Facebook quietly made a change to the News Feed this week. After struggling to figure out an effective way to display multiple, related stories, Facebook launched an update to help filter the massive amount of data from the News Feed. It is definitely a step in the right direction. Now, Facebook’s News Feed features Aggregated Topic Clusters, which sort and display news stories by subject.
For example, if a few of your friends post about Starbucks, their posts will now be grouped together in the News Feed. Additionally, even if the friends do not tag the Starbucks Fan Page, Facebook will be able to recognize the subject of the posts and link to the Page itself. The story title will read something like “Brittany N. and 3 other friends posted about Starbucks” and will display the posts below the title.
This feature is similar to what currently happens in the News Feed if more than one friend posts the same link or if a few friends write on someone’s wall for their birthday.
Aggregated Topic Clusters use Natural Language Processing to match words across users’ statuses and link them to Pages. This is performed completely electronically, without human interference or programs to identify feelings or attitude. So, aggregated posts about a certain topic could be both positive and negative in nature.
This update seems fairly routine and noncontroversial, so I would not expect much of an uproar like a normal Facebook change receives. Some see this update as a baby step into launching a completely unfiltered News Feed. Currently, Facebook updates a user’s News Feed algorithmically with posts from profiles a user interacts with the most. If you click through someone’s photos often or always comment on their posts, you’ll notice that they will tend to show up in your News Feed more often.
Aggregated Topic Clusters seems like a good start to begin to group posts of a similar subject together to allow the News Feed stream to become completely unfiltered.
In my opinion, this seems like a way for Facebook to compete with Twitter’s searchable and trending hashtags. While Facebook users at this point cannot search for certain posts, the Aggregated Topic Clusters make it easier for users to find posts about the same topic. It also allows users to see what certain topics are popular and trending among their friends. I would not be surprised, therefore, to see Facebook launch a feature that shows what topics are trending within their friends.
Do you like the new Aggregated Topic Clusters? Do you foresee any problems?