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I Blew It On Facebook

By - August 31, 2009

facebook limit.pngWell, I knew this day would come. I’ve been ignoring friend requests on Facebook for a month or so because, well, my longstanding friending policy has backfired, and I’m now at my “friend limit” of 5000 (well, 5003, to be exact). This limit has been much discussed, and I’m not sure I can add anything to what has become a timeworn dialog. It is what it is, and to be honest, I think 5000, upon reflection, is way too high a number. It probably should be around 500, if not 256 or something. Because, let’s be frank. No one has more than about 100 real friends. The rest are…well…possible friends. Colleagues. Strangers and interesting looking people you might want to meet someday if you ever travel to Bangalore. And…in my case…

facebook limit 2.pngWell, my case is certainly not unique, but I’ll tell the story anyway, if only to have a record of it in the Database of Intentions so my great great grandchildren can chuckle about it someday. (OK, so my three kids can chuckle at it now).

So back in 2005 or 6, I’m not sure when, I joined Facebook. And a bunch of folks starting friending me, folks I might have met at some point or other, I wasn’t always sure. Every so often – say every 25th or so ‘friend’ – I’d see someone I recognized instantly. An elementary school buddy or a work colleague. But due to my somewhat unique profile in the web space – I have been lurking around these particular parts for nearly 25 years now – any number of people who I didn’t know asked me to be pals.

Now, I don’t think too hard about what it means to be a semi-public person in the rather small pond that is the web space, but I do have one pretty hard and fast rule: If you can avoid being an asshole, what’s the point of the doing the opposite?

So from Day 1 on Facebook, my policy was pretty simple: I accepted every friend request that came my way. I figured it was quite kind of these real people to seek me out and ask to connect, and who knew where this platform might go? By 2005, nearly 50K folks had signed up for my RSS feed, and wasn’t Facebook sort of a similar platform? Well, not exactly, but I think with Twitter my point has been made, somewhat. But I digress.

My “don’t be a dick” policy served me well for several years. Folks friended me, some of them turned out to be pretty cool (they’d show up at events I promoted, they bought and critiqued my book, they cheered me on as I tried to make FM a success, they visited Searchblog when I had a new post). Sure, I recognized I was not your typical Facebook user – I was leveraging the service more as a platform for my work than a network of real friends, but that was OK. The service would figure out what to do with me at some point, right? After all, I wasn’t alone.

But upon reflection, I totally screwed up in how I use Facebook. Buried in there somewhere are groups of folks I really do want to connect with in the way Zuck and co. meant for me to connect. And I Just Didn’t Deal.

And now, by all anecdotal accounts, I have to migrate my friends to a “Fan Page.” Like I’m Budweiser, or Coke, or MIA. Which I’m not.

No wonder I like Twitter so much.

But I’m resigned to fixing my Facebook world. At some point. Really.

Meanwhile, I’m really sorry to the folks I couldn’t friend before I got cut off. I promise to figure it out. But honestly, it’ll take me a few days to do it. And I’m a little short on a few open days.

What do you all think I should do? Facebook doesn’t exactly make it easy to figure out how to migrate to the world of “Fan Pages” from the world of “5000 Friends.”


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29 thoughts on “I Blew It On Facebook

  1. IMHO your kind of posting is more suitable to Twitter, and I’m pretty sure your friends on Facebook are more then likely to follow you on twitter and blog.

    So my suggestion is to invete all 5.003 to migrate to twitter, and close your profile on FB (or use it for your personal live).

    rgs
    PA:

  2. Indeed, you clearly want an asymmetric model like Twitter. I keep a cap at 100 friends and am oblivious to the number of people who follow me. Perhaps that’s Facebook intends fan pages to implement that asymmetry–but, as you said, you’re not Budweiser or Coke.

    I wonder if Facebook will demonstrate its scrappiness and implement asymmetric friendship, emulating Twitter where Twitter has gotten it right. But that might be even too disruptive for Zuck’s tastes.

    Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan (or friend) of Facebook.

  3. Allen Taylor says:

    I hate Facebook. I have an account, but I seldom log in. When I do I find myself going through my messages and deleting most of them and hand-picking, very selectively, which ones I read. Then I leave and don’t return for a few more months.

    Twitter is much better for the type of information I provide. Facebook is cumbersome and stupidly juvenile. Vampire bites, hugs and kisses, and crazy crap that wastes my time.

    For business, I’m convinced Facebook is a lousy way to spend your resources. But if you truly want to make friends, or keep tab of your existing friends while playing virtual tennis and such, then Facebook is probably worth it. I don’t have that kind of time.

  4. Jeff says:

    you’re not the only one struggling with this…it’s the fact that there’s a big difference between a fan page and regular page….from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/06/AR2009080604158.html

    >>>>Marc Brownstein is fretful. The Disco Biscuits bassist has 4,992 friends on his Facebook page. If he adds eight more, the social networking site’s regulations dictate that his friend page must become a fan page, which many fans rightfully assume could be run by an administrator or manager.

    “I don’t want a fan page; it’s just another barrier between you and the fan. The fans on my Facebook page know they’re talking to me and I know I’m talking to them and I value that,” Brownstein says, sounding genuinely distressed that he is keeping the 60 friend requests he gets per day in “Facebook purgatory” — neither accepting nor declining them — while he figures out his dilemma.

  5. Gavin Baker says:

    Fred Wilson had a similar post – maybe he’s got thoughts on the transition?

    http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/03/a-new-approach-to-facebook.html

  6. Harry says:

    Glad I made it in time. ;)

  7. I’m not sure I agree with your idea that the number should be lower. The best part of Facebook is that I can reconnect with those “fringe” friends, be it High School, College, old jobs, business connections, hobbies, and you’re quickly in the hundreds. If I have a few hundred (and I only friend people I know and have met in real life), for you to have 5,000 isn’t unreasonable. Isn’t the point of Facebook to maintain connections with those people?

    The biggest problem with Fan Pages hasn’t even been mentioned yet. I don’t want everyone who comes to my page to see that I’m a fan of so-and-so. When I friend someone, no one is notified, and that fandom isn’t permanently displayed on my Info page. For a Fan Page, it is. Call me weird, but I don’t want everyone who comes to my page to have to see that I’m a fan of John Battelle, just because they have some stupid policies.

    Of course, the rationale by Facebook is simple – the “star” doesn’t have to do anything to accept Fan requests in the way that they would with regular accounts. Ashton Kutcher would never have accepted 3.4M follower requests manually. Shaq is now over 900K fans on Facebook, by the very same logic, to go with his millions of Twitter followers.

    Facebook needs to find a better way.

  8. Richard says:

    Your situation is an opportunity for new companies. I know of company, #betwyx.com that is solving this problem right now. One of the Founders, Ryan Huber, will be speaking at OMMA on the panel “Are Social Connections More Important Than Online Behavior For Targeting?”

    Keep an eye out for this company. The solution should be available by ’10 – too bad you hit your friend cap too early.

  9. Raines Cohen says:

    Hi, John! Has it really been two decades since we were at MacWEEK?

    I just ran into the FB Group maximum myself, but that’s a natural consequence of being part of multiple communities of practice and interest, being a matchmaker/connector. And connecting with many groups before the Pages mechanism existed.. glad to

    I have been selective in “Friend” acceptance, always trying to add context/IRL connection specificity, to retain value in the depth, not breadth, of my network. I’ve found some people have difficulty understanding the concept that I might want to know something about them other than their name and photo before saying “Yes, I’m your Friend” to the world. Especially those pursuing Friending as business development, or network purely as tool rather than map of existing relationships, don’t get it… we’re speaking different languages.

    The disconnect shows up even more strongly on Twitter, where I choose my followers (“private” account). People think they’re doing me a favor including me in #FollowFriday and such shenanigans, but I found I enjoy knowing who I’m communicating with, and feeling freer to invest more in tweets of greater disclosure and relevance than I would in a fully-public searchable forum. For my business/community ventures, I use separate audience-focused always-relevant accounts that are public.

  10. Bertil Hatt says:

    Well, I’m not your friend on Facebook, although I often comment on your blog. I’d love to come to the events you organise, but they aren’t close from home; I do buy your books, in spite of Amazon’s unconvenient international policies. I obvisouly follow you on Twitter, and I’d happily be your fan on Facebook: those are different, and not exclusive — although I’m not sure wouldn’t be one without being the other, just like I’m not sure who of my Facebook friend shouldn’t have my cell-phone number.

    If they want to keep up against the celebrity-led Twitter, Facebook should up their game for the 5000+-club. They did by encouraging Fan pages, but they do not provide algorithms to filter friends from fans for you, and this is sad.

  11. Mark says:

    Good post. I thought FB was considering lifting the 5000 friend curfew.

    Have to disagree with the friends curfew of

    The fan page isn’t a bad migration, esp considering how you’ve described use–it really sounds like your friends were more fans or followers.

    We have some mutual clients & friends that maintain two accounts and kindly ask me to friend the other in the event I friend their “college buddy” account.

    Steve Patrizi of LinkedIn offered this analogy for friends & content considerations: MySpace is the bar (kinda same activity, levels of commitment, positioning, etc.); Facebook is the backyard bbq; LinkedIn is the Office (a little gratuitous, but hey, he can wish). To which others added “Friendfeed is the buddy who hit the lotto,” and “Twitter is the open-mic.” Personally, I use Facebook as a publishing network platform and have a notice on my LinkedIn account to meet me in Facebook for active contact.

    I’ve also adopted the policy to accept most friends on Facebook–there are some I ignore or block if we have nothing in common & they don’t seem right–and as I accept them I put each into one or more categories: agency, clients, media, developers, start-up, motorcycle, beer, pta, real friends, college, san francisco, etc. With one click I can watch the socialgraph of any of these streams. These dynamic filters will be the way you get back to what’s real and what’s fan-based.

    Be Great.

    Cheers! silva

  12. Mark says:

    Not that TechCrunch is always right, but I recalled a move to lift the 5000 friend limit (maybe why you have 5003?) and found this link:

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/05/09/facebook-to-lift-5000-friends-limit/

  13. Omar Khan says:

    I also think a fan page built around this blog is the way to go. Your posts can appear automatically, you can grow it much more with people who would not be friends but fans, and maybe get even better comments. There is a social aspect to thought leadership, and I think Facebook will evolve to speak to that. Twitter is still too brief and thin.

  14. xensen says:

    IMO, you should change your name and appearance and join a Buddhist monastery for about a decade, then reevaluate.

  15. coxy says:

    IMO, you should change your name and appearance and join a Buddhist monastery for about a decade, then reevaluate.

    Haha, excellent.

    What I’d do is migrate all ‘friends’ to a Fan Page and keep your personal profile personal and your fan page for… people like me (that read your blog, have met you once at an event and you don’t really want looking through your stuff).

    Then, maybe, you could use Facebook to communicate with close friends and family as well as have an outlet on there for promotional purposes.

    It’s not being a dick – it’s managing your Internet fame. :)

  16. coxy says:

    ^ So much for comments letting me ‘use HTML tags for style’

    :P

  17. Darcy says:

    Wow! this case of you I think your a very friendly guy, you want a lot of friends, For this post of you I found out that there are limits of friends at facebook. Thanks for sharing this to us.

  18. Kelly says:

    On top of what coxy describes, I use FB’s friend groups. Some of my “friends” are just from playing games. I set up a group for them, a group for family, a group for x, a group for so on. Then each one can get permissions to certain areas and certain posts. This way when I look at my news feed, I can click my “family” link to see all of the recent things from my family without my game buddies cluttering up my view. I can also allow apps to only publish out to specific groups and not others.

  19. Media says:

    Then each one can get permissions to certain areas and certain posts. This way when I look at my news feed, I can click my “family” link to see all of the recent things from my family without my game buddies cluttering up my view

  20. I politely beg to disagree John,

    5.000 is not enough, everybody knows that a network’s value increases by the squre of its nodes’ number, and FB should be competent enought o figure that out.

    I want to be able to reach, and to be reached by as many people as possible; the ones neither of us want to be reached by have all the skills and tools it takes to smirk at our obsolete and illusory concepts of privacy; and I regularly find in my mailbox messages I have never opened but some unknown eyes have accessed before me, new friends I never invited to join my network but who have “accepted” my FBF request, and more of this kind of stuff.

    What bothers me more is the equally idiotic limit on FB 300 groups; I get 10 or more invitations a day from groups which I am interested in, run by people I know in real life or at least should be able to look forward to meeting, and I am forced to ignore them because the alternative is sspending hours wading with FS’s clunky software, like watching paint dry, waiting for data I don’t need to load so I can leave a group I really want to stay in to join the next one.

    The alternative is, and many do just that, to have multiple accounts and perhaps it can be done when sitting at two or more computers, never in an Internet cafe somewhere else, but yet losing the ability of linking certain people in your network to certain others because the latter are part of a different account, thus missing the key feature of social networking.

    As long as I am here please allow me to mention a last, very irritating bug: I am writing a long message to somebody when suddenly a chat window opens, grabs that text continuation and, if I was not looking at the screen and hit return at the sentence’s end, sends it all to an unintended recipient, maybe in a language (s)he is not yet gifted with.

    The worst part is that in that process, the whole message I was writing disappears and has to be started from scratch.

    Then there is the bullying part: I am regularly informed by FB itself that they have found x, y or z whom I might know, and often enough I really do; when I send them a FBF request I add the video link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjD1zsvCH64

    to my interview at Picnic2008 as a verification tool, then I get warnings that according to them I am engaging in spamming behavior and risk account suspension, which would destroy precious and irreplaceable correspondence archives.

    Why must FB spit in the plate it eats from? Its most precious resource is us.

    Eliahu Gal-Or – the Pizza Rebbe

    pizzarebbe@gmail.com

  21. THIS IS NOT A COMMENT!!!

    Thank you very much John,

    EGO

  22. Cool website, like what I have read. Will definitely be back to read again.

  23. Luigi says:

    Well if it is supposed that with 5.000 i am an opinion maker and i’making out of this a small business, let me pay a few and do the backup o my contact list and migrate freely on the next platform!. A PR Specialist and an influencer need tools and not to be trapped into a specific space.

  24. Adam Kmiec says:

    John

    I use a simple approach. I limit myself to 200 connections on Facebook. I’m at 193 right now. When I get to 200 and someone wants to friend me I have to decide who I should kick out.

    Adam

  25. While I’m initially a little skeptical of this move, I don’t think it will water down or compromise Facebook’s integrity in the long run. I doubt people who have 200 friends will begin a rush to add 6,000 more simply because a limit isn’t in place. Facebook and Myspace are two completely different cultures. And, given the fact that categorizing, sorting, AND removing friends is exponentially easier to on FB than MS, it’s hard for me to believe that Zuckerberg & Co. will take a negative hit on this.

  26. John says:

    Don’t do everything yourself – make your 5000 friends do some of the heavy lifting for you.

    First, bite the bullet and set up a fan page. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a brand, that’s the way that Facebook works.

    Second, send a message to your 5000 friends and tell them to join the fan page in X days.

    Third, after x days plus a few have elapsed, start deleting friends unless you recognize the name.

    Not only does this remove the need for you to migrate everyone, since they’ll migrate themselves, but it also allows you to prune the list somewhat. Perhaps 1000 of the people aren’t even active on Facebook any more.

  27. Dale Larson says:

    Would it be less yucky if they were combined into one place? Why doesn’t Facebook just allow us to have both friends and fans on a single page, so our updates go out to both (though we can make selected updates friends only)? Friends are where we feel a strong mutual connection, fans are where it’s a little more one way, and we can toggle in our news feed whether to read friend updates, fan updates or both.

    Maybe some fans will become friends, but the connection will feel more like it does on Twitter.

    And then for someone in your situation, you could easily convert friends to fans — I doubt anyone would feel as much zing from that as simply being unfriended.

    Wasn’t groups supposed to be the big thing to solve this kind of problem (and more) in a more algorithmic way?

  28. Dale Larson says:

    Would it be less yucky if they were combined into one place? Why doesn’t Facebook just allow us to have both friends and fans on a single page, so our updates go out to both (though we can make selected updates friends only)? Friends are where we feel a strong mutual connection, fans are where it’s a little more one way, and we can toggle in our news feed whether to read friend updates, fan updates or both.

    Maybe some fans will become friends, but the connection will feel more like it does on Twitter.

    And then for someone in your situation, you could easily convert friends to fans — I doubt anyone would feel as much zing from that as simply being unfriended.

    Wasn’t groups supposed to be the big thing to solve this kind of problem (and more) in a more algorithmic way?