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Tutorial: How to control the crap which appears on your Facebook wall

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Screencapture courtesy of the wonderful SnagIt software.

That said, I have to admit that I am not telling half the story here. First, you can use the dropdown menu to fine-tune who can see these wall posts. You can even create customized groups that can’t view your wall.

Facebook is adept at hiding  options and interfaces. I have to admit that its improved privacy settings look  sleek; they have simplified a lot so the user can find  things. On the other hand, I didn’t even know this options screen even existed until 30 minutes ago when I accidentally pressed Options and then Settings and then Settings a second time (yes, you have to do it twice, or the pretty screen won’t appear).

Sometimes checking or unchecking one option can reveal or hide several others. You won’t really know what you’re missing until you manually try every one.

And Facebook’s  help is atrocious. First, I did a cursory check on the Facebook site. Looks clean and organized, right? Wait, shouldn’t how to use the Wall  appear first on the list of FAQ?  And if the site is adept at hiding configuration options, wouldn’t you expect that the answers to the more complex questions would contain screenshots and videos?  In fact, when I expanded all the questions for this section, I didn’t find a single screenshot. Not one.

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One of the problems is that Facebook stores everything in a database, so the views of help topics can’t be arranged or prioritized manually.  Everything is hidden or spread out into several pages. The information is atomized, and you have to click several links to see the relationship between two various screens. Also, Facebook uses a lot of terms whose meaning might be unclear.   What is a Wall? What is a post? Unfortunately  Wall is used in many contexts, so it’s easy to mix up help topics on how to write on other people’s wall with how to control one’s own.  The help topics for Wall are  hierarchically arranged, and that’s good, but it’s also too much for one page. That means having to click onto several pages to see the topics, and when that happens, you start yearning for a better arrangement of the help topics themselves.

I don’t have a whole lot of advice for Facebook (except that maybe they could commission a few full-fledged tutorials or web demos).  Facebook is already on top, so they don’t need to worry about web traffic or teaching users how to do stuff. My main complaint is not with the help, but the fact that you can’t personalize your home page. For example, out of my 200 friends  I am mainly interested in posts from about 10 people, so I want to see their posts before  anyone’s else’s. Also, I almost never want to see posts from applications (Farmville, etc) and rarely wish to see Facebook  announcements.  Facebook has some algorithm for hiding and showing posts, but the user doesn’t really know what it’s doing. It’s black box technology.  I would love to have more transparency about how  Facebook  is filtering this information. Are they guessing? Are they counting clicks? Or are they relying on explicit indications of interest from me? 

The user will never know.

I’m not mentioning  my main objection to FB, which is that they prevent you from archiving message and older posts or even accessing them. (I wrote about that in my blogpost Pushback on Social Media). 

Related: Here’s how to specify that a certain FB friend cannot make a comment on your microposts.  Privacy Settings –> Custom –> Customize Settings. On Things Others Share, select Can Comment on Posts –> Choose the dropdown list –> Custom Edit –> Hide this From and type the name of the individual in the text box. It should prompt you for names. Choose Save Settings. Whew! I didn’t realize it was so complicated!

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