I watch the following TED talk by Eli Pariser a while ago and I’ve watched it a couple of times. Take a little over nine minutes and give it a listen.
In some ways this is very much related to a post I made over two years ago about newspapers. When I go to Facebook, it continually keeps showing me the Top News, and the first thing I do every time is click the link for Most Recent. To me, Most Recent is better because I go to Facebook fairly often and seeing month old news that I didn’t think was interesting enough to comment on a month ago is useless to me, even if 97 other people feel it is comment worthy. I use Most Recent and I read all the news back to my last visit. If something is interesting, I comment on it or Like it, and if I comment on something Facebook is kind enough to inform me if other people comment on it too so I can go back and continue to participate in the discussion no matter how old it is.
Over in the new world of Google+, Tom (yeah, that Tom, everybody’s friend from MySpace) has had lots of interesting things to say, but among them is this entry about how right now Google isn’t giving you control over how your content is filtered. Largely it’s time based, but popular topics do (or did) rise toward the top, so my feed was filled with people like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and Tom, people who post and then get hundreds of comments within minutes, and my actual friends were buried. They adjusted that, so I get less of a flood from popular people and see a more linear timeline, but sometimes I’ll see things out of order and I can’t tell why one item is considered more important than the other. And that, as the video above states, is the problem. At least, Google+ needs Facebook’s Top News and Most Recent options… at best, they’ll give the users a bunch of options and allow you to create your own custom feeds, and not just based on circles, but also based on circles. I’d like to be able to push to the top not only popular topics, but ones in which more of my circled people are participating. A topic with nine thousand comments by strangers may be important, but it’s not more important than a topic with fifty comments of which thirty-five are from people I have in circles.
I don’t mind if there are filters on content, but I want to be able to get at those filters and make adjustments, or sometimes remove them entirely and view them in a simple sorted order (like by date). The only issue is when, as I said in my post about newspapers, the content creators actually make the content in a way that doesn’t allow certain filters or sorts – if you update a news story rather than posting a second story, the original story isn’t available to be read anymore, depending on how you do your update.
Hopefully, the trend will swing back toward user control over the algorithms that filter our content. I don’t like the idea of other people (or worse, program code) decided what I should see.