Lessons from the project that did not happen

Following our first INF506 online meeting I came up with what I thought would be an easy social networking project:

At school we have a monthly-meeting book club, the members of which are all staff or faculty members (current and past) of our school. The club is informally led by one of the school librarians. Communication between members happen by email. Newly motivated by the workings of the INF506 Facebook group I wanted to explore the possibility of moving the book club’s communication and interactions from the email format to a closed Facebook group.

Initial investigations seemed positive. I found Facebook profiles for 49 of the 52 members of the email mailing list on the first try. With the agreement of the librarian organiser of the group, I sent out an email message to inquire about the interest in moving the communication to Facebook. I explained my proposal, listed some pros and cons and waited only seconds before the first positive response came…

The NO said: No, I do not want this.

The YES, BUTs should really count as NOs. Both respondents indicated that they will go along with a Facebook group, but…

… I really try to stay away from Facebook as it “sucks me in”.

… I really try to keep work and private lives apart and book club is school-related and Facebook is private.

The YESs were just that: YES!

I was surprised by the large number on NO RESPONSEs, since almost all of these have Facebook accounts. I have to reason that these are

mostly “WHATEVERs” and probably some that did want to seem negative by saying NO.

On reflection, here is what I learnt:

  • Email is a ubiquitous part of our school community, there is no way you can NOT open your email account multiple times a day. You do not have to go look for the messages, they find you. Even taking into account the huge rise in social media communication, email is still our most used format for digital communication channel – best for transactional information, broadcast communications an passive notification according to Becker (2016), Kallas (2018) and Canhoto (2017) provides similar arguments.
  • Because of Facebook’s ranking, it decides for you which posts you will see first, and the book club messages may go unnoticed. Finding these messages will need active and timely participation, and you may still miss the message if you do not scroll down far enough or if you get distracted along the way.
  • People choose which platforms serve which purposes intentionally, for example to keep different parts of their lives separate.
  • Don’t fix something that is not broken.

With all this in mind, I do not think that the closed Facebook group is in fact the best solution for the book club,
which does not even have a problem…


References

Becker, M. (2016, June 27). Facebook vs. email: Why email reigns supreme (and always will). Retrieved March 15, 2019, from The Business Journals website: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/technology/2016/06/facebook-vs-email-why-email-reigns-supreme.html

Canhoto, A. (2017, July 20). Mailing list vs Facebook group crib sheet [Blog post]. Retrieved from Ana Canhoto website: https://anacanhoto.com/2017/07/20/mailing-list-vs-facebook-group-crib-sheet/

Kallas, P. (2018, July 14). 11 Reasons Why Your Email List Beats Social Media. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from Dreamgrow website: https://www.dreamgrow.com/11-reasons-why-newsletter-beats-social-media/

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