Facebook Makes Events More Useful, Groups More Snoopful

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One of the nice things about Facebook when it first launched was that it gave you a quick, casual way to communicate with large groups of people—everyone attending your weekend zombie costume party for example, could be informed of the last minute switch to a pirate theme—without the messiness of endless multi-responder email threads.

Facebook recently made some deft changes to two key group talk tools, Facebook Events and Facebook Groups. On Groups, Facebook has introduced a feature that snitches to Group admins about which members have and haven’t seen new posts on the Group message boards, and when they've seen it. (Update: Members of a group and users who've been included in the visibility settings can also see time stamps and read receipts.) The introduction of these read receipts is in some ways a departure for Facebook, which is traditionally guarded about revealing users’ browsing habits within Facebook to other users. But then, others argue, the feature isn't so different from read receipts Facebook already has for personal messages. 

The changes to Facebook's Events feature incorporate ideas born at one of its hackathons. "A couple of us felt there should be a better way for people to see their friends' birthdays a few days in advance and make plans for the weekend. So we built it," Facebook engineer Bob Baldwin wrote in an introductory blog post. Birthdays, suggested events, and events you're invited to now show up as a list or as thumbnails in a calendar, letting you respond to an invite from a drop-down box that appears within the calendar view. Coincidentally, or not so much, this follows the launch of a plush new events feature on rival Google+. Google+ Events, first showed off and activated at Google's I/O conference in late June, makes good use of Google’s multiple products, seamlessly linking Google+, Google Calendar and Gmail features, with convenient but non-essential add-ons, like letting event attendees automatically upload photographs to a group bin on the event page.

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