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June 11, 2007

Facebook - an academic tool?

I've just joined a Facebook group called "Dump LinkedIn and other networks in favour of Facebook".  The introductory blurb says:

Just a quick note to let you know that I won't be updating Linkedin any more. I now use Facebook as it shows the personality behind the person. It also allows you to integrate all other applications and social network activity such as Flickr, Twitter, Blog feeds etc.

Facebook also allows you to see who's in my network and it's easy to add them to yours if it's appropriate.

Makes a lot of sense to me.  As far as I can tell, everything that LinkedIn does, Facebook does better - Facebook does a whole lot more besides.

I quite like Facebook.  It's very easy to use, the interface is nice, and the ability to integrate other applications and build your own tools very powerful.

So... is it a useful tool for academics?  I dunno, but I think it could be.  Some things would need to be improved I think.  Here's some initial suggestions:

  1. A simple way of incorporating lists of publications and presentations - probably via an extended RSS or Atom feed.
  2. Some additional types of "How do you know X?" options including "Collaborated on Y" and "Met at Conference Z".
  3. Easier citation of entries in boards.

There's probably a lot of other stuff as well, but that's what I've spotted so far.

BTW, my Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688401359.

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Comments

I agree with your three suggestions. To those I add:

4. Refine discussions so you can read a topic you are currently adding to.

5. Create better incentives for discussions. Too many groups have dozens, hundreds, thousands of members but little or no discussion.

6. Searching for people has to be refined. It's easy to find out if someone with a rare name is on Facebook or not. But try it with "John Smith" - there's no easy way of refining the results.

7. More academic, educational, learning, teaching, information retrieval apps required. Worldcat search and Intute search would be two interesting ones for starters.

8a. Second life integration. If a person has an associated avatar, then depending on what permissions they allow, clicking on it loads up SL and teleports you to their avatar or home location.

8b. And the other way around. "Touch" an avatar in SL, and it would be good if that persons Facebook profile appeared.

9. Polls. A free "lite" version would be useful.

10. A wee bit more quality control before apps are made public. The quiz one, for example, is somewhat buggy and is perhaps more alpha than beta.

What I want from Facebook is RSS/Atom out of Facebook.

I mean, here's an app with things labelled "feeds" and (as far as I can see) I can't get at RSS/Atom represemtations of them! Bah.

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