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by
Michael van der Galien

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September 26, 2011 - 11:50 am

8. The News Stream: Forcing Non-News Down Your Throat

Facebook changed the news stream to supposedly make it more interesting. You now see the most important and interesting posts first. The idea is wonderful. After all, it’s a bit time-consuming to go through all the updates from your friends — this especially goes for those of us who have hundreds or even thousands of them.

Sadly, however, the algorithm used by Facebook is anything but effective. Users immediately complained (link to Dutch website) that the recommended posts weren’t interesting at all. The nice thing about algorithms is that they can be more efficient than curation by humans. The bad thing is that they can be absolutely horrendous when they aren’t perfect. Facebook can do many things well, but curation isn’t one of them.

What’s more, even if the algorithm worked perfectly, social media users want to be the ones to decide what they will and won’t read. As one angry user put it:

I don’t like the way they decide for me what’s important or interesting, I’m the only one that can make these decisions. I want to decide if I want to see all, most or important updates of friends, which is set by default on “most.” What are the criteria to declare something a top story? Yesterday a story of a Serbian friend (in Serbian, with Serbian comments) was declared a top story. I can’t read that, does FB translate everything that is posted?

It’s rather ironic, but Facebook doesn’t quite get the meaning of social. Users want to be in charge; they want to choose how and what they share — and what they read. Facebook’s new news stream makes that more, not less, difficult.

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