Coping with Facebook changes

Facebook users really should be accustomed to the simple fact that the most popular social networking system on the planet, with more than 800 million users, is constantly evolving.

Coping with Facebook changes

This evolution takes many forms, from behind the scenes in the business model (“how best to monetise your data”) to the more visible “hey, let’s change the whole look and feel”.

Inevitably, it’s the latter that’s likely to give users apoplectic fits when they fire up their browser and are faced with something that looks very different from what they’re used to.

These look-and-feel changes to its user interface – that is, to the very way that Facebook maps the network across social groups – are by no means rare. They happen pretty much every year, yet still as I write this column, my Facebook feed is fuming with the wrath of friends who just can’t understand why Facebook did this.

They howl that the world is coming to an end, threaten to pack up and head for the fresh pastures of Google+, and generally refuse to accept change.

Arrogant morons

There’s no doubt that Facebook has indeed changed its face rather dramatically recently, but I’m not convinced there’s any great cause for concern. And there certainly isn’t any need for Mark Zuckerberg to worry unnecessarily about a mass exodus by the hundreds of millions.

There are aspects that I don’t like about the new look and feel, and for these I’ll find workarounds if I can; if I can’t, no doubt I’ll learn to grin and bear them over the fullness of time (which in Social Network World means around ten days).

Why does Facebook think it knows your friends better than you do and constantly attempt to filter messages by relevance? Just leave my bloody stream alone, you arrogant morons

Our esteemed editor here at PC Pro – yep, that’s you Barry – was among my online social circle who appeared less than happy with Facebook, since he posted: “Why does Facebook think it knows your friends better than you do and constantly attempt to filter messages by relevance? Just leave my bloody stream alone, you arrogant morons”.

That gave me the idea that discussing the filter-by-relevance part of the new Facebook interface would be a good place to start my hands-on look at what’s changed and how to make it work the way you want it to.

As I understand it, this “sorting news by relevance” feature has actually been part of Facebook for some time now, but most of us have managed to ignore it because it wasn’t shoved to the top of our newsfeeds whenever we logged in, and therefore wasn’t quite so in our faces.

In principle, attempting to filter out the inconsequential chaff from the interesting wheat of social discourse isn’t such a bad idea, but as we all know, computers are shockingly bad at understanding what we humanoids consider to be interesting in the context of light banter between mates.

It seems the algorithm behind this particular relevance filtering system determines your most likely interest by recording which friends you interact with most often, which posts within your circle garner the most comments from other friends and, somewhat bizarrely, the biggest news stories from any media publications you may be following.

The end result that so annoyed Barry is a mish-mash that doesn’t reflect any real-world relevance at all. The answer to the question “please, please, how can I make it stop?” is quite simple, if a little time-consuming and without immediate effect.

In the top-left corner of every story flagged as “top news” is a little triangle that you can click, whereupon a pop-up will appear informing you that Facebook will “try not to put more stories like this at the top of your newsfeed”.

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