Facebook uncovered? The Daily Beast peeks under your news feed

Flickr photo by laverrue.

Take Thomas E. Weber’s little Facebook experiment for what it’s worth — some interesting insights into how FB decides what to put into your news feed. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Weber’s piece on The Daily Beast has “cracked” the code. Some of what he reports are things most habitual FB users already know — that the “most recent” part of your feed seems to be arbitrarily put together and that your visibility increases the more people comment on your posts.

The Daily Beast set out to crack the code of Facebook’s personalized news feed. Why do some friends seem to pop up constantly, while others are seldom seen? How much do the clicks of other friends in your network affect what you’re shown? Does Facebook reward some activities with undue exposure? And can you “stalk” your way into a friend’s news feed by obsessively viewing their page and photos?

To get the answers, we devised an experiment, creating our own virtual test lab within the confines of Facebook and tracking thousands of news-feed items over a period of several weeks. The focal point of our experiment: Phil Simonetti, a 60-year-old Facebook newcomer who allowed us to dictate and monitor his every move.

Besides the lack of earth-shattering revelations, there are few problems with Weber’s test. His sample size was fairly small and the “experiment” took place only over a few weeks. It also seems that he relied more on the collection of anecdotal evidence, rather than a data set that could be scientifically analyzed.

Still, it’s an interesting read, even if a little pointless considering that it seems Facebook changes its algorithm and interface depending on which way the wind is blowing.

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