19 October 2010

The Facebook News Feed: How it Works

If, like me, you joined Facebook to keep in touch with friends, especially those who live far away so you don't see them very often, why does it show you so little news about the friends you really want to know about, and so much about people you hardly know? Here's an explanation The Facebook News Feed: How it Works,10 Biggest Secrets - The Daily Beast:
Why does that guy I barely know from the 10th grade keep showing up in my Facebook feed?

If you've ever spent time on Facebook, you've probably pondered that last one. The social-networking giant promises to keep us connected with our friends in exchange for pumping a steady diet of advertising at us—but the algorithms Facebook uses to decide what news to pass along can seem capricious or altogether impenetrable.

The Daily Beast therefore ran an experiment to try to find out what criteria Facebook uses to show you stuff.

And it works the other way too -- how much of your stuff gets shown to friends who really find it interesting, and how much to people who find it irrelevant and boring?

Most of what I put on Facebook is links to my blog posts, and I don't suppose they would all interest all my friends on Facebook. The blog posts fall into four or five main categories, and some of my Facebook friends might be interested in only one or two of them, and some might be interested in none of them.

  1. Theology
  2. Literature and culture
  3. Politics and society
  4. Family and family history
  5. Everything else

So what if Facebook shows my family and family history stuff to people who aren't related, or the theology stuff to atheists/agnostics, or the politics and society stuff to the guy I knew in Grade 10 who now lives on the other side of the world and is completely apolitical?

The Facebook News Feed: How it Works,10 Biggest Secrets - The Daily Beast:
You might think you've shared those adorable new baby photos or the news of your big promotion with all of your friends. Yet not only does Facebook decide who will and won't see the news, it also keeps the details of its interventions relatively discreet.

All the while, Facebook, like Google, continues to redefine 'what's important to you' as 'what's important to other people.' In that framework, the serendipitous belongs to those who connect directly with their friends in the real world—or at least take the time to skip their news feed and go visit their friends' pages directly once in a while.

It also seems that the more friends your friends have, the less likely they will be to see your stuff, not just because there's just too much of it, but because Facebook is less likely to show it to them.

Now I wonder how many of my Facebook friends will see this, and how many will comment on it on Facebook, and how many will comment on it here?


Graham Downs said...

I hardly ever visit the Facebook website any more, since I discovered TweetDeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/). However, even when I did, I abhorred the "Top News" view, and the very first thing I always did was click "Most Recent", which shows all news from everyone in reverse chronological order.

Sue said...

I saw this post via Google Reader, which I check daily. I hadn't noticed a link on Facebook. However, I don't rely on 'top news' or whatever it's called... I always go immmediately to 'most recent' which gives me, in reverse order, all updates, links, photos etc etc posted by any of my friends, plus any applications I have not yet hidden. I also have all my friends categorised in at least one group, sometimes more - obvious ones such as 'family', for relatives; home educators; Christians; Cyprus friends, and so on (obviously some people are in more than one list). If I'm in a hurry, I then click 'friends' and choose to read just updates by my family, and then - if time - by my Cyprus friends. I may return later to read posts from other people.

Out of curiosity, I went to your FB page, and found the link to this post, I went back to my 'most recent' list, and chose 'Christians', and skimmed right down, and still didn't find it. I went back to your page, and noted that it was posted 10 hours ago. I went back to mine and skimmed down again to find posts made 10 hours ago... and discovered what the problem was. You had posted it via a Twitter tweet. I have three other friends who also post tweets. Around 10 hours ago, 14 different tweets were posted by friends of mine... and FB showed me one of them, with the others as 'see more'. When I clicked that, I saw yours included amongst the others. So it was certainly there... but since I tend to ignore tweets (not being a Twitter user) I would not have seen this post if I hadn't subscribed via RSS feed in Google Reader.

James Higham said...

Steve, I have posted on Facebook antecedents a few times and they are trouble - they are straight out of DARPA, for a start.

There's been a history of privacy issues and linkages, such as the ones you've mentioned, which are questionable.

Liz Hinds said...

I don't think we're friends on facebook. Do they do that? That would explain lots of things. I just assume that some people aren't using facebook at the moment but maybe Facebook has decided to not let me see them.


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