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Colleges ‘Freaking Out’ Over New Facebook Community Pages

An official Facebook page is like a garden. Colleges have invested effort and money tending their patches of the social-networking site, even bringing in outside vendors to help with the landscaping.

Now they’re fretting that a new Facebook feature—community pages—will undermine their efforts.

Community pages aggregate content about topics by pulling information from Wikipedia and from posts by Facebook users connected to those topics. So, for example, the community page for Clark College displays one post about an upcoming conference and another slamming the institution as a place “run by morally corrupt DB’s.” If you search for Clark, the site doesn’t even turn up its main page in the top eight results, as the blogger Michael Fienen points out in a post entitled “Facebook Hates Your Brand.”

The problem, as Jessica Krywosa sees it, is that nobody has reached out to official sources to hijack their pages and make them the community page, where everyone could get information from one space.

“So it’s really just like a wild, wild West out there because you don’t know what the next step’s going to be,” says Ms. Krywosa, director of Web communications at Suffolk University, in Boston, who blogged about the changes. “People are kind of freaking out because they’re saying, ‘Well, how do people know which page is our page? And if we’re putting all this time and effort into it, does it make sense if it’s going to just get diluted by this community page?’”

Facebook doesn’t see it that way. In its announcement, the company described the pages as “a new type of Facebook Page dedicated to a topic or experience that is owned collectively by the community connected to it.” The long-term goal, Facebook says, “is to make them the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic.”

Like other Facebook changes, this one has generated plenty of grousing (and some cheering), which you can read here, here, here, here, here, and here. And as Mr. Fienen points out, if you don’t like it, at this point grousing appears to be the only thing you can do about it.

Ms. Krywosa uses the garden analogy, but Mr. Fienen chooses a harsher metaphor:

“Social networking is a dance. You throw a party, help people get out on the floor, and get out of the damn way. People have a good time, they talk about that time you threw an awesome party, and you take credit for that couple that met there and got hitched later. Instead, Facebook has turned into that loud, obnoxious girl that spills her drinks on people and trips you when you’re trying make your move on the cute girl with the Jimi Hendrix obsession. We just want you to throw an awesome party and stay out of the way, Facebook.”

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