In my last post I declared the future is not feeds. Then, Facebook implemented Ticker — an additional feed of your friends’ activity.
Conceptually, I think there’s some merit to it, but in it’s current state, Ticker doesn’t achieve its intent. Plus, visually I think it’s too cluttered. Nonetheless, Ticker and some other changes from F8 show Facebook is making an effort to solve a growing problem.
The problem, as I mentioned in my previous post, is that the News Feed has too much data and not enough context. Ticker aims to be a lightweight stream of your friends’ activity — songs they listen to, things they like, comments they make, people they connect with. The News Feed has “Top Stories” and more compiled activity.
However, the dual feed fails when it shows the same items, especially at the same time. I’m hoping this won’t happen when there are more Open Graph apps sharing general activity in Ticker (“Your friend is listening to a song”) and composite stories in News Feed (“3 of your friends listened to an artist”).
The News Feed algorithm definitely appears to have improved, and I look forward to Facebook being even more selective about what to show there. (Note: I have disabled Better Facebook to get a true sense of how the platform has been working since F8.)
What should happen is the Ticker publishes live, or near live, stories that are created automatically by people’s engagement with various apps. The News Feed then is a place for actively shared items and composite stories. And Facebook shouldn’t hesitate to cut some of its own stories (profile photo changes, people becoming friends with each other, people going to events, checking in) unless there is high affinity between users or if the event or checkin is nearby. Otherwise that data should be saved and presented when it’s more relevant.
What Facebook has done with Spotify and other music apps is a great start to organizing data in a way similar to what I’ve been envisioning. There are more items that could be added to the music dashboard (page likes, mentions, events) and more dashboards that could be created (movies, news, restaurants), but it still bodes well for a future beyond the feed.