Facebook do seem to try their hardest to keep some of the information within their walled garden and make themselves the go-to place for all users. In the end this just further separates the people who use Facebook from the people who don’t.
But Facebook actually makes it very easy to get hold of some of the best information and it seems that there are many people who have signed up to Facebook, but consider the process of checking it to be hard work.
So we’ll summarise for you all of the best ways to get information out of Facebook.
1. Event Invitations
To start with, I’d like to apologise on behalf of the people who plan things on Facebook. We’d love to be vigilant enough to always invite people off Facebook too, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Facebook have made event invitations so easy, that inviting people some other way is like walking around to your house to invite you because you don’t have a phone. It can be done, but it’s also likely to get forgotten.
That said, if you’re on Facebook at all (even in a non-committal way) you can still get your party invites out of Facebook. Go to your Events App (from the home page, it’s on the left) then scroll all the way to the bottom. Click on “Export Events” and what you see is an iCal URL for all your future events.
You can use this to import into iCal, Outlook, Google Calendar or numerous other calendars. Right-click and copy the link and (in your preferred calendar) choose the option to “add a calendar“. Paste in the URL and… voila! This calendar will show you anything you’ve been invited to which has an RSVP status for you of “not sure” or “attending”.
As an added bonus, in Google Calendar you can also set up email or SMS reminders for the calendar, meaning you can choose to have an email remind you a week before events and a text sent to your phone two hours before any events. So you don’t even need to check Google Calendar! Too easy!
2. Facebook Birthdays
Use the FBcal application to get birthdays out of Facebook and into an iCal calendar. MakeUseOf have already explained the nuts and bolts of using FBcal, so read that for more information. FBcal can also be used to get events out of Facebook, so if Facebook ever remove their native iCal feed then you can try to do it this way. Personally, I like to keep these calendars separate.
3. Address Book
Most Facebook applications don’t have full access to your friends contact details, however there is a very quick trick you can use to get this information from Facebook and into a useable format (if you have a Yahoo login, which most people do).
Go to address.yahoo.com and click on “Import your contacts from other accounts to Yahoo“. Facebook is one of the primary options, and it imports in no time.
You can then easily export these contacts from Yahoo in all the normal contact formats and import it in to whatever you use. If you have any trouble, go into your application settings and remove “Yahoo! Contact Importer” and try again.
If you use a Mac, you can also get current Facebook profile pictures into Address Book, then use iSync to get those pictures into your phone.
4. Backing Up YOUR Information From Facebook
5. Facebook Chat
Get your Facebook chat contacts and use them elsewhere. Use a third-party chat client to log in to Facebook Chat: Try Adium, Trillian, Pidgin, Digsby or Meebo (or plenty of others).
6. Chat History
For those of us that do use Facebook a lot, sometimes we want to back up Facebook information like chat records. Fortunately, this is possible using browser extensions (available for Chrome and Firefox).
7. Your Notifications
Using the notification settings found under account settings, you can choose which notifications you want to get by email or SMS. If you’ll be away from Facebook for a while, I’d suggest getting most notifications sent to you and setting up some kick-ass filters for your email (Hint: all Facebook third-party apps send notifications from facebookappmail.com).
You can also subscribe to your notifications’ RSS feed by going to http://www.facebook.com/notifications.php and getting the RSS feed from the link on the right.
8. Your Updates
Until quite recently, there was a hack to get an RSS feed of your updates, but it doesn’t seem to generate a feed anymore. To do it, you get the RSS feed for your notifications (as above), then paste the URL into a text document and change the word “notifications” to “status”. This should work!
I have a feed generated this way which still works perfectly, however I tried to do it again and the new key generated doesn’t work. Maybe it will work for some of you – or maybe one of you smarties can suss out the new hack? This RSS feed is great for using in your lifestream.
9. Your Friends’ Links & Notes
Luckily, you can easily get an RSS feed of your friends’ Facebook information like notes and links.
For links, visit http://www.facebook.com/posted.php and you’ll see an RSS link on the right hand side. You can even use a drop-down menu to filter it to just one person (sadly, not a friends’ list yet).
For notes, the place to go is: http://www.facebook.com/notes.php and the RSS link is sitting over the right hand side too.
You can still get an RSS feed of your friend’s status updates using a similar method as above, but Facebook doesn’t seem to want these feeds to work so it will probably be removed in time. So, get it quickly!!
Go back and get the feed for your friends’ notes. Paste it into a text document and change the word “notes” to be “status”. That’s all! This feed should now work. I just tried one and it works perfectly. It should look like this:
Some people say you can also filter this by the ID of a friend list, but I tried that with no luck whatsoever, sorry!
10. Are You Stuck Behind A Firewall?
If you’re reading this article because you can’t access Facebook at work or school, you might be keen to know of some good proxies and tricks for accessing Facebook behind a firewall. Try them with all of the above methods and you won’t miss too much!
So, with all of these neat ways of getting information out of Facebook, you won’t be left completely in the cold if you don’t log in every day. However, I still recommend logging in occasionally so that you can add new friends that have found you in the meantime.
And please, if you have any other neat hacks to add, tell us in the comments.
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