The Facebook conveyor belt is not working all that well these days for me either.
(picture of a museum-resident conveyor belt by Allie_Caulfield, who tagged it as usable for such purposes)
I joined Facebook about 620 friends ago — that’s six years, in your likely measurement. After careful feed management, the creation of some custom friends lists (“Real Friends” and “People Who Like New Profanity” are examples), and the occasional purge, I am now confident in saying I have absolutely no freaking clue why I see what I see.
I could read about it; this is true. I remember when I thought of “social media optimization” and Googled the term to discover that there were, like, three mentions of it on the Internet. (2007?) But I don’t want to read about it; I just want to sit down, look at Facebook, and see it working. I don’t want to learn how the algorithm works, and more important, I really don’t want to have to find another social media network, the way most younger folks seem to. (Yes, I’m on Instagram, but it’s very post-literate, and yes, I’m on Line, but it’s anti-literate, and yes, I know that’s me being old, but guess what? I kinda am.)
My friend Jim Tobin just wrote a fine, crisp blog entry on the issue of the Facebook feed’s freshness. He couldn’t be more right about the feed’s confusing present, including in particular its problem with seeming stale. (Why do these same posts keep coming back? Yes, I know why. It’s a rhetorical question that means make it stop.) I’m also quite clear on how much I pay Facebook, which is nothing.
What stops this from being a rant (well, makes it less of a rant) is the simple fact that this is a major business stress. Facebook is at a point where it needs to find growth in what it sells, not in getting new customers. It has to scale, and scaling is the scariest thing I run into for companies of any size. The feed is standard, and Facebook knows that users like me — who create lists, tweak settings, learn the process — are quite rare. Most of us just accept the default, and responding to what we like is generally excellent business. Follow the data, like Google, and perfection will follow.
Maybe not. Artists of data analysis are difficult to find, and this is a hard place that Facebook finds itself. Twitter has no algorithm, and nor does Instagram, which makes them easier to parse, but they’re different businesses — not virtual kitchen tables, but virtual streetcorners. Facebook needs charisma, and the certainty of its mission. I hope it rights its algorithmic slide. Until then, I suspect I need to make better lists to defeat it.
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