There’s Aunt Nelly’s post! Facebook focuses News Feed on friends and family

There’s Aunt Nelly’s post! Facebook focuses News Feed on friends and family

Social network gives a glimpse at why you see, and don’t see, posts and stories

Facebook wants users to connect even more with their family and friends.

Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management with Facebook’s News Feed, wrote in a blog post today that the social network is updating its News Feed feature to make sure users aren’t missing posts from their friends and family.

“Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to -- starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook,” Mosseri wrote. “That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period. You just have to scroll down. To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, we put those posts toward the top of your News Feed.”

Facebook engineers are continually learning from users what’s important to them, and they want to adapt the service to keep relevant to users, Mosseri said.

“For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, we’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away,” he wrote. “Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most. If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be?... It is subjective, personal, and unique, and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve.”

While friends and family come first in News Feed, the company has other criteria it applies to meet users’ expectations for what they’re going to find on Facebook.

The company is focused on getting individual users the news stories, current events information and videos that they’ll find the most interesting, he said.

That’s a challenge since what’s interesting and should be at the top of the News Feed for one person likely won’t be the same for someone else.

The News Feed is also intended to entertain users and to keep them coming back.

“We’ve also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment,” Mosseri said. “For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. We work hard to try to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those.”

Over the years, Facebook has been criticized by users who don’t want the social network meddling with their News Feed. Some say they should see stories and posts as they come, without Facebook's using algorithms to feed them with information that the company thinks they want to see.

Facebook’s answer to that complaint is that there is such a deluge of information on Facebook, that posts that might be interesting and important to users would be lost.

Mosseri also noted that the site gives users tools to help control what they see in the News Feed.

“Ultimately, you know what’s most meaningful to you and that’s why we’ve developed controls so you can customize what you see,” he explained. “Features such as “unfollow,” “hide” and “see first” help you design your own experience, and when you use them, we take your actions as feedback to help us better understand what content is most important to you.”

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said Facebook has to use its algorithms to figure out the best information to offer to users, but it needs to do so carefully.

“Facebook has to move the good stuff to the top, otherwise people would drop in and then just leave,” he told Computerworld. “They may have just gained confidence in a new algorithm that will be noticeably different from what people are used to. More likely, they're going to adjust some parameters they've been fiddling with, and they want to assure people that they believe in truth, motherhood, and whatever is your way.”

It’s a balancing act between between signal and noise – making sure people are seeing what they want on Facebook and finding less important information at the bottom of their News Feed.

Getting that balance right is a huge challenge, Gottheil said. “It tells you that we are white rats, and sites like Facebook are the psychologists.”

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