A change is as good as a rest ….

… though not when it’s your Social Network doing it!

This week, Facebook comments have been somewhat dominated by the recent changes; changes from a view that few liked when it was introduced! I’ve had mixed thoughts on it; there are some things I like, others that I’m less keen on. I’ll look at them in the order I’ve encountered them, as I can’t think of any better way.
Lists
I’d already used lists quite a lot, I seem to remember when I first used facebook, there was a default list in there called “Limited Profile” – but, from talking to others, I think it vanished for a while, though has now returned as “restricted”. Over the years, I’d configured it so that what I used as limited was more or less the same as the default settings in Restricted. I’d have merged the two lists, had I not just been through & unfriended those on it!)
There are two other default (empty) lists – Close friends & Acquaintances. I’ve got lists anyway that more or less have those type of contacts in; I just had different names. They’ve also got ‘Smart lists’. In some ways, I like these, they tend to mirror more or less what I already have. But, they are pre-populated, and can’t be removed. (though you can remove people in them). To add further to the complication, you can’t merge smart lists – they can only be merged with custom (i.e. old fashioned) lists. And, they’re not that smart – I have two smart lists, both called after my old school – as two of my friends have used differents ways of naming it. And I can’t merge *them*!

Verdict on lists:
I like the default ones; makes it easier to do what I was doing anyway.
Smart lists – would rather have them optional – enabled or disabled.

Privacy
This has garnered a huge amount of comments. As far as I can see, to a large degree it’s what was there anyway, it’s just more obvious. So people who’d previously used “friend of friend” as a default, think that Facebook has changed things. So, probably a Good Thing, as it is making people look at who they are sharing with.
One thing I’m less sure about, however, is that if you have a custom list & share with it, people can see that it’s Fred Bloggs & 48 others who can see your post (by hovering over the icon to the right of the ‘6 minutes ago’ info). [G+ has the same behaviour]
It doesn’t tell others what you’ve called the list – just who’s in it. Not sure if I like that, though, to be honest, if it said, shared with “Emma’s Friends’ – then my friends could just have gone to my friends list to see who they are. It’s only a subset after all!
What I’ve not yet tested is putting anyone in the ‘Close Friends’ default group – will that say ‘Shared with Emma’s Close Friends’ – or will it say ‘Shared with Fred Bloggs & 48 others’.

Verdict. Probably overall useful – if only to make users think. [Of course, many will have actively decided they want to share with friends of friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. You’ve always seen comments on your friends posts made by those you don’t know].

Sharing
I’ve already mentioned that your friends can see which subset of friends you’ve shared with; I like the new drop down list for sharing – and, as far as I can tell, to get to ‘friends of friends’ you have to go to custom. (But that could be the way I’ve set it up; can’t remember now!). It’s similar to the system Google Plus has – and that Elgg has had for years. Also, if you’re on a particular list’s updates, then, as far as I can tell, you can only post to that list – to post to a different audience you have to return to your main page. Again, that seems a sensible approach.

Verdict. Useful. Have wanted it for ages.

Updates from others – types and order
Again, something that’s really caused discussion; in particular the order. The feed is now generally ‘Top Stories’ I thought, to be honest, that the previous version defaulted to ‘top stories’ & you could get to ‘recent’ by clicking on a link at the top. It’s just it wasn’t so clear. There is also the ticker – which shows everything – including all those things that appear to be intrusions of privacy, but in reality I think it’s just the way others have set their accounts up. In addition, if you look fairly regularly (measured in hours, I suspect, rather than days!) it does put ‘recent’ at the top. Not sure where the cut off point is, whether it’s time dependant, or posting frequency of your friends!
Types – this is, far as as I can tell, the best thing they’ve done! You now ‘subscribe’ to people; lists have their default subscription types. Anyone who is in your ‘close friends’ list – by default you get everything; anyone in the acquaintance lists, it’s the bare minimum; others are inbetween. But, it’s also possible (on an individual’s profile, or a list page) to select types of updates. So, I can now have No Games updates. Woohoo! No longer do I have to block them individually!

Verdict:
Order: can see that this is a pain for some, and any algorithm that decides on importance (as Gmail does – if you want it to!) is always going to not be as intelligent as you’d like. So, not sure on this one, a bit more choice please.
Types: Excellent!

Others
As far as I can tell, most of the updates I’ve encountered so far aren’t really changing the nature of Facebook that much, but they are changing the usability – and, few like change (especially, when it’s unexpected. Twitter have also changed their home page; but, for months, there was a ticker across the top warning you it was going to happen & suggesting you use the new page now, rather than waiting. So, time to get used to it)
At Facebook’s recent f8 a lot more changes were announced. It’s being seen as an Entertainment Hub – so more integration with Spotify & Netflix – if the services are available locally, so not the latter at present in the UK. I’m less sure about that; it’s also not very clear from what I’ve read so far whether the apps that are going to be required to share them, are also going to be required to know your friends have shared.
The Guardian App is already here. I thought I liked the sound of it, but, it seems that anything you look at goes into your stream, not just those you want to comment on. So, not playing with it yet!
There is also the Timeline which claims to be able to go right back through your Facebook life. (When I first looked at Facebook, it was in the days when you had to have an academic email address & you were automatically a member of your University Network. Wasn’t sure then, as there were only a handful of UoP people in it – none that I knew!) By the time I got round to sorting it out again, it had exploded! Just hope I posted something in those early days. But I bet I didn’t!
From a security / privacy point of view; I’m less sure … Wonder if you’ll be able to keep your timeline to yourself. Meanwhile, if you’re desperate to see it & can’t wait till Thursday you can enable it now.

Verdict:
I’m just not sure about either of these changes. I could see it interfering with the way I like to use Facebook. I’m not a great music listener, so don’t use Spotify. But, I know others do alot; they frequently tweet about their current listening. So, hoping that I just don’t have to join in.

The Future
When these changes first came into play, quite a lot of people were talking about Google Plus. (Strangely, they launched their public version on the same day as f8 … guess they anticipated *something*)
Last time Facebook changed radically & everyone complained, there wasn’t anywhere to go (they’d already rejected MySpace). So people stayed. Now, it’s different. There’s something that’s being offered by a company everyone is *very* familiar with. Could that cause enough people to move to get them to drag the rest of their friends there?
Of course, the issue is that you have to be where your friends are. You can’t, at present, have some friends in one SNS, and some in another, and seamless integration.
Until there are really good interoperability standards (as there are with email), then people are going to have to follow their friends.

What will I do; well, I’d already started to try to move work related contacts from Facebook to Twitter and/or G+. (shame you can’t get G+ with Google Apps accounts). I think this could speed up the process, especially as work related contacts are mostly geeky & willing to try new things.
For more social related contacts; it’s more difficult. Many of them find Facebook challenging – to get them to experiment with something new (which could be temporary – who knows what’s coming in the future … )

OpenSocial – Google Code

OpenSocial – Google Code has finally been launched.

There are many websites implementing OpenSocial, including Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.

I’ve not yet had a chance to have an explore. At the moment, they have links to Orkut, (the Social network that Google have owned for some time now) – to create an application. I’ve got two accounts at Orkut. One seems to be  associated with my Gmail address, the other is one I created quite a long time ago. Both seem to be active, and both equally unused.
Orkut has become very popular with Brazilians, as the demographics show! (which is, I think, why I never really got any further with using it)

However, OpenSocial is much more than just Orkut – there are some sample apps already. I’ve also got accounts with quite a few of the supported sites (Ning, LinkedIn). Facebook is clearly notable by its absence. I wonder if Elgg will appear in the list in the future.