Archives for posts with tag: news feed

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.

Advertisements

This was part of my News Feed the other day:

Useless and boring — the worst combination.

No offense to anyone in my stream. It’s not you I’m uninterested in; it’s the data Facebook is choosing to show me.

Because that’s what these stories are: data. It’s all great information for Facebook to collect and store, but it’s not content that should qualify as ‘news.’ I can’t wait until social media data is organized in a way that is more useful to us all. The future is not feeds.

The actions we take and information we share online have the potential to be tremendously useful. Of course I want to know what restaurants my friends have been to, but I don’t need Facebook to show me every time a friend checks in somewhere across the country. When I start researching travel or when I arrive in another city, that’s when I want to see that checkin.

I’d love to be able to see all my friends’ activity related to movies in one place, so that when I’m deciding what to see this weekend, I can view which new releases my friends have liked, any posts or comments about those movies and any relevant checkins from Get Glue or other services.

I want to be able to visit a band’s Facebook page and not only see which of my friends like that band, but what they’ve said about the band, which songs they’ve shared and whether they’ve been to a concert.

All of this information is on Facebook’s servers, and it’s inevitably going to be organized this way. Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook users are sharing twice as much each year. With that sort of exponential growth, it’s obvious the News Feed will have to evolve.

The solution is not to generate and view lists of different people. Companies have to organize feeds around content. While Google+ is focused on Circles and Twitter’s biggest changes involve adding multimedia, Facebook seems to be actually pursuing ways to sort posts.

There’s the new ‘X of your friends posted about Y’ feature and the fact that Facebook has quietly begun categorizing some shared links. Notice the favicons:

Compared to the traditional symbol for links:

This bodes well for a future that moves away from the unfiltered feed and toward highly relevant search results and push notifications.

In the meantime, I’ll be using the Better Facebook plugin to sift out some of the noise.

Facebook is testing a way to combine posts that mention the same topic. This has implications for the future of our News Feeds, which are in need of noise-control and a means of making shared items more useful to us.

Three pages that I follow mentioned Obama in recent posts, and Facebook grouped them together similar to how it groups all the posts your friends make on a friend’s wall on their birthday. Though the posts were made several hours apart and none tagged Barack Obama’s Facebook page, Facebook’s algorithm was able to know these stories belonged together and should be associated with the official Obama page. (In case the algorithm was mistaken, the X next to the story allows you to suggest the grouping was inappropriate.)

Think about how this type of post would be able to provide a better sense of what matters and what people are talking about on a given day. Whether it’s ’15 of your friends posted about Japan’ or ‘4 of your friends posted about Crazy, Stupid, Love,’ suddenly those posts have more context and meaning.

Plus, grouping items could become a way to reduce noise. Imagine seeing ‘7 of your friends posted about Casey Anthony,’ and then having the option to ‘Hide all about Casey Anthony.’

I can’t find a logical reason to switch to Google+. I’ve heard all the arguments for Circles, and I’m telling you, they’re not a Facebook killer. Despite having a better UI than Facebook lists, they are just as much mental work to create and use. They require thought where Facebook has shown simplicity wins out, and they fail to solve the problems their proponents think they do.

About a year ago I went through all my Facebook friends and deleted anyone I wouldn’t stop to talk to on the street. I put the remaining friends in lists according to how I knew them or where they lived. Though this was a process (and Facebook has made it easier since then), it is simple to maintain and makes me feel I have full control over how I share online.


The thing is, I almost never use these lists. It’s rare that I want to post something on Facebook that I wouldn’t want all of my friends to see. Though I’m confident I could post photos my family wouldn’t see or say something my coworkers couldn’t read, I haven’t found a need.

The ultimate privacy setting is, of course, your own discretion. All the lists and circles in the world won’t protect you if you’re adding people you can’t trust or sharing items you really don’t want certain people to know about.

The other side of the pro-Circles movement is less about privacy and more about filtering noise. Some say they like Google+ Circles because they can share selectively with their work friends, tech friends, basketball friends, foodie friends, etc. They don’t want to bother the techies with the food photos or the basketball friends with work talk.

Though this makes sense in real life, it doesn’t work online. We share online because we want to be recognized. Why would we limit our reach? I love when someone I haven’t talked to in a while likes my Facebook photo, or when someone I wouldn’t have thought would have been interested in something comments on a link I shared. Besides, it’s annoying to decide who to share each post with. Play around with Google+ and you’ll see.


There is certainly a problem of too many irrelevant posts in people’s News Feeds, but Circles don’t solve that. The feed from your foodie friends will still include much more than photos or talk about food.

I’d love to see Facebook or Google (or anyone) create a solution that lets me see particular types of posts or information when I want to see it. For instance, all my friends’ mentions of movies this weekend or all the songs my friends shared this month. That would be a gamechanger.

But so far, Google+ does not offer compelling reason to switch from Facebook. Some people talk about “starting fresh,” adding friends more selectively and organizing them from the start. Sure, but that seems like just as much work as cleaning out your Facebook friends.

Besides, you’ll feel a little silly when Facebook comes out with a solution that sorts your friends automatically. They already have an algorithm that suggests friends to add to certain lists. I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up one day to find Facebook has grouped all of our friends for us.

But then, how often will anyone use them anyway?

As the year comes to a close and I reflect on the work I’ve done, I can’t help but think about how different Facebook was at the start of 2010.

Facebook’s own timeline isn’t very helpful, except to show that Facebook gained 200 million users since December 2009.  Even Flowtown, maker of many great infographics, failed to show just how much Facebook did this year. That’s why I put together this comprehensive, but probably still not complete, timeline of Facebook in 2010.

Some changes helped marketers, others seemed to be direct attacks against us. The introduction of the Open Graph Protocol and social plugins like the Like Button have, in only a few months, begun to reshape the face of the web. With Places and Deals, we have major new features to incorporate in our campaigns. We have more analytics about the Pages we manage and the apps we implement. We can share larger photos and Like our fans’ comments. And Facebook ad targeting is becoming increasingly more effective.

There were many other additions, tweaks and redesigns that have changed the way we all consume and interact with Facebook. It’s mind-blowing to think of what next year could hold.

But I’m excited to find out.

Facebook Timeline 2010

January

February

March

April

May

  • Added ability to create Events from the homepage
  • Launched 0.facebook.com, a simplified mobile version of the site that can be accessed free to international users with certain carriers
  • Changed the privacy settings dashboard in wake of controversy from the Open Graph and Instant Personalization announcements (Facebook claims to have simplified the process for controlling privacy, but the interface still needs work)

June

July

August

September

October

November

  • Announced Single Sign-On, which is like Facebook Connect for mobile apps
  • Introduced Deals, an addition that lets businesses offer coupons or other deals to people checking in with Facebook Places
  • Announced new Messages product, which combines text, chat and email to make communication more seamless. This feature has not been released to all users.

December