Facebook’s Battle Against News Feed Clutter And The Person Behind It

Facebook redesigned its News Feed on Thursday last week. The social network’s latest major revamp to solve its clutter riddle.

The company’s makeover gives its more than one billion users the ability to organize the News Feed. All activities from friends, “liked” pages, and real-time content are available in sections for easy viewing.

The new News Feed comes with a stripped-down design, as part of Facebook’s attempt to handle increasing volumes of data. But most of all, the company wants to balance the interests of its advertisers, developers, and users.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Will Cathcart, lead product manager for Facebook News Feed, is at the center of it all. For about one year in every year, he and his team ensure the proper control and handling of daily clutter.

Part of the Facebook News Feed team is a group of about twelve software engineers who monitor its algorithm. Dubbed as EdgeRank, the algorithmic program specifies what content a user sees and its order.

EdgeRank handles multiple variables for a user. These include the frequency of likes from someone on a particular kind of post, and how a user interacts with a certain publisher.

The engineers behind EdgeRank tweak the algorithm nearly every week. They continually conduct tests for potential changes to EdgeRank.

Algorithmic changes affect the social network’s main channel to consumers. While the group works on different areas of Facebook, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg still deals with major decisions.

The team led by Cathcart is always in the middle of stress and criticism when it comes to user experience. Thus they have to balance this social movement to Facebook’s duties as a public company with shareholders.

Even though Facebook said it will push the most relevant combination of stories to News Feed, the number of ads on the stream will also increase. This cuts the number of posts a user sees from friends and “liked” pages.

Cathcart said the placement of News Feed ads are beyond their control and the EdgeRank algorithm. He said ads automatically insert after a predefined number of posts.

Another algorithmic program oversees the kind of ads a user sees. It considers the price range an advertiser will pay for a particular ad and the targeted audience.

Since last fall, the entire team headed by Cathcart has been sitting on the hot seat. They were at the forefront of a major change to EdgeRank in an attempt to put spam at bay.

Facebook said user complaints about spam dropped almost immediately. But it fueled sharp criticisms from businesses and publishers.

Business owners reported a sharp decline in the number of users who saw their posts and status updates. Most of them charged Facebook of a rigged algorithm to add new ads and to force them to buy more ads.

Cathcart said the balance between user-generated content and business ads on News Feed is still an ongoing challenge.

Facebook has released a study to see how ads affect user engagement. The company found that a group of millions of users saw a normal flow of ads, whereas another group of millions of users saw no ads.

Cathcart said user engagement for those who saw the normal flow of ads was 2 percent lower than those who didn’t see it.

 

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Francis Rey Balolong

A coffee junkie who spends most of his time writing about the latest news on social media and mobile technology. I would definitely consider myself a nerd (in the coolest most hipster way possible). That being said, I love technology, music, writing, and all things mobile. Follow me: Google+ Twitter

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