A couple of weeks ago, Facebook launched its new (2.0) version of Groups. I have been testing these out, and thought that I should share some of my observations.
Facebook Groups continue to be a great way for students and educators — professors, librarians, teachers, grad assistants, etc. — to share news and links, conduct discussions outside the classroom, and collaborate online. But, there are some glitches in the new Groups format that require a bit of caution.
New Groups can be assigned to one of three membership types. “Open” Groups allow any Facebook member to join, the Group name and membership list are searchable and visible to any Facebook member, and Group posts are visible to any Facebook member. “Closed” Groups require membership approval, the Group name and membership list are still searchable and visible to any Facebook member, but Group posts are now visible to only Group members. “Secret” Groups require a membership invitation to join, the Group name and membership list are still unlisted, and Group posts are again only visible to that Group. By default, new Groups are set to “Closed,” but the Group owner can adjust the status settings to “Open” or “Secret”.
What’s new and cool:
- Group Chat: You can now chat online with with your entire Group, or just a couple people from your Group.
- Document Sharing: Group members can post, share, and collaborate on basic notes. This is nowhere near as robust as Google Docs, but is more like the existing Notes feature on individual Facebook Profiles.
- Group Email Notifications: Much like an email list, Group members can receive notifications anytime another member posts messages, photos, links, etc., to the Group.
- Group Email Addresses: Group owners can set up a Group email address. This will allow any member of your group to email in photos or notes, even when not logged in to Facebook, to share with the entire Group.
What to be cautious of:
- Auto “Opt-In” for Memberships: Unlike the old version of Groups, Group administrators and members can now automatically add any of their Friends to a Group, without that individual’s consent. You have to manually remove yourself from any unwanted Groups. The old version of Groups required invited members to accept or reject Group membership; this is no longer the case.
- Auto “Opt-In” for Email Notifications: By default, the new Groups automatically subscribe members to Group email notifications whenever new content is added to the Group — even for those Groups you might have been added to without your consent. You have to manually edit your Group membership settings to remove any unwanted notifications.
What else needs to be fixed:
- Inability to “Auto-Join” Open Groups: Even if you create a group with an “Open” membership, the group administrator still has to manually approve every single request to join. This sort of defeats the purpose of an “Open” membership. It’s not as critical an oversight as the previous issues, but it can be a major annoyance if you manage a popular Group.
- Old Groups Cannot be Migrated: At this time, Facebook does not support migrating any Groups created under the old Group version to the new format. If an old Group wants to take advantage of the new functionality, the Group owner(s) would have to delete the old Group and create a new one. Again, this is more of an annoyance, than a privacy threat, but it is still a pretty major issue for those with existing active Groups.
Have any other concerns our questions about the new Facebook Groups? Curious about how to incorporate a Group into your class or research project? Feel free to Comment below, or to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.