Facebook Makes Changes to News Feeds

Facebook has made some pretty significant changes to the news feed.  Mark Tonkelowitz, Engineering Manager at Facebook, detailed the changes on the Facebook Blog yesterday. These changes come only one week after Facebook announced improved friend list capabilities. In a nutshell, all of these changes are an attempt by Facebook to show the news and updates, they think the users, want to see.

The first major change is the addition of “Top Stories” to the news feed. If it has been a while between visits, Facebook will show the top photos and statuses that were posted while you were gone. Facebook compares this feature to a newspaper. Instead of everything being in chronological order, a newspaper shows you the most important news first. Below you will see a picture of how the “Top Stories” will appear in your news feed. Notice the blue corner denoting a “Top Story”.

Image Courtesy of Facebook Blog

If you frequent Facebook more often, you will see the more recent stories first. You will also notice in the picture below, pictures will be displayed larger in the feed.

New Story
Image Courtesy of Facebook Blog

The second major change is the addition of the “Ticker”. The “Ticker” is a real time feed that will be located in the top right corner of the screen, just above the chat section. Below, you will see an example of how the “Ticker” will look. When you see something that interests you in the “Ticker” feed, click on it to see the full story. The neat thing about this feature is that you can respond to updates in real time without having to navigate away from the main news page.

Ticker
Image Courtesy of Facebook Blog

It is yet to be seen whether these new features will be embraced as improvements, or just another annoying change. There are already a lot of varied opinions posted in response to this blog post. Facebook is banking a lot on its ability to provide its users with the news they want. This seems like a pretty tall order. The big question is will they be able to come up with some  algorithm that can figure out what news is important to a person?

What do you think? Do you see these changes as an improvement? I would be interested in hearing your take on the features.

Facebook Adding Improved Friend Lists

Facebook announced today that, beginning this week, users will begin to see improved “Friend Lists”. The new features are very similar to Google+ features. Recognizing that lists are often hard to organize, Facebook has sought to make the task a little more simple. They announced three improvements:

  • Smart lists  – You’ll see smart lists that create themselves and stay up-to-date based on profile info that your friends have in common with you–like your work, school, family and city.
  • Close Friends and Acquaintances lists  – You can see your best friends’ photos and posts in one place, and see less from people you’re not as close to.
  • Better suggestions  – You can add the right friends to your lists without a lot of effort.
“Smart Lists” is the first feature to be added. They are automatically populated based on four categories:
  • Work
  • School
  • Family
  • City
Facebook Lists
Courtesy of Facebook Blog
For example, if you list a high school on your profile, and your other friends list the same school, then they will automatically be added to a smart list with that school’s name as the heading. Though they are automatically generated, these lists can be manually edited. With these smart lists, you can share photos with a specific list instead of blasting it out to everyone.
For those friends to whom you are closest, there is now a “Close Friends” list. When you add friends to this list, it will prioritize their posts to show up in your news feeds. You now have the ability to see a feed with only your closest friend’s photos and posts in it. You can also set notifications for when they post. There is also an “Acquaintances  List”. When you move people to this group, you will see less of their posts in your news feed. Major changes, like marital status, will still show up in your feed. The “Close Friends” and “Acquaintances” lists are manually updated by you. Facebook will not attempt to figure out who belongs in these groups.
The last feature improvement was to friend suggestions. Facebook will now make recommendations based on your lists. When you add a friend, you will be able to choose right then which list is appropriate for them. In the picture below, you can see an example of how this will look.
Add to list
Courtesy of Facebook Blog
Not only can you use lists to see exactly what you want, but you can also limit who sees what you post. You can use the “audience selector” button on each post, which will let you choose the lists that you want to be able to see that post. You can also use the “audience selector” next to every detail in your profile.
I believe that these changes are a huge step in the right direction. There is a lot of criticism on the blog comments already about Facebook wanting to be like Google+. Personally, I believe that these changes are a no-brainer and bring much needed improvement to their service.
What do you think? Are these features you will find useful? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Twitter Now 100 Million Strong

The Twitter Blog announced today there are now 100 million active users of its service around the globe. It was only five years ago, when @Jack sent the first Tweet to his humble seven followers. Fast forward to today, and that number is a whopping 1.7 million + followers. Wow! It just shows the exponential growth Twitter has experienced in such a small amount of time.

Twitter’s global, and now with the International Space Station’s use,  outer space reach, transcends continents, languages, and many cultures. In the coming weeks they hope to add more languages by “launching Hindi, Filipino, Malay and Simplified and Traditional Chinese”. They pride themselves on giving a voice to many people around the world. They also say that Twitter is more than just Tweeting. According to the blog “40 percent of our active users simply sign in to listen to what’s happening in their world”.

There is no doubt that Twitter has changed the way our world communicates. From government agencies to news reporters, from Athletes to their coaches, entertainers, preachers, non profits, and everyone in between, Twitter has become the loudspeaker from which we all speak. The Twitter blog was quick to point out how it has enabled ordinary citizens to become news breakers. For instance, the first picture of the US Airways Airplane that landed in the Hudson River.

Twitter you have reached a significant milestone, one you certainly should be proud of. I wish Twitter all the best and hope the best is yet to come for their future.

Former Whitehouse Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles, Joins Facebook Board of Directors

Facebook announced in a press release yesterday, the newest member of its Board of Directors, Erskine Bowles. Bowles will join the social networking powerhouse to work along with esteemed colleagues  Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz; Jim Breyer of Accel Partners; Donald E. Graham, chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company; Reed Hastings, chairman and CEO of Netflix; and Peter Thiel of Clarium Capital and Founders Fund.

Erskine Bowles

Bowles has been successful in both business and politics. He recently led the University of North Carolina system as President. He also worked under U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was first appointed by Clinton in 1993 to head the Small Business Administration. He was later asked to be Chief of Staff in 1996. His business experience started at Morgan Stanley. From there, he went on to start several venture capital and financial firms. According to the press release, Bowles “has held important roles in government, academia and business which have given him insight into how to build organizations and navigate complex issues”.

It will be interesting to see what directions Facebook will take with the addition of its newest member. Perhaps there will be more focus on social networking’s role in education. It is already a well known fact that social networking can play a huge role in politics. Just look at the recent middle east uprisings and you will see evidence of that.

What if you were on Facebook’s board? What direction would you steer the social networking giant? Would you focus on going public, or would you focus on a more philanthropic goal? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please take a moment to comment in the form at the bottom of this article.

Oprah Winfrey to be Guest on Facebook Live

Facebook announced on its wall  that Oprah Winfrey will be doing a live discussion with them on their Facebook Live Streaming channel. A link to the event can be found here.

Oprah Facebook Live Event

 

The event will be held Thursday, September 8 at 4:30PM EST. If you follow the link to the event, you will be given the opportunity to post questions on the wall which may be answered at some point during the live show.

Another exciting opportunity for Oprah fans is the chance to be one of the students in her Lifeclass.  Oprah left her prime time position in May of 2011 to start her “OWN” (Oprah Winfrey Network) network. She will be doing a series of life classes which sets out to expound on “all of Oprah’s lessons and aha moments over the past 25 years broken down to help make your life better, happier, richer – more fulfilling.” You can learn more about Oprah’s “OWN” network by going to her Facebook page  http://www.facebook.com/ownTV.

OWN Network Page

Oprah’s rags to riches success story is an inspiration to millions of people across the globe. It is no surprise that Facebook would like to involve her in their Facebook Live series. Her name is synonymous with success. I believe that a lot of her fans will find this event very informative, and for the few who win a chance to meet her face to face, possibly life changing.

Are you attending?   Comment below!

Mobs and Riots – British Solution is Social Media Censorship?

ban social mediaThis year we’ve seen democracy protests in Egypt, flash mobs in Cleveland and Chicago, and most recently, rioting, looting and fires in England. What do all of these have in common? They have all been enabled to some extent by social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

What is the most natural reaction of a big government to a problem caused by social media? Naturally, they try to ban or censor it. We saw this happen in Egypt, when Mubarak shut down the internet. We’ve seen how Pakistan has shut down Facebook. It seems like more and more countries are following China’s great example for isolating people from news and social networks.

So what would you expect from the politicians of Britain? It looks like the impulse to protect people from the Internet (for their own good) isn’t absent in Britain, after the riots there. A report from EFF.org (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) provides a quote from Prime Minister Cameron which displays another misguided swipe at free speech in social media:

…when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality. I have also asked the police if they need any other new powers.

video of London riots

Is this what England needs? Do they need police powers to censor social media? Of course they do, after all, it worked so well in Libya and Egypt. We’ll know more about what’s going to shake out from the rhetoric once members from social media services Facebook and Blackberry RIM meet with UK government officials on the 25th of August.

I hope that freedom wins over a restrictive political solution. As Ben Franklin once said “He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.

The police need more understanding of how social media works, and not more power to stop it from working.

How To Delete Phonebook Contacts From Facebook

recently came under a lot of fire for storing contacts and phone numbers from your phone contacts directly on their servers. This feature was part of the mobile sync they have in their apps. This feature formerly known as Phonebook has been available for a long time, however some recent Facebook mass updates caused it to come to the fore.

Facebook has said that the Phone Numbers "Published" to Everyone is Fake, however, they still have the data they have synched from the phone with them.

If you are not comfortable having your business or personal contacts phone numbers, emails and other information stored on Facebook, here is how you can delete them.

Step 1: Head over to Facebook.com on a desktop PC and log in. Once you have done that, click on the "Account" menu in the right hand side corner and then click on the "Edit Friends" link.

Step 2: On the Edit Friends page, click on the "Contacts" option in the left hand side sidebar of the page.

Delete Facebook Phonebook Contacts

Step 3: If you have used Facebook on your mobile device, you will see a list of all the contacts here. To delete these contacts from Facebook, click on the link that says "this page" or visit this link directly (requires login).

Remove Imported Phone Contacts from Facebook

Step 4: On the next page, Facebook will give you the usual yada yada about why you should not delete your Facebook contacts and how it will help you. If you are very sure about deleting the message you should just ignore it and click on the "Remove" button.

You will have to also stop syncing your phone contacts with Facebook. We will show you how to do it for and in future posts.

Express Your Life With Pinterest

I have to admit, I am a sucker for the visual arts. I often tell my wife that I am the reason people still spend money on billboards. I am the kind of guy that will nearly run the car off the road looking at billboard signs. You can imagine my thrill when I found a great social networking site geared towards all things visual called “Pinterest“.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The site seeks to connect people through common interests. People post things they like that they’ve seen on the web to their “boards” and, like Twitter, people can follow your boards and you can follow theirs.

How does it work, you ask? When you first go the Pinterest website, you will be greeted with a montage of stunning images shared from all over the web. Below, you will see a picture of the main page.

Pinterest Main Page

You will notice that there is a button to “Request an Invite” from Pinterest. If you click this button, you will see the screen pictured below.

Sign Up

Shortly after submitting an invitation request, you will receive a greeting in your email with a link to sign up. You will see a screen similar to the one pictured below when you click that link. Pinterest links with an existing Facebook or Twitter account. They claim it makes it easier to find friends and share your interests. I suspect they didn’t want to reinvent the social networking wheel.

Facebook Connect

Once you have connected to your Facebook account, you are taken to a page where you can indicate certain interests that you have. If you look in the picture below, there are several categories from which to choose. Pinterest will automatically sign you up to follow certain people based on the interests that you chose. You have the option to unfollow these people at any time.

Interests

You will now have the option create pinboards of your own. Below, you will see the default suggested categories for pinboards. These are merely suggestions and you can add or delete as many as you like. Once you have added all of the pinboard categories you like, click “Create”.

Create Pinboards

Lastly, you will be given the option to install the Pinterest button to your browser. This will allow you to easily pin something to one of your boards from any website. I think this is a good idea. You don’t have to install it if you don’t want to, but then the process of adding pins is a little more manual. When you hit the Pinterest button in your browser, it automatically picks the images off of the page and gives you the choice of which image you want to pin.  Below, you will see a group of images from a website about Ayers Rock.

Pin This

When you click “Pin This” on an image, you will be taken to a dialog box like the one below. You will be given the option to pick which board you want to pin the image to. You also have the options of giving it a description, mentioning Facebook friends, and adding tags. When you are ready, click “Pin It” and you are done.

Create Pin

Pinterest is a unique way to network with people through the sharing of images. You can make wish lists, plan a wedding, plan an interior design, and much more. Frankly, it is only limited by your imagination and creativity. I hope you enjoy using Pinterest.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to comment below.

Facebook Tweaks Account Settings, Again

Facebook might have come under fire on numerous occasions over privacy concerns; however, the fact is that Facebook has always offered fairly granular settings. The trouble has always been with the default settings, and the often convoluted process involved in changing these default settings.

In an attempt to fix this, Facebook has tweaked the accounts settings section on several occasions in the past. The latest refresh was rolled out a few minutes ago. No settings have been added or deleted. Facebook has simply improved the design of the Account Settings page to make editing and updating your account information easier. Perhaps stung by criticism about the closed nature of its service, Facebook is also making it easier to export your own data. Unfortunately, the data that gets exported hasn’t changed and is still pretty limited.

Facebook-Account-Settings

This update is purely a cosmetic change. However, traditionally every little change on Facebook has been met with a vocal backlash. It will be interesting to see if there’s one in this case too. My guess is that most people simply wouldn’t notice the changes as they are quite insignificant, and the loudmouths are busy shouting about the horrendous new chat-bar anyway.

How To Get Back Old Facebook Chat

Recently, rolled out a new video calling feature in collaboration with Skype. The new feature allowed for one-to-one video chatting with your friends. However, they also rolled out a new  chat sidebar which has been annoying people to no end.

Facebook Video Chat

Facebook has been known to annoy users with newer design changes, and it is no surprise that people are upset with such an attitude. Last time Facebook annoyed users with a new rollout for the image viewer, however, you can easily disable the Facebook Theater mode too.

Earlier last month, Google also annoyed users by changing their homepage design and adding a black bar at the top. You can easily remove the black bar in Google and similarly also revert back to the old Facebook chat.

Also Read: Group Video Chat on Facebook with Social Hangouts

In order to get rid of the new Facebook sidebar chat that has been included, you will need to install a script. Just head over to this link and click on the install button. This will install the script and revert Facebook chat to the older version.

The script should work out of the box in and with the Greasemonkey add-on installed. If you are using a browser like , Internet Explorer or Safari you might want to read our earlier guide about a workaround to run Greasemonkey scripts in Opera, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Don’t forget to read our earlier article on how you can make Facebook better in Google Chrome.

Update: You can also use a called Facebook Cool to restore the old Facebook chat. Download the extension from here.