Stefan Larsson's page (under development)

Facebook has a bad Implementation of Groups

Introduction

I used to have a Facebook account. I closed it many years ago since I thought it did not serve any meaningful purpose in my life. Recently I decided to get a new account since I needed access to several groups for various reasons. And after using Facebook Groups for several weeks, I must say I am very disappointed with their design decisions, although I understand why it is done this way.

Problem 1: Threads

Discussions in Groups with many members tend to go in various directions with many sub-discussions. Facebook only allows one single level of threading. This is not sufficient. Usenet excels at this feature where threading in any depth is a natural thing.

Problem 2: Formatting

There is no way of formatting the text correctly. I am used to writing text using Markdown and reStructuredText. Facebook should add some possibility to edit rich text content. I understand that due to the heavy mobile user base it is much easier for the user to not be able to change text formatting due to simplicity. I have often missed a feature to be able to cite some text by highlighting and/or indenting the quoted text.

Problem 3: Keeping track of discussions

If there is a lot of activity in some groups, I only get a summary where I see the number of activities in a group. If more than 20 it shows up as “20+”. Scrolling through endless items in a linear fashion is too cumbersome. LinkedIn has the same problem. Here I would love to have a good overview like Newsblur or Google Inbox (which also categorizes emails in different groups automatically). I would love to have some intelligence in there which learns which topics I might find interesting based on what I tend to read most.

Good Things

The good thing with Facebook Groups is the privacy (members only). This is not easily attained using Usenet (can only be done on a server basis). It is also easy to attach images and small movies to comments. Including a link to YouTube for example automatically extracts a preview image from the site. This is done in most applications today and is a must have.

Conclusion

Facebook has a large user base, and most of these are probably not very experienced computer users. The simple interface makes sense but can be a problem for users with higher requirements. Since the font is proportional, it is even difficult to go to the old school mono-spaced formatting tricks of old emails and Usenet.