, I blogged about this feature earlier when American Singles added it.
     Perhaps because of the dating feel, it feels weird to include work related info – like mixing business and pleasure. I’ll leave the professional networking to LinkedIn, which I’m also on.

User Communication
There are a few ways to interact with other users without resorting to messaging them. Networks have message boards and something called “The Wall”. Walls are like MySpace comments, and your profile has one too, but you’re not prevented from writing on your own wall – a nice improvement. And there are groups, but they’re listed alphabetically, so it’s hard to find popular, active groups, unless it’s a top 10 group in your network. That’s included in the basic network stats.

3rd Party Apps
Garnering recent buzz in the developer community was the Facebook Platform, which allows you to create plugins (“applications” in Facebook parlance) for Facebook users. So far the popular ones include those that display your music playlists, what states/countries you’ve been to, a virtual white board for visitors to scribble graffiti, and the aforementioned Matches app.

Conclusion
It’s interesting, and I can see how it’s a must for college-oriented people. As these people continue to enter the workforce and interact with older peers, membership will grow. Right now, I’m not sure that all regions have reached the critical mass to offer a real community experience, and you may find you want to switch to an outside region just to have access to more people. Or you can just stick with MySpace until I build something better for the rest of us.

MySpace Is Glorious!

Within a day of creating an account (had to use work, I’ll be fired soon I’m sure), I am getting solicitations from hot ladies! They all want me to email them, which can only mean they are really interested. Not all of them live near me, but for these ladies, a long distance relationship would be just as rewarding. I submit, for you reading pleasure (and imminent jealousy!), a missive from a lovely young woman with the handle “irin”:

Hello!!!!
I want will get acquainted with male.
I saw your structure and you have very much interested me.
I very much would like to find out about you more.
It would be very pleasant for me if you will write on mine email: irin-73@mail.ru
I shall look forward to hearing from you.
Irina.

And there’s more where that came from!

Dude, I Think She Likes You…

I received yet another “new feature” notification for a web site I’m registered with. Difference is, this is the first one I’ve ever been impressed with. American Singles has a new feature called Click! that acts as a mutual friend. It’s dead simple, and so brilliant you’ll wonder why I didn’t think of it first. As you view the personals, you can mark them as Yes, Maybe, or No. If you mark a profile as Yes, and its the author does the same for your profile, you “click”, and the site let’s you know you’re interested in each other. If you marked her Maybe, and she marks you as Yes, you’re sent a subtle hint: “Are you sure she’s not a Yes?” No’s are treated like you never viewed and/or marked the ad, so no hurt feelings.

This is so much easier than real life, where I assume a girl’s not interested unless she actually smiles at me. Consider that a warning.

Craigslist

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist, gave a speech about his site and why he thinks it works as a virtual community. I have very little experience with his site, which he describes as a collection of classified ads, but forums have allowed an interesting community to form around them. Since the ads are organized by city, the site has become a user supported collection of city guides.

I found his talk personal, humorous, and engaging. You can access his Powerpoint slides here. Craig’s an affable fellow who’s dedicated to his work, and as of late, various social/political causes.