11: Groups

(EN: Repeating this notice at the head of each chapter: the specific details of this book are likely outdated, but the core concepts of social networking are likely timeless.)

Groups enables users to organize their Facebook friends into groups, according to their own needs: you may organize professional acquaintances into one group, college and high school classmates into separate groups, family into another group, etc. in order to facilitate communicating specifically to them.

(EN: The author doesn't distinguish between "groups" and "lists" of people, and his description seems to mangle the two together to result in some very bad advice. I'll add a bit to the end of the chapter of my own, because the description of groups here is fairly good except for lack of distinction.)

Create a Group

Creating a group is straightforward - there is a link to "create a group" in the left column of the main page. Give the group a name, add people to it, and set permissions, and it is done.

Permissions require a bit of consideration: any member can see the name of any group, see a list of group members, see posts from the other group members, and post to other group members. Non-members may do everything but post to an "open" group; may not post or see subscribers to a "closed"

one; and cannot see a "secret" one at all.

(EN: It's actually no easy to find a group on your own - you do a search, then go to "more results," then click "groups".)

As the creator of the group, you have administrative privileges, and can grant the same privileges. (EN: No explanation of what that means at this point.)

Join a Group

The author's suggestion for joining a group is based on open groups, which anyone may join simply by visiting the group page and clicking the "join" button.

There are other groups that you must "ask to join", and I presume these are "closed" groups and an administrator must approve your request.

Aside of finding groups on your own, members of a group are able to invite others to join. No word on whether an admin must approve them. The author doesn't say and I don't recall any experiences of my own.

Invitation by a member is the only way to join a secret group, or even to find out that it exists.

The author indicates that users are limited to 300 groups.

It's also noted that groups created before October 2010 may not have all the functionality of those created after that time. FB "upgraded" groups and did not handle the transition gracefully.

(EN: Another thing the author doesn't mention is that when you join a group, you may be interacting with people who are members of the group but are not your FB "friends" - they may be friends of the group admin, or another member who has invited them.)

Leave or Delete a Group

If you wish to withdraw from a group, you can click the name of the group in the left navigation panel and choose the "leave" option to no longer participate (you will have to confirm to avoid accidentally leaving a group).

The author doesn't indicate how to delete a group you have created, and I've not experimented to determine whether you can delete the group or merely leave it and the others remain part of it.

However, he does not that groups are automatically deleted when the last member decided to leave it.

Share Content with a Group

Once you are a member of a group, whether you created it or joined one created by someone else, you will be able to share information with other members of the group on the group page.

No content posted to the group page will be available on your wall, and it will not show up in your news feed: you must go to the group's page to see it.

The group administrator can also set up a group email address, which can be used to send updates to the group without being logged into the site. The author notes that the group's email address doesn't have to match the name of the group, and given that the group name is not unique to FB, chances are a group with a generic name like "family" already exists and has that e-mail address.

Group Notifications

The administrator of the group may set up email notifications to group members, but each member of the group may decide for himself to change their notifications from the group (without changing the administrator's settings)

Notification options are "all activity" (any post or comment), "all posts" (posts but not comments), "friends posts" (only posts by group members who are also friends), and "off" (no notifications).

The author doesn't mention that notifications will be sent when someone comments on your post or comments on a post you have commented upon.


(EN: This is all my own commentary, as the author doesn't mention lists, and fails to distinguish between groups and lists.)

A "list" is unlike a group in that it is merely a collection of people you have created to facilitate filtering your own posts for discretion and courtesy, or for filtering the many posts on your news feed to see only those from people on a given list. A few useful examples:

Using lists, permissions are set on a per-post basis and apply to any comments attached to the post. So that if you make a post to coworkers, only coworkers will see the post, be able to comment, or be able to see comments by others. It's just as if you had added or excluded each person as an individual.

Also, lists can be used in combination - such that you can specify a post is for "family" and "personal friends" but not the "no sense of humor" crowd. However, I'm not sure how it resolves when a person belongs to both an included and excluded group. My hope is exclusion override inclusion, but I am not entirely confident of this.

There are not "group" pages for your lists, but there are list pages that only you can see, that consolidate posts from the individuals on your list and enable you to conveniently make posts that are only available to them.

You can use these lists to restrict access to any item you post on FB by using "custom" settings and including/excluding lists, just as you would include/exclude individuals.

The key benefits of lists versus groups are:

Where lists fall short of groups:

A specific way in which the author's failure to differentiate lists from groups is poignant is in suggesting you create a group for "family" - there may be many groups called family, and certain members of your family may have people they consider part of their family that is not part of yours (your cousin's wife's parents). Unless you want to create a group for your household members only, chances are you're better served by a list. This is even more problematic for groups of people with common interests: if five different people who went to the same high school each create a group of "high school classmates", things get messy.

My sense is that a "group" should be regarded as similar to a club, with the creator acting as a moderator to the group who interact with one another, where there is an intuitive or self-evident reason the group of people would want or need to interact with one another, and where there won't be several clubs that have the same members created by separate people.

One last note on lists is that FB seems to be attempting to create lists automatically by matching certain elements of your profile to those of your friends. For example, FB has created a list of each of the universities I attended that contains friends who went to the same school. I've not decided whether this is helpful or annoying yet.