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Why Facebook will be the world’s biggest spammer

So far, I’ve been indifferent to Facebook (I joined it reluctantly, as I do all other social networking sites). I’ve been accepting invitations (and that sort of thing), but lately it’s been getting on my nerves. It’s beginning to seem that I’m doing a lot of housekeeping here. (Dwight Silverman had already pointed this out a month or two ago ,) so I wasn’t exactly caught off-guard.

However, when I finally got around to editing my notification settings, I saw this:facebook notification settings

All I have to say is: holy cow!  This is a fine-grained privacy setting system apparently, but these are apparently the defaults. Out of the 23 notification possibilities, 22 of them are preselected for you.  So that’s why facebook is annoying the living crap out of me.

I actually don’t mind friend invitations –as long as they are infrequent and from people who are acquainted with me in some way. But TAGS ONE OF MY PHOTOS, COMMENTS AFTER ME ON A POSTED ITEM, REPLIES TO A DISCUSSION POST? I can safely say that out of these 22 options, I would only want to be notified by email about 2 or 3 of them even though Facebook assumed I wanted 22 options preselected. Also, this notification settings page is hidden among the rest of the interface. Go to Account –> Notifications tab, and then you should see it. This sounds simple, but I would have expected to see it under Friends or maybe Privacy.

In fact, a competent CMS should allow you to receive these notifications on the websites. Because frankly, most of the events listed here are completely trivial.  Yes, at some point, I’d like to have an UPDATE screen on the opening page for my FB account with hyperlinks to some of these things (which Flickr does very well, by the way). And I  might have preferences out of whack with other people (I might prefer to receive an email every time someone invites me to an event for example). But web applications should never assume I want to receive email notifications about anything. For example, there is an annoying wordpress plugin that automatically sends you an email whenever someone replies to your comment. But it doesn’t tell you beforehand or even ask your permission; it just sends you an email. The email itself contains a link to “Unsubscribe to this thread,” and that’s good (I guess), but that’s putting the presumption on me to change it. I don’t want that burden at all.

If a web application is decent, I should be able to set up notifications using RSS Authentication on my RSS reader. If that is the case, I should never have to receive an email from Facebook or any other pesky application. (By the way, Bloglines doesn’t seem to support RSS authentication but netvibes does).

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