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Your Facebook Edgerank exposed


/ August 18th, 2011 /

To you, that is.

Jeremy Keeshin over at thekeesh.com got curious about Facebook’s Edgerank, the algorithm used to determine which friends you interact with – and so appear most often on your news feed.

In the process he wrote a nifty little script that lets you see your own personal friend ranking.

As Jeremy writes, the results shouldn’t be too surprising, but may be embarrassing. I’d also add that they are a bit off. For example, there are two people in my top ten who I almost never interact with. I’m assuming Facebook has them high in my Edgerank because they recently posted vacation pictures that I scrolled through – so, yes, I clicked on a lot of their pages recently, but that’s an anomaly. Should Facebook infer that they are good friends?

Try it out yourself and let us know if Facebook’s results are on or off the mark for you.


Facebookers’ social networks dwindling in diversity


/ June 20th, 2011 /

Pew’s latest study on the Internet got a lot of press last week, reassuring Facebook junkies (like me) that using the social network does not – as some have warned – turn us into anti-social hermits whose online “friends” are mere substitutes for real relationships. Instead, according to Pew, Facebook users not only have more close friendships than the average American, they also are more trusting of others, get more social and emotional support, and are more politically active.

Less reported in the media, however, were the study’s findings on possible filter bubble effects of Facebook. Are online social network sites (SNS) narrowing our information streams, leaving us less exposed to a diversity of views, as Eli warns?

The good news is that SNS’s are not, according to Pew, making us more close-minded. When asked whether they agreed with statements like “I believe that there are two sides to every question and I try to look at them both,” Internet and social network users were just as willing to be open-minded as other Americans. The one exception were Myspace users, who were more open-minded than any one else (theories on why are welcome in the comments section).

The possible bad news is that Facebookers’ networks have dwindled in diversity over the past few years. In 2008 SNS members, like all Internet users, had more diverse circles of friends than non-Internet users. Using socioeconomic ties as a proxy for diversity, researchers assigned SNS and web users a diversity score of 45, with non-Internet users at 31. Two years later, however, SNS users had dropped to 39, not far above non-Internet users whose diversity ratings had risen to 38 (all Internet users were still up at 43). (See page vi for the numbers.)

Does that mean Facebook is making our social circles more homogeneous? It would be rash to leap to that conclusion. For one thing, the shift in diversity among Facebook users’ networks could be explained by a change in demographics over the past two years. (The study teased out the influence of age, education, etc. for the 2010 numbers (see page x), but not for 2008 so it’s impossible to tell.) The results should, however, make us puzzle – if not be outright concerned.  At best we can say that, unlike using the Internet as a whole,  spending time on Facebook does not diversify our lives. The question still remains if, at worst, it is making them more narrow.


Visualize your filter bubble


/ June 16th, 2011 /

If you have not yet been tempted by your Facebook friends, let me invite you to enter the creepy, narcissistic world of the Museum of Me.

Intel’s clever marketing team has created a visual experience that, after sucking in your friend network, posts and likes from Facebook, lets you walk through galleries of your life.

If you can stomach the solipsism, wait til you arrive at the final gallery, which morphs into – yes – a bubble of all your chattering friends with you right at the center.

If, however, that sounds like too much navel gazing, here’s the clip from some guy Steven’s museum:


The future of personalization is here


/ June 7th, 2011 /

Writing The Filter Bubble in 2010, Eli didn’t lack current examples of how personalization algorithms shape the content we see on our browsers – from Netflix and Amazon suggestions to Google search returns and ads that trail us around the internet.

But many of the creepiest applications of the filter bubble were left to the imagination. What if, someday, search engine results changed depending upon your friends’ preferences? What if you visited your favorite online magazine and the front page was “personalized” to show you the stories it thought you wanted to see?

Well, it didn’t take long for “someday” to arrive.

Last month Bing started giving users the option to plug into to their Facebook accounts to “receive personalized search results based on the opinions of your friends,” thus “bringing the collective IQ of the Web together with the opinions of the people you trust most, to bring the “Friend Effect” to search.” Such a move was expected when Bing and Facebook joined forces last year, but it’s still something to see it in action. To Bing’s credit, the “Facebooking” of search is opt-in (at least for now), so searchers can decide for themselves how much they want their Filter Bubble to collapse in on them.

It remains to be seen whether Washington Post and Slate readers will be given a similar option. Trove, a project of the Washington Post, creates a personalized news experience based on your Facebook profile. It’s still a separate site and in its early stages, but from an interview with Chief Digital Officer, Vijay Ravindran, it looks like the Washington Post will be integrating parts of Trove into its own site and subsidiary Slate in the not-too-distant future. It shouldn’t be long before my Washingtonpost.com is something quite different from your Washingtonpost.com.


MLK and the brief life of a misinformation cascade


/ May 3rd, 2011 /

Another day, another Filter Bubble phenomenon from the Facebook feed.

Unless to you are a social media luddite, you experienced it too: After “Ding dong the Laden is dead” choruses swept the nation yesterday morning, a quiet backlash of peace and love had blanketed the Walls of Facebook and Twitter by early evening. Everybody and their Buddhist aunt had posted:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

An apt quote from MLK to express the sentiment that, perhaps, our cheers were unseemly.

A little too apt. As Megan McArdle at the Atlantic pointed out by 6:23pm, King had never uttered or penned those words. It seems the well meaning pacifist posters were unwitting participants in a misinformation cascade.

But just as quickly the misquote had conquered the internet, almost as quickly did McArdle’s post beat it into a hasty retreat. (more…)


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    "The Internet software that we use is getting smarter, and more tailored to our needs, all the time. The risk, Eli Pariser reveals, is that we increasingly won't see other perspectives. In The Filter Bubble, he shows us how the trend could reinforce partisan and narrow mindsets, and points the way to a greater online diversity of perspective."

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