The Facebook Question

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Facebook is beginning to be more of a sore spot for me than something I really care about.  The recent, and not so recent, problems with the site’s stand on privacy is annoying but I have mostly ignored it.  I have locked my profile down a bit and generally don’t do much on the site.  I read the “news” feed through Tweetdeck and rarely go to the Facebook site during the day.  So while I have been kept up with the buzz surrounding the privacy issue, I have mostly stayed out of the fray.  The real problem I am having is dealing with how Facebook handles external RSS feeds.  More specifically I am referring to how Facebook completely mishandles entries from my blog.

The problem is fairly simple.  Facebook is horrible at processing the feed.  When I post a blog entry it usually takes AT LEAST 24 hours to show up as a note on my Facebook profile.  Not only that, but the version the system posts is almost never the current version of what is on the blog.  I often edit my posts after I publish them.  Usually this is because I am lazy and don’t edit BEFORE hitting the “Publish” button.  Once it goes live, I find mistakes and I generally want to correct them.  The posts are never perfect but I like to fix problems when and if I find them.  The weird thing about Facebook is that the version of the post that ends up on my profile THE NEXT DAY is almost always the first version of the post and not the version that is live on my blog the day it shows up on Facebook.  This is insane to me because what seems to be happening is that Facebook grabs the feed when I publish it but doesn’t put it on my profile until the next day.  The end result is that I have two similar but slightly different posts on the two sites with my blog being the most current and accurate version.

There are other problems as well.  Sometimes the Facebook version shows my embedded images and sometimes it does not.  It also NEVER shows embedded videos.  Although this isn’t a huge deal, I do take some thought into what I put into my posts other than text.  I might suck at this, but I still have a look I want to portray…even if that look is pathetic.  The images and graphics often add context to what I am writing about and Facebook’s spotty replication of this when it imports the feed is frustrating.  In some cases the images and video are critical to understanding what I am saying and Facebook destroys the effectiveness of these posts by not importing the entirety of the code.  Certainly this may be a problem with what I embed but other services don’t have a problem with this so why should Facebook?

Outside of the delay and presentation problems, however, I like the concept of having my blog posts (sporadic as they have been lately) as well as tweets show up on Facebook.  I decided at some point that it was useless for me to try and maintain different, private “personas” on the Internet versus real life.  I have taken the view that if you are going to be on the internet you need put some thought into how you come off to the rest of the world.  This is important for many reasons including the simple fact that employers and potential employers are taking the time to research their people and possible hires and what those people say and do on the Internet.  I am doing better at this but I am not perfect and I still make mistakes of discretion.  Nevertheless, it is clear to me that whatever I say and do on the Internet as any one of my screen identities can easily be traced back to me, the real person.  With that in mind, I found that although I want a presence on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, and my blog, I don’t want to manage updating all of those services individually.  For me it became clear that my Blog and Twitter were the two places I wanted to make updates and then feed all of that to other services so they all have some sort of fresh content on a regular basis.  This processes keeps my presence “active” while having to do less work.  I certainly understand the value of dealing with separate audiences differently but right now that is not a goal of mine.

There are many reasons for this approach.  Mostly it is because I am lazy.  I just don’t have the time or the desire to manage my presence at half a dozen different sites.  The technology exists to link these things together and that is just what I have decided to do.  I feel a need to have accounts on the sites because I am connected to people in different ways.  People that are my “friends” on Facebook may not follow me on Twitter or read my blog.  There are different pockets of people that I am connected to at each site/service but I want them all to get the same information from me no matter if it is worthless Twitter updates or something else that may have more value.  The other, more selfish reason, is that I have some weird desire to increase the size of my connections at all services so connecting them together seems to help.  I can’t explain that desire but it is what it is.  In the end, however, it is just easier for me and IF I am doing things right, the “different audience” issue isn’t a concern.

Facebook, however, just doesn’t do a lot of things the way I want it to to and for me that is a problem.  Using Facebook as a catch-all for stuff I write elsewhere seems to be breaking the model I had hoped to create.  It screws up my blog posts and then doesn’t link back to the RSS feed for people to find the actual post.  Often I have resorted to posting a link to the blog in the actually post but I shouldn’t have to do that.  Feeding the RSS into Facebook also creates two places where discussion of the same topic can happen and then I have to move back and forth between the discussions.  This also stinks because a good discussion on Facebook doesn’t get feed into the blog or from the blog into Facebook.  It would really make sense to have all of the comments exist in one place.  Not only is this better for the actually sharing of ideas, but it makes it easier for me to keep up with what I have said where.  Taken as a whole these issues make me spend more time managing information on Facebook than I would like.

So, what is the solution?  The simplest thing may very well be to give up on the “one post / multiple publishing locations” model.  I could wall them off and treat each audience separately.  I have already said I really don’t want that hassle so the option isn’t great.  I could come up with a more selective repost workflow (I call it work…how hilarious is that?) where I choose what goes where at the time of posting.  I feel pretty confident from a technological standpoint that this is possible but again this breaks my original desire for a single post model.  Or, I could just throw up my hands and just saw “screw it” and let it continue to be what it is.  Right now I am leaning toward the second choice.  I am sure it would be better for the people who follow me (why anyone follows me is often a question I can’t answer) but it would require a little more thought and work on my part.  No big deal I guess really.  I know I can’t stand how Facebook handles my blog
RSS feed so I have to do something about that.  The solution I am thinking of right now is to break the feed and just tweet when I make a new blog post.  That will feed in Facebook and anyone who wants to read it can click the link and come over.  I don’t like regular blog pimping on Twitter though so I am a little wary of doing that on a regular basis.  We shall see.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this issue.



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