With the latest change to the Facebook profile page, one thing became clear to me, Facebook has managed to get something correct – grouping of your social network.
In this latest incarnation of the interface, this grouping functionality is being brought much more upfront (it is there in the left hand column), and it is needed as the front page now has a metric-buttload more content on it, and by using the various groups you can apply filters to this to get a faster overview of what is happening.
If you think about what has happened to the interface, it is that it has effectively promoted what was the “live Feed” tab to be your home page, and now people are struggling with the sheer volume of stuff that is flowing past
Everywhere else I have seen this type of functionality it has relied on predefined groups that the service sets up (looking at Plaxo here!).
Facebook refers them as groups, but I find it easier to think of them as tags.
This is important, as it is only really me who can decide how I define my relationship with any of the “friends” I am connected with on a social network.
For example, I could want to separate family and close-family, local office co-workers and all other office co-workers etc
The point is, as del.icio.us showed us a few years ago, it is nearly impossible to think of all the labels (tags) that people might want to apply to something, so, rather than trying to think of them (and attempt to build an interface around your limited subset of groups), just store whatever label the end user applies to the content (in this case the relationship).
The reason that this is closer to tagging (as i think of it) is that each person can be in multiple groups.
Prior to this change there was no real use for me to group my “friends”.
Now there is, and I think that there are more privacy controls being put in place in the background so that you have more control over exactly who can see what. Easiest place to see this is in your profile page, click the little padlock icon next to something (after clicking on edit) and one of the options will be to limit that information to a group.
This grouping feature/idea will become more and more important as more and more people start to use the various social Media/Network sites out there.
Well, as you attempt to maintain a level of ambient intimacy with more of the people you meet, have known/met and are trying to meet, the names can/will start to blur, and you need all the help you can get in remembering how and why you are trying to stay in contact with this person (especially as we start to pass the Dunbar number).
By applying your own tags to your social network (for example where you first met, a couple of points that made this person stand out etc) should make it easier to track all of this.