Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook Changes - What The Average Everyday User Needs To Know

Facebook announced a plethora of changes and upgrades over the past week and a half. The tech world is buzzing, developers are scrambling, and early adopters are testing things out.

What do I need to know, you ask?

There is no shortage of in-depth reviews and screen by screen analysis on the web and in print. This guide is for the normal everyday user; for my picture sharing parents, my messaging and farming wife, and all the other regular users reaching for the Advil bottle. Breathe a sigh of relief; it's not that bad!

Lists - Lists have always been there sitting on the left of your home screen. Most people don't use them, but Facebook hopes to change that with the improvements. The upgrade enabled lists to be automatically created for close friends, family, employers, schools, and geographical areas. Friends were added to each corresponding list if it was determined through your relationships and interactions that they should be there. There are suggestions for other friends that Facebook was unsure about that you can approve if you like, and then add anyone else you want. Lists are used for privacy when making status updates, uploading photos, etc. Instead of having the shared item visible to your friends or public, you can make it visible to your "Family" list. Using lists enhances your privacy by better controlling who can see what. The best part is if you want nothing to do with them, just ignore them, and no action is needed. You can continue on like you were before.

Subscribe - Subscribing is a new feature that is simply a way for you to subscribe to a non-friend's public posts. Their public activity will appear in your news feed and on the ticker (more on the ticker below). You must turn the feature on if you want to allow people to subscribe to your public posts (click edit settings on your subscriber page). This is a great way to follow what a person is up to without mutually friending them. As an example you can now "Subscribe" to Mark Zuckerberg; previously you would have gone to his profile to see his public posts. You are automatically subscribed to your, and any new, mutual friends. Please note that your subscription to someone is not private.

News Feed - The view has changed slightly. Previously we had the News Feed and Most Recent as two different viewing options. Now they are merged as one. At the top will be Top News as indicated by a grey triangle in the upper left area of the item. Top News will be your trending items or events that Facebook thinks you should see, followed by the chronologically ordered Recent Stories. As nice new addition is that when you have been logged off for a while you are greeted with New Stories above the Top News. It only takes a couple days to get used to the new format.

Ticker - The ticker is displayed in the top right section of the screen and is a rolling list of "light" updates. Each update is clickable and actionable within the ticker feature. This allows you to quickly like or reply to something without leaving your current page. Important to note is that no privacy or visibility settings have changed to add this. Essentially it just makes updates you already have access to easier to find and see. You can not disable your ticker updates from going out to other people, but you can block incoming ones from friends if you want. Updates from apps using the Open Graph will show up in the ticker also. Many people will be talking about the privacy implications of the Open Graph, but just read all pop-ups before you grant any apps access to your information and you will be fine. Let me know in you comments below if you have any questions or concerns about that. (Read more about Facebook's auto-share feature.)

Timeline - Your profile is being redesigned to be a beautiful timeline. It will be much more historically robust, aesthetic, and actionable. I hear it could be a bit of a project to set it up initially. The video below is an introduction to timeline. Enjoy the (free) upgraded Facebook!

Be sure to also read, "Graphing The Timeline, A Facebook Opinion".