Posts Tagged ‘algorithm’
Facebook has come under fire from those who say the network is turning down the volume on their posts, but the bottom line is that the network can — and will — do whatever it wants with the algorithms controlling its news feed.
Facebook seems to be making users upset and/or confused again with the way it handles its news feed. A few months ago, it was actor George Takei and billionaire Mark Cuban who were upset with what they saw as changes to the Facebook algorithm that made their content less visible, and this time around it’s New York Times writer Nick Bilton, who complained that his posts haven’t been getting as many likes or shares as they used to. The assumption is that Facebook wants you to pay to get this kind of reach, but regardless of whether that’s what is happening, it still sends a valuable message: you are not in control — Facebook is.
Bilton described in a piece for the Bits section of the Times how his posts used to get as many as 50 or even a hundred likes and shares, from users of Facebook who had signed up to get his feed using the network’s relatively new Subscribe feature. But even though the number of users who subscribe has soared from just 25,000 after the feature was launched to almost half a million now, Bilton said that he gets far fewer responses to his posts — sometimes as little as 10 or 15 likes and shares. After paying Facebook to promote his posts, however, that number increased by almost 1,000 percent..
The conclusion that everyone seems to be jumping to is the same one that Mark Cuban arrived at when he complained in November about the increasing difficulty of reaching his fans on the network: namely, that Facebook is deliberately tuning out (or at least turning down) the signal coming from some users so that it can convince them to use promotional tools like ads and “sponsored stories.” Cuban said he was so irritated by the move that he was diverting almost all of the marketing budget from his various brands away from Facebook to Twitter and other platforms.
…An official post on the Facebook site entitled “Fact Check” says:
“Our goal with News Feed is always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest. There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true…”
The bottom line, of course, is that there is no real way for anyone to know why Facebook’s algorithm behaves the way it does, any more than it’s possible for us to know why certain pages rank high in Google. They are both a black box, and the way they function is a mystery. As I tried to point out to Cuban, Facebook is entitled to do whatever it wants with your news feed, including using it to convince you to pay for promotional tools, because it owns your news feed — not you. It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.
Being a political animal, first, I’m glad to catch any page views I do. We live in society that has always discouraged dissent. The penalties can run from ignoring you – to prison. And don’t kid yourselves, I’ve had friends who experienced the latter.
But, my experience online has continued to be one of growth and concurrent acceptance. Yes, my experience was much the same when I was a performing artist. But, then, I had to put up with all the crap that comes with the territory. I finally quit the circuit – because I wasn’t satisfied with what I was able to do. Online, it’s all pretty much my own responsibility, my choices.
That’s good enough for me whether posting here at my personal site or at one of the Big Sites where I’m one of several contributing editors.
The theory that our universe is contained inside a bubble, and that multiple alternative universes exist inside their own bubbles — making up the ‘multiverse’ — is, for the first time, being tested by physicists.
Two research papers published in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D are the first to detail how to search for signatures of other universes. Physicists are now searching for disk-like patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation — relic heat radiation left over from the Big Bang — which could provide tell-tale evidence of collisions between other universes and our own.
Many modern theories of fundamental physics predict that our universe is contained inside a bubble. In addition to our bubble, this `multiverse’ will contain others, each of which can be thought of as containing a universe. In the other ‘pocket universes’ the fundamental constants, and even the basic laws of nature, might be different…
“It’s a very hard statistical and computational problem to search for all possible radii of the collision imprints at any possible place in the sky,” says Dr Hiranya Peiris, co-author of the research from the UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy. “But that’s what pricked my curiosity.”
The team ran simulations of what the sky would look like with and without cosmic collisions and developed a ground-breaking algorithm to determine which fit better with the wealth of CMB data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). They put the first observational upper limit on how many bubble collision signatures there could be in the CMB sky…
The authors stress that these first results are not conclusive enough either to rule out the multiverse or to definitively detect the imprint of a bubble collision. However, WMAP is not the last word: new data currently coming in from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite should help solve the puzzle.
Rock on UCL!
Google has announced a change to its search algorithm that reduces rankings for low-quality sites.
The changes, implemented in the last few days, impacts about 11.8 percent of Google’s queries, Google’s Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts wrote in a blog post. The duo defined low-quality sites as those that are a “low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”
“At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on,” they wrote.
Singhal and Cutts did not provide too many details about what this algorithmic change entailed; search engine ranking mechanisms are often closely guarded secrets. But they said this week’s change did not rely on changes it received from its “Personal Blocklist” Chrome extension. That tool, introduced last week, lets Chrome users eliminate Google search results from dubious domains. Google did, however, compare the Blocklist data it has gathered with the sites identified by the algorithm, and found that user preferences are “well represented” in the new algorithm.
“If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84 percent of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits,” Singhal and Cutts wrote.
Google acknowledged that any change to its algorithm will affect the rankings of sites. “It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down,” they wrote. “It is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.”
Time will tell – to use a trite phrase – but, Google’s efforts to stem the flow of dross from the Web to our personal cpu’s is an useful step. There is little in the history of international commerce – especially media-driven commerce – to suggest that there are more than a very few individuals and companies willing to put quality above quantity.
Especially when the results of those decisions are measured in coin of the realm.