Ignore friends, stalk celebrities with Facebook's Subscribe button

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ignore friends, stalk celebrities with Facebook's Subscribe button


By Helen A.S. Popkin
Finally! Facebook answers that age-old conundrum — What if I DON'T WANT to "friend" those jerks from high school?! — with the introduction of the Subscribe button.
TECH NEWS Ignore friends, stalk celebrities with Facebook's Subscribe button
Today's Subscribe button announcement follows Tuesday's official launch of Facebook's greatly-improved Smart Lists, which allows you to sort Close Friends (people you want to hear from all the time) and Acquaintances (people you hear from when they change profile info such as where they live or if they're "expecting"). 
Using the Subscribe button, you can now take the high road and accept "friend" requests without the previously-unfortunate byproduct: enduring status updates about which you couldn't care less. Better than that, you can now catch up with those people whose updates these days rarely make it to your wall.
Currently, Facebook limits you to updates from the same 200 or so friends with whom you interacted most, casting others to the wayside, even if you still want to hear from them. With the Subscribe button, rolling out over the next few days, you can get those absent friends back into your life. Oh! And you can also follow famous people, via their personal Profiles — not their boring old Fan Pages.
"Until now, it hasn't been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed," Facebook explains in the Subscribe announcement. "Maybe you don't want to see every time your brother plays a game on Facebook, for example. Or maybe you’d like to see more stories from your best friends, and fewer from your coworkers."
Sure, who doesn't?! But wait! There's more:
In the next few days, you’ll start seeing this button on friends’ and others’ profiles. You can use it to:
1. Choose what you see from people in News Feed
2. Hear from people, even if you’re not friends
3. Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends
Choose What You See in News Feed
You’re already getting your friends’ posts in News Feed. With the Subscribed button, you can choose how much you see from them:
• All updates: Everything your friend posts
• Most updates: The amount you’d normally see
• Important updates only: Just highlights, like a new job or move
There are four important things to know as Facebook rolls out Smart Lists and the Subscribe button
First thing: "Choosing what you see is optional," according to Facebook. "If don't want to change what you see from someone, just ignore the button." So Subscribe doesn't do anything unless you change the settings.
Second thing: Unlike Google+, everybody can see your Friends lists on your Profile — unless you hide them. That could get awkward. Imagine yourself to be someone's total BFF, only to learn the cold hard "Acquaintance" truth on their Facebook profile. It's middle school all over again! Make sure you don't inflict that pain on others — change the default by doing this:
  • Go to your profile and click Edit in the top right corner.
  • From the menu in the left column, click Friends and Relationships.
  • Go to the Friends section and use the audience selector on the right side to control who can see your friends. You can also organize friends into smaller lists for your own use. These lists are not shown on your profile.
Third thing: According to Facebook, non-Facebook friends can't subscribe to your profile unless you opt in to allow subscribers. And you can opt out at any time. But! Should you decide to opt back in, the people still subscribing to your profile will return.
Fourth thing: Also, anyone you've blocked from viewing your profile won't be able to subscribe to your profile, either.
Oh! And one more thing: If you "Like," say, Ann Curry's Facebook Fan Page, you may find you are now a subscriber to her Profile. As of Wednesday, individuals can convert Fan Pages to Profiles, and their Fans into subscribers. They can also combine their Pages into an existing Profile. And dont' be surprised to find you're already subscribed to a few Profiles — what with those Facebook icons all over the Internet, it's easy to forget who or what we casually "Liked" in the past (and are subscribing to now).
What does the Subscribe button mean for the 5,000 friend limit?
The Subscribe button — or what I'm calling "The Scoble Offensive" after tech blogger Robert Scoble who raised the biggest stink over Facebook's 5,000 friend limit back in 2007 — is a backpedal of Facebook's previous insistence that you should only be friends with people you really know (because of rainbows and unicorns and oh, all the better to track and monetize our behavior, my dear).
Google+ showed we didn't have to live that way, and perhaps Facebook realized it could assimilate Google+ tools to figure out who is really friends with whom, and gather more valuable personal information about your interests via the people to whom you subscribe. 
Anyhoo, that seemingly-arbitrary 5,000 friend limit is, for all intents and purposes, now moot.
Brands, such as Coca-Cola, that use Facebook to interact with consumers, are still relegated to Pages. Individuals, however, who are super popular Facebook users who prefer the personal interaction of a Profile over Pages, now have the option of allowing subscribers to view public posts and interact with them on their profile, all according to settings they choose.
As with most Facebook settings, your Facebook status — whether you allow subscribers or not — defaults to Public. Some super popular Facebook users may resent the social network's push to Profiles over Pages because of the need change the Public default with every personal post.
The Subscribe option, however, could be quite the boon to journalists, politicians and even teachers who increasingly wish to use social media to interact with students, while keeping their personal updates personal (as long as they remember to change the Public default).
What's more, civilian bloggers looking to gain a following can now offer themselves up to subscribers interested in the topics these Facebook users post on — food, steam punk, whatever. Facebook will then suggest your Profile to users who frequently post on similar topics. (Yes. Facebook knows what you're posting. Stop pretending you're still shocked.)
To allow subscribers, do this:
Get Your Own Subscribers
If you’d like to share your public updates with more than just friends, you can get a Subscribe button on your profile, too. People who subscribe to you will get posts you set as "Public" in their News Feeds. This is an entirely optional feature – you need to opt in.
To let people subscribe, go to the Subscriptions page and click Allow Subscribers.
Once you allow subscribers, you can decide who can comment and what notifications you get. You’ll also see a Subscribers tab on your profile, where you can find out who subscribes to you.
Does Facebook's Subscribe Button drink Google+'s milkshake?
That remains to be seen. Google+'s milkshake still brings mostly boys to the yard — launch hubbub aside, Google+ is the province of early adopters and early majority, and still awaits the lucrative influx of the late majority, and laggards. You know — the rest of us on Facebook.

Google+ does have the awesome interface with all the other Google tools. And who doesn't prefer its drag-n-drop circles — which require less work to target specific audiences — over Facebook's old-timey drop-down carrot menus? What's more,Facebook users must remember that each post defaults to Public and you have to remember to reset that carrot with every post you don't want Public.
Consider though, how many of us experience regular surprise to learn our Facebook Account settings aren't what we assumed they were. Frankly, most of us can't be bothered to customize anything. In the end, it's the default we like best that wins.
More on the annoying way we live now:
Helen A.S. Popkin enjoys both milkshakes and clumsily extending metaphors just to annoy you. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/orFacebook. Also, Google+.
From technolog.msnbc.msn.com