Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I still don't understand Facebook!

I still don't understand Facebook.

I have opened a Facebook account some months ago, but I still don't know exactly how to use it.

What is the idea behind Facebook? Is it to keep in contact with friends?

  How to keep in contact with friends?
  That is quite an interesting problem and I have been thinking about it these days.
  My solution is to make a list of friends and then write letters to each one of them, one by one. When you reach the end of the list, you start again from the beginning of the list.
  Some friends may have an email address, others may have a website, others only an ordinary postal address.
  It doesn't really matter how you contact them, you just write a small message and send to them.
  Some friends may answer, others may never answer.In that case maybe it is a good idea to have 2 lists of friends, one of friends who answer, the other of friends who don't answer. From time to time you can look at the list of friends who don't answer and cross some of them off the list. Since they don't bother keeping in contact, it is a waste of time writing to them.
  Is it a good idea to phone people? Phone can be such a hassle. I never call people, except for emergencies.
  The problem of keeping in touch happens when you have nothing in common. You don't live together, you don't work together, you don't study together, you don't go out together.
  And yet, you still want to keep the friendship alive.
  For me the best solution is to write, either an email or a letter.
The problem is to have the discipline to keep writing letters to your friends.

  But let's go back to Facebook.
  Does Facebook solve the problem of keeping in touch with friends? I don't think so.
  Facebook is a social media site. A social media site is a solution to email spam. Spam is the one single biggest problem of email. In a social media site, spam is virtually inexistent because people who spam can be easily blocked.
  But Facebook is not the only social media site, YouTube, Blogger can also replace email.

  Facebook has some advantages over YouTube and Blogger:
  - it allows blogging, microblogging and posting of pictures. YouTube allows only video.
  - it allows posting external links (URL addresses). YouTube doesn't allow URLs in the comments.
  - Blogger was never intended to be a social media site, there is no way of sending private messages or replying to comments.

  Why use Facebook?
  - to talk to friends who like to use Facebook
  - to make new friends

  Why microblog?
  Why indeed? Facebook allows you to post "stories", basically microblogs, with the option to include external links, videos, pictures. Is there any reason to microblog, except to say you are alive?
  Twitter is based entirely on microblogging, but I never microblog on Twitter. Instead I use Twitter to chat. I search for a random word and just start talking to whoever may be online. Most people ignore me, but some talk back. Apparently you cannot do the same on Facebook.

  When your friends microblog (post stories) on Facebook, their microblogs appear on your "News Feed".
  Because I can't find a reason to microblog myself, I also fail to understand why I should read the microblogs of my friends.
  Sometimes they may talk about things that interest me, but only sometimes.
  Microblogs make sense when they are the starting point of a conversation. Is that why people microblog? Because they are expecting a reply? Should I also microblog to get a reply?

  When I want to talk I send a direct message to a particular person. The chances of getting a reply are much higher than posting a microblog to the general public.

  Some people may ask: how can I blog but not microblog? What I am writing right now is a blog. Why can't I microblog?
  Because when I blog I am actually talking to myself. That is why a blog is so long. I am putting on paper (or more exactly on the computer monitor) all my thoughts trying to find a solution that may be inside my own head.  I write to put some order in my thoughts. I can't do this with a short microblog.
  When I write a blog I am not really expecting a reply, even though I welcome comments. The main reason is just to let my thoughts out.

  How to make new friends on Facebook?
  Most users will allow you to send messages, even when they are not your friends. The biggest problem is to find people who may have common interests.
  Facebook allows you to search for name, hometown,school... but not interests...
  It seems that the only practical way to look for people on Facebook is by pictures. Just try to talk to people that posts cute pictures... There seems to be no other way...

  Let's go back to microblog. Why microblog? What is a microblog? How to microblog? Should I reply to my friends's microblogs? Is microblog a waste of time? Is Facebook a waste of time? Sometimes it looks like it.
Or is there any other way to use Facebook?

  I understand the idea of subscription. Let's suppose your friend has a website. Instead of visiting this website every day to see if it was updated, you subscribe to the website, meaning that you are notified every time the website is updated. You receive the notifications in the same you receive emails. You go check the website only when you receive the notifications. I have subscribed to several websites using Google reader. Google reader checks RSS feeds, which some websites provide to notify updates. Unhappily not all websites provide RSS feeds.

  Facebook "stories" (microblogs) pretty much resemble the notifications. The difference is that the "stories" are the updates themselves, not just the notifications. If you go to your friend's page,you will find exactly the same stories there. One big problem happens when you have several friends and most of them publish microblogs. All these microblogs appear sequentially in one single column called "News feed".
There may be so many of them you will probably end up not seeing most of them.

  That is one crucial difference to Google reader design, which is much superior. On Google reader you never lose a notification. Each subscription occupies only one line, that you can expand or collapse at will. For each subscription you can see all notifications, that again occupies only one line that you can expand to see the content.

  But I am diverging. That is just a problem of design. Facebook has a very confusing design, but even if they improved, to a more clean, maybe Twitter-like design, I think things would still be pointless.

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