Manual mode

How would Facebook News Feed settings work?

In her post What does the Facebook experiment teach us?, danah boyd suggests that the controversial study itself is not the real reason behind all the outrage. Her explanation: People are deeply unhappy about the way Facebook and other companies operate with the vast amounts of data they collect, they feel out of control, e.g. when it comes to their Facebook newsfeed.

On the same topic, Martin Roell tweeted that it would be so nice if you could set up your newsfeed the way you want to.

Replacing the magic algorithmic sauce with user settings: Is that really an option? It got me thinking, and I took a stab at a rough mockup à la Facebook.

Click to enlarge

Navigating all those options already seems daunting, but keep in mind that the real Facebook algorithm most certainly takes many, many more signals into account. What does the repeat visitor get to see? Is there a difference between the desktop and the mobile experience? What am I shown if I haven’t been on Facebook for a month — the last two days worth of posts or the highlights of the month? Who is to blame if I set up my News Feed in a way that I miss important events in my Facebook friends’ life?

A real alternative to black box algorithms is probably always going to end up on the clunky side of things, and I’m not getting my hopes up about increased algorithm transparency.