I’ve continued to test and tweak my WordPress install as I have the time and opportunity. I still plan to alter my sidebar some more and make a custom 404 page, but I’m still trying to figure out IF the Facebook for WordPress plugin is functioning properly and if it is worth running at all.
I’m not the average blogger. I’m probably older, more technical, and have been at the self-publishing online game for longer than average. If I question if the Facebook for WordPress plugin is useful for the masses, it should mean something. Maybe for a website like Mashable which has used a beta version of Facebook for WordPress plugin for months finds some benefit. Mashable is a VIP WordPress.com website. It has teams of support, IT, and graphics people. I do everything myself and have for over 15 years. The average blogger isn’t likely to enjoy installing and configuring the Facebook for WordPress plugin and since they don’t even get a fraction of the traffic that Mashable does, the plugin won’t do much.
The first feature the experts tout is Social Publishing. I already had the ability to automatically share my posts to my timeline/wall on Facebook. There are plugins that do just that. I think that feature is built into WordPress.com blogs. The Facebook for WordPress plugin gives you more power, but do you want to use it? The Facebook for WordPress plugin gives you the ability to spam Facebook Groups and fan pages. I’m not a fan of spaming or excessively posting the same content to a social network, so I haven’t even tested this feature. Assuming it works I’m not sure it is appropriate to sync your blog with every Facebook Group you belong to or page you have Administrator privileges.
The Social Publishing feature does more, I can also ‘tag’ my friends and put my blog posting automatically on their wall. I’m not sure this feature will be welcomed by all. I decided to test it by tagging my friend Dave. As a result my last post should appear on his wall, but a side effect of that is his name appears above and below my post on my blog. Maybe this can be customized or disabled, but by default I’m not sure my friends all want their name and a link to their Facebook page appearing on my blog whenever I feel like it. Maybe people can opt out of this service or unfriend me. Maybe it is similar to when people tag you in a picture they want you to look at that you don’t actually appear in. Know what I call that, “annoying”. I can see this tag friends feature getting annoying really quick.
The killer feature of the Facebook for WordPress plugin is the Recommendation Bar. This has already been called annoying by many and considering I have two other plugins that have their own recommendation algorithm, I’m not sure I need a third. It doesn’t even seem to work very well. I’ve had the plugin running for a couple days and no matter what post I read on my blog it always recommends a photo of Chris Lytle getting punched in the face or the second test post I made after installing the Facebook for WordPress plugin which I’ve since deleted.
With all the money, programmers, and social graph data that is the best recommendation Facebook can make? They have access to my open graph data, my friends open graph data, all the data in my MySQL database that powers my blog and they come up with a deleted test post and Chris Lytle’s face. The Yet Another Related Plugin Post author uses data from the Simple Tags plugin, the rest of my site’s taxonomy and probably some textual analysis to come up with recommended posts. Sometimes nothing is relevant, but the posts it does recommend seem more carefully chosen than those provided by the Facebook for WordPress plugin.
DISQUS 2012 also has recommended posts. I think their algorithm considers which posts have been most recently commented upon and which have received the most comments. Sometimes this plugin doesn’t recommend any posts, I think it does this when a post has no comments itself.
I’m willing to give the Facebook for WordPress plugin a while longer to prove its usefulness. But I worry it just annoys readers and slows down my website. It definitely slows down post publishing. When I tagged Dave it took a long time to successfully post. This can be a big factor for some bloggers. I was at a cafe using free WiFi which is probably closer to the norm than the big fat pipe the Facebook for WordPress plugin developers have available.