Should Facebook Give Users an Unfiltered News Feed?

    August 4, 2011
    Chris Crum

We recently asked readers of Google and Facebook should be filtering our content for us? Many of you said no, but that’s what both have been doing for quite some time through various forms of personalization. It’s partially about noise reduction, and being served the content that is most relevant to us, but by doing this, we are living our online lives in what has come to be known as the “Filter Bubble”.

Should Facebook add an unfiltered version of the News Feed? Tell us what you think.

Google and Facebook aren’t the only two companies filtering our content this way. Many services do this kind of personalization. Just this week, AOL launched a new iPad Magazine, which is based on serving personalized content for each user. Google and Facebook are two of the most dominant sources of information, however. While Google hopes to play a bigger role in how we see information from our friends, brands, and those we’re influenced by on the social level, that role currently belongs to Facebook as the world’s dominant social network. It’s how the majority of social Internet users engage with content this way.

Eli Pariser, who coined the term “Filter Bubble” gave a popular TED Talk a while back discussing the concept in which he quoted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as saying, “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

This would appear to be the philosophy behind the Facebook News Feed as it currently exists. You may “like” CNN, who might be running a story about people dying in Africa, but you might miss that if Facebook’s algorithm determines that you’d be more interested in seeing the bit about the squirrel from one of your neighbors.

The point is, you’re not seeing everything. What makes it more interesting is that the more Pages you “like” which should theoretically give you access to more information from sources you care about, the more information you’re going to miss, because all of these pages are competing with one another for that spot in your News Feed that you actually see.

Granted, Facebook’s strategy makes sense in some ways, because too much information is simply just too hard to consume, and it’s highly likely that you’ll miss some of it anyway, just because it will get pushed further down. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a completely unfiltered option? A way to see every single update from every single friend and Page you’ve associated yourself with on Facebook?

Remember – you’re the one that chose to become friends with these people or “like” these pages. You control that.

Well, it appears Facebook may be readying a new News Feed that will give us this unfiltered look at our social graph. A new report from the Wall Street Journal indicates that Facebook is going to be changing the way the News Feed works sometime soon.

Shayndi Raice And Emily Steel report: “Now Facebook engineers are working to create an unfiltered News Feed that would open the floodgates of information about users and the games they win, the companies they ‘Like’ and the actions their friends take, said people familiar with the matter.”

I’m going to assume that such a version of the feed would be one option for viewing the feed. As it stands now, Facebook gives you options like Top News, Most Recent, Status Updates, Photos, Links, Pages, Questions, and of course various lists you may have set up yourself. It gives you plenty of ways to filter the News Feed, but not so much a way to get a completely unfiltered version. Most Recent is the closest thing, but even that isn’t 100% unfiltered.

It will be interesting to see if Google opens up an unfiltered version of the Google+ stream. Google’s “circles” only add to the filter bubble concept, for the reasons we discussed here. People will be more inclined to share with select groups of people, leaving those outside of the circles potentially missing out on interesting content. Google even filters the streams for specific Circles too though. You don’t see every update from everyone in every Circle.

Expanded “Like” Button Functionality

According to the WSJ report, “Facebook is also working on expanding its ‘Like’ button to include other gestures that marketers and third-party developers can create, said these people. Consumers could share information about the products they want to buy or the places they want to go, for instance.”

While we don’t know exactly what this will entail, simply giving consumers more ways to share your brand/products could be huge for businesses, particularly in combination with an unfiltered News Feed, which should by itself get your brand in front of more eyeballs automatically.

As it stands right now, there are things you have to take into consideration if you want to optimize for the News Feed, and “EdgeRank,” which is the basis for Facebook’s news feed algorithm. Earlier this year, we looked at a report from Buddy Media, a company that’s built a business out of creating Facebook tools for businesses and counts a bunch of major brands among its clients. They suggested the following ten tips for boosting your chances of getting seen in the news feed:

1. Ask questions
2. Post games and trivia
3. Interact with fan engagement
4. Incorporate wall sapplets (polls, coupons, etc.)
5. Incorporate relevant photos
6. Relate to current events
7. Incorporate videos
8. Post content for time-sensitive campaigns
9. Include links within posts
10. Be explicit in your posts

If Facebook’s unfiltered News Feed is just an option, you’re probably still going to want to consider these things, because it’s still going to be helpful to get into the filtered feed as well. Plus, these things are simply good for engaging users.

Do you want to see Facebook offer an unfiltered option? Let us know in the comments.