Ever wonder why some items appear high in your Facebook news feed and others don’t? It’s because Facebook is trying to show you the things it thinks you most want to see. But the actual process behind that is far more complicated, and at the Techonomy conference earlier this week, Facebook Director of Product Adam Mosseri, who is charge of the news feed, gave the clearest explanation of how it works that I’ve heard.
Mosseri said the company uses a blend of automated ranking and manual curation by individual users to determine the feed. At the heart of this is a ranking algorithm that looks at all the content it could show, and determines what to show based on the things you like. He said the company is interested in trying to figure out what people are really interested in seeing at that moment, and uses techniques that are always learning, trying to figure out the relevance of each potential piece of content.
Interviewed by Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick, Mosseri said Facebook has three goals in this: to connect you with friends and family, to inform you about the world around you, and to entertain, in that order. He said the average Facebook user has 200 to 300 friends and could potentially see about 2,000 items per day. But most really see only about 200, because they have a finite amount of time to spend on the site. He noted that in the U.S., every day 150 million people use Facebook for an average of 40 minutes a day. Worldwide, about 1 billion people use Facebook.Like Yantragyan on facebook for more
As a result, he said, Facebook tries to predict content it thinks you care about. It measures its success in two ways. The first-and what seems most important-is based on whether you like, comment, or share the item, or spend more time with it. Secondly, the company has a “feed quality panel” of about 1,000 people in the U.S. Indonesia, and Brazil, who spend four hours a day ordering stories to compare what people actually think with what the algorithm comes up with. That way, when Facebook changes the way it ranks items, it can see the algorithm it is getting closer to the order of what people find most meaningful.
The single most important thing that determines what you see is who your friends are, Mosseri said. He noted that every post from all of your friends actually shows up somewhere in your news feed, but that most people don’t scroll through most of it. “We do our best to figure out what people find interesting,” he said, which is why taking action on posts and the amount of time you spend on each item matters
He said most people don’t know that they have a lot of control over their news feed. One big thing to do is unfollow a person or a product; after that his or her posts won’t appear in your news feed. People don’t get notices when someone unfollows them. Another useful feature is “See first,” which lets you pick someone who you want to appear at the top of the news feed every time they post.
Mosseri thinks it’s important for users to understand how the news feed works, saying, “You should understand it, so you can make it useful.” He believes Facebook could do a better job of teaching users about the tools that are already available, such as hiding content or unfollowing people. Like yantragyan on facebook for more tech news. But he wants controls that have a broad appeal.He noted that the advertising team has a similar process, but that the teams and the ranking systems are independent, with the content integrated only on the front end where you see it.
Answering audience questions, he said that Facebook is used differently in different markets, such as being used more to follow soccer in Brazil, and as a source of news in Myanmar. He said the company takes things like violence very seriously, manually removing content people find objectionable. He thinks the company has more to do to build tools to help people in cases of natural disasters. As for helping people discover new content, he claims the company is working on some ideas.
Overall, he said, Facebook has a responsibility to connect people to the stories they find meaningful, and that while “we’re not bad at it,” he added “we can do better.” And next time you login to your facebook. you know what goes behind all that ;).