Sometimes Change Ain’t So Bad

Ping, pong, the game is on! Within a week after Facebook launches Smart Lists, Google+ opens the public gate. I find the strategy of these two social network giants fascinating. It reminds me of the product wars that have kept us entertained throughout the years like Coke verses Pepsi – neither side will ever win at pleasing everyone all of the time, but their battle achieves pleasing most of the people some of the time. Each challenges the other by making improvements that require changes, keeping users on their toes. As I’ve said many times, I hate changes. They interrupt my work and slow me down. Just when I learn how to do something well, the rules change. But that’s life on the Internet for you. There’s just no sense in arguing – it’s easier to just hang on for the ride.

The last couple of decades getting to know the Internet has been a carnival ride for me. Sometimes it goes up and down, or bumps and slides or spins around, but unlike a bumper car or Merry-Go-Round, its appearance, as well as its functions keep evolving. I’ve learned to bend with it, because without the Internet, my digitizing service might not exist. I actually have to laugh at my resistance in retrospect of the changes I had complained about – those that eventually made my world a much better place to be – and I’m really only irritated by those that didn’t happen soon enough.

Take email – or should I spell it e-mail? Actually, at one time I didn’t like the dash (-), thinking it unnecessary. It was a new communication method at the time; certainly it deserved a new complete word!  But I gave in, and now that the dash has been drilled into my finger’s little brain, they (whoever makes these decisions) have decided: dash or no dash is acceptable if consistent throughout the piece.  That is not always do-able when quoting a published article.  Often I have to remove or add the dash, to be consistent with the quote that I don’t feel the right to change.  It’s little changes like that drives a writer buggy. (Thank goodness my finger’s little brain also knows where the backspace key is.)

Besides the spelling change, functions of email clients continue to upgrade with changes that occasionally boggle the mind. I admit, sometimes it’s for the better as for security reasons and spam control, but other times I suspect it’s just to make you think they are busy creating things you need – trying to ping another email client’s pong. Well, I don’t need all of the glam, tabs and options – just let me read my emails!  But whether or not I’ve liked the changes in email functions, acceptance has been necessary to continue communications for custom digitizing orders. In its beginning, email saved at least a week of discussion-time, because it allowed receiving colored artwork for quotes, eliminating the need to ship artwork via overnight services, and there became no need to interrupt someone’s day with a phone call for discussion about the job. Eventually, changes by email engineers made it possible for binary attachments, allowing instant delivery of the design file in time for the embroiderer to test it and report any errors like a forgotten lock stitch, which then allowed getting a revision back to them within minutes. That was a moment we old dogs proclaimed, “I love email!” (dash or no dash).

Email led the way to global connections via “Email Discussion Lists” where people of the same industry or interests all over the world could communicate and share their ideas. Ah yes, the first “cloud” had arrived. And it worked so very well for years, a go-to place to find answers, share information, meet new people and get in touch with groups of old friends; not to mention emails could be stored in an organized manner on or off line. Some lists were generated through private forums and others were found in groups at sites like Yahoo.com. It seemed a good thing, though it was not without its restrictions, with each list establishing rules for the content of posts – the most effective way to offend no one and keep the peace.

Then back in about 2007 or so, some college guy came along with “The Facebook”. I signed up shortly before they eliminated the “The” but I never really expected to use it much.  At that time, it appeared pretty blah in its simplicity, and I was content with my Email Lists, anyhow. So my Facebook profile sat empty for quite some time until a few clients encouraged the idea and I began using it with a focus on its possible use for business networking. Gradually, the benefits came to light as many industry folks started adding up in my Friends List. I could upload photos of work to share without using another network photo site, or post a question about creating my web site using direct links without getting accused of spamming, or even make a complaint on my own wall without getting branded as a flamer – not that I am, just that I can.  Alas, freedom – that is, until my non-industry friends and family showed up and trying to “cross-communicate” turned into a roller coaster ride.  How could I post a cheerful embroidery post to my industry friends when a non-industry friend had just posted his dog had died?  So, I began posting more cautiously to not appear thoughtless, but that meant trying to keep up with reading all my friends’ posts. Eventually, I took advantage of the Lists feature that allowed reading a Stream of only posts in each list, but then came another problem of sorting through each list to be sure I didn’t miss anything important. I desperately needed organization.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been taking rides on a Tilt-A-Whirl, spinning in the beta, limited-member Google+ Circles while considering the switch from Facebook. I was drawn in by having the ability to send out a status post to only those in one particular Circle, such as my “Industry Circle”.  It certainly would avoid confusing friends and family with comments of embroidery language like, “use a craft blade to slice away the birdnest below the plate.”  Nope, Uncle Charlie just wouldn’t understand.

So the Google+ Circles feature was looking pretty good and the only problem was trying to get everyone to move on over, but it seemed only a few of those using Facebook for business were interested. Others couldn’t see the benefit, unless there was a way for a fast, total migration of info, photos and notes – not an option Facebook would allow.  Folks became infuriated, claiming it was their stuff, but Facebook had other plans in the works. Then last Friday I logged in to discover Smart Lists and suddenly heard Eric Claption singing, “Come back baby, you’ll find a change in me!

With only brief announcements to the general public that Smart Lists would become a standard feature of Facebook, some folks have been voicing loud complaints since its launch on Friday.  The 3-5% of us who had pre-existing lists under Most Recent found them moved to the left column along with a few additional lists, such as those in the local area or high school pals; and those who didn’t have lists discovered that lists were automatically made for them by smartly comparing information in profiles. Many Facebook folks who never had a reason for using the previous optional list feature were angry about the change, but as for me, I’m standing up in grand applause!

So, I figure, since it’s made me quite happy and others not, I should at least offer some information to help the nay-sayers who now feel like they’re walking through a confusing carnival Spook House. The Facecrooks Blog explains that Smart Lists is “pretty useful when you’re sending invites to a select group of people, as it automatically lists those who are close by.” The blog post also notes a few flaws, such as, “… since the list depends on the data listed on user profiles, it runs the risks of some people getting excluded. For example, if an old classmate did not list his school on his profile, then he might not get counted when the classmates list is developed. In this, Facebook has basically given people another incentive to complete their profiles.” Facecrooks offers a lot more helpful information in the post in how to use this new Smart List feature – or not, up to you.

And that’s the bottom line – Facebook members are not obliged to use Smart Lists. Even though the lists were automatically made for each member during the upgrade, Smart Lists are simply there if you find its function more convenient. You also need not keep particular members in the lists that were automatically created; it’s a completely editable feature. Take a little time to check out the Facebook Smart List FAQ page where you will also find info about posting a status to only one list or another, or to everyone as you have in the past. Also, don’t forget to check out your Privacy Settings for new related options.

No doubt about it – Facebook has definitely made a change that makes me smile! But yeah, since Google+ has ponged Facebook’s ping by opening membership to the public, I’ll still be hangin’ around those Circles now and then to see who shows up. I never could resist a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Additional note: More new functions arrived after this post and likely more changes will continue to occur. To ease some of the confusion, check out a very informative article at AllFacebook.com.

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