If you rely on News Feed in Facebook to find my posts, you're missing most of them. On average, only 16% of updates in Facebook make it into News Feeds. Let me suggest that you subscribe to me in Facebook, follow me on Twitter (@ccengct), or use an RSS reader.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Subverting the News Feed

Facebook is secretive about the algorithms behind its News Feed. I suppose they consider them a secret sauce, much like Google treats its algorithms for ranking search hits. That's fine. But I have read that one's News Feed contains only 5-15% of the content that is posted by one's friends. Why? Because Facebook assumes, or hopes, that people will have many hundreds or even thousands of friends. (The limit is 5000.) In that case, one's News Feed could be overwhelmed by sheer volume. Facebook prevents that by customizing and selectively filling your News Feed.

But I have only several hundred friends on Facebook. The number grows slowly now, and that's natural for user in my demographic. With that number of friends, having my News Feed swamped by volume is not a concern. What's more important to me is not inadvertently missing something posted by a friend. If I depend on Facebook to edit my News Feed, I run that risk. Here's how I prevent that from happening.

Facebook provides two useful tools: Most Recent and Close Friends. Most Recent is an alternative to the News Feed. Whether you use Facebook from a laptop, a tablet, or a mobile phone, you can set your client to show the Most Recent feed. This gives you a chronological sequence of items posted by your friends. Toggle between Most Recent and News Feed; you'll see the difference.

My other trick is to mark nearly every friend a Close Friend. This takes effort because you must make the Close Friend selection one friend at a time. But once you've done that, you merely have to remember to do it whenever you befriend a new person. Again, regardless of what software you access Facebook with, you can select the Close Friends feed as an alternative.

Usually I keep Most Recent as my primary feed and look at Close Friends (and my Family feed) once daily. I believe that thereby I see nearly everything posted by my friends. And if you have a Friend who posts too much but whom you do not wish to defriend, simply hide him or her from the Most Recent feed. Their items will still appear in the Close Friends feed.

As for Facebook's Follow feature, I don't use it. Instead I follow someone on Twitter, or I use the RSS feed from a blogsite if available. Feedly has proved to be a very helpful replacement for Google Reader. I recommend Feedly.