Facebook Annoyance Of The Day

(rambling, ranty; I saw something on Facebook that pissed me off, and ended up ranting about the whole social media scene – no offence meant, and I’ve deliberately picked no examples from anybody I know or care about)

It’s not as bad as setting up a Facebook group to recover your friends’ mobile numbers after losing your phone, which I’ve complained about previously, but there’s a particular bit of behaviour that I’ve seen a few times on Facebook that really pisses me off.

Yes, in a world of geeks complaining about Facebook, I’m the geek who complains about Facebook users.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Let’s have a look what’s happened here. Person 1 wants Person 2 to do them a favour: a little household chore: putting something in the post for them. So they went to Facebook, logged in, went to Person 2’s wall, and wrote about it there. What?

I’ve put together a quick list of other possible ways that Person 1 could have passed on this message:

  1. Facebook Message – If you really were logged in to Facebook already, and even you were already on the page of the person you wanted to send a message to, it would only have been one more click to send a Facebook Message. This would have given you more options, in case you needed them, and would have meant that you didn’t have to tell every single one of Person 2’s friends about the mindless dull minutiae of an event that matters to (at most) only two people.
  2. E-mail – Remember that? It’s fast, it’s simple, and it doesn’t involve filling your friend’s friends’ news feed with crap that has no relevance to them (or, in fact, to anybody).
  3. Text message – There’s almost nobody left without a mobile phone, and I’d hope that you had your (presumably) housemate’s number: why not drop them a text. It’s typically even faster than the previous two suggestions, and you don’t even have to open a web browser. Hell; if you’re going to go that far, why not make a phone call (we can still do that, you know, even on modern mobiles).

I suppose that this mini-rant is actually a roundabout way of answering a question I get asked from time to time: Why can’t I post to your Facebook wall? I get asked this question about once every three or for months, and the answer is related to my complaints about the poster, above. Not being able to write on my wall isn’t part of the half-dozen or so layers of privilege I group my Facebook contacts into: writing on my “wall” is deliberately something that only I can do, no matter who you are.

And that’s because I don’t see the point. Why do I want a medium to which my friends can post messages specifically to me in full view of the rest of the world? I can fully understand why you’d want to write on your own wall – hey, it’s not that dissimilar to blogging – but what possible motive can you have to want to say something to me “in front of everyone”, except if perhaps it’s more important to you to be seen to be saying something than it is for me to hear your message?

If you have something to tell me, then tell me: call me, text me, instant message me (I’m on basically all of the networks), e-mail me (encrypted, if you prefer), or even fill in the form on my web site: I’m a really easy to get in contact with. If you have something to tell the world, or all of your friends, then put it on a blog, Tweet it, put it on your Facebook wall, or something. I can’t see any legitimate use case that I care about where you’d want to leave a message specifically for all of my friends.

I suppose while I’m full of rantyness I ought to explain my stance on Twitter, too. I had a Twitter account, once. I get it; I see the point. Microblogging; yeah, that’s a clever idea: sharing clever snippets of information, URLs, and whatnot without the hassle of having to type in your blog address and put it there. It’s not much hassle, but you sometimes feel a little like a cheater when you write a blog post of only a couple of sentences (but that hasn’t stopped me doing it from time to time). So I signed up for Twitter, found my friends and followed them, and gave it a go.

I read what my friends wrote, and I wrote about what was of interest to me.

Maybe it’s just my friends, or maybe it’s just that blogging works because it takes effort, but most of the tweets I would see fell into only a couple of categories. The first category are those tweets which are actually interesting, and are incredibly rare. The next category is those tweets which are half of a conversation about which I don’t care – a friend of mine talking to somebody I don’t know about something that doesn’t matter to me: you know, the thing I really hate about the way that people use their friends’ Facebook walls. The third category, and the most numerous for some of the people I followed, is tweets that surely have no value or interest to anybody at all. I don’t care that your bus is running late or that your boss has a new haircut. Why are you telling me this!

Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Some of my friends produce consistently clever and interesting stuff on their Twitter feeds. Although these also tend to be the same people who write interesting things on their blogs, or who talk to me regularly, or who share fun stuff with me on Google Reader, and who generally otherwise keep me posted with what’s cool and interesting in their lives.

I’ve heard people say to me that my complaints about Twitter are invalid because I use Facebook (thereby carrying the implication that it’s just as bad). And it is just as bad – about 50% of the folks I know on Facebook type such drivel into their “walls” that I just don’t read them. But the difference is that I don’t have to. I can still use the useful Facebook features (contact details sharing, photo sharing, stalking) without having to get into the shitty “what my cat ate for dinner” stuff that seems to be the entirety of what the Twitter experience is about.

Me; I like blogs. A well-written blog post (with a sensible title: I’m looking at you, LiveJournalers) is something that I can read now, or later, or skip. Skipping tweets isn’t the same experience at all, because you’ll soon find yourself at “Oh no! That made the cat throw up!” and wonder what you missed (hint: fuck all). So I think I’ll stick to reading folks’ blog posts, logging into Facebook every couple of weeks, and checking a handful of my friends’ Twitter feeds once in a blue moon. Is that how it’s supposed to be done? I’m not sure, but it’s the only way that I’ve found that works for me.

Or perhaps I’m missing something.

What Not To Do When You Lose Your Mobile

Maybe this is just a pet hate that is exclusively mine, but there’s something that really gets on my nerves and it’s happened under one of the two scenarios below at least three times within the last month. It’s as if the very second you let people loose on social-networking site Facebook they immediately lose all common sense.

Here’s the scenario: you lose or break your mobile phone – I’m sure it’s happened to us all at some point or another – and as if that wasn’t bad enough, you’re stupid enough to not keep a backup of your contacts (virtually every phone can do this now, so there’s no excuse for the vast majority of people). Well, fair enough: like I said, this could happen to anybody, although you’re already due a talking-to by me about keeping your information backed up, and if it’s been stolen I’d quite like to know what information you had about me on there at the time. But in the most part you have my sympathy… so far.

How’re you going to get all those carefully-collected numbers back in your phone? Well, here are two wrong ways to do it. I’ll explain why later:

  1. Send a bulk Facebook message out to everybody you know.
  2. Create a Facebook group.

So why are they wrong?

Bulk Facebook Messages

The first and biggest reason that either of these methods are wrong is pretty fundamental, though: you’ve lost my mobile number, that’s your problem, so why don’t you make some of the effort to fix it. My mobile number is on my Facebook profile. I put it there so that you wouldn’t ever have to e-mail me if you wanted it. It’s there because improving connectivity between and sharing personal information with friends is entirely what Facebook is for. So next time you misplace your address book – which you failed to back up – why don’t you do some of the leg work and actually go to my profile and look it up for yourself.

If you can’t see it on my profile, it’s invariably because I’ve used Facebook’s (now-quite complex and powerfu) privacy tools to hide it from you because I don’t want you to have my mobile number. So there you are. If you’re on my Facebook friends list you should never, ever need to send me a Facebook message to get my mobile number.

Secondly, sending a bulk-Facebook message is wrong because it almost always leads to retards “following suit” like this:

I don’t mind getting James’ new mobile number over a Facebook message. That’s fine. I shan’t be responding, because he ought to be bright enough to get my mobile number for himself, considering it’s only one-click away. But by bulk-sending it to everybody he knows, he’s underestimated the stupidity of his other friends. About 50% of the people he sent it to sent their mobile numbers back to the list by using “Reply All.”

Reply All is the only option available, and so a new Facebook user could conceivably make this mistake. But then a handful of James’ other friends make the same mistake, having seen one of them do it already. Wait, did I miss something? Are these people all patients at some mental hospital that James used to volunteer at, or something?

I don’t know who any of these people are, aside from the fact that they’re James’ other friends. I’m only permitted to read the profile of one of them, and he isn’t sharing his mobile number with me there, so I can only assume that they don’t want me to have their number. But then they’ve just turned around on that idea and given it to me. What?

I’m half-tempted to set up a handful of fake Facebook accounts just so that I can send a message back to each of the idiots like this:

I Need All Your Mobile Numbers

Between You, An Identity Thief, A Stalker, Somebody You’ve Never Met, Their Ex-, Every Man, and His Dog.

I’ve lost my mobile (again!) and can’t be bothered to look up your numbers on your profiles or contact you individually. Please use the “Reply All” form below and tell me and all the other people in the list above exactly how to contact you and harass you whenever we get bored.

Facebook Groups

The other, even more irritating way that people handle this self-inflicted (let’s face it, paper and pen is a backup if there’s no other way) tragedy is by creating a Facebook group exclusively for the purpose of re-harvesting their friend’s numbers. I’m sure you’ve all seen this happen at least once.

And it happens a lot: log in to Facebook and search for “lost mobile” in the Groups list. You won’t ever find out how many idiots do this, because Facebook only lists the first few hundred results. But there are lots. Lots and lots.

The first thing that’s wrong with this approach is an issue which I’m sure I’ll be one of very few people to care about, but it’s not the biggest problem: Facebook “Groups” are, by definition, according to Facebook’s own documentation, collections of “people with similar interests” and “places for discussion.”

I’ve never joined one of these “I’ve lost my mobile!” groups, because:

  • I’ve never lost my mobile.
  • Even if I had, I wouldn’t realy say I have an interest in lost mobiles. I have no intention to discuss what having lost a mobile is like, or even what my friend having lost their mobile is like. And I’m pretty sure that isn’t what they want, either.

Not only is creating a Facebook group a mis-use of the service – this isn’t what groups are for! – but they suffer from all the same problems as Facebook bulk-mailing all your friends (i.e. if they reply, they all see each others’ numbers) but even worse. Most people create these groups but don’t make them “secret,” so anybody can join. Want a few hundred numbers to sell to an SMS-spammer? Just browse Facebook for awhile. Worse still, these groups don’t disappear until (after) every single member has left. So your phone number, which you stupidly put in the group description (if you’re the idiot who lost your phone) or on the wall of the group (if you’re one of their even-bigger-idiot friends), will be visible to pretty much any Facebook user, indefinately. Give yourself a pat on the back. I suggest using an ice pick.

What Little Timmy Should Have Done

Never let it be said that I’m overly negative when I criticise morons. I’m more than happy to educate them and I won’t even demand the right to use a heavy, blunt object to help the knowledge sink in.

Here’s what you should be doing in order to show off your uncommon sense. You can start today!

Back Up Your Mobile Phone

Just stop and think for a moment what your mobile phone is worth. I don’t mean the cost the insurance company will pay when you drop it in a pint of cider a week on Friday, I mean the value of the data inside it. How long would it take you to put all those numbers back in? If you’re a heavier user of the geekier features of modern phones: what about all the photos, e-mails, text messages, music, and the carefully-tweaked settings that make the icons have a purple background and that Crazy Frog video ringtone?

  • Most modern mobiles can be connected to a PC by a cable (which sometimes comes free with the phone) or by Bluetooth, and free software (often from the phone manufacturer’s website) will let you make a backup copy of everything on your device. It’ll take seconds, and doing it as infrequently as four or five times a year will save you a universe of hassle. Just look for a feature that will enable you to read all the data from the screen of your PC if you need to – for example, if your replacement phone isn’t compatible with the data from your broken old handset.
  • Pretty much every mid- or high- end Nokia, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson handset and some LG and Siemens handsets support a technology called SyncML (there are links to lists of compatible phones at the bottom of that page). Using this technology and a free on-line provider like many of these ones, you can back up your entire address book to a safe online repository over the Internet. Sure, if you’re on Pay-As-You-Go you’ll pay a few pence to do an Internet upload, but isn’t it worth it even if you just consider that the price of insuring your data?
  • Even if you’re using an ancient handset, consider keeping a paper backup (little black books are very affordable) or a typed-up list in a spreadsheet (Google Docs provides a free online spreadsheet). Or, if virtually all of your friends are on Facebook or another social networking site that allows the exchange of contact details, encourage them to keep their mobile numbers on their profile; suitably locked down to “friends only” (or even just to specific friends), of course.

What To Do When It All Goes Wrong

Everything goes tits-up from time to time. Suppose you lost your phone in a house fire that destroyed the PC the backups were on, too. Or maybe your phone got stolen and the new “owner” was so malicious he used your SyncML connection (if you’d saved your password on the phone) to overwrite all of your online backups with pictures of Lolcats. Or perhaps you didn’t keep backups at all (so long as you promise to keep backups next time, it’s not so bad – we all have to learn the hard way once, I’m sure, how important backups are). What should you do?

First: take responsibility. There is always something you could have done to keep a better backup. Therefore, it’s your job to do as much of the legwork of getting your numbers back as you can. Don’t make it your friends’ problem. Go through your friends’ Facebook profiles and retreieve as many phone numbers as you can before you start bothering them.

Second: get numbers in a sensible way. If you have a few close circles of friends, it’s pretty trivial nowadays to Bluetooth/MMS/Infared hundreds of contacts from phone-to-phone, and this can be a great way to get yourself re-connected. Call up Barney, and say “Hey, Barney; let me buy you a pint tonight and take a copy of everybody in your address book – I’ve been an idiot and I didn’t keep a backup before I lost my phone the other week.” Barney’ll drink his pint and press some buttons on his phone while saying things like, “Do you know Robin? Marshall? Lily? Have you met Ted?” and these people will magically appear in your address book.

There’s almost certainly be people you can’t re-get the numbers for in this way, but you can still be sensible about it. Send messages individually to those few people and ask for their numbers, but not before double-checking that you actually need them. If you can’t think of a reason you’ll ever call them within the next year, why are you carrying around their number anyway? Unless they’re somebody you’d call “in an emergency” you can always look them up when you need them. That way, you won’t spend you entire time with a number in your phone that could go out of date (people change numbers all the time) and you’d never know until you came to phone them, six years down the line, and you’d have to look them up anyway. Save yourself (and them) the bother and keep them out of your book. It’s a liberating experience to tidy up your contacts list.

And finally: if you get a new mobile number with your new phone, drop a text message to everybody who might want to know it, but make sure you say who you are because you won’t be in their address book with your new number, yet. The number of text messages I’ve got in my life from a number unknown to me that read “Hey there! This is my new number! Bye!” is staggering.

Some people are just too stupid to be allowed mobile phones.

The Danville Public Service Announcement

I don’t visit Facebook often. In fact, I usually only log on once or twice a month to clear out the billions of requests to install applications (and block those applications) that people don’t seem to have noticed that I never accept, or to check up on a mis-placed phone number or e-mail address for some infrequently-contacted friend. But in any case, I’m not up-to-date with what’s commonplace on Facebook any more. But this unusual bulge in my list of friends amused me for a moment:

Facebook statuses: Kieran is the Colour of the Wind; Owen smells like teen spirit; Adam is the one and only; Gareth didn't start the fire.

That’s four friends, in a row, who all set their “statuses” to something resembling the lyrics of a well-known song. Kieran may well be the colour of the wind, of course, but he’s still a ginger. I’m not in a position to comment on Owen’s body odour, and I’m doubtful that Adam is the one and only (although it’s genuinely possbile that there’s nobody he’s rather be). And Gareth’s apathy is… well, pretty much standard.

But it doesn’t seem so regular that a block of people adjacent to one another on my seemingly-randomly-sorted (I assume there’s some kind of clever hashing going on at the back-end for speed, or something) would all independently (none of them know one another, to the best of my knowledge) choose to have their statuses inspired by songs. Nobody else on my friends list is demonstrating this.

Perhaps I’m seeing patterns where they don’t exist, like seeing the face of Jesus in a balding dog’s back, or something. Just thought I’d share.

The Ship & Castle (pub)

It’s been a busy week or so. Last Wednesday I went out to the first night of the Ship & Castle‘s real ale festival with Penny and Ele, on account of the fact that (a) Yay! Dozens of cask-conditioned beers! and (b) I hadn’t seen much of either of them for an aeon or two. The pub was completely packed, but that didn’t stop us from sampling a good selection of the beers and ciders on offer. Once one became available, I stole a stool to sit on.

Now it seems that some strange wizard must have enchanted that stool on some previous visit to the pub, with a mysterious spell of popularity, because it suddenly appeared that every fucker in the pub wanted to talk to me. The folks I knew (one or two more turned up), the folks I barely knew (“I’m sorry, but I can’t remember how I’m supposed to know you?” territory)… even strangers seemed to know who I was or, failing that, want to. Two people said “hey, you’re that guy with the blog,” as if that in some way cuts it down in this town (abnib disagrees). One woman waved as if I’d known her for years but I can’t place a name to her face. Another chap – his flirtatiousness outdone only by his drunkeness – almost coerced a blush out of me with a particularly charming compliment. And it just kept on going, and going…

When the pub finally kicked us out (and we’d added Lizzie to our party), we hunted for another pub but without success, and so we scooped up beer and wine and took the party to the living room of The Cottage, where we talked all kinds of bollocks, drinking and listening to music – and joined for awhile by Tom, who came in looking drunk and stained with ash, drank half a bottle of beer, urinated in the back yard, and left again – until it was getting close to 4am and I thought it really ought to be time for bed, considering my planned early start at work the following morning. How Penny survived (she started work even earlier) I haven’t a clue.

A major difference between being in your late twenties and being in your early twenties, in my experience, is not one of having less energy for a late night (or early morning) of drinking, but one of responsibility. As a 27-year-old, I’m quite aware that I can still survive an all-night party (although it’s getting harder!). But when somebody spontaneously suggests something like “Let’s stay up and party and watch the sun rise,” instead of saying “Yeah!” I say, “Hmm… I’ve got work in the morning… maybe…” It’s easy to be made aware of this distinction when you’re in a student town, as I am, and it’s easy to be made to feel even older than I am. On the other hand, it helps to give every opportunity to pretend I’m less aged than I actually am.

So then Thursday was the anticipated long day at work, followed by a quick dinner before a rush up to the Arts Centre to see Steeleye Span, on JTA‘s recommendation. Steeleye Span are a “proper” folk rock band: y’know, they’ve had every single member replaced at some point or another and still keep the same name, like Theseus’s ship, and they’ve written songs that they don’t play any more, but that other folk bands do. That kind of definition. They were pretty good – a reasonable selection of songs from the usual slightly saucy and sometimes unintelligble varieties that they’re known for, and a particularly strong finish to the concert with a rousing sing-along rendition of All Around My Hat (which, I later discovered, they played as an encore the last time my dad saw them, about a decade or more ago – I guess that’s the third characteristic of a “proper” folk rock band: that your parents have seen them perform, too).

By now, I was getting to a point where I was tired enough to not be making much sense any more when I talked (as if I ever do), and I slept well, although not for long, because I had to make an even earlier start at work on Friday morning to make sure I got everything I needed to get done done before travelling up North in the evening.

So yeah: Friday evening we travelled up to Preston and had pizza with my folks, and then on Saturday morning I found myself taking my sister Becky‘s place in the BT Swimathon. She’d been suffering from a lung infection for a week or more, now, and had to pull out, so – despite having barely swum at all for several years – I pulled on my trunks and a swimming cap and contributed 1750m to the team effort. And then dragged my body out of the pool just in time for Claire and I to rush off to Formby for her godmother’s funeral, which is what we’d actually come up to the North-West to do.

Swimathon medal

Oh yeah, and I got a medal, which I’ve been wearing ever since.

I can’t say much about Claire’s godmother’s funeral, because I only met her once, and then only briefly. Her husband – she’d been married for 52 years; they’d been teenage sweethearts – was quite obviously finding her death difficult, yet still managed to deliver a beautiful and moving eulogy for his dear departed wife. Apart from the religosity of the service (not to my taste, but I suppose it wasn’t really there for me anyway) it was very good, and the church building was packed – this was obviously a popular woman.

Her body seems to be going “on tour”: she’s having a second service – the actual funeral – in Norfolk today. I wonder if it’ll be as full. Not many people get two funerals. Perhaps the popularity will wane after the first. On the other hand, you might get groupies… seems to be what Claire’s doing, as she’s down in Norfolk now and presumably went to the second funeral, too.

Later, we found ourselves in Manchester. We’d hoped to go guitar-shopping (Claire’s looking for a new one), but ended up there just barely in time to eat some noodles and go to meet my family, and each of my sister’s boyfriends, at the Odeon IMAX cinema to see Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones concert film/documentary. The film was… better than I would have expected, and the resolution of the IMAX filmstock really showed during long pans and high-detail closeups on the band in concert, although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the editing: too many cuts, too much crossing the line, and (on a huge screen) almost nauseating thanks to the bumps and bounces the cameras made. It was also a little too-much concert and not-enough documentary, perhaps because the band have never really interviewed very well. In one old BBC clip, Keith Richards is asked what has brought the band it’s initial success, and he simply shrugs. In another – in the early 1970s – Mick Jagger‘s only answer about the band’s future is “I think we’ve got at least another year left.”

My mum is the superstar at Mario Party

A few games of Mario Party 8 with my family later (one of which, amazingly, my mum won!), and we were back on the road. Claire dropped me off at Birmingham New Street station so I could catch a train back to Aberystwyth, as I needed to be back at work this morning, and she carried on to Norfolk to visit her dad and to attend the other half of her godmother’s funeral.

My journey back to Aberystywth was pretty horrendous. Trains are cancelled between Shrewsbury and Aber right now, and replaced with a bus service, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a less pleasant bus journey in my life. Five-seats wide, I was squished into falling half-off my uncomfortable seat even sat next to somebody as small as Matt P (who I’d happened to bump into on the journey). There was barely any knee-room, and the air conditioning only had two settings, neither of which was particually pleasant but for reasons of completely different extremes.

Hypercube Hop in progress

We finally got back to Aber just in time to join in at Geek Night, where Ruth, Penny, and Rory were just finishing a game of Carcassonne. JTA arrived, too, and the six of us played the largest game of Settlers of Catan I’ve ever played. We also managed to have a couple of games of Hypercube Hop, Ruth’s dad’s first board game published under his new Brane Games label. For those of you that missed it, I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity to give it a go at some future Geek Night.

Then today I posed for topless photos for Ele. But that’s another story and I’ve got to go and eat dinner so I’ll leave it at that.

40 Days On Facebook

Dan Q's Facebook profileI’ve been playing with Facebook for the last 40 days or so, to see if it’s any good. Here’s some of the things I’ve observed that I like (and don’t like) about it, followed by my conclusions:

Observations

In no particular order.

  • Nice. It’s a good platform for keeping up-to-date with your friends for the “littler things” that don’t really warrant blog entries, for helping you remember your friends’ contact details, birthdays, etc., for quickly sharing photos without too much hoo-hah, and so on.
  • Nice. It imports XML feeds, so you can integrate your Facebook presence with your blog or whatever else.
  • Nasty. It doesn’t export XML feeds! What is this, the middle ages? There’s a slight risk that some users may begin to use Facebook “notes” as substitute for blogging, and I and others who depend on RSS/Atom will end up not reading what they write as a result of it, but the notes system is pretty simplistic (as it should be) so it’s not terribly likely, at least for the time being.
  • Nasty. Searching for people is a little clunky: it could at least allow me to filter by country, or intelligently suggest people from my own country before showing me people in other countries.
  • Nice. Easy bulk-addition of friends from your address book. I’m an untrusting bugger, so I wouldn’t give them my webmail passwords (but I know others who have), but the CSV import tool, combined with a little scripting, quickly achieved very similar results, plus more.
  • Nice. Unlike many other social networking sites (and particularly the ridiculously bad myspace), it doesn’t allow arbitrary HTML to be splattered all over your profile page, so at least the user interface stays consistent and you’re not horribly vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks every time you use it.
  • Nice. Good reciprocal “friends” system (including a wealth of FOAF-like “how do you know this person” links that make for interesting exploring when you start looking through your circle of friends) and well-designed privacy options so user have a great deal of control over who sees what.
  • Nasty. On the other hand, some people still seem to treat it like myspace: trying to join the most groups, have the most friends, or whatever, as if it were some kind of popularity contest. This probably also extends to people with silly names. Thankfully, they’re pretty few and far between, and – at least in my experience – they don’t harass you with endless messages a-la myspace.
  • Nice. The ads (it’s mostly an ad-supported service) are sparse and discreet. No big flashing animGIFs, flash, or banners.
  • Nasty. I can see why they’ve done the “networks” thing, but it can get on your tits until you get the hang of it. Why can’t I be in an alumni network for Aberystwyth? Because I didn’t have a Facebook account when I was at Aberystwyth, apparently. Why couldn’t Matt join the original Troma Night group? Because it, like me, was in the Wales regional network (because I hadn’t specified otherwise when I created it, and he’s not in Wales, is he!).

Conclusions

It’s a nice little social networking platform. It suffers from a lack of subscribable output feeds, a very slight “myspace factor” amongst some of it’s users, and weak search tools. However, it does a remarkably good job of providing a secure environment in which to publish your up-to-date contact and other personal information to your friends, share photos, pass simple messages around, arrange events, and discover the links within your friendship groups. I’ve heard good things said about using it instead of Friends Reunited and similar services, for getting in touch with old friends, but I’m not interested in that – I just like to be able to keep in touch more easily with the friends I have.

I’m making the Facebook team aware of these comments (and gripes) and hopefully it’ll become even better. In the meantime: if you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend giving it a go: they’ve got a nice, ethical account closure policy if you decide it’s not for you. A 40-day test drive had me… not hooked like some people, but… contented and impressed nonetheless: something I genuinely didn’t expect.