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A simple way to improve Facebook suggestions

While we’re on the topic of questionable Facebook “features”… I’m happy to see that I wasn’t the only person complaining about Facebook’s “suggestions” today.

Earlier today, Facebook offered this helpful piece of advice:

Facebook suggests I reconnect with Hossein Derakhshan

Facebook suggests I reconnect with Hossein Derakhshan

I’d love to reconnect with Hossein – he’s been on my mind lately. Unfortunately, he’s in Evin Prison in Tehran, and probably isn’t being allowed to check his Facebook account.

Obviously, Facebook doesn’t know this – they’ve got an algorithm that, likely, is sensitive to inactive accounts. (This is pure guesswork on my part, with nothing to back it up.) Rather than prompting those users to return to Facebook, it encourages their active friends to send them a note, bringing them back within the Facebook fold – quite clever, actually, as it’s social pressure, not pressure from the tool itself.

Of course, it’s going to lead to some awkward suggestions – that you reconnect with a deceased loved one, or the girlfriend who dumped you. The brilliant Randall Munroe explored the topic on xkcd today with typically hilarious results.

I posted an angry Facebook status update and tweet complaining about Facebook’s insensitivity. Obviously, I understand that Facebook can’t be expected to know that my friend is a political prisoner being held incommunicado. But they could consider more carefully wording these suggestions. My friend Scott Hill offered this thoughtful insight:

Personally I’ve configured my browser to block the entire right-hand sidebar (mostly for the ads), but I think this feature could be redeemed with with a little more subtlety: maybe label it “Friend of the Day” with the usual links, without the pressure to do something. If it’s someone who has simply fallen off your radar screen, then the message may prod you into thinking about them and even contacting them if the mood strikes. But if that person happens to be dead or ill or imprisoned, it can still serve as a token of memory.

6 thoughts on “A simple way to improve Facebook suggestions”

  1. Blocking a side of my browser cannot be a good solution for me. I came expecting to read a solution about settings.
    Let’s hope the FB people get to read this complaints and make amends. Its okay to be sensitive about this.

  2. I have the whole suggestions thing is a bit intrusive. there are reasons why some “friends” on my FB fall by the way side. Surely FB should be able to put 2 and 2 together…..

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  4. Facebook also suggests you reconnect with friends less than an hour after you’ve friended them. Someone needs a new algorithm.

  5. Worst still, every other day it asks me to reconnect to Daniel Pádua. Problem is, he has unfortunately passed away a month or so ago. Do they have wifi connection in heaven?

  6. You know, I never thought of FB prompting you to contact your friends as being a way to put social pressure on FB customers, but yeah, you’re right. And social pressure is the best way to get more customers. People will go to something more because their friends suggest it rather than the “product” itself suggesting it.

    Smart on FB’s part though really.

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