Archives for posts with tag: recommendations

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 new way to rate Places that is reminiscent of another successful Zuckerberg project, Facemash. Some users who have checked into Places, or who have been tagged in checkins, are seeing a new sidebar asking “Which place do you like better?” When a user chooses a place, the section pits two more places against each other, and so on.

(Facemash did this with photos of Harvard students and asked people to choose the more attractive of the two.  If you’ve seen The Social Network, you know how instantly popular it was.)

When Facebook launched Places in August 2010, it was clear that the product could one day have options to rate and review places a la Yelp. Since the site has such a massive user base, there is a great opportunity for Facebook to own the social recommendation space by making a product that becomes even more widely adopted. As it is now, lots of people who read Yelp reviews have never written one themselves, nor have their friends. A lot of companies are making social sites and apps to share information and recommendations, but none have been able to solve the problem of participation inequality. I believe Facebook is more likely than anyone to figure this out.

This latest test shows just how clearly Facebook understands human behavior. If they had asked me to rate Free State Brewing Company, I might have done it only because I like that place a whole lot and want people to know about it. If they asked for a review, I might not have because I like that place a whole lot and would want to take some time to write a great review. Instead, Facebook made the question so simple and compelling that I continued to vote until I didn’t have any more checkins to vote upon.

This may not be the ultimate way Facebook implements recommendations, but it at least shows that they get it.

Facebook has added a new feature called Questions, which allows users and pages to ask questions in a format that makes polls more social and creates opportunities for brand content to go viral. The tool also makes it easier to get recommendations from friends and has implications for the future of social commerce.

Facebook Questions are easy to answer like polls, but more compelling because people have the option to add their own responses for others to vote upon. When people answer questions, it shows up on their walls and in their friends’ News Feeds, leading more people to participate and so on.

Last year Facebook tested a different version of Questions that asked people to write full text responses to questions a la Q&A site Quora. But Facebook recognized its users were more interested in opinions than facts and that they preferred clicking to writing. The new Questions should have much higher adoption.

For users it’s an easy and organized way to get thoughts and recommendations from friends. For brands, it’s an additional way to engage with and learn about consumers. And since Facebook pages are tagged in the answer options, it’s a new way for people to find and connect with brands.

Now imagine the possibilities for Questions if/when Facebook releases the API. As with the the Like button and the new comments plugin, Questions will blur the lines between on-Facebook and off-Facebook. For instance, at the end of every news article or blog post, the writer could pose a thought-starting or opinion-polling question. When someone answers that question, it would generate a News Feed story, leading more people to discover the content.

More interesting to ponder: what if you were looking at a pair of Nikes online and had the option to answer, “What do you like best about these shoes?” Or maybe you’re at Niketown and the question pops up on your phone when you scan a pair of sneakers. When you check out, you could be served a question about your service that day. The whole time your answers are being shared with friends to whom your opinions and experiences matter.

Whether used this way or in its simplest form, Facebook Questions is undoubtedly part of the movement toward an economy where our decisions are more influenced by our social networks than traditional advertising. Keep an eye on this.

Today Rotten Tomatoes announced new Instant Personalization features that will show you what movies your Facebook friends like and what movies you might enjoy based on your other interests. It’s a good example of how our social networks can become more useful to us.

Another can be found on TripAdvisor. When you connect to the site using Facebook, you will see which of your friends have lived in, visited or can otherwise offer advice about a city. I love this idea, but I soon noticed that a few of my friends were not listed in places I knew they should have been.

Then it clicked.

A few months ago, when Facebook announced Instant Personalization, blogs and other media outlets ran with the story, “Even if you opt-out of Instant Personalization, your friends can share your information!” People were horrified and quickly went to uncheck every box under the “Info accessible through your friends” section.

But of course this sounded scary when no one had a tangible example of why they might want to share their info with applications or websites used by their friends.

Now perhaps it’s time to give it a second thought. Do you like giving your friends recommendations about restaurants or movies or travel spots? If so, go to your privacy settings and check more options under ‘Info accessible through your friends.”

If this idea is still horrifying to you, go there and uncheck everything.

I recently downloaded a free iPhone app called StickyBits that lets you scan any barcode and attach comments, photos, video, audio or links for others to see when they scan the same barcode.

StickyBits and services like it have amazing potential to change how we decide what to buy. Imagine scanning any barcode and reading quick reviews or seeing photos or videos of the item in use.

But here’s the problem: these apps and sites only as helpful as the people using them.

I recently read Socialnomics, which talked a lot about how the future of buying will involve much more influence from our social networks. How easy decisions will be when we can see what our friends chose and how they felt about it.

But what if my friends aren’t there yet? Just a month ago I had to explain to a good friend what Foursquare was. And even though everyone has heard of Amazon and Yelp, very few of my friends have ever written a review about a product or place.

Now, I haven’t either, but that’s about to change. I want to start a movement to encourage people to give back to the Internet that gives so much to them. I’ll start with myself. I plan to leave more reviews across the web, even if it is as simple as leaving a tip on Foursquare or attaching StickyBits to barcodes.

How can I convince my friends and others to do the same? What is the motivation behind leaving reviews? How do we encourage this on a broader scale? If not for my personal benefit, but for that of our clients as well?