Facebook, much like Google with its search algorithms, consistently refuses to go into details about how it picks and pans content (save a few glancing details this year about the enigmatic engine that powers it, EdgeRank. 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. Like a half-billion people before him, Simonetti joined Facebook and began typing in his status updates.
A bunch of interactions, however, still do not guarantee that you'll get on anyone's Top News, which is how a vast majority of Facebook users get their information. Facebook has a reason to do this: If users saw all of the posts for all of their friends, they might be overwhelmed (or bored) and tune outa€”a disaster for Facebook, which needs eyeballs to earn revenue. What became clear after two weeks was that it's not the amount of activity you have, but the type (more on that below). Even with test-subject Simonetti posting updates, links, photos, and videos several times a day, a few of our volunteers found that the items didn't appear in their Most Recent feeds. To find out, our test subject spent several days obsessively checking out the posts and photos of some volunteers who had yet to spy him in their feeds.
Still, we were able to observe firsthand how Facebook can elevate or bury the news you want to share with your friends. But it also means that many users may not be aware of how much power they've put in the hands of this electronic mediator. You might think you've shared those adorable new baby photos or the news of your big promotion with all of your friends. All the while, Facebook, like Google, continues to redefine "what's important to you" as "what's important to other people." In that framework, the serendipitous belongs to those who connect directly with their friends in the real worlda€”or at least take the time to skip their news feed and go visit their friends' pages directly once in a while. Lawmakers Considering Local Control Of Pet SalesAn amendment about local control over pet sales is attached to a tax bill. Using Doulas to Address Infant MortalityLocal program uses community doulas to help African American women navigate pregnancy.
In Sit-Down With Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly Shows A Light TouchAfter nine months of feuding, the long-awaited interview may not have been worth the hype.Millions To Be Eligible For Overtime Under New Obama Administration RuleStarting December 1, anyone earning less than about $47,000 a year will qualify for overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. The social-networking giant promises to keep us connected with our friends in exchange for pumping a steady diet of advertising at usa€”but the algorithms Facebook uses to decide what news to pass along can seem capricious or altogether impenetrable.
The focal point of our experiment: Phil Simonetti, a 60-year-old Facebook newcomer who allowed us to dictate and monitor his every move.
But in this case, Simonetti's only friends were a hand-picked roster of more than two dozen volunteers who agreed to sift through their news feeds for the duration of our experiment, dutifully recording any Phil sightings. Facebook's Catch-22: To get exposure on Facebook, you need friends to interact with your updates in certain ways (more on that below).
Some of our volunteers reported frequent sightings of Phil's updates in their Top News feeds, while others saw him rarelya€”and in some cases, never. But in doing so, Facebook's ranking system makes judgments about items it thinks you'll be interested in.
Why Facebook Really is Like High School: After weeks of testing and trying everything from having Phil post videos to getting some of his friends to flood him with comments, by the end of our experiment, a few of our volunteers had still literally never seen Phil appear in their feeds, either Top News or Most Recent. Yet not only does Facebook decide who will and won't see the news, it also keeps the details of its interventions relatively discreet.


The move will affect more than 4 million workers.Clinton Holds Narrow Lead Over Sanders In Kentucky PrimaryWith nearly all votes counted, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in the Kentucky Democratic primary by almost 1,800 votes.
If there's one thing our experiment made all too clear, it's that following 500 million people into a party means that a lot of the beer and pretzels are already long gone. But you aren't likely to have friends interacting with your updates if you don't have exposure in the first place. The current newsfeed system offers users two options: "Top News," a highly selective feed of updates from friends, and "Most Recent," a "fire hose" that shows updates in reverse chronological order. Top News will show you hours-old updates from some friends while ignoring newer postings from others. As veteran Facebook users know, it's a simple matter to switch from the filtered-and-prioritized Top News feed to the "fire hose" of Most Recent. Maybe you've fretted about it while poring over photos of an old flame or estranged friend on Facebooka€”or maybe you've diligently worked to get on someone's radar by clicking all over their page. Just as links proved more potent than status updates in making it past Facebook's filter, so did photos and videos Phil posted.
If items you post attract comments from a few friends, it clearly raises your visibility overall. But for marketers trying to tap Facebooka€”or individuals who see the service as a way to promote themselvesa€”understanding how content propagates through the system is anything but a game.
He joins NPR's Renee Montagne to discuss the book and some of his company's recent projects.Interview HighlightsOn how his dyslexia worked in his favor"I think by being dyslexic, I simplify everything. And perhaps most confounding: Why does that guy I barely know from the 10th grade keep showing up in my Facebook feed? Poor Phil spent his first week shouting his updates, posted several times a day, yet most of his ready-made "friends" never noticed a peep on their news feeds. Do Facebook's mysterious algorithms factor your stealthy interest in another person into that person's news feed? After Phil spent days posting updates in vain, with most of our volunteers seeing none of them, we tasked a handful of friends to start showing more interest in Phil. At various points in our test, Phil switched between writing plain status updates and posting links to content elsewhere on the Web. When our selected volunteers began stalking Phil, he finally appeared to many users for whom he had been a no-show.
And our volunteer force of friends was only human, and may have missed some of Phil's posts. I calculate everything on the back of an envelope, and if it makes sense I'll do it, and if it doesn't make sense I won't.
His invisibility was especially acute among those with lengthy, well-established lists of friends. So many users naturally assume that Most Recent contains every update from all of their friends. Even though he wasn't showing up in their feeds, they sought out his Facebook page repeatedly, clicking on links he had posted and viewing his photos. Even before some of our friends began stalking Phil, for those who were seeing updates from him, links appeared more frequently than status updatesa€”presumably because links are more effective at driving "user engagement," which translates into people spending more time on Facebook.


Think about times you've spotted a thumbnail-size photo from a friend in your feed and clicked to see it full-size. But when we stopped the stalking and moved on to the next phase of our trial, directing a different group of users to not only look in on Phil but also repeatedly add comments to his items, he surfaced on the feeds of still more friends. They'll see more of your feeds, interact in Facebook-approved ways, and up your visibility with all.
This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast and is republished here with permission. Phil's perpetual conversation with the ether only stopped when we instructed our volunteers to interact with him.
It took a few days of constant clicking, but not only did the friends doing the stalking begin to see Phil in their Top News feedsa€”others who weren't stalking began noticing him as well.
And apart from that, you can create an empire with 60,000 employees and find other people to add up the numbers at the end of the year."On the possibility of buying or merging with the bankrupt American Airlines"We don't normally buy other companies or merge with other companies, because you take on a lot of history. And they disappeared because, although we were much smaller than them, their quality was awful."On how much legacy costs — like pensions or an aging fleet — affect an airline's ability to make improvements"I think that if [a] company's got a great manager at the top, then they can get these issues sorted out.
I mean, it's strange because in America you've got fantastic hotels, great restaurants, but the airline industry just has not gone out to make sure that every single person that flies on those planes [gets] a wonderful experience.
And the good thing about that is that leaves room for an airline like Virgin America to emerge. And, you know, we did the same thing with Virgin Atlantic when we started 30 years ago with, you know, one plane against British Airways.
And so, you know, because you've got legacy things hanging over you doesn't mean you can't get your act together."On making air travel more sustainable"About three or four years ago, at the Clinton Global Initiative, I pledged that 100 percent of any profits we made from our airline businesses we would invest in alternative fuels.
And what we've been trying to do is come up with a fuel that we can power our planes by that emits no carbon. But the most important thing in life is just to try these things, and we tried it."On the common thread between all of his company's ventures"You have to go back to thinking: What is a business? And throughout my life, I keep on coming across situations where I feel we can do it better than it's being done. You know, for instance, I used to travel on Britain's rail network, and the rail was run down, dilapidated, run by government; and we went in and persuaded them to give a chunk of it to us.
And you know, we absolutely transformed it from 8 million passengers a year to, you know, 33 million passengers a year.
So, you know, we have ended up with sort of 300 or 400 companies, but we've become a sort of way-of-life brand.
People think of Virgin — if they hear that Virgin's going into a new area, they know that the quality will be good, that we'll do it in a fun way, that we'll give good value for money.
People already [trust] us, and they'll give us a try and, generally speaking, people seem to like what they find." Copyright 2016 NPR.



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