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Facebook - John C. Kirk

Jun. 20th, 2007

12:15 am - Facebook

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After some nudging, I've now signed up with Facebook. I wasn't too impressed by it at first, but it's grown on me. A few first impressions:



I must admit, I'm still not entirely sure what Facebook is actually for, but right now it's a nice fluffy way to be friendly. I certainly don't see it replacing LJ, since this is a place for me to write about things at length rather than leaving short messages. What it does offer is a way to keep in touch with non-LJ people (some of my younger friends), which is quite handy.

Comments:

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From:susannahf
Date:June 20th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC)
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I agree with a lot of your points. I am mainly there to keep up with oxford students, who appear to be unable to use any other electronic means of contact. I'm surprised you keep needing to retype your password though - firefox seems to remember mine, so I just have to click "login".
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From:totherme
Date:June 20th, 2007 10:14 am (UTC)
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Dude, you're still using IE? ;)

FWIW, I've given facebook three of my email addresses, so as to be associated with three distinct networks. I know that not all companies (and company email addresses) are recognised by facebook, so I'm pretty sure there's a way of telling it that you're working without giving a company email address. They just have to take your word for it, and you won't be added to any networks as a result.

I think that one reason you can't search the whole of facebook by arbitrary email address is to promote their particular privacy model. They want to discourage you from adding random people you've never met, so they only allow you to look for email addresses from an existing address book. Of course this is circumventable, but it seems to make random friending inconvenient enough that I haven't had any trouble with it.

Yes - the photo privacy model isn't as strict as it sometimes feels. I'm not sure what I think of that yet - it's more strict than putting photos on open web-sites, which is a common alternative. Adding metadata to photos makes privacy a bigger issue, but I don't think that's a facebook issue - it was always going to happen. Check out the Google Image Labeler for example - things like this will increasingly add metadata to your public pictures whether you want them to or not - it's just a matter of time ;)

As for what it's for - I find it to be a useful alternative to maillists for organising ad-hoc things. I find out about climbing events through facebook. I've heard that in many undergrad communities all parties are organised with facebook now. There's a chance it may turn out to be a great way to get a list of potential business partners - if I'm in the Oxford network, I can search for Oxford engineers for example. This functionality is one that may be better provided by linkedin though - which feels to me like facebook for grown ups.

I'll be interested to see how the relationship between facebook and linkedin matures. Will one quash the other, or will they develop niches? Or perhaps they'll merge? Or maybe everyone will end up on both, duplicating most of their data? Interesting things :)
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From:johnckirk
Date:June 20th, 2007 11:01 am (UTC)
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I've now added my current employment status, and it's shown me a few other people who work at the same company, but it didn't ask for my work address when I set that up.

The "add friend" logic is a bit annoying, partly because it meant that I had to skip the recommended steps during registration and so I'm now stuck with a "tut tut" message in my profile, even though I've added friends a different way. If they only want you to search by name, I think it would still be worth adding that option to the "find friends" page explicitly; I assumed that the "Search" option was more general.

The photo thing reminds me of the way that "friend" access works in object oriented programming languages. There's a quote I heard a while back: "In C++, only your friends can see your private parts." I.e. one class can say "these methods are public, and these ones are private unless you're on the list of friends that I define". In VB, it's a bit different - methods can be Public (available to everyone), Friend (available to all other modules in the same project/component), or Private (only available to instances of this class). They're both valid concepts, but it's a bit confusing to use the same word for two different things when you hop between languages.

In this case, they seem to have a transitive trust model in mind, e.g. I can only see photos of you if you've listed me as a friend, and therefore you're (implicitly) vouching for me to the person who took those photos of you, allowing me to also see other people in those pictures. As you say, it's no worse than photos on a public website, but it's a bit different to putting photos in a friends-only LJ post (where the URLs of the image files are protected, rather than the images themselves).

By the way, my comment about out of date metadata was inspired by some of your photos; being a bit vague, if I look at photos of you from a wedding and a pie-off, there are people who are tagged in an "unlinked" way. (Don't change it on my account, it's just something to be aware of.)

I can see the benefit of being on Facebook if people are organising things that way; it's the equivalent of having an LJ account so that you can view "friends only" posts. However, I'm not quite clear on how it actually works. Do you just change your status temporarily ("Party this weekend!") so that people will see it in their news feed? Do you write it on people's walls? Or is there some other feature that I haven't come across yet, e.g. via group membership?
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From:totherme
Date:June 20th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
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The trust model is confusing, yes. It's not completely transitive - I can't see all photos of your friends, only photos that have you in. If you want an LJ analogy, it would be like me posting my photos friends-only, then you taking the ones that were of you and posting them in your journal, also friends-only. Which is precisely the sort of thing that's likely to happen if you get too restrictive in your security model. The facebook way is certainly confusing, but I think it's quite hard to think of a way of doing it that would satisfy more people.

And yes - parties are usually organised using the facebook event mechanism. Group membership helps with this, because you can invite all members of a group in bulk.
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From:susannahf
Date:June 21st, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
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If you're struggling with Facebook, don't even think about linkedin. Although I'm told that my Issues with it's user interface (and the seemingly misleading messages it gives you) are possibly unique. Or at least unusual.

*grumble mumble* Stupid thing telling me it has sent mail to someone when it blatantly hasn't *mumble*
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