Facebook Groups Change Everything

by Ron on October 7, 2010

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Facebook founder ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Facebook finally gets it. After months, nay years of hearing that users needed a way to share content across distinct groups, Facebook seems to have finally woken up and heard them. (I personally love Alexandra Petri’s reaction in the Washington Post–Facebook Announcement — it’s a boy!)

What’s interesting to me is that by creating these groups–Man-child CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the word personnas–it’s very similar to the approach that Google has been touting for its upcoming yet still unavailable deep dive into the social web.

The idea according to Paul Adams of Google, is that we have different personnas. We are part of a family, college friends, work buddies and your World of Warcraft friends. In Adams’ presentation he used the example of a school teacher who friended her students and her college friends who worked in a Gay bar. In this instance, she probably doesn’t want to mix the two, and what Facebook’s new groups does is it allows you to have a private space to share pictures, updates, all of the Facebook features, within distinct groups, rather than across the entire spectrum of friends, which could prove embarrassing in some instances.

But that’s not all these groups do. They provide a work environment too. They have a shared document feature and a chat feature and you suddenly could conduct light-weight collaboration in Facebook if you were so inclined. I’m not sure I trust Facebook enough to do that, but clearly the potential is there, and it sets a stake for using FB as a work environment in the future.

It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook also will be allowing you to back up your entire profile including pictures and friends (although Christine Pilch tells me it will not include Friends’ contact information, meaning it won’t be portable to another social network). As of this writing, this feature had not been implemented yet, but I will post when it does.

Groups functionality is available today.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Morriss Partee October 7, 2010 at 10:31 am

I agree and disagree at the same time, Ron. Yes, Facebook has gotten some things right. Yes, we all have a myriad of different distinct personnas, and that is a large part of who we are and what makes each individual unique.

However, where Facebook completely misses the mark in this regard is that I don’t have control over who is in which group. I might not want X person in my “friends who work at a gay bar” group, but if *anyone* invites them in, they are in.

That, plus having anyone joined to a group just because someone is invited is quickly going to become a nightmare for people who are active online. I’m already sick of being invited to “like” various pages for groups or businesses that I know nothing about, and many people are getting event-invite overload too. Because FB is unbelievable poor at the whole opt-in/opt-out, permission thing, this is bound to be a train wreck before it gets to a good destination.

Yes, I’m being harsh, but this isn’t 1.0 of groups, this is 2.0, and Facebook consistently gets this stuff wrong every time.

2 Christine Pilch October 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

I am also concerned about the security of info shared within groups. We tested within the new Facebook Social Media group here: http://tinyurl.com/36kwt4j and found that regardless of whether a group is classified as Open, Closed, or Secret, any member can add anybody else to the Group. Admins do have to approve people who request joining a Closed group however. (I have not tested this for an Open Group.)

So the lesson here is that Group info should not be considered secure, and businesses should not assume that data shared within Groups can’t be accessed by someone outside, because Group membership is not controlled by an admin.

Once again, if it’s online, assume that it’s not secure.

3 Christine Pilch October 7, 2010 at 10:37 am

@Morriss, you can block event invites from certain people. Go to:

Privacy Settings
Block lists/Edit Your Lists

You can also block application invitations from specific friends.

These are very useful options.

4 Ron October 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

@Christine and @Morriss:

Yes, there is probably real and ideal here and I was looking at it through rose-colored glasses forgetting perhaps that it’s FB we are dealing with and it usually takes them a few whacks on the head to get something right.

It should be private if it’s marked as private, end of story. You shouldn’t have to mess with the privacy settings to make that so.

Once again, FB, gives you just enough to get excited, but doesn’t go far enough. It’s disappointing, but hardly surprising.

Thanks for your comments.


5 Shadrach White October 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

Nice post Ron, the comments are excellent. I agree that the groups haven’t been very well thought out. FB could learn from SalesForce in this area. Another example is the whole FBpages approach, it’s confusing and limited in terms of how and what to use pages for. Many people setup the wring type of page and then can’t make changes easily after try figure that out.

6 Ron October 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hi Shadrach:
Thanks. It seems like they should have thought this through more carefully. These are really smart people, yet they seem completely blind to user’s privacy concerns. You would think a group we mark as “Secret” would be locked down, but alas, they can’t even get that right.

Thanks for your comment and for reading.


7 Tim Smith October 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

I’m confused. There already WERE groups. This is just a change to groups. And it totally sucks. The page is completely different looking. There is no place to post information. It’s just stupid. I wanted to make a group around my idea and invite those I know to join. There’s no point now since everything I explain would have to be done through posts which would scroll away. Horrible.

8 Tim Smith October 21, 2010 at 9:25 am

It’s so weird. There is a place where you can provide a “Description” of the group. But that Description shows up absolutely nowhere. WTF.

9 Ron Miller October 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm

There weren’t really groups before. You could create a business page or you could organize your friends in different categories, but Facebook hadn’t explicitly defined groups as a way to create separate channels for your Facebook content.

As for your other observation, as I’ve noted in The Dark Side of Facebook Groups, there are a lot of flaws as currently constituted.

Thanks for your comments.

10 Tim Smith October 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm

There weren’t groups before? I must be stupendous then b/c I’ve had some for a long time.

11 Ron Miller October 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

How are you defining a group? Could you set it as private? Could you share documents? Could you limit to certain friends you invite?


12 Tim Smith October 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I’m defining a Group by the fact that

A. Facebook had a thing called Groups. You could make a Group. I made about 5 of them. They still look like they always have. Relatively useful.

(In my opinion the Groups and the Pages should have simply been merged, although I understand what the difference was supposed to be. However what happens is that many many folks made a Group and a Page around the very same idea since neither could do everything folks wanted.)

B. Now, Facebook has a thing called Groups. You can still make a Group. It’s just ridiculously bad now. You can’t make the old version. This version doesn’t even allow for a simple description of what the group is ABOUT on it’s home page.

Am I the only one who knows that Groups have been around a long time??

13 Christine Pilch October 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

All of this is indeed confusing. I had something published yesterday that explains the differences between Facebook Pages, Lists, Classic Groups, and New Groups. You can read it here if interested:


14 Rosela November 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Tim, I am right there with you. I hate that people can’t even see a description to what I’m inviting them. And Ron, obviously there was such a thing that Facebook called “Groups” before, and there absolutely were private settings and could totally limit invitations and so many other settings.
The only “positive” differences I see is accessibility, chat (which I don’t use) and a Doc tab, BUT WHY OH WHY would I give an eff about that? Should I put my description in Docs? Wow, Facebook Docs! I’m just totally going to drop the more useful and practical Google docs for this. But to be honest, I just want a description available. If that were the only thing to be added, I wouldn’t be so upset.

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