August 17, 2007

Facebook Groups are the Site's Saving Grace

A month ago, I wrote that for Facebook, I could already read the epilogue. Despite so much crowing in the blogosphere about the site's growth and opening up to non school-goers, I didn't think the unfocused social networking site would be the final answer. I said people would eventually grow tired of it and move on, leaving it for the next shiny thing that came along.

At the time, I didn't have a login and said I didn't want one. But curiosity, and a desire to back up my comments with experience had me signing up shortly afterward, to look around. A few weeks later, I still don't think Facebook will ever have as much value for me as other sites, like LinkedIn, and I still don't think it will become a site I will ever obsess over, and I still believe a fickle audience won't stick for long. But there are some small, non life-changing benefits.

Unlike true blogging, Facebook profile forces you into a rigid style to present yourself, offering a headshot, a place for photos, a short status update box, your personal background (age/gender/location, etc.) and a mini-feed of what your friends are doing. If you find useful applications, you add them to the main section or sidebar, much like a My Yahoo! portal. (See My Profile if you're a Facebook user)

After jumping in to Facebook, I started with the basics - headshot photo, personal information, Web site. Then I did an import of my Apple Address book to see if my "friends" were on the site. Not many were. But those who made sense to add, I added. Then I went in search for Robert Scoble's page, as he's made so much noise on Facebook, you'd think all other sites were going to close down tomorrow. I added him as a friend, and he accepted (he's quite casual in that regard).

In the ensuing weeks, I have not been all that impressed with the options for applications on the site. Most tend to lean toward "Ask a Question of Your Friends" and "Post a Link" or "Track Who's Viewing Your Page". I did add plugins for Last.FM to show recent music played, and Google Reader Shared Items, but I can do all those things here on my blog.

Just about the only benefit I've found of Facebook is the use of "Groups". Facebook offers an impressive array of groups you can join, from those who support Lisa Simpson for President to a Beagle Lovers club, to groups around political parties, school attendance and church. Through Facebook, I've seen a few dozen old acquaintances join one of these groups, and "added as friend" quite a few I hadn't thought of in a while. But this doesn't mean I'll reach out to them any more than I had, only that I can now see their status updates, who they've added as friends, and if the group has any live conversation. Usually the answer is no, but the Groups feature does offer a central point to make announcements to similarly interested people.

After all the noise, I had secretly hope to be proven wrong. I wanted to log in to this walled-off garden of techdom and discover that I would have to eat my words, that this would be a one-stop panacea of Web geekery and communication. But it's not. Facebook, for me, has very little value, and won't ever sniff the relevancy of this blog. While I won't yet be closing out my account, and will continue to give it a go with regular status updates and Friends adds, I don't ever see myself becoming a diehard Facebook fanatic.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree. I don't get the urge to ever check into my account unless I get an email alert saying someone want to be added as my friend, or has commented to me.

    I guess the main purpose of my presence on Facebook is so that people from my past or current acquaintances without my contact info can potentially find me easier.