The war on noise

George Takei believes its his right to make sure every single message he posts to Facebook gets through to his fans’ screens.

Jason Calacanis says that Facebook is in a bad war with George Takei.

I told Jason he’s wrong. What we’re really in is a war on noise.

Our computers bring us HUGE amounts of noise. On my screen right now is a new tweet every half a second. New email arrives every few seconds. It’s gotten to the point where I simply can’t answer more than about five percent of my email now. On Facebook new posts arrive every 10 seconds or so. On Quora? Every few minutes. On Instagram? New photos every few seconds on my accounts and I’m only following 300 people there. Chatter? Every few minutes a new post shows up on my screen from coworkers. And on and on.

I’ve been swimming in this noise  for a while and I’ve noticed a few things.

1. Marketers suck. Including me. Look at my big tech company list over on Facebook. Do you actually learn much?  A little, but marketers push themselves too much, and say too little.
2. No one is focused on what you want. Including me. I have a list of tech industry investors. Rich people. I want to hear from them about when they talk about investing, the economy, starting companies, trends, that kind of stuff. But do they stay focused? No. They talk about movies. Their vacations. Their kids. And more.
3.  Everyone is emotional. Including me. I have a list of tech industry VIPs. People who have changed the world. Invented Twitter. Or the Web. Or built Microsoft. Etc etc. But when they post about emotional topics like politics, religion, babies, pets, death, birth everyone goes crazy and reshares their posts.
4. Everyone has gone Gagnam Style. Including me. We love resharing. Retweeting. Talking. Liking. Pushing. Watch my tech news list and you’ll see the same story rehashed, repeated, reshaped, remashed.

We are great at generating noise.

So, what does this mean now that we’re leaving the social age and entering the contextual age?

Noise is about to get worse. A lot worse.


Sensors are generating noise. Look at the tweets coming off of people’s Nike Fuelbands. Noise.
Wearable computers will be more important. If you are wearing a pair of Google’s Project Glass wearable computers (coming within 18 months) do you want a constant stream of tweets to hit your eyes? Hell no. Even worse, if you are driving those might be a major distraction.
We’re posting more media. Look at the increase in photos on ALL services, especially Instagram. Aside, my new page on that service rocks. But you see the noise problems, don’t you? If you don’t care about my family and only care about when I photo stuff about tech, why is Instagram showing you the wine I drank, the bacon I ate, the sunset I shot, the beach I walked on?

The contextual age means we’re going to have to go to war on noise.

That means that George Takei will have to sit down and shut up. Even if I like him (I don’t, but my wife does, so I see many of his posts just because she likes them, which shares them with me) we see too many of his items. They waste our time, bring us low value compared to, say, the Economist. It’s rude that he is demanding that every one of his items gets to our screens. Really? Even when I’m driving? Even when I have a project to finish?

I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying Facebook’s EdgeRank (its noise reduction algorithms) and they are quite good. Far better than anything on Google+ or Twitter so far (or Quora, or LinkedIn, or Pheed, or, or or or or or).

Here’s another way to look at it.

If you only had five minutes to read every morning, which means you could probably look at 20 items, what’s the best 20 items to show you?

George Takei, in the past 24 hours, has published seven items. Let’s say I liked 50 things that are like George. Are you saying, George, that your seven items should crowd out all other items? That’s bullshit.

I want Facebook to pick the best 20 items to show me every single time I refresh that screen. It does very well at it. Far better than Twitter and Google+ and others, so far.

Now, could the relevancy algorithms at Facebook be improved? Absolutely.  But they are the best we have so far and are showing the way into our new age of context.

I can’t wait for the war on noise to get really going.

Oh, some day I’ll tell you about why I wrote more than 1,500 Gmail filters. They throw away more than 300 emails every day. Every day. It’s the best thing I ever did for my productivity.


63 thoughts on “The war on noise

  1. Seems to me the end user should have control over it, rather than Facebook assuming it for you.

    Some people expect that when they like something on FB, they’ll see the updates. But, FB knows that a lot of people are smacking “like” without knowing what it means. So, FB is protecting us from ourselves.

    All in all, I think it is a good thing, although it’d be nice to have control. I get a lot more engagement on FB than I do Twitter or G+, and I think its because the noise level over there is through the roof.


  2. Nonsense – few people, at all, live in a world that requires 1500 Gmail filters, to throw away more than 300 emails every day. You may – and that’s great that you have the means to do that – but I don’t know anyone else who lives in that world.

    The best ‘noise filter’ on f-b is simply a scrolling, constantly refreshing feed. I can turn the computer off, walk away, come back later, or tomorrow, or next week, and I’ll have not heard a single post, by anyone. And when I look at f-b again, all the noise from last week is long gone.

    If someone “likes” my page, they should receive the posts I make there; and if they don’t like all those posts, they should have the means to control that on their end. Having f-b simply charge me money to deliver my posts to people who’ve already come to my page and ‘liked’ it (often from my own website) is a simple bait and switch plan from f-b. And George Takei is quite right to ne angry about that.

    As are thousands of users who’ve already paid f-b good money in advertising to garner fans and are now being told that those people won’t be delivered the feed as previously understood they would. F-b need their a&& handed to them for that,




  3. I think you’re looking at this in a slightly skewed way. If you choose to Like George Takei, then you’re choosing to follow the amount of items he publishes. If it’s overwhelming, then you choose to UnLike him, or ‘Hide All’, and the problem is gone.

    Facebook is not trying to cure the war on noise. If it was, it wouldn’t be testing noise alerts for actions on the site, for example. Or allowing frictionless sharing from Spotify and other external apps. It’s a pure business decision that penalises the smallest businesses that can’t afford to pay to limit the Edgerank factor and previously tried to build up conversations via being more engaging – slowly that doesn’t matter anymore as it just becomes a war of cash.

    The simplest way to solve these issues would be to allow everyone to tag their updates on each social network, and allow subscriptions by tags – even ‘work’ or ‘personal’ would split out family and investment news for example.

    It’s what RSS subscriptions by tags always enabled, but sadly they were never packaged in the right way to capture the imagination of most people…


  4. I agree that there is a war on noise. I disagree that Facebook should do filtering for me. I check Facebook in a browser it shows me a series of recent posts. I check on my phone at the same time and I get a completely different set of posts. In my mind, it is bad UX to decide what I should or should not see. It is up to the individual to filter the noise, not the system. I suppose I’m the libertarian and you’re the believer in big government. 😉


  5. Robert, on the one hand I agree with you that many of us who tune into social media are getting information overload. However, our experience is not the same as an average person, and actually, it is possible to turn down the noise and you don’t need sophisticated algorithms.

    I have simply done a few noise reduction / cleansing exercises. Years ago I switched off every single Facebook notification. I considered it all to be noise. I’m happy to dip into the newsfeed at my leisure. If I miss something it can’t have been important. People that matter now how to reach me by other means if it is important.

    Recently I looked through my Twitter feeds and ‘unfollowed’ more than two thirds of the people I had hastily followed some time ago. If I wasn’t sure if someone was being ‘noisy’ or not, I looked at their last 3 or 4 posts and made my decision. Too many irrelevant updates? So long, I don’t have the time for it.

    Similarly I said so long to numerous email newsletters and transactional updates that clogged up my inbox. how did i make my decision? If your last email brought me no value then I don’t want to hear from you again, simple. I now have inbox Nirvana.

    Now regarding the uproar about Facebook’s edge ranking. I think you completely missed the point. If i subscribe to or ‘like’ to a brand, a ‘thought leader’ or celebrity, then i have expressed my intention to be informed about their activities. I have opted in, I want to hear. The fact that Facebook are deciding for me is not helping me, it is hindering me. I choose social media over mainstream media because I am in control over what and when I consume. I opted out of watching television, reading the newspaper or listening to the radio for a good reason.

    I’ll leave you with this scenario: I want to hear updates from my favourite local ‘Mom and Pops Pizza Place’, so I like their page. But they can no longer afford to reach me, only Pizza Hut can because I ‘like’ pizza. In fact I hate hate Pizza Hut with a passion. That right there is the problem…


  6. The problem isn’t that George Takei wants to be on every screen (as Mr. Scoble seems to think, he wants to be on the screens of those who have actively requested to see his posts, without having to pay for them. People can say that edgerank is noise control if they want but on FB Noise control doesn’t work if people are willing to pay to ensure that you see their posts. Edgerank is offensive in that it takes control out of the users hands, instead of FB deciding what posts are relevant to me give me the tools to choose for myself.


  7. The Six3 team just did a bunch of testing on Facebook and Edgerank was making some very unintuitive decisions (e.g. my co-workers would see my posts, whereas my wife (who I use Six3 with most frequently) woukdn’t. People find this inconsistency irritating.

    Could there be more third party solutions? All of a sudden, apps like Flipboard make sense not just as a presentation layer, but as an additional filter. Berg London created a Twitter client that highlighted tweets from the least frequent posters. It feels like a one-fits-all solution like Edgerank is bound to fail, perhaps it would be better to let the developer hivemind take a shot?


  8. The part of Robert’s post that resonated with me was the following:

    “…On my screen right now is a new tweet every half a second. New email arrives every few seconds. It’s gotten to the point where I simply can’t answer more than about five percent of my email now. On Facebook new posts arrive every 10 seconds or so. On Quora? Every few minutes. On Instagram? New photos every few seconds on my accounts and I’m only following 300 people there. Chatter? Every few minutes a new post shows up on my screen from coworkers. And on and on…”

    I read recently that people at work check a device every 6 minutes – that is a lot of distraction with which to deal. I also like what Tony Schwartz and David Rock are saying about Your Brain at Work. Essentially, the amount of distraction we are all enduring has, ultimately, a negative impact on productivity. Net/net – the amount of distraction sets off the limbic system, burning oxygen and glucose, and thus energy, and measurably reduces performance.

    I know of a company in the Bay Area that is instituting a ‘no email’ Friday – it’s a start 😉


  9. How whiny. The choice of filtering should be in the hands of the end user, not Facebook.

    It’s not up to Facebook to decide that George’s Facebook posts, or those of my favorite non-profit, are noise. That’s my choice. Back off, Facebook, and give us the tools to do our own filtering.

    Facebook isn’t trying to protect us from noise — they’re running a shakedown. Otherwise, why do they offer us a chance to pay to force people to see our “noise.”


  10. Why must it be George Takei you take issue with on this one? Why not a straight celebrity who does the same thing? I think you’re picking on George and singling him out because he is a successful, Asian-American, gay man.

    You went out of your way to mention that you have a wife. I guess you love rubbing heternormative / heterocentric / homophobic rhetoric in other people’s faces, you noisy bastard.


  11. Yes, let’s never forget how important Roger Scobel is. “Oh, I have a list of Tech VIP’s” and “I have a list of tech investors.”. Did I quit following you a long time a go because you are the noisiest mother fucker on the internet. And its always about how connected you are.BFD. (like your name at the beginning of this? Never forget that you are truly forget table in this world)


  12. I like George’s posts and want to see them. I don’t want Facebook to decide what I see. I don’t want Facebook to show me adverts for The Economist. I don’t want to see awful photos people keep sharing and liking but I don’t seem to be able to prevent that (seems you could do with that so you don’t see George’s posts that your wife shares). Either way, I want to control my content. If you’re getting an email or tweet every few seconds then you have given your email address to too many people or need to follow less people. You can lose Instagram completely as it’s the same awful photos that people repost to Twitter and Facebook anyway. It’s only noise if you let it be.


  13. C’mon, some ruthless filtering is needed here. Every time someone is “noisy”, stop following them, even if they are “important” for some reason; this might include your spouse. If they start to produce meaningful content again, you can find out; google alerts are great filters. To sum up, if you have a problem, do something about it; the world isn’t going to change for you.


  14. Gee, ya think maybe you can take responsibility for your own filtering? You get only the “noise” you want. Don’t sign up for stuff on Facebook, then whine about getting it. You can limit the traffic you’re getting by adjusting your settings.

    To defend Facebook’s crass scheme to hold up its members for money as courageously shielding you from “noise” is flat-out pathetic.


  15. This is an issue that’s been bothering me for a while.

    On the one hand, our lives are filled with all manner of background static. I imagine it’s a lot like the “Earshot” episode of Buffy. When you can basically hear what everyone is thinking via social media, it can be a bit overwhelming. There has to be some kind of way to cut through it all.

    While I like you idea of using intelligent algorithms to help, the problem with Facebook comes down to the intelligence. Ever since they started filtering the amount of data that I’m seeing in my feed, I find that the only thing that doesn’t get removed regularly is the Sponsored Post ads that seem to be omnipresent now. I understand that the survival of Facebook as a public company is totally dependent on their ability to generate revenue. I also understand that they have to make sure their revenue generators are seen above all the other noise. The problem comes when they restrict the content that I see because they want me to buy something or click on an ad. It would be akin to the 3 minutes of commercials on television interrupting 3 minutes of actual content rather than a commercial break. If you want to inject ads into my stream, don’t take anything away from it.

    To me, the more sinister aspect is the large content generators (like George Takei) being forced to “sponsor” their volume of content in order for it to reach users. It sounds to me like an admission that Facebook can’t sell advertising space to corporations so they’re going to make their power users buy it. That’s how you run off your best customers. I’m not saying that Facebook will live or die without their power users, but those self-same people generate a lot of clicks and like and traffic that Facebook uses to bolster the numbers they show off to investors to prove they are the number one social network.

    Facebook needs to look at what’s more important to them – money or users. Sure, you can have both. But they need to be carefully balanced. If you spend too much time chasing one, you will be bitten by the other. Instead of trying to find new and unique ways to monetize your existing user base to placate stodgy investors on Wall Street, maybe Facebook should instead focus on doing what they’ve done for the past few years. Provide users with a space to share and learn and laugh. After all, happy users and customers are more likely to buy something when presented with the opportunity. Frustrated users may be driven to do something crazy and desperate. Like try Google+.


  16. The fact remains you don’t have to let the “noise” bother you.

    Move on.

    Just because it hits your eyes doesn’t mean you have to have a response to it.

    My advice: Meditate.


  17. I’m just wondering if you’ve ever thought of hitting unsubscribe on some of the emails you can’t stand, or maybe adjusting your settings on social media to determine what you see in your feed. Hell, you could just NOT USE so many social networks if it’s really that bad for you. This sensationalist idea of a “war on “noise”” you’re complaining about is already over. Rather, it never started. Take some responsibility and control over what you bring into your life.


  18. You are the first person I have ever heard say, ” I want Facebook to pick the best 20 items to show me every single time I refresh that screen.” Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone is of that opinion. In fact, the majority of people I know really dislike the fact that Facebook filters posts. When most of us like a page or friend someone, we generally want to see very single post. If that page or person posts too much, one simply unlikes them or unfriends them. We really don’t need Facebook filtering posts, especially when they seem to do a very bad job of it! In my experience, Facebook doesn’t filter out the noise, it filters out the posts one wants to see and leaves the noise. In the end one winds up wasting more time on the site visiting one’s favourite pages just to see the posts. Really, I think Facebook’s best course would to let people elect whether they want the filters or not. I definitely wouldn’t, but I’ve no doubt there are those who would.


  19. Your article completely ignores the fact that if you don’t like the noise, you unsubscribe/ unfollow/ actually take responsibility for your own choices. For example, if you choose to follow George Takei, you like his posts. If you don’t like them, man up and make a click. It’s that simple.

    What a waste of an article, and of my time reading it. I choose not to return- free will and personal responsibility and all that ‘noise’.


  20. Just ignore it and stop following so many people/things u pleb. This post is the noisiest thing I’ve seen in ages!


  21. 1. I have no idea who you are or why I should spend my time reading your content.
    2. I suspended disbelief and read it anyway, and it disappointed.
    3. This rant, particularly the parts where it referenced George Takei made no sense. That is not hyperbole for disagreement. I literally cannot find where you formed a cohesive thought. If you really were by some mysterious grace in possession of a real idea, it completely disintegrated when you attempted what you consider “writing”.
    4. The only thing that I’m convinced George Takei has done is given you an audience. I would say you don’t deserve it, but that would not be giving credit to George Takei’s audience. They’re smart enough to recognize how foolish this article is; therefore you have found an audience for your disaster you call “writing”.
    5. I will give you credit for being skilled in getting eyeballs to your content. This example of sensationalism found here that draws in curious readers is fit to be in some kind of marketing textbook. 6. Please don’t ever confuse your marketing skill with creative talent. Don’t ever confuse your work with works of art (content). And don’t ever ever ever feel qualified–or even welcome–to give your opinion on what quality content is.
    7. You are qualified to serve as an *example* of what quality content is not. To that end, I think you’ve demonstrated the theme of this “article” quite clearly. We’ll all be making sure we keep your work where it belongs: far from our eyes.

    Thank you!!


  22. The more you sign up for, the more you “like”, the more subscriptions, the more you send out, the MORE you get back. It’s very simple. Unsubscribe, like, close, discontinue, and the noise reduces.

    The solution isn’t frantically unplugging everyone else. Unplug yourself.

    You just want us all to look at you. You don’t want to look at us.


  23. The solution is simple. If you don’t want to see posts, don’t friend or like anyone. Or better yet, block him. Or even better than that, quit wasting your time on Facebook. Don’t bitch and complain about George Takei. While I admit that Takei posts a ton of stuff, I don’t pay attention to the posts I don’t find interesting. And if your time is so valuable that Internet ‘noise’ is a problem, stay off the Internet. If you don’t like a show on TV, you don’t watch it. If a commercial that annoys you comes on, change the channel. Quit your bitching.


  24. I don’t think noise is the problem. While I enjoy George Takei’s online contributions, I don’t let them control me or the sites I view. I see maybe one of his posts for every 20 he makes. If his posts are dominating your browsing experience, your online habits are very broken. This isn’t George’s fault.

    I don’t think it’s fair or right for you to single out and villify George, when far larger guilty parties exist. Political parties are notorious for this crime against humanity.


  25. You are the pot calling the kettle black. You generate more noise than George, but insist on taking an authoritative view on social media, therefore considering yourself more important. That’s called an opinion, and in this case a very self-serving one.

    If every reference to George where to be replace with your name, this article would be equally accurate.

    I SERIOUSLY doubt you or any user spends only 20 minutes a morning looking at your feeds, and I would wager that is many standard deviations below the average users activity level. But you make that the foundation for this article> PLEASE provide numbers to back that up, not just conjecture. I would love for actual data to be represented here, other than how many posts George made yesterday.


  26. You are genius. I love your commentary and insight. If anyone knows noise it would be you and you who shares it as it is, blunt and to the point.

    Keep smiling and don’t ever lose your noisy, awesome perspective that keeps us reading and wanting more.


  27. The problem you have is you want THEM to pick what I’d best for YOU when only YOU can do that well… Simply follow fewer people/firms-it is YOUR choice after all.


  28. I would rather have the option to have my feeds filtered rather than have FB automatically do it. Just because other people feed a feed is noise does not necessarily mean I automatically feel the same way, too.


  29. Strange, everything George Takei posts on google plus is pure gold. In fact I can’t think of enyone in google plus I would want to filter… yup definately a facebook problem.


  30. Nope, I’m sorry. You completely miss the point. The noise isn’t the problem… noise has always been there. Average Joe talking about his day to a co-worker at the water cooler. Mrs. XYZ chatting with Mrs. ABC about the latest gossip. The form has changed, and we have not yet learned how to filter. Twitter is a constant stream of bullshit… but I only subscribe to the bullshit I want to see.
    Google+ is even worse than twitter. Full size blog posts, videos, and images arriving FASTER than my twitter account. (about once every half second like your twitter). But google provides some filtering, though not enough.

    What we really need is heuristics to suggest tags so you can easily categorize posts and client side filters to say.. “I wanna read things technology related right now.” Then the reader can decide if Joe Schmoe who posts to the technology stream about his last vacation to yellowstone where he pissed on a dead badger should be ejected from his stream.

    The noise isn’t the problem, its always been there, it will always be there everyone will always have opinions and ideas they want to shout to everyone. The problem is the filters and organization.


  31. I agree with about 1/8 of what you stated here. First off, I’m gonna get nitpicky. the third word should be it’s, not its. Any George Takei believes it’s his fan’s right get get every post he posts because that’s what they signed up for when they liked his page. That’s problem 1. Problem 2 is that while we are fighting a war on noise, it is up to us to choose how to fight it. If you are following 300 people on Instagram, of course you’re going to get swamped by photos and crap. If you just throw out 300 emails EVERY DAY, I would assume that you need to unsubscribe for some things, or work on those filters you’ve built, because I don’t think they’re working. I don’t use Facebook or Google+ for professional means, but I might have to in the future. If/when I do, I will only be subscribed to the professional pages I need to see so that I don’t see any unnecessary crap. If people tend to post personal crap on those pages, I’ll try to find another way to follow them. If you MUST follow that particular person, I would create a different account just for the professional side of my digital representations. You are right about one thing, we are fighting a war on noise, the rest, well, makes it sound like you’re losing because you don’t know which end of the sword to hold.


  32. Seriously?

    Facebook’s algorithms for deciding what content shows up in my feed are terrible. But that’s not problem; the problem is that it gives me no control over it. If I want a friend’s posts to show up in my feed, I should be allowed to have that happen. If I want Takei’s posts to show up in my feed, I should be allowed to have that happen. If I want to NOT have posts from pages that I have not friended or liked show up in my feed, I should be allowed to block them! But no, facebook insists on putting that crap in my feed with no way to block it, and has made it impossible to even know how many of my friends posts I’m missing, let alone any way to actually see them.


  33. George Takei doesn’t post himself at all… sometimes his husband Brad will post a message but they hired a great social media team. Clever of his ghost writer to work w/ social media team and dedicate a chapter to Edge Ranking.


  34. I see your point, and I don’t disagree with it, but why all the aggressive verbiage towards George Takei? I think you could have got your point across easily with a generic analogy, which would’ve had the added benefit of Takei fans not instahating you and thus losing sight of the actual content in your post…


  35. Well certain people invest in too many things that have no revenue model and purpose that create noise.

    Your post indicates part of the problem, you mention loud, noisy people like Jason instead of a random person who has cut down on creating content (and hence noise). If you want to show leaders on this topic, show the solution, not the root cause.

    Ultimately most techs are focusing on the wrong things – building new tech, instead of bringing the truly important (and undercovered to the surface).


  36. Here’s a radical suggestion if you don’t like the noise instead of telling others what they should do how about you use less social media or follow less people. On Facebook I have muted noisy friends on twitter I have unfollowed noisy people’s king irrelevant posts. Just a suggestion to cut your noise if you are that bothered by it all. Although I suspect from reading the above that you are probably considered noisy by others.


  37. easiest correction for this. users should be able to rank their engagement for someone they follow. maybe a family member/close friend has full engagement – a brand/celebrity may have a lower engagement. then a post should have an engagement rating. lesser important posts have have an engagement rating for followers with a full engagement and vice versa. no algorithm needed. followers and posters drive the entire system.

    tell me what’s wrong with this.


  38. Robert — I appreciate that you’re taken this topic head on, particularly the side you’ve chosen. It’s easy to be anti-Facebook on this — as it seems everyone is.

    A few thoughts here…

    1) Facebook really does know what you like.

    I hear a lot of people say, “Facebook doesn’t know what I like! Sometimes there are pages I never engage with, but I want to read their stuff.”

    Well, let’s think about this… Most pages post much more than status updates. They post videos, photos and links. Let’s assume you never comment, like or share their content, but you still enjoy it. I totally get this since I rarely comment and like on page content.

    But as any page admin knows, Facebook tracks much more than likes, comments and shares. They track any “click.” This includes clicking a photo, clicking a video and clicking a link. They also track whether you choose to ever hide a page’s content.

    So you never click on anything a page writes but you claim to still enjoy what they share? I call BS. This is a myth. If you do care about the content, you must click somewhere. If you don’t, I’m not buying that you care about it.

    2) How much does EdgeRank impact the number of people who see my content? This is never answered. Robert, you say you’ve studied this closely, so maybe you have a better idea than I do. I’ve studied everything Facebook for quite some time, too, but no one ever breaks this down cleanly.

    People are angry that “only” 16% (or, according to some, 10%) of their fans see their stuff. What should we expect? It definitely isn’t more than 50% since only half of users are on Facebook on a given day. And it definitely isn’t close to 50% since the average user is on Facebook for 30-60 minutes. That’s a pretty small window out of 24 hours, and you’re competing with every other page.

    So without even considering EdgeRank, isn’t something in the neighborhood of 16% realistic? Only 20% of marketing emails are opened (a stationary target), yet we expect to reach more Facebook users than that?

    And here is what is never mentioned: Since Facebook is surfacing content that you care most about, doesn’t that then assume that EdgeRank HELPS some pages? In other words, the Top News area will surface stuff that you otherwise would have missed because you either regularly engage with a page or that content is getting a ton of engagement. Does no one appreciate this?

    3) A Facebook without EdgeRank would cause problems. I know everyone claims that they want to control their News Feeds themselves, that they know better than Facebook what they like. This may be correct, depending on the accuracy of EdgeRank (though the data they have gives them the ability to be extremely accurate).

    Sure, I may even prefer to have the option of no EdgeRank. But I’m an edge case. I actually use all of Facebook’s privacy settings. I created lists years ago. I create Interest Lists. I do everything that 95%-99% of Facebook users don’t. The stuff that Facebook WISHES people would do.

    So you expect that users would actually take control over their News Feeds? There is precedence that says there’s no way this happens. Instead, I’d consider it more likely that people would lose interest in their “boring” News Feeds that are flooded with crap.

    4) The mob is focusing on the wrong numbers. All we hear about is Reach. Reach is down! Reach is down! The sky is falling! But in reality, is your reach simply more efficient?

    I know mine is. I’m still getting the same engagement — and more — than I was before. Doesn’t this mean that Facebook is doing a better job of surfacing my content to the people who care most about it?

    If I read one more “Reach” article, I’m going to lose it. Just once I want to read something based on engagement.

    Off my soap box.


    1. Jon

      You’re post assumes that when facebook says your post now reaches (maybe) 16% of your ‘fans’, that ALL of those people see it; yet all the same things you mentioned in #2 above will equally apply. Yet, not everyone is al f-b 24 hrs, as you suggest .. f-b are now only putting that post in front of 16% of your fans, yet how many of those people actually “see” the post? Those 2 numbers aren’t the same at all.

      A greater issue, imo, is that after paying to advertise and drive traffic to a f-b page, and garner fans/likes, people are now having to pay AGAIN to have those posts delivered to those people; which was not at all part of the earlier agreement.

      Another issue, of course, is that my initial post to this thread has been moderated into oblivion. Speaking of filters.




  39. Jon you put across some good arguments, but you didn’t consider that it is possible to view status updates and appreciate them without clicking like or commenting. You can’t measure engagement by clicks or comments alone, as we don’t just exist in an online world. I have had plenty of conversations with friends who commented on my status when I saw them face-to-face but didn’t take any action on Facebook.

    Also, you are assuming that pages are posting dull content. Granted this is often the case, but you are implying that pages who post consistently engaging status updates will magically get a free ride with Facebook, and I don’t buy it.


  40. I don’t really use Facebook or twitter or any of this crap too much but I do have to say that instead of the steady stream of bitching about these services and the amount of tweets or posts or emails you get how bout you shut your damn mouth and stop using these services? We all post what we feel to be of importance at some point but if you don’t like it then quit using them. Delete Facebook and twitter and instagram off your phone and stop visiting the websites. The only reason you don’t is because you likely enjoy the randomness but just really like to bitch. And this is directed at you scoble.


  41. This article has really made me think. I’ve never thought of edgerank as reducing noise but I do enjoy the idea. I also wish there were more ways to decide on a personal level what you consider noise. I enjoy, on G+, to say how much I want filtered out. I also don’t believe you are a good example as I don’t believe you represent the majority of users. I am on the higher end of social interaction out of the people I know, but don’t have nearly as many connections. I often times wish there was more to see on Facebook without going to profiles and seeing if I missed something they posted. I also believe in being able to filter out what you consider noise. I oftentimes enjoy being someone’s friend on facebook simply to have their information in case I need to contact them. I often hide friend’s posts if I don’t find them pertinent. That’s my way of reducing “noise”. Who should be able to decide what noise is?


  42. About a week ago I posted a comment here. It’s gone. I shouldn’t be surprised — it disagreed with the post, so it was deleted. If you don’t want discussion, turn off comments, kthxbai


  43. Robert, there is no proper way of making this comment making it not sound like a woisio commercial but the “solutionlessness” of what you have laid out is the challenge we had in mind when coming up with woisio.

    As the whole media ecosystem is going through an evolution to find a new power balance with the current decentralization, the biggest challenge is the resulting mismatch between the number of sources and the human attention span.

    The whole system had an equilibrium during the age of mass media and we all know how that operates. We wanted to build something where the selection process is driven by people’s collective choice to establish that balance required between “the human attention span” and the flourishing new media jungle.

    Have a look at and let me know what you think..


  44. There is a simple solution to both your and George’s problems, and that is to offer the user the choice of whether to filter content for them.

    Personally, I don’t subscribe to an over-abundance of content on any social networks. Therefore I would much prefer to see all (unfiltered) content and have it sorted by timestamp. That way I can be sure that I won’t miss anything of potential interest, and yet that is still uncluttered for me.

    On the other hand, for people in your situation, It makes your life easier to see your content filtered by relevancy according to some algorithm.

    But why restrict all users to one or the other? That is my problem with Facebook’s approach. As a user and an IT professional, I value the ability to customize content to my liking. I loathe being patronized and having crucial decisions shoved down my throat when I know that it would be a simple matter to program in customizability (read: respect for the users’ intellect).

    Also, I find this solution to be far more realistic to implement as opposed to trying to convince content creators to stop generating “noise”. (Who even decides what that is?)


  45. From:

    Facebook newsfeed is an embodiment of our war on noise. We depend on the newsfeed optimizer to protect our limited attention span, and as a consequence, Facebook gets to choose what stories we do and don’t see, just as Google chooses which search results we do and don’t see. Conceptually, this seems very lucrative: Facebook is auctioning off our limited attention span to the highest bidder, as long as the bidder has a candidate newsstory to promote.

    This is what Like-gate is about.

    Welcome to the attention economy.


  46. Here’s the thing… your twitter feed, facebook feed, G+ and on and on… those are producing “noise” because you have a buttload of people you’re following. Way too many I would guess. Those of us who have these things in life called “filters” where we don’t feel a need to like, follow or friend everyone who has ever said something of interest or exchanged two words with. All you hear is noise because you don’t know how to listen.

    Facebook has no business deciding what I should or should not hear from the people I want to listen to. I can filter that myself by only following people I actually give a damn about, rather than friending every bozo I ever had a class with in grad school, undergrad, high school and that one kid that ate my paste in kindergarten.

    Maybe you need Facebook filters because you’re not capable of handling it yourself (and Facebook? They LOVE people like you). The rest of us? We can filter it ourselves, thank you very much.


    1. Amen. I agree. I don’t want somebody else filtering my facebook for me. I can choose for myself and you are also right at that Robert is clearly following too many people. Folks need to be adult and take responsibility for thier own digital noise as well as their real default lives. It’s the same is changing the channel on the tv if you don’t like the show. Instead of trying to dictate to others what kind of shows they can creat or show on their network, change the channel. Nobody is forcing you to watch it. Just like notbody is forcing you to follow 300 freakin’ people online or to read this or that. Choose for yourself – stop being sheep.
      I have alot of FB friends but I CHOSE that and if it becomes too much, I’ll filter them myself thanks.


  47. Read this post a while ago, Robert, but someone I trust tweeted it again tonight, so I read it again. I agree with almost everything you say until you got to EdgeRank. It’s not noise reduction, comrade, it’s communism; Uncle Zuck thinks he knows what’s best for me. Except, I’m older than Zuck and I damn well know what I like and what I do not. If you’ve got a problem on Facebook, like fewer things or prioritize. Facebook isn’t qualified, and will never be, to exclude posts from people, brands or things I like.


  48. This is funny, because I had to stop following Scoble on Twitter over a year ago because the massive retweeting he was doing was crowding out other more relevant stuff I wanted to see..


  49. (1) We are great at generating noise.

    (2) The coming contextual age with its sensors is also generating noise.
    Our defense = filters, relevancy algorithms, and shuting up
    Huh, I learn a lot here.


  50. I think one of the biggest problems with Facebook is that when you friend somebody it goes into the generic friends list. Under 60 or it’s fine, over 300 or more that’s impossible to handle and remember who is who.
    I only add people that I know personally or have known.
    I think there should be something like the contractually bucket game where you put people in buckets or “circles”.
    These circles will have pre-determined rules.
    For example if I have a work colleague from another city I don’t want to see all their children/pet pictures every time they put a new one.
    Thought if their dog/baby is doing something super funny and all their “best” friends are liking it and comment, then it makes perfect sense for FB to show me that.
    The idea about Google + is good though because they haven’t found a way to make people actually put other in circles or define who to post without the hassle of clicking the group you want to share something.
    Algorithms that will be contextual depending on which device, place and time will matter.
    Some things at work should not come up.
    I’m not going to post something about golf while i’m at my desk laptop. (usually).
    Etc. etc

    And yes I agree, manual filters are not the way to go.
    Things change to quickly to be able to maintain a manual rule.


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