EdgeRank, the Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm

Michael Berstein, a researcher at MIT, posts a snapshot of the algorithm used to calculate what is shown to you in the Facebook Top News feed.

The algo is called EdgeRank and he describes it as such:

I’ll cut through the math using words. Whenever somebody interacts with a news feed item, they create an edge to that item. So if I comment on a friend’s new puppy photos, I’ve created an edge to your photos. When trying whether  to show the photos in your news feed, Facebook looks at how closely you interact with everyone who has an edge to the item. So, with the puppy photos, it considers your affinity to the friend who created the photos, and then me because I commented on them.

This all comes down to — initialization matters. If my high school friends are the first to comment on a news feed item, the EdgeRank of that item for other high school friends is high. So, other high school friends will see the item. If grad school friends are the first to comment, then other grad school friends are likewise going to see it.

I had no idea that the elapsed time between a posting and when you interact with the object had something to do with future relevance calculations but now that I think of it, it makes sense. The same has happened to my twitter usage – since I’ve shifted timezones, I mostly see tweets and posts from friends in the European timezone so, in a self-fulfilling way, any service looking to see which content I engage with the most will most likely determine that it’s things coming from my European friends.

More details about Faebook’s EdgeRank algorithm and a link to the full video which was presented at f8 over on TechCrunch.

Once we can address the past, we have time travel

Excerpts from an IM conversation with a colleague in which we figured out how we will eventually be able to time travel.

It’s Friday. 

[13:15] jonathanhstrauss: as or more disruptive than web 2.0
[13:15] jonathanhstrauss: which i define as the disaggregation of the back end services from the front end uis
[13:16] finduseshare: didn’t apis and xml do that?
[13:16] jonathanhstrauss: yes
[13:16] jonathanhstrauss: thus enabling web 2.0
[13:16] jonathanhstrauss: which is when the basis of competition switched from who could afford the most bandwidth or storage space to who could create the most personalized UI

[13:17] finduseshare: next step is ubiquitous internet dialtone (tcp everywhere)
[13:17] jonathanhstrauss: exactly
[13:17] jonathanhstrauss: and device optimized experiences built on top of it
[13:17] finduseshare: ip6 is supposed to give us enough addresses so we can (if we want) assign unique IP addresses to every grain of sand on every beach
[13:17] finduseshare: i think i read that in wired
[13:17] jonathanhstrauss: and we will find a way in 10 years that even that won’t be enough
[13:18] finduseshare: because of historical
[13:18] finduseshare: need ip address for every state (new, used, trashed)
[13:18] jonathanhstrauss: yeah, time will become a dimension, like a Wiki
[13:19] jonathanhstrauss: awesome….
[13:19] finduseshare: once we’ve given an ip address for every object as it goes from new – used – trashed, we will have figured out how to travel through time
[13:19] finduseshare: you can ping your past
[13:19] finduseshare: ok, my mind just got blown
[13:19] jonathanhstrauss: lol!!!
[13:19] finduseshare: it’s friday
[13:20] jonathanhstrauss: alright, ive gotta get some food
[13:20] finduseshare: i need to ping saturday
[13:20] jonathanhstrauss: lol

Satellite Radio as a Wireless iPod

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal had a piece on their front page (timed for the Howard Stern’s move to Sirius satellite radio) which talked about how record companies which had cut the satellite broadcasters sweet deals on royalties because of their limited reach are now beginning to regret it.

While existing models (such as the Sirius S50 pictured) have only 1 GB of storage, the newer units due out next year are said to be able to store much more. With certain "artist only" channels for Elvis and Bruce Springsteen, these devices will become a portable "best of" device that will allow subscribers to sift through the stream and edit out and save the best of what they hear.

Other features include:

  • “My SIRIUS” channels automatically generate custom content based on your listening patterns.
  • Sports Ticker shows scores from any play-by-play broadcast on SIRIUS while listening to your favorite content
  • Game Alert prompts you when your favorite teams play and score
  • One-touch access to traffic and weather reports for your city or use to tune to your favorite SIRIUS channel

Sounds pretty compelling to me but I’m sure a satellite recorder was not what the record executives has in mind when they cut these deals. I’m sure we’re going to see a round of talks where the record companies are going to try and hobble the devices so consumers can’t do what they want to which is to have the digital equivalent of a radio/cassette player.

If the industry was really smart, they’d realize that to go against the consumer’s wishes is just an exercise in frustration for both parties and it’s much better to leverage the momentum and use digtially recorded broadcasts as a sales channel. Add meta-data to each song, detailed liner notes with information on where the song came from, which album, which musicians, a graphic of the album cover, anything that might entice the listener to dig in more. Embed information on where you can purchase the album as a "call to action."

Then let the music travel. Not only allow it to be downloaded off a satellite broadcast stream to the subscriber’s receiver, allow it to be recorded and shared. You could lower the bit rate upon export but leave it otherwise unblemished so that it can be shared with the subscribers’ friends and sent around easily with the meta-data intact. If the file name is intact, you can also track where the file gets posted and use search engines to discover where your fans are and reach new audiences. Each posting of your low bit rate song will be a beacon for one-click purchase of a high bit rate version which you sell online or as part of a pressed CD package.

The future is bright, so long as you look at it right. The power of free markets and consumer utility will ultimately prevail. It remains to be seen how long the record companies will struggle will be to keep this genie in the bottle.

Origins of the “TiVo” moniker

The winning answer was we were naming the next TV. I thought it should be as close as possible to what people would find familiar so it must contain T and V. I started looking at letter combinations and pretty quickly settled on TiVo. I also liked that “i” and “o” were a part of the name from the “in and out” engineering acronym. Additionally I thought “vo” had a nice connection to “vox” and “voce” from the latin for vocal sound and Italian for voice, vote and vow are part of the same root words. In a way, every selection one makes with TiVo is a kind of vote. It was all beginning to make some sense. We created a beginning lexicon of TiVo expressions to help create what we anticipated would be a TiVo culture. One of the expressions was “TiVolution”. I liked the similarity of sound to the rock band DEVO and their devolution stance.

Seven Questions with Michael Cronan, designer and creator of the name “Tivo” and the mascot

Google Video Search

Google Labs just announced that they are now providing a video search engine. Details in a BBC article here. This is slightly different than the video search announced by Yahoo earlier in that is indexes the closed caption content provided with television shows and returns results that show where in television segment the search terms were spoken and then shows a screen capture from that segment.

For an example, here’s a persistent search showing mentions of the word blogs.

It’s still in the labs so the actual video footage is not available but if they do point to when the show aired and when you might be able to catch the segment again. If Google delivers on what they are writing about, this could be a version of Google acting as a gigantic, internet-enabled TiVo for the rest of us.

More detail with screenshots here on the about page.

UPDATE: According to CNet, Yahoo has been working on a similar index of closed caption video text of Bloomberg and BBC programs in their partnership with TVeyes. The article also mentions Blinkx but I couldn’t get it to pull up any meaningful results.

Kids in a timeshifted world

Tivo – television on your own terms. What would the world be like for kids that grow up knowing nothing else? Alan Taylor writes about his 3 year old’s view of television:

First – she doesn’t watch much TV (an allotted hour per day), but when she does watch it, she gets a choice of a recent episode of any of her favorite pre-recorded shows (current favorites are Dora the Explorer and Caillou), and she can watch it at any time of day. We get to choose what shows we’d like to allow her to watch, set up a Season Pass, and we’re done.

Second – Commercials are an infrequent novelty to her. We always fast-forward through commercials, or watch non-commercial shows. When she does occasionally see a full commercial, she’s fascinated, and will often ask us to stop so she can see what’s going on. How can we demonstrate to her the evils of commercial interruption, when she has never had to experience it?

Third – Ignorance of Schedules/Programming – she has no idea when her favorite shows are on, never has. She gets quite confused when we are watching a non-TiVo TV, and she asks to watch “a kids show,” and we have to explain that this TV won’t do what ours at home does. We’ve sometimes shortened this explanation to “This TV is broken”, which she seems to accept, and will wait until we get home to watch our “fixed” TV.

Fourth – pausing taken for granted. She is now the master of paused TV – saying “Can you please stop this for a minute – I have to use the Potty”.

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