Shared publicly  - 
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.
Ernesto S.M.'s profile photoZuzi t's profile photoCassy Athena's profile photoArthur Gillard's profile photo
+Mike Elgan Is it true that no number appears next to "Other" to show you that there are messages in there?
I checked my Other folder and there were at least 30 messages, including a "hi" from a friend that died a few months ago. I never got a chance to say hi back. Pretty upsetting!
You want a piece of irony, +Mike Elgan? I just checked my "Other" folder, and found a message from Facebook Site Governance, which is one of their own pages and the way they communicate to their community, regarding an update to their privacy policy. It was sent on 10/29/11. This is the first time I've ever seen it, and I check my FB messages fairly regularly.
OMG - i have 100s of messages in there! People must thing i am very rude for not responding...
Hi +Mike Elgan my understanding was that this happens to old messages. I just checked my messages and sure enough there are some old ones that I have not responded to that FB has taken into the other folder. The key is that these messages are ones I have done nothing with. Correct me if I am wrong.

+Jeff Dishman it is true that no numbers appear.
I haven't been affected by it yet. For now, only obvious spam is in the Other folder
PALO ALTO, CA –Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be shut down in March of 2012. Managing the site has become too stressful.

“Facebook has gotten out of control,” said Zuckerberg in a press conference outside his Palo Alto office, “and the stress of managing this company has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness.”

Zuckerberg went on to explain that starting March 15th of next year, users will no longer be able to access their Facebook accounts. That gives users (and Facebook addicts) a year to adjust to life without Facebook.

“After March 15th, 2012 the whole website shuts down,” said Avrat Humarthi, Vice President of Technical Affairs at Facebook. “So if you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the internet. You won’t be able to get them back after Facebook goes out of business.”

Zuckerberg said the decision to shut down Facebook was difficult, but that he does not think people will be upset.

“I personally don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said in a private phone interview. “And to be honest, I think it’s for the better. Without Facebook, people will have to go outside and make real friends. That’s always a good thing.”

Some Facebook users were furious upon hearing the shocking news.

“What am I going to do without Facebook?” said Denise Bradshaw, a high school student from Indiana. “My life revolves around it. I’m on Facebook at least 10 hours a day. Now what am I going to do with all that free time?”

However, parents across the country have been experiencing a long anticipated sense of relief.

“I’m glad the Facebook nightmare is over,” said Jon Guttari, a single parent from Detroit. “Now my teenager’s face won’t be glued to a computer screen all day. Maybe I can even have a conversation with her.”
+Y.R Vishal That's unfortunate, because I feel like if there WERE a number there, people would go and check it (and realize that there were messages in there)
+DeAno Jackson I had the same message there. You'd think Facebook wouldn't classify their own messages as spam.
I've just checked over there and I don't have an "Other" folder.
I just found this out, and checked, I had at least 10 important messages I had missed. Really sucks since they were back in July.
Just checked my folder, I had several emails from people asking for G+ invites...I guess it is a FB conspiracy!!!
I'm not on Facebook, so no worries for me!
Thank you Google for creating and improving Google+ when necessary without too much ado
+Alex Jimenez: If they don't even know that there own messages to us aren't spam, why should they be trusted to know exactly what constitutes an important message?

+Rochelle Thompson: You and me both. I'm not happy. I've got some friends who've been giving me the cold shoulder for the past few months, and I had no idea why, until now. Apparently, Facebook decided that the messages they were sending me weren't important.
+Shiwen Liu I had several from friends, including one from a friend inviting me to his 40th birthday party in Las Vegas.
I really have no idea that how does facebook tell whether a message is spam or not~
Ok, looking at a couple of FB profiles (mine and a couple of clients), it looks like the only ones that get moved are:
a) old ones (can't figure out how long before they get moved)
b) ones that are from people the FIRST time they message you

As long as you have heard from people before, they do not seem to get moved into the 'other' folder.

LOL +DeAno Jackson, I found a couple of Facebook Site Governance messages as well.
+DeAno Jackson That is hilarious! :P Or maybe runs the messages through some sort of randomizer to categorize it as spam or not (like the Sorting Hat)
+David Haddad: Yeah, a LOOONG time ago. I'm pretty sure my first e-mail address ever was That worked until my buddy sent me a gmail invite...never looked back.
+David Haddad You might be right. I'll have to look into this. Right now, I don't have a good sense of how people do personal messaging on Google+.

However, the current system as I understand it is that when someone wants to reach you, they search Google, find your profile, click your email and send you an email without knowing your address. That's pretty awesome.

However, when someone wants to send an email just to you as a G+ post, it's likely to get lost in the stream.
Thanks for pointing this!
+Matt Makowsky My GF's mom only communicates with her via Facebook. I know it sounds weird, but it does happen.
Unbelievable. I found dozens of important messages that I never knew existed in there.
+Mike Elgan Other is the folder into which messages sent to ones address are placed. Simple as that. They are horribly mishandled as far as lack of notification is concerned, just as stated.
um, every event invite sent to me in September is in that box. I blog about events...over 100 messages, filed without my knowledge.
Yeah, I found a few. Mind you, at least 98% of what was in there was garbage I'm glad I wasn't bothered with. But the couple things that mattered would've been nice to have seen.
Ah only one kind of important message, it'll be fine :)
+Mike Elgan You think that's bad, I had my wife check hers and found out she didn't even know about the regular messages folder. It was loaded with messages she didn't even know she had.
This EPIC fail feature was suppose to be a killer feature which will solve the problem of spam once and all. All it does is all non-fb domain messages goes to Other folder. But what i am surprised is that people use FB as email at all.
I discovered it about a year ago and realized that's why no one responds to you if you write a message to someone who is not your friend... The other thing that really sucks about this "other" option is the pagination / search. Since there's no good way to back to old messages other than page by page, if you have a big account like mine (about 900,000 subscribers: and random people message you all day, you will never see it unless you try to keep up daily to see what's come in... going back to earlier dates requires paging one at a time, and there's no way to limit the search to just the Other inbox.
+Matt Makowsky +Asif Mohd I agree it is insane for anyone to use FB as an e-mail account. On the other hand, I have customers that still ask why our systems don't support the AOL browser. People are bizarre!
&?/"$!*&?!$ Facebook!!!!!
Missed a bunch of messages, some of which were actually important, and dating back as far as october 2009... thanks Facebook for once again treating me like I can't manage my own damn data. Idiots!
I had no idea! Just checked mine. It had invites from friends and messages from non-friends. Thanks Facebook! Grrrrr.
+Mike Elgan: "Gmail is Google+'s messaging feature."

Hunh. I hadn't thought about it that way. I turned almost all the G+ e-mail options off at the very beginning because I was treating it like Fb. I've been assuming that Notifications were the way to be, um, notified in G+ (I didn't want e-mail from Fb, either). What you say makes sense, though, so I may need to rethink that.

I guess Locutus was right when he said, "You will be assimilated."
Imagine what I just found in that folder... unbelievable.
+Mike Elgan your comment on how people do personal messaging on Google+ --- is it not through your profile page and click on "Send a message" button?. I just send a test message to you.
don't forget that Facebook LAUNCHED email addresses for users at one point...
+Matt Makowsky Why not use your ISP's POP mail account? Frankly I put little faith in any purely web based email system. I can receive my mail and wipe it from the server in one fell swoop. I use any and every web based system, including gmail, for junk and social network related noise.
+Anna Scott This is exactly what's going to the "Other" subfolder as I commented earlier. Any mail to/from goes to he other folder. Problem is FB doesn't set a notification flag. It merely sets a count on the "other" mail subfolder.
Thanks Facebook, never even knew an old Canadian friend had actually messaged me until I checked other...great job. Of course I get all the notifications when people I don't know comment in threads I commented in.
So if i opened my "Other" folder i may found a "MAC",,,,LOL :)
Facebook always knew that he is dealing with the best of bests :D LOL
This is an old story. It has been debated, many times.
It's simply where all to or from messages go. Some people are just too smart to see the obvious If you have a FB profile go look at your username in your profile url and send an email to that username then go check your other folder. It'll be there. Give it a try.The truly stupid part is FB won't notify you of it other than a count on the other messages subfolder.
I missed an editing gig from JULY because of this!
+Joseph Taibi Jr. Not true. Messages sent inside Facebook by logged-in users also end up in there. The main criteria appears to be prior engagement with each other. If an old friend reaches out to contact you for the first time, it will be filed inside "Other."
FB seems to be giving more an more reasons not to go there. I just noticed how much email I missed. Another big fail... for those who have business pages, it's so hard to engage now because only a fraction of subscribers now see posts. That hurts small business most.
Well, thanks giving up the info , now Facebookers will really aware of it
now :)
I expect this from people who don't really understand the internet and technology. Coming from you, I'm utterly baffled. What else should Facebook base their filter on but the activity they observe, which is obviously going to be activity on their site? When did Google or any other email service ask permission to send things to my spam folder? I was never asked. I have enough sense to check the spam folders, whether it's on email or Facebook or wherever. I don't understand why you're blaming Facebook for user ignorance.

I'm not even a fan of Facebook, and I wouldn't really mind if everyone stopped using it. But I'm even less a fan of twisting facts the way you're doing with this story. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I haven't gotten many important messages in my Other mail, and everything to do with the fact that you're essentially blaming an email service for people not checking their mail.
+Stephanie Zibbell ummmmmmmmm i'm pretty sure that everyone knows that they have a spam folder and if they didn't get an email that they were supposed to that they should check it... NOBODY knows about the other folder in facebook. this is another example of facebook telling people what they should be comfortable with, without their users knowing about it.
+Richard Siebold But if they don't know, it's not really Facebook's fault. My email services never told me I had a spam folder either. I figured it out the first few times I missed important messages or my professors didn't get my emailed assignments because my message got sent to their spam folder. It sucked, but I didn't blame the email service for me not knowing to check it. In the same way, the Other folder wasn't hidden, it's just that people ignored it and never bothered to explore the service they're using. I don't blame companies for user laziness. If you use Facebook for important messages without actually bothering to think about how Facebook's message system works, you have yourself to blame at least as much as the company. And I also think it's interesting that people are actually getting upset about it, being angry at the fact that they didn't think to check the folder rather than being thrilled at the fact that Facebook allowed them to do things like be informed that their computer was found. I know it's more fun to point fingers and focus on the negative, but it's also juvenile and not really useful.

I'm glad people are being informed about the Other folder, but I wish they'd just take advantage of it and remember to check it from now on instead of throwing fits over the fact that they never bothered to figure out what it was. If the complaint is just that you don't like the way Facebook handles their spam filter, that's fine. Quit using the service. But it's free in the first place, you chose to be there and use it that way, and you're responsible for how you use it or neglect to use it.
+Matt Makowsky I agree with you.. apparently Facebook friends are we supposed to know each other , it is strange if close friend send a message just in Facebook rather than calling or text in our private number
+Stephanie Zibbell the point that you're missing is that the spam folder in your email account is something that is very apparent, you're also pro active in it. you actually mark emails as spam. facebook has never made the other folder a big deal or something that you actually get to contribute to. there was never a message from facebook saying "if you don't get something check your other folder" if 99% of people didn't know it was there, there is a problem. the truth is that it's an algorithm that facebook has come up with to quietly deal with spam instead of being open with it.
+Richard Siebold I agree that they did it badly, I just don't think it's malicious, which seems to be the implication many are making here. I don't mark email as spam, and I was never informed about a spam folder by an email service (at least, not that I noticed or remember). I learned to check it in much the same way people are learning about the Facebook version, by making my mistakes in ignoring it. I don't mean to offend or to sound like I'm saying Facebook is completely blameless here. I'm just a little skeptical and frustrated about the way this discovery is being approached. I feel like if a similar feature went unnoticed in G+, it's more likely that these same people would be saying something along the lines of "look at this awesome feature we haven't been using right! Here's how to fix it!" but because it's Facebook it's being portrayed as completely negative and completely Facebook's fault.
+Allan Quartly that's because you don't have a email.
you can set up one of those email accounts in your facebook settings.
After hearing the story, I discovered that an old friend tried to reach me 2 months ago... I haven't talked with him for ages, and Facebook delayed this conversation with the stupid Other folder.
Yes i am on Facebook as well and this others drop box had alot of mail that i did not even no about ,well that just sucked there was all this mail that i did not see that did not get answered.And same story as above people trying to get in touch with me that i did not know about.Was sitting in the others folder for a long time that i did not even know about.
Facebook Messages is not e-mail. Anyone giving out their Facebook e-mail in a professional environment is a moron.
Yall need to stop at once yall! Git off the computer a back back u fools. U know where i stand and its a great day to be alive. Its never enough intell they say it is. well! I said so becuase theses many people are out to distory many lives that they can. These Life suckers that will will always take from the people. They take lives in the past and still keep taking all that we have. This one person made a comment to his code talking buddys.His real name or fake name is Damir Tement It was said the way he sayed it but i try my best to brake it all down. It gos somthing like this. :D the Instructions on the plane were so funny HE HE. I think it said. He as a big grin on his face but it also means, Dude the Instructions on the planes but realy he meant to say PLANS where so funny Then a Evil HE! HE! They code talk and take from or way of life. I have more but this should spark your way of thinking. Peace and love to all nomatter who, but beware to them all. I call it the way i see it. Thats whats up yall! GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
+Stephanie Zibbell +Mike Elgan Here's something no one has mentioned here: the poorly designed iPhone Facebook app does not give access to Other. I check my messages and feed almost exclusively on my phone. Who do I blame for this? Yes, Facebook.
no!!!! the code brakers!!!!
I got a similar gripe with G+'s private posts: the fact that you can send someone a post but don't know whether or not the other person will get a notification, makes it hardly trustworthy as a messaging tool

I'd rather not be able to send the post at all, or being told that the other person will not get a notification, so I can look for an alternative way to get in touch.
Add a comment...