Talking tech since 2003

Facebook recently launched its new subscriptions feature the other day.  Subscriptions are a way to follow people’s public updates who you aren’t friends with on the site.

In theory this subscriptions feature sounds cool, right?  It also sounds a lot like Twitter.  However, do Facebook subscriptions complicate (privacy) matters even more?  How do users decide what to share with the public (if anything) and what not to?  Of course, some will say it is up to the discretion of each individual to make a decision about what should be public vs. what should be private, but I think that the line isn’t always so clear cut.

On Twitter the line is very clear cut – if your profile is open anyone can view it.  On Facebook, that is not always the case since there are several variations of how “open” your profile can actually be.

Nonetheless, I look at Facebook as a more private community, while social networks such as Twitter and Google+ are more public.  In my case I know when I share something on Twitter that over 1,700 people will potentially see it — not all of which I even know.  However, on Facebook I have to accept people as friends before they can even see anything I share.  And while I realize I didn’t have to enable subscriptions I did so because I love to test out the latest stuff.  As someone you would label an “early adopter” it’s in my blood to want to enable every new feature I can find.

For me, the question is do I end up sharing the stuff I typically share on Twitter and Google+ on Facebook now too as public updates?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure all of my “real life” friends on Facebook would find those things interesting.  But then what about the people who “subscribe” to me and aren’t my friends?  What do they see?  Well, currently they don’t see anything from me.  And that’s the predicament I’m in right now — what do I share with who and where is the best place to share it?

Because when it comes down to what really matters, it’s not just about sharing information with as many people as possible.  It’s about sharing information, links, content, etc with people who will find it interesting and useful.  And to achieve that goal, you need to share differently in different places — ideally the place that’s best suited for that particular shared item.  It is for this reason that I often customize my messages when I share links on various social networks.  They are not all the same.  Each place should be approached differently.

I think as the line continues to blur with regard to which social network is best for what, so does the usefulness of the network.

This is exactly why I think Google’s idea of “Circles” and now Facebook’s similar integration of the same concept with “Smart lists” that it introduced along side of subscriptions are so important.  Using those features you can easily separate people in your “network” into groups and share accordingly.  Both of these will be a key ingredient in maintaining the usefulness of these social networks.


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