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Facebook launches a series tests to inform future changes to its News Feed algorithms

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Facebook may be reconfiguring its News Feed algorithms. After being grilled by lawmakers about the role that Facebook played in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the company announced this morning it will be rolling out a series of News Feed ranking tests that will ask users to provide feedback about the posts they’re seeing, which will later be incorporated into Facebook’s News Feed ranking process. Specifically, Facebook will be looking to learn which content people find inspirational, what content they want to see less of (like politics), and what other topics they’re generally interested in, among other things.

This will be done through a series of global tests, one of which will involve a survey directly beneath the post itself which asks, “How much were you inspired by this post?,” with the goal of helping to show more people posts of an inspirational nature closer at the top of the News Feed.

Image Credits: Facebook

Another test will work to the Facebook News Feed experience to reflect what people want to see. Today, Facebook prioritizes showing you content from friends, Groups and Pages you’ve chosen to follow, but it has algorithmically crafted an experience of whose posts to show you and when based on a variety of signals. This includes both implicit and explicit signals — like how much you engage with that person’s content (or Page or Group) on a regular basis, as well as whether you’ve added them as a “Close Friend” or “Favorite” indicating you want to see more of their content than others, for example.

However, just because you’re close to someone in real life, that doesn’t mean that you like what they post to Facebook. This has driven families and friends apart in recent years, as people discovered by way of social media how people they thought they knew really viewed the world. It’s been a painful reckoning for some. Facebook hasn’t managed to fix the problem, either. Today, users still scroll News Feeds that reinforce their views, no matter how problematic. And with the growing tide of misinformation, the News Feed has gone from just placing users into a filter bubble to presenting a full alternate reality for some, often populated by conspiracy theories.

Facebook’s third test doesn’t necessarily tackle this problem head-on, but instead looks to gain feedback about what users want to see, as a whole. Facebook says that it will begin asking people whether they want to see more or fewer posts on certain topics, like Cooking, Sports, Politics and more. Based on users’ collective feedback, Facebook will adjust its algorithms to show more content people say they’re interested in and fewer posts about topics they don’t want to see.

The area of politics, specifically, has been an issue for Facebook. The social network for years has been charged with helping to fan the flames of political discourse, polarizing and radicalizing users through its algorithms, distributing misinformation at scale, and encouraging an ecosystem of divisive clickbait, as publishers sought engagement instead of fairness and balance when reporting the news. There are now entirely biased and subjective outlets posing as news sources who benefit from algorithms like Facebook’s, in fact.

Shortly after the Capitol attack, Facebook announced it would try clamping down on political content in the News Feed for a small percentage of people in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, for period of time during tests.

Now, the company says it will work to better understand what content is being linked to negative News Feed experiences, including political content. In this case, Facebook may ask users on posts with a lot of negative reactions what sort of content they want to see less of. This will be done through surveys on certain posts as well as through ongoing research sessions where people are invited to talk about their News Feed experience, Facebook told TechCrunch.

It will also more prominently feature the option to hide posts you find “irrelevant, problematic or irritating.” Although this feature existed before, you’ll now be able to tap an X in the upper-right corner of a post to hide it from the News Feed, if in the test group, and see fewer like it in the future, for a more personalized experience.

Image Credits: Facebook

It’s not clear that allowing users to pick and choose their topics is the best way to solve the larger problems with negative posts, divisive content or misinformation, though this test is less about the latter and more about making the News Feed “feel” more positive.

As the data is collected from the tests, Facebook will incorporate the findings into its News Feed ranking algorithms. But it’s not clear to what extent it will be adjusting the algorithm on a global basis versus simply customizing the experience for end users on a more individual basis over time. The company tells TechCrunch the survey data will be collected from a small percentage of users who are placed into the test groups, which will then be used to train a machine learning model.

It will also be exploring ways to give people more direct controls over what sort of content they see on the News Feed in the future.

The company says the tests will run over the next few months.

TechCrunch

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Man Recalls A Dating Catastrophe When He Invited A Felon He Met Online Over To Hangout

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YourTango

There exists a subreddit where people explain stories by setting the precedent of, “Today I F–ked Up,” called “r/TIFU.”

One man shared how he messed up by inviting a girl over to his place, not expecting the night to take a turn for the worst before he had to go to work the next day.

His second date turned into a night of horror after his date started drinking during dinner.

In order to provide some context, he explained how he met the girl on Facebook Dating and had gone on his first date with her over the weekend.

“I did notice that she only smiled with her top row of teeth in the pictures and figured that her bottom teeth might be effed up, but didn’t think much of it,” he explained, already pointing out potential red flags. “She had trad wife energy and I was into it.”

RELATED: Kindergarten Teacher Says A Mom Gave Her A Vacuum To ‘Turn On’ When Her Daughter Misbehaves

He explained that during their first date, he had learned a lot about her, including her history of battling eating disorders which explained the messed up teeth.

He learned that she doesn’t drink often and that she lives with her parents because she’s preparing for surgery that will require a lot of physical therapy.

“This is all a red herring — nothing about this TIFU has to do with the teeth,” he explains. “I wanted to mention it because I was so focused on this that I didn’t pick up the other red flags.”



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Zuckerberg says Meta Quest 3 will get Quest Pro’s key tech feature

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Renderings of the Meta Quest 3 based on leaked CAD images

Meta Quest 3 is not a reality yet but it is expected to launch this year, probably in the fall at a Meta Connect event. This will be Meta’s consumer focussed headset that will succeed the Meta Quest 2. We recently heard rumors about the headset being much slimmer with more compact display lenses than the Quest 2 and that it could run on a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset. 

Now, Meta’s recent earnings release has shed some light on new information around the Quest 3. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has confirmed that the Quest 3 will have support for Meta Reality — the technology that allows the headset to be used for both augmented reality as well as virtual reality. This means that the Quest 3 will be a mixed reality headset and not just have virtual reality — much like the premium, enterprise-focussed Meta Quest Pro. This is something we had heard of before, but Zuckerberg seems to have confirmed it.

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5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week

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Apex Legends Mobile Cinematic Scene 7

Joe Hindy / Android Authority

Welcome to the 470th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week.

  • YouTube Music has an annoying censorship bug on Nest Hubs. It doesn’t let you play music with sensitive album art. You get the same warning on the phone app, but you can usually bypass it. Unfortunately, there are limited ways to bypass it on your Nest Hub. Hit the link to learn more.
  • A former Facebook employee says Facebook can intentionally kill your battery. It does so through a process termed negative testing, where the app acts out, tanks your battery, and Facebook collects the data with it. It doesn’t happen to a ton of people, but it can happen to anyone.
  • Samsung updated Good Lock this week, just in time for its Samsung Galaxy S23 launch. The update added an option to update every installed plugin at once. Previously, you had to update each one individually. It’s a minor quality-of-life improvement, but it’s a welcome one.
  • ChatGPT is getting more serious. You can now spend $20 per month for a more powerful version of OpenAI’s bot. It’s only available to US customers right now, but it may expand later. The bot is also causing waves at Google, causing the company to ramp up its own AI work.
  • Apex Legends Mobile is shutting down after less than one year. EA made the announcement just a month after half of the Internet, including us, dubbed it the best new game of 2022. EA cites challenges with the content pipeline. It makes sense, since many of the newer updates have included a host of bugs that the developers just can’t seem to squash. Oh well, it was a nice run.

Pompom: The Great Space Rescue

Price: Free / $5.49

Pompom: The Great Space Rescue is a platformer. You play as Pompom and you progress through the game by jumping through and around obstacles, avoiding enemies, and solve puzzles to progress. It pays ode to the 16-bit era of gaming, so you’ll see a lot of elements, including graphics, from that era. There are also a bunch of weapons and tools you’ll get to help you on your way. The actual gameplay has some runner elements where you run forward automatically, and that’s not a 16-bit era style, but the game is still fun.

Memori Note

Price: Free / $2.49

Memori Note screenshot 2023

Memori Note is a note-taking app with an emphasis on reminding you of things. You write down what you want in the app, ask it to remind you about it at a random time, and it’ll do just that. The app also has color coding, a tags and filters system, and we think it looks pretty nice with its muted colors. There are also some backup settings if you want to transfer notes to a new device. We’re not sure how well it’ll do long term, but it definitely has the potential.

Devil Hunter Idle

Price: Free to play

Devil Hunter Idle is an action idle game. Your character hacks and slashes its way to level-ups, loot, and resources. You use those resources to strengthen your character so they can go back out and hack and slash more bad guys. That’s the primary gameplay loop, and it plays similarly to classic games like Buff Knight. The game’s over-the-top art style makes it feel like a lot more is happening, and the player does get to control some aspects of combat. The advertising is annoying, but you can pay to remove all of them. Other than that and some early bugs, the game is decent for its genre.

Rewind: Music Time Travel

Price: Free

Rewind Music Time Travel screenshot 2023

Rewind: Music Time Travel is an app for music rediscovery. It’s basically a big timeline that you scroll through to see what the music world looked like in any given year. It’s a neat way to rediscover old hits, and remind yourself of stuff you used to listen to. When I tested this one, I used it to help fill out my YouTube Music library a little bit since I had forgotten some of the songs I used to listen to. This isn’t something you’ll use long-term, but it’s a neat little app anyway.

Checkers Clash

Price: Free to play

Checkers Clash is an online competitive game where you play checkers. It’s not a complicated experience. You get into a game with an opponent. The two of you take turns until one of you runs out of pieces or concedes the match. You can also invite your friends and play against them as well. Some other game features include 8×8 and 10×10 board options, bots to play against to improve your skill, and a rewards system where you collect various things. The matchmaking system is imperfect, as it is in almost all online games, but it’s one of the few competitive checkers apps on mobile.


If we missed any big Android apps or games releases, tell us about it in the comments.
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