Everyone Struggles to Define "Quality" after Facebook Changes Algorithm

Friday, December 06, 2013 - 10:37 AM

Facebook announced plans this week to tweak their news feed algorithm to serve users more high quality content and less of what Facebook called “the latest meme.”

So what does that mean? Over at AllThingsD, Peter Kafka interviewed Lars Backstrom, Facebook’s newsfeed manager. Kafka suggested that the changes will hurt sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, which create content with an eye towards shareability. Backstrom said that the changes weren’t designed to specifically target any one site, but also: “Our goal is to provide user value. We’re trying to do that algorithmically, and if people find ways to game the algorithms that we have, then we have to adapt.”

So here’s the interesting part, to me anyway. Upworthy's Eli Pariser is trying to quantify what, exactly, constitutes quality in a link you’d share. At first, it feels like an unanswerable, subjective question -- we know quality when we see it, my idea of quality isn’t your quality, etc.

But just as a thought experiment, the measurements that Upworthy people have suggested as proxies for good quality are pretty interesting. The full list, which you can add to, is here. Here are a few that grabbed my eye:

-Shares by email – indicates quality content that people want to share but might not want to advertise that they endorse or disagree with 

-Percentage of readers who successfully share--shares that actually result in a 2nd generation arrival 

-Time on page as a proportion of total content length-People sharing the content after consuming it

-People who view other quality content are viewing this. (Dangerous, but this is how Flickr finds porn -- why not apply it in reverse? :-) 

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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