I am by far not the first to point this out, but it bears repetition: Facebook has some big problems with its matrix for defining relationships among friends.
The first generation of social networks were mocked for offering only a simple binary choice of “friend” or “not friend.” Facebook — which started as a network for college students, but opened its doors to the world a few months ago, and is now growing like mad — isn’t much of an improvement. But at least it lets you fill in some blanks and better define your relationship with particular friends.
Each time you confirm a “friend request” from someone on Facebook, you’re confronted with a screen that asks for details. This is the list of options:
How do you know [this friend]?
From an organization or team
Took a course together
From a summer / study abroad program
Went to school together
In my family
Through a friend
We hooked up
I don’t even know this person.
This is a great list if you are 19 years old. It is pretty much useless for the rest of us. And even if you try to use the “worked together” feature, you will get tripped up.
For instance: I know a developer named Jake Savin because he worked at Userland during the period when Userland and Salon ran a blogging program together. Jake just sent me a “Friend request” and asked me to confirm that we “worked together.” I’m happy to do this; but Facebook seems to believe that “worked together” can only mean “worked together at the same company” — so if I confirm Jake’s request, Facebook seems to think I’m saying that I, too, worked for Userland. Which is ridiculous. There’s no tool by which one can express the many shades of relationship as they exist outside of a campus environment.
Facebook has garnered enormous attention from the media and from developers since it opened its platform to allow other companies to build “Facebook applications” that add new capabilities to the Facebook system. But Facebook’s social-networking design needs some basic plumbing work. Before some other company plunks down a few billion for Facebook’s hotness — or before the investment bankers take it public — some basic upgrades are in order.
[tags]social networks, facebook, friending[/tags]
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