Saturday, June 25, 2011

What is FaceBook Good For?

I recently gave in and set up a FaceBook page, mostly in the hope of getting more visibility for both my recent self-publishing projects and the considerable amount of my stuff that's freely available to be downloaded or read online—more or less a web page equivalent, but more visible. I'm coming to suspect that it's a tool poorly adapted to that purpose, but I haven't really figured out how it works well enough to be sure.

The first shock was when I "friended" my son Patri and suddenly my page was flooded with his conversations. Some of them are of mild interest to me, but I see no reason to expect other people to want to read them on my page instead of on his and I haven't figured out how to keep them from appearing, or if I can, or even if I can limit the volume of other people's stuff that automatically shows up on my page. I'm pretty much not accepting friend requests until I have a clearer idea how the system works, so don't be offended if I ignore yours. As I commented to someone elsewhere online, I may have to unfriend my firstborn. 

I did manage to find a couple of people I haven't seen for decades—the two UCLA students to whom my Price Theory was dedicated—and send them "hullo, long time, how are you doing" style notes. And I put up a notice that I plan to be on panels at Westercon next week. Which I am guessing is more the sort of thing FaceBook is intended for.

I  also set up a page on my own web site consisting of links to my work, both self-published for sale and free online, which should make finding stuff a little easier than by wandering my fairly substantial site; that page is now linked to my FaceBook page.

Advice from those more familiar with the system welcome.


Tom Crispin said...

I'm by no means expert, but this faq tells how to suppress messages from specific friends

Geoffrey Allan Plauche said...


I'm pretty sure all those conversations you mention are not showing up on your personal profile, i.e., your Facebook Wall. Unless your son is posting them their manually.

Rather, what I think you're talking about is the home page that displays the activity streams of all your "friends." Other Facebookers don't see that. Also, there are options to selectively hide from your own view the activities of people or specific types of activities across people.

Since you're a rather prominent figure, I'd recommend setting up a fan page for yourself that others can "Like." That way you won't have to befriend anyone and everyone, and you can keep personal and professional more separate if you like. Your personal profile is limited to a certain number of friends. I'm not sure of the exact number, but it may be something like 5,000. Not so the fan pages.

Jake Russ said...

It might be helpful to distinguish your profile page, which other people see, from your news feed which only you see. The news feed has easy settings to filter certain updates (or people) out. So if Patri's activity level on FB is too much, you could just hide his updates from your news feed without severing your two accounts.

There are also settings you can control to limit what people can see on a case by case basis. But FB's default is to be open and they make it slightly complex to opt for more privacy. So maintaining those settings may be onerous depending on your preferences and how customized you want to get with that.

FB is going to be what you make it, an easy way to contact someone if you don't have their phone number or email address (both of which are subject to unannounced changes). Some people use it effectively to generate discussion, others use it primarily as a photo/link sharing service.

Anonymous said...

Seems like there's a fan page for David D. Friedman:

dWj said...

Plauche's guess was also mine. I don't think other people are seeing what you're describing; in trying to look for you on facebook, I came across the "fan" page just mentioned, but didn't manage to find your personal page. (Your name doesn't lend itself to easy searching.) Ask Patri what he sees.

David Friedman said...

Thanks all. The situation does seem less confusing than I thought.

How do I affect what's on the fan page--in particular, put up references to my recent stuff (the self-publishing projects)?

Some time back I discovered that there was a fan page for me and was somewhat disturbed by the fact that Facebook made it sound as though it provided a way of getting in touch with me--although I didn't actually have any connection to it at the time. I emailed to complain and I thought they took it down. Apparently either they didn't, or it went back up after a bit, or it went back up in the past few days after I finally established an account.

You seem to be correct about the distinction between wall and home, which helps a good deal.

Kathleen said...

When you have only a few friends, too, everything they do will come up on your newsfeed.

Leopardon said...


Somehow Facebook creates some "fan pages" off of Wikipedia or somewhere. Currently there are 2 for you on FB:

[I think this is a fan "group". I admit to being disturbed that someone could create a group in my name without my consent, although unlike you I'm not a public figure. At least 1 announcement on the page is in Spanish - for a May "webinar"!].

This one is apparently created from Wikipedia.

At any rate, I would be glad to join the "real" David Friedman group if it ever is created.

Andrew MacFie said...

I think the "Community" David D. Friedman page was created by a user who clicked "Create a page" at the bottom of the Facebook page. Anyone who Likes that page is able to post messages there. Perhaps you want to create your own page for a 'public figure' -- people would soon realize which page is official.

Facebook has coarse controls for which information from others you see, but it has finer controls for which people see which of your messages and information.

Jon Kalb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Kalb said...

Unlike dWj, I had no problem finding your personal page, but that may be because we have a mutual friend. I would guess the search algorithm looks first in friends, then in mutual friends, before doing a global search.

lelnet said...

In my experience, what Facebook is good for (for somebody like you, at least...that is, somebody with a large group of casual followers who don't really qualify as actual friends, and who already has a proper blog) is publicizing information about your activities that's specifically rooted in time.

If you have commentary on the universe, that's as likely to matter in 2020 as it is tomorrow, you post it on your blog. If you're making a public appearance next week -- which, once completed, will be of continuing interest to precisely nobody -- you announce it on Facebook. Your fans whose geolocation and scheduling constraints permit it can show up, say hi, and hear what you have to say, and then the information disappears from the universe when it ceases to be relevant.

"Friends" really means something more like "mutual subscribers" in technical terms, but in my experience your life on Facebook is easier if you really do limit it to your actual friends and family.

I'm interested in your books, and if you ever happen to be speaking generally near where I am at a time when I might stop by and listen, I might do so, but my disinterest in the details of your personal and family life is exceeded, I suspect, only by your disinterest in the corresponding details of mine.

Anonymous said...


Here are some of my thoughts on Facebook.


Anonymous said...

I set up on face book. only because everyone said I should. I never use it, but than I got Emails asking me if I know someone. The answer is NO. And I do not what to know them. If it was printed, I would call it a waste of paper.