Have you ever wondered why 10 friends appear on your Facebook profile page, and how they are chosen? The list of 10 friends displayed changes slightly every time you visit your Facebook page. It appears random, but it isn't. Facebook says they use an algorithm that takes into account the people who interact most with you publicly. Things like posts they make on your wall, photos where both of you are tagged, events you both attend, comments on each others posts or photos, etc. Facebook does a remarkable job selecting 10 friends from your hundreds or thousands of friends...while keeping it fresh and interesting.
But, there must be more to this. Every time I check my Facebook profile page I scan down the left side bar where 10 friends are displayed. At left is a screen shot from my Facebook page this morning. Every one of those people are friends that I have recently interacted with on some level. I refreshed the page a couple times and another set of people are displayed. I try to think of any "interactions" I recently had with them. Some are obvious, some are not. Serendipity and randomness must play a part. Is it scary that Facebook seems to know who we care about, and who cares about us...but we don't know how they know this? For me it is more thought provoking than scary. Hmmm...how do they really do this?
People You May Know - How does Facebook decide which people to put in the "People You May Know" list on the right side bar? That one seems more obvious. It is based on friends of friends, mutual friends, employers or schools you have in common, your home town, current city, and probably a few other things. But again, the algorithm introduces some randomness. The people are not listed in rank order by the number of friends you have in common. Many times I know who the people are, but have never actually met them. Other times I have no clue who the "suggested friends" are. There is certainly an algorithm that suggests people, but exactly how it works is a mystery.
Promiscuous Friending - You would think that if "someone you may know" has 100 mutual friends with me that I would at least know of them. Hmmm...there must be a lot of promiscuous friending going on out there. Not me. I have principles :-). No, really, I do. Perhaps I use Facebook differently than most, but I only accept friend requests from people I actually know, people I have actually met, or have exchanged meaningful email or phone calls. Call me crazy, but that is my loose definition of "friends" for Facebook.
Social Layer - Social elements are popping up in just about everything. Zynga is making a fortune with casual social games. Social is being added to search, shopping, mobile, content, and even business. Nimble, a Santa Monica based start-up, is bringing social to CRM, Customer Relationship Management. Gist, a Seattle based company, is bringing social elements to email and contact management. The trend of social moving from the consumer realm to business software will be the topic of an upcoming post.
Facebook is writing the book on how to make social interactions online fun, useful...and profitable. Very profitable.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer.
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