Things That Bring Joy to a Page Admin

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Most of the people I know who are group or page admins on Facebook have thoughts about giving it up. I do. It’s not easy, and more people can mean more problems. Spam posts, comments, and messages. People who openly defy page or group rules. Deciding when to shut down a thread that is going sideways. Banning people. I know. I’ve curated a book page for three years that has grown to a community of 35,000.

The headaches are well known. There is another side–the things that make it worth it. I thought I would share a few of those. Online spaces can be good spaces when we work together to make that happen. Here are some of the things that bring joy:

  1. Knowing that the page has made at least a bit of a difference in someone’s life. It was heartening when someone jotted a note saying that our page was one of the things that was helping them get through the pandemic.
  2. I love when I see people helping each other out. They share enough about a book and what they love that another person finds the next book they want to read.
  3. It gives me joy when I see people trying to learn from their disagreements, asking questions rather than flinging arguments past each other.
  4. It is a delight when people from different cultures share books and ideas that may be new to others of us. I’m glad when others take note and affirm them.
  5. I like it when people can have fun with something that is fun and not feel they have to pontificate or disagree.
  6. I enjoy reading threads where no one feels the need to leave comments like, “I never read anything by Steinbeck, in fact I really don’t like to read, but just thought I ought to say something.”
  7. It’s fun when someone adds an article or quote or even thought that is totally on point and enlarges the discussion.
  8. I like it when people on the page invite their book-loving friends to join the fun. It is encouraging when people think our page is a good enough place that they aren’t embarrassed to share it with their friends.
  9. My heart is touched when someone shares about hard things they are going through and others care without trying to “fix’ them.
  10. I’m grateful for a day when I haven’t had to delete spam comments or messages or ban anybody. But I’m glad to keep our growing “neighborhood” a good and safe place.

None of this is about numbers or platforms or making money. It is about shared conversation around a shared interest–in my case, books. I’ve learned about new authors and read some of them. Most of all, it has been a rich community of very different people–not perfect but pretty good (do we ever get better than that, at least this side of eternity?). While I created and admin the page, I like to call it “ours” because the others who are part of the community help make it what it is. Despite the hassles, I’d say this, and pages or groups like it, are some of the best things on Facebook. And when you find one, be sure to thank the admin who works to make that happen. When people do that, it makes my day.

Facebook’s Other Problem

Photo by Luca Sammarco on

Much has been made both of Facebook as a source of disinformation and its efforts to address it which have been attacked as suppression of free speech (news flash: it isn’t–as a private sector corporation, it is fully within its rights to determine what and who is on its platform). I’m not here to debate that–a stupid debate, especially when people use the very platform they are criticizing to have the debate!

I’m talking about a problem that is somewhere between annoying and insidious that it seems to me Facebook is uninterested in dealing with. In my experience, it is growing, and I think if allowed to grow, it could undermine Facebook as a platform for legitimate social engagement. It is the problem of people creating fraudulent profiles with various nefarious intents.

How many of you have received a Facebook request from someone who is already your friend? This is like a virus. Gaining access to your profile they can either do the same thing to you, or they can fill your newsfeed with their extremist views. The simplest thing to do is to search all friend requests before you accept them to be sure they are not your friend already. If not, report them to Facebook, which almost immediately shuts down the person’s activity on that profile. Also, this seems to happen most to those rarely on Facebook, and not likely to notice as quickly that someone is “spoofing” their profile. If you are not going to use Facebook, you might be wise to close your account.

I ran into a variant of this the other day. Someone tipped me off that someone named “Bob on Brooks” was friending them. “Bob on Books” is the name of my Facebook book page. They were using my profile image, which is easily downloadable or screen-captured from Facebook. I searched and found it and reported it and it was taken down. If you got that request, believe me, I’m not that interested in brooks!

Then there are the seductive friend requests. As a male, barely a day goes by where I don’t get a request from a woman, usually with two first names, like “Emily Laura” whose picture usually reveals some cleavage and that supposedly sexy pouty face. Lately, more of them include “Bitcoin trader” in their profile. All this suggests that they want to be friends with my money, not me. I suspect there are other old guys out there gullible to this stuff. This one’s simple: delete.

The newest has started cropping up on my Facebook page (not my profile). It has happened more to women who comment on a post and get a comment from a man (supposedly) who says “I really like your personality but was not able to friend you. Could you send a friend request?” Creepy, huh? It gets creepier when they do it with five other women on the same thread! So much for being someone special. Some men receive these from (supposed) women. I’ve reported this to Facebook but they say it falls below their threshold of violating “Community Standards.” Everyone is glad that I ban anyone doing this and delete posts. We’ve essentially created a “neighborhood watch” to ferret out this stuff. My sense is that Facebook really doesn’t care.

From what I can gather, when they have a friend request from you that they have accepted, anything in your profile accessible to friends is accessible to them. Whether they use it to create fake profiles or for identity theft, this can be serious. Never fall for the sweet-talker who tries this!

Finally, there are the messages that start with “Hi” or “How are you?” Best thing is not to respond and block. Your real friends send a message, not a teaser. They are looking for a response, usually to set you up to hit you up for money or collect personal information about you.

Like other things in the social media world, there is no upside for Facebook to care enough about this to take real action unless their existence is threatened. Here’s a newsflash for Facebook. When people start having a daily experience with Facebook that is one long exercise in avoiding fraud and stalkers and fake identities, people might start leaving. People leave Facebook when the negatives start outweighing the positives. Public assurances are not enough.

One thing much of this has in common from what I can tell is fake identities. Right now, Facebook only has a program to verify business identities, from what I can tell. Individuals can create fake accounts easily, and if Facebook closes down one, the same person simply creates another (or a bot does). Could Facebook create a trusted identity program? I’d even be willing to pay a modest fee for this (an upside for Facebook). Devices used to interact with Facebook (and Facebook does track this) could be blocked if used fraudulently. That would make this a much more expensive activity. If the same name and likeness are used as an existing account, it should not take a user report. Facebook notifies me whenever I log in from a new device or even browser.

I suspect there are a variety of other strategies Facebook could use. The question is, will they wait until they are overrun by this problem? At that point, it might be too late. And Facebook will become a neighborhood of scammers trying to scam the promoters of fake news. The rest of us will have left. And they will deserve each other.

Facebook, I’d Really Like To Be Transparent

_1 Bob on Books - Home (3)

Screen capture of Page Transparency information for my non-business page.

To be a Facebook user means navigating a continually changing platform with regard to privacy settings, newsfeed preferences, and connections with other social media. Then there have been the privacy breaches, like that with Cambridge Analytics. I know some who have become so frustrated with Facebook that they have thrown in the towel.

That has not been my experience, but I’ve tried to keep up on the changes, recognizing that for me, this is a free service that has fostered good connections with friends and new connections with people who share common interests, as well as serving as a platform to promote events and other causes of interest. I’ve no plans to close my account any time soon.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my bones to pick. Here is one I’ve become aware of lately: Facebook Page Ownership is only possible for verified businesses.

Here’s the deal. In the summer of 2018, those of us who have connected blogs to Facebook learned that we can no longer connect them to a profile. We must connect them to a page. So I created a Facebook page, Bob on Books, matching the name of my blog. That has been an unexpectedly delightful process. Just the other day, the page went over 5,000 “likes,” far more than my current number of friends. I post my blog, humor, and curate articles and images from across the web as well as a “question of the day,” and apart from a few controversial topics, we’ve had fascinating conversations about our common love of books.

I try to be diligent as a page admin, removing derogatory comments and profanity from the page, and watching for any sign of abusive treatment of other members. If one visits “Page Quality” for my page, you see this message: “Your Page has no restrictions or violations.” That’s kind of a negative way of putting it–it would be nice if there were positive statements like “this Page meets or exceeds Facebook community standards”–but I have a green rating.

Recently, Facebook has upped its efforts to foster “page transparency.” I’ve received messages about confirming business ownership for the page as part of the transparency information visitors can see. For actual businesses and political organizations, this is a good thing, so page visitors know who they are really doing business with, particularly if a product or a candidate is being promoted. We don’t want to get “faked” out, so this is a good step.

The problem for me is that Bob on Books is not a business. I don’t sell anything. I am not advocating for a politician or political position. All I’m doing is creating a space where people can talk about all things book-ish, and have fun doing it. No dues, no admission. Just show up. I cannot go through a business verification process, because there is no business to verify. There is just me. I’m listed as page admin and people can go to my Facebook profile and learn about me if they wish.

But on the Page Transparency information for Bob on Books, you see the message in the screen capture above: “A page owner hasn’t yet completed business verification process.” It makes it sound like the page is less than fully transparent. But there is no way I can do this short of creating a business that can be verified, which I have no interest in doing. This is a hobby, a labor of love. I already have a job, but all of this is separate from my work.

I’ve tried to communicate this to Facebook but have received no response. My only recourse at this point is to include the following in a “pinned post” on my page:

Page Disclaimer: I post material I think will be interesting for this page. No endorsement or agreement is implied. Nor does anything posted here reflect the views of any organization with which I am associated, including my employer. There is no Page Owner listed for this page because it is not connected with any business nor does it try to sell you anything. Bob Trube manages this page and curates all content and comments.

It feels to me that Facebook wants me to be a business so I will buy services from them including advertising. I wonder if Facebook sees my page as social media or business media. I feel like I’m kind of second class, because there is no comparable verification process for pages that are not businesses.

For now, it hasn’t seemed to matter. There is a good deal of traffic on the page, and a growing number of “likes” every day. It’s actually far more than I thought it might be. My only hope is that the page will not be “downgraded” because I cannot complete a business verification process. I suspect there are a number of others in a similar position. Many of us work hard to adhere to Facebook community standards and create good spaces. I’ve had people write that if it weren’t for Bob on Books, they would have closed their Facebook accounts. Facebook might be a better place if they positively recognized good pages and groups, rather than sending negatively framed compliance messages. At very least, I would advocate a comparable verification process for pages owned by individuals, not businesses.

Facebook, I “like” you. I hope you will “like” me as well.

A Facebook Conundrum


I ran into a conundrum yesterday in posting the above meme, of all places, on my Bob on Books Facebook page. It is a page that gather readers to talk about books and share their common love, and offers everything from humor to serious articles about book-related topics.

The conundrum, as some who are on the page noted, is the act of posting something like this does the very thing it discourages, taking us away from the book we were intending to read. It could probably be argued as well that hosting the page, and blogging about books,  takes me away from reading.

It may be observed that there are other things beside books, including the communal act of talking about books and ideas, hopefully civilly and substantively, rare things in our society, and even rarer on social media. I also post humor, because I think it is a healthy thing to laugh at ourselves as the quirky creatures who love books and reading and all things related, like libraries and bookstores.

But I also realize that it is possible to help dig reading’s grave with digital distractions. Apps like Facebook are exquisitely designed to do just that. Of course, we can say we are “reading,” and sometimes we really are. I find a number of great and interesting articles, that in the reading, enhance my understanding of authors, bookselling, and you name it connected with books.

Perhaps this is another aspect of the double-edged nature of many technologies, maybe all technology. Atomic energy can kill cancer, or kill people. Opioids can provide a merciful release for those in intense pain, or addict and kill.  Likewise, social media can point us to worthy books, and distract us from reading them.

So what is one to do? Perhaps the best I’ve come up with is to have social media time, and book time. It may mean having the phone in another room while one reads, or to turn off all notifications. Of course this is a problem for those who read on their phone or tablet computer with non-reading apps. Probably most of us need to set some boundaries on social media. Increasingly apps can even be set to allow us only a certain amount of viewing time per session.

I think managing digital distractions, which is really self-management, is just a reality of our modern lives, at least for most of us. Such self-management is what allows us to appropriately and not inordinately use such technology.

At least that’s what I tell myself as I curate my page. I assume we’re all adults and have learned, or are learning to set our own boundaries of social media use. It does seem that this is so from the titles and numbers of books people report having read. Maybe the meme above is nothing more than a “gotcha” moment we all laugh about.

But I’ve not stopped thinking about the conundrum, and trying to discern the line between ordinate and inordinate. I’d love to hear from others who host social media or blog sites as to what they think about this.

Why “Bob on Books” is Now on Facebook

Bob on Books Home

Screen capture of Bob on Books on Facebook 9/10/2018

You might have noticed in yesterday’s post that there is now a “Bob on Books” Facebook page. Facebook kind of forced me into it. For as long as I’ve had my blog, Facebook allowed scheduled automated sharing of my WordPress posts on my Facebook profile. Facebook blocked this capability at the end of July but allowed scheduled automated sharing to Facebook pages.

I suspect this is part of Facebook’s approach to dealing with “fake news” and “fake account” sites and the propagation of this material. But it was at least a minor inconvenience to many of us who connected our profiles to our WordPress blogs. It is still possible to manually post links from a blog to your profile, an extra step. Harder than that is that when Facebook broke the connection, it also cut my “follower count” on my blog by 2500 in one fell swoop. Now that may not be all bad, because I suspect a good number of my Facebook friends don’t look at my blog but were still counted as “followers.” But it meant taking the time to set up a page and inviting people to “like” and “follow” it. That certainly has the advantage of people “opting into” your content, and perhaps is a better indicator of interest. Maybe it is more honest.

There are several advantages beyond this of a page:

  • People interested in blog posts and other material can access this quickly.
  • It allows me to post polls, articles, photos and quotes, and a “question of the day” facilitating ongoing conversation to a greater degree than the blog.
  • Facebook provides a variety of metrics for pages that you don’t have access to on profiles. I can also get another indicator of the interest in individual blog posts.
  • It is easier to post on Facebook than the blog, which anyone on Facebook can do. On the blog, people need to set up a WordPress account (not necessarily a blog) to post comments, something not everyone wants to do.
  • For a relatively low expense, I’ve added 100 followers beyond my own circle of contacts in the last month. I tried promoting the website for the blog, but this led to very few additional blog followers. I haven’t promoted posts.
  • I don’t have a good sense yet whether the page has translated into more traffic on my blog, although my summer stats usually decline, and this year have been on the rise. Unfortunately, WordPress stats aggregate all “referrals” from Facebook, so clicks from my profile, my page, or posts in other groups (which I do a fair amount of) are all lumped together. It certainly hasn’t hurt, from what I can tell.

The big minus that you just have to deal with is that pages are a revenue stream for Facebook and they are constantly inviting you to promote the page, an individual post, and your website. For some reason, I find the page loads more slowly than my personal profile, perhaps because of all the extra analytics. I would like to see Facebook streamline this (it may be better for visitors than admins who see extra content).

This might be more “inside baseball” than some of you may like. What I hope might be the case is that the blog and the Facebook page complement each other and maybe foster a bit of a “Bob on Books” community of people interested in interacting about good books, their reading experiences and how all this relates to our pursuit of the good, the beautiful, and the true in our lives. Blogs allow more extended development of an idea or review of a particular work. Facebook pages afford the chance for briefer but more frequent posts and interactions. I hope you will visit both

I’d love to hear your feedback. Even after five years of doing this, I still feel I’m making it up as I go….


Reading Better in 2015

"Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 018 v1" by Guillaume Paumier - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 018 v1” by Guillaume Paumier – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“Reading more” seems to be one of those resolutions people are making right now. Perhaps the most famous to do so is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wants to read 26 books “with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies” (according to this article on Mashable). Mark would like us to read along with him. He’s set up a Facebook page where he is posting the books he is reading and hosting moderated discussions of the book. Based on the first title he has selected, it appears he won’t be reading fluff! (I understand that the book he chose, The End of Power, by Moses Naim, has spiked in sales since Zuckerberg chose it.)

I think this is great! I love the idea of high profile people encouraging reading, sharing what they read, and encouraging the rest of us to join them.   Zuckerberg is joining tech leader Bill Gates, who  has long been know for reading good stuff and sharing it with us. You can find reviews of what he has been reading on his blog. I discovered in checking out his blog that there are two of us on the planet who have actually read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century!

One thing I’m afraid of is that “reading more” will go the way of “exercising more” and “eating less”. That is, we look back at wistfully at the end of the year and say, “maybe next year.” What I want to recommend instead is “reading better”. I’m convinced that when we read better, we may read more. But the numbers of books matter less than having your life enriched and world enlarged by the books you read. Here are my ideas for “reading better.”

1. Read as you can, not as you can’t. It may be that you are an active person who can’t sit still and read for more than 15 minutes at a time. If you read 15 minutes a day, you can read 15 average size books in a year. Trying to read when you really want to be doing something else is miserable and isn’t going to encourage you to read at all, let alone more or better.

2. Read when you can give your attention to what you are reading and enter into the world of the book. Different books need different levels of attention. “Beach reads” take less attention than a serious book on climate change or a Tolstoy novel. Attempting to read a book when you can’t give it the attention it requires is just an exercise in frustration.

3. On a related note, I don’t recommend reading on a phone or tablet that has other applications running besides your reader. If we see we have mail or a text, we are already distracted. If we read them, our reading becomes disconnected.

4. Read what interests you, not what you think you “should” read. I know nothing that will put you off of reading more quickly that trying to trudge through a book that you really don’t like because someone thinks that all the cool people should read that book! One way to find books you might like is to read is to follow reviewers who seem to have similar takes on books you’ve liked.

5. If you find people with similar interests, forming a book group can not only help you read more but the discussions will take you more deeply into the book as you hear others “take” on the book. One book group I’m in has wrestled through some good but challenging books and helped each other make sense of books I’d probably have given up reading alone.

6. Reflect on what you read. Maybe it means keeping a “commonplace book” to jot down quotes you like. I started writing reviews to reflect on and remember what I read. Goodreads is a great place to do this and has the added benefits of discovering what your friends are reading and think of what they’ve read.

reading challenge7. While I’m talking about Goodreads, they have this thing called the “Reading Challenge”. Set goals that are realistic. Zuckerberg’s is a book every two weeks. More is not better. Better is better. Compulsively reading to reach a goal is not better. Choosing short, easy to read books just so you can “catch up” seems beside the point.

8. Read at least one book that differs from what you usually read. If you are a die-hard liberal, read a thoughtful conservative writer, and vice versa. If all your books are written by Americans, read something by an author from a different country, preferably a non-Western country. If you are religious (or not!), read something outside your tradition, or even something from another religion. I’ve found this both strengthens my own beliefs and enlarges my understanding of the world.

9. Read one intellectually challenging book on a topic you care about deeply . I’m not suggesting you read intellectually challenging books that hold no interest for you. I love singing and sing in a choral group but never had any formal training. Reading about music theory has helped me begin to appreciate more deeply what is going on in the music I sing which feeds my love for it.

10. Read something just for fun. I read a baseball book in the summer of each year. No profound reason except that I like baseball–and there are some great baseball writers out there and some great writers who are baseball fans.

I’d love to hear your ideas about reading better!

Are You Seeing This?

Obviously, the only way to answer this is yes! Otherwise, you don’t know that this post exists. Why do I mention it? The basic reason is that one of the ways I seek to publicize the blog is through posting it to my Facebook page (and sometimes to other Facebook groups I am a part of). And the statistics that show up on my dashboard indicate that Facebook is one of the principle routes through which views of my blog occur.

Why is that a big deal? For one simple reason: lots of people post material and Facebook wants to post the material that it thinks its viewers want to see and that will keep them coming back for more. It’s a business thing: more views means they can charge advertisers higher rates based on greater traffic. Also, most people will only scroll so far down on a feed and so it may be the case that if you have 2,000 friends and other pages you have liked and there are 500 posts in the last 12 hours from those pages, you may see 30 to 40 of them at most. This is because Facebook employs algorithms that look at your interest in post creators, how a post is performing among others, performance of past posts by the creator, the type of post (status, meme, photos, article links), and how recent the post was made.  The blog TechCrunch gives a great overview of this process.

Facebook is honest about the fact that it does this, as you can see in News Feed FYI: A Window into NewsfeedIt makes sense in many respects to try to provide its end-users the content that their own habits and other factors suggest that they’d be interested in. Amazon does the same thing with book recommendations and other product recommendations. The critical piece is to be aware that Facebook is doing this for you and that as a result you may not be seeing some of the things you might want to see and that to do so, you may have to take additional steps to ensure you see that content.

It appears that one of the simplest things you can do within the Facebook environment is to “like” and “comment” on the stuff that you really like. But for the things that you really do want to see, you may want to subscribe to or follow them directly, without the Facebook filter. Most provide the ability to subscribe via email and there are also other direct ways to be alerted to new content you like to see. For WordPress blogs, if you have a WordPress account you can follow any other WordPress blog as well as other blogs and have new posts show up on WordPress’s reader. There are also ways to set up RSS feeds to an RSS feed reader. If you do not have a WordPress account, on all my blog pages there is a little blue button that allows you to sign up to receive email versions of new blog posts. You don’t have to read them but it does let you know there is something new on the blog.

I am not presumptuous enough to think that lots of people are waiting with baited breath for the latest “pearl of wisdom” to appear on my blog! Not everything I write about is of wide interest. Some of it may appear pretty nerdy to some. I also follow some blogs where not all the posts are of equal interests but where the blogger writes often enough about things I care about that I want to know about it when they do. So what I would suggest is that when you find sources, whether of news, or whatever else interests you that you want to follow, you may want to consider subscribing or following directly.  Do you really want to limit yourself to the content Facebook’s algorithms decide will keep you coming back for more?