How to make the most out of Facebook

Facebook: The Missing Manual in its third edition dated February 2011, so this is the time to get it and use it because it won’t stay up to date long

FBTMM tells you at the outset how to sign up for an acount, find your friends so they can become “friends”, create a profile, and modify your account. That’s chapter one, and with over 20 illustrated pages that’s pretty detailed. In reading through the sign-up process, I saw the phrase “It’s free, and always will be.” on dialog boxes. I had forgotten that. Remember to not forget that.

The next topic dealt with is joining a network. I don’t know anyone who really uses networks, but I have a feeling Facebook uses them internally during searches. Did you know that when you join a network,

You get immediate access to the Facebook profiles of all fellow network members, as well as access to the network’s Groups, Events, market listings, and other goodies.

… although network members can hide their profiles and certain groups and events are restricted. I had no idea. The new Facebook Network seems more intimate than a Facebook Group, which is different. How do I even tell if I’m in a network?

Cool… page 51 of FBTMM tells me how to do that, and it turns out I’m in the University of Minnesota network as an undergraduate. Oops. Good thing I read this book. Yes, yes, this network chapter is invaluable. I feel like making a newtwork. That’s on page 55.

Chapter 3 is on finding friends. I have just under 3,000 friends. Click here if you want to be my friend. Let’s see what they say about friends:

… Facebook strongly encourages truthfulness. So, while having a zillion “friends” is considered a status symbol on MySpace, it’s not such a big deal on Facebook–and may even prove annoying. Because Facebook lards your home page with news of your “friends’ ” activities, having to weed through a bunch of news about people you don’t really know doing a bunch of things you don’t really care about gets old quick. On Facebook, the goal is to put together a manageable list of people you actually know–and actually care about keeping up with.

(Note to self: Keep number of Facebook friends below … say … a half a zillion.)

Anyway, Chapter 3 gives a detailed lowdown on friends, including a whole section on Unfriending Friends. (Chapter 4 is on messaging with friends.)

Chapter 5 might be one of the most important ones, and if you are already on Facebook and mostly know how to use it, you’ll probably find yourself starting here. For example, do you know what a “most recent” feed is? That’s the default home page news feed. It seems to be arbitrary or at least odd in the way it chooses what to show you. Which you can fix (if you check out pages 97-98 of FBTMM). I had no idea.

Do you know what a minifeed is? That’s the stuff YOU are doing that you are annoying other people with. Like “Greg and Julian Assange are now friends” or “Greg just posted a secret document on Julian Assange’s Wall” and so on. Notifications are other people’s minifeeds being dumped on your wall. You can modify both, but the minifeed seems only modifiable on the fly while the notifications are very adaptable (and if you don’t know about that you should look into it).

Chapter 6 explains groups in detail, including a brief history of what groups used to be and details of what they are now. This is essential information. As we have discussed recently on my Facebook wall (which you would know if you were my facebook friend) you no longer join groups. Rather, others “let you in” to their group if they want. Since a group = junk mail and other goodies, you need to know how to manage them or Facebook can become a bit of a nightmare.

Did you know that you can carry out real-time activities on facebook (from poking to “Public events”)? Did you know you can shop on facebook? (I had no idea). Did you know people actually look for both jobs and people to hire on facebook? Chapters 7, 8 and 9.

Chapter 10 pieces together a bunch of different facebook utilities to make the argument that facebook replaces, or perhaps even is, “groupware.” Maybe.

FBTMM describes Facebook Apps, how to use them and how to avoid them. Since apps are so dynamic and are third-party, this is only an overview, but I found it useful. The chapter on privacy is also useful for similar reasons.

My own mobile uses of Facebook are very limited, but there’s a chapter on that too.

Overall, Facebook: The Missing Manual is excellent for those who like to use a manual to learn new software (and Facebook is, actually, software as it turns out). It is well done, concise, not annoying. I learned a number of things and I feel less in the dark. The book is available in various versions including ePub, PDF, dead Tree, etc. at Amazon (links above) or directly from O’Reily.


  1. #1 Vance
    February 24, 2011

    Could be useful. I think its not out yet, but I pre-ordered it.

  2. #2 gwen
    February 25, 2011

    So! There

  3. #3 gwen
    February 25, 2011

    Sigh…site fail! So There IS something out there to explain the ins and outs of Facebook! But I guarantee that everything will change as soon as it is released. You should be able to receive free updates for at least a year!

  4. #4 fullerenedream
    March 2, 2011

    They can release a new edition every year, like textbooks :P