You may or may not have noticed that social networking site Facebook recently launched its online, real-time chat service. The beauty of it is, much like Gmail chat, it is integrated into your Facebook front end with nothing to install and no changes to make. You can disable it, but it’s an opt-out feature rather than an opt-in.
Your “buddy list” is populated by your friends as they sign in and out of Facebook. You send them messages just like a third-party chatting client and they respond. Easy as cake (though it is a lie).
What can this do for (online) journalists?
While not having a drastic effect, it does open yet another door for quickly sourcing or touching base with anyone on your friends list. If you want to forgo a Twitter message or e-mail, spotting one of your friends, or sources, on Facebook can be a quick way to grab their attention. With the plethora of chatting clients and different services people have, there may be people on your friends list that aren’t on any of your chatting buddy lists (and who you may not want there either). This could serve to keep you connected without having to make a full-time buddy connection.
The real functionality will be if Facebook integrates a chat room function where people can either chat within groups, events or organizations without actually being friends with the other members. Or, being able to set up temporary, ad-hoc, password-protected and invite-only chat rooms for quick and secure Facebook “conference calls”. That would really make the chatting a robust and useful connection tool for anyone, but for journalists especially.
This of course would open the doors to all of the chat room problems of the old days such as trolls, spammers and guerrilla marketers. I’m sure the Facebook developers could find a way around that though, they’re a smart bunch.
Facebook chat, yay or nay?