Facebook 'Other' Messages story inspires crazy discoveries at Slate.

A story has been circulating in recent days -- I posted one a few days ago -- about how Facebook files messages from people you don't normally interact with into a folder called "Other" that most users never notice.

The story itself is oddly controversial. Some people check their "Other" folder and discover nothing important, concluding that the whole story is no big deal. Others check their "Other" folder and discover hugely important messages.

That's what happen to Slate editor Elizabeth Weingarten.

She had left her brand-new MacBook Air in the back of a New York City taxi. She called the taxi company trying to track it down without success.

But when she read one of the stories about the "Other" folder, she checked hers, where she found a note from someone who had found her laptop -- from a few weeks earlier.

She lucked out, and the man still had her laptop. But without the story, she would have almost certainly missed the message.

Slate Reporter Will Oremus found in his "Other" a job offer he would have missed.

Slate Editor David Plotz found an invitation to be on Israeli TV, which he missed, as well as birthday wishes, fan mail and a distant cousin trying to make contact.

And Deputy Editor Julia Turner found some weird gossip from old friend about their former roommate.

Still, many people maintain that Facebook's "Other" messages practice is no big deal because they personally haven't been screwed by the feature, and because they say it's the user's responsibility to make themselves familiar with all the features of the services they use.

But let's face it: Facebook's "Messages" is email. And the "Other" folder is a bit of a cross between, say, Gmail's spam filtering and Gmail's prioritization.

But Facebook does it all wrong. First, they base filtering on Facebook activity. By definition first contacts (like the MacBook Air guy) are unceremoniously filed away in the "Other" bin. That has got to be the lamest spam or prioritization criteria ever in the history of email services.

Second, they don't ask the user permission.

And third, they don't inform the user.

Contrast this with Gmail, which uses great spam and priority criteria, gives users the ability to affect future results, asks the user permission and informs them with both explicit notices and early understandable graphical elements.

I'm calling it: The Facebook "Other" folder is an epic fail.

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