Facebook chat: Not exactly messaging for teams

I use Facebook Chat a lot. Not because I want to, but because, as I’ve explained in my earlier post, that’s where the vast majority of people are.
Its ubiquitous nature is its killer feature. But most everything else is lacking.

I run a volunteer organisation, which means I deal with many different people. Facebook chat, has, unlike email turned out to be a great tool to motivate and activate volunteers when you need them. With volunteers you have to, unlike in business, come to them. So I do, but this is where Facebook makes my job harder.

Group chats, group chats everywhere

If we’re doing something – there’s a chat for it. It’s great for communication as everyone is instantly informed about what’s going on with the project they are participating in but it’s also great for motivation – people will be more motivated to volunteer more of their time if they see others doing it. Plus, most people check Facebook way more often than they do email.

It’s great for the volunteers – they have one or two group chats – because it’s still within what Facebook chat was designed to do.

Me? Not so much. At last count I’m past 15 active group chats and probably twice that in dormant ones. Add another 10 active and 30+ dormant one on one chats.
And it becomes … a mess.

Yeah, because that’s not what it was designed for!

Sure. But there are always edge cases. The standard solution to my problem would be to use (or write) a 3rd party app. I already use Facebook’s messenger.com because the website chat is, like its mobile counterpart, a resource hog.

But tough luck. Facebook is locking down its user base and has turned off its old Jabber/XMPP gateway and has not provided an official replacement. In other words – no more 3rd party integration. There are unofficial APIs but they rely on browser emulation. Not the cleanest or the most reliable way to go about writing a chat app.

Sure, there’s also the option of a browser plugin but looking at the convoluted mess that is the html I lost all motivation. I have a nagging feeling that’s by design.

Solution?

While Facebook will never be a good team chat and it will never rival the likes of HipChat and Slack. But it can get better.

If I could add a few tickets to the development teams sprint, this would be it:

  • Easily accessible list of groups
  • Pin to top for chats or “Favorite” chats
  • Faster search

Sounds simple, right? Yeah, but it would make a world of difference to the likes of me while still being useful to the average user without making the interface overly complicated.

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