Keyword searches are not communities

When Facebook recently offered me the chance to link my schools and company to pages about those topics, I thought it was a good idea. What took me by surprise was the fact that Facebook decided what those pages should be, and I had no way to influence this. And the fact that they dare to call these semi-random links communities.

Where no page existed, Facebook created a blank one and encouraged me to populate it. In the case of the College of Europe — where I did my Master’s Degree — instead of linking to the vibrant, existing community of alumni, it created a new page, a page clearly based on a simple keyword search since the first item was some girl talking about how she couldn’t wait for her COLLEGE exams to be over so she could go backpacking in EUROPE. Where’s the community in a keyword search?

I went into my settings to see if I could redirect the links to something meaningful. In most cases, I would have liked to link to an EXTERNAL page, but Facebook insists that these links be inside the walled garden. But even when a more appropriate page exists, I cannot choose for that to be the destination.

So then I thought I would just forgo the links.  That’s not an option either. So I just deleted all of the information about my schooling, work or my interests.  All of it. And now I am waiting to see what the good souls at Diaspora* come up with. If the overwhelming response to their Kickstarter call for funds is anything to go by, I am not the only one.

I might actually have been more compliant if Facebook had just called a spade a spade.  If it had said, “These are going to be linked to keyword searches that might help you stumble on people with shared interests,” I might have gone along for the ride. But they didn’t. They randomly decided that these are communities, even though the people in them have never met and don’t even necessarily have ANYTHING in common.

They’ve done other acrobatics with vocabulary in the past.  Dan York often complains about how Facebook confusingly uses Like in two different ways: to like/unlike an item that is posted and to like a page (formerly called being a fan). Without getting into a debate about the need for a more nuanced approach to sentiment about content, creating two meanings for a word in such a limited context devalues both meanings.

To use a Twitter metaphor, this is a MAJOR #fail as far as I am concerned.

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