His accolades did not end there. He returned home to the Lakers organization as the President of Basketball Operations. Weeks after they became husband and wife, Johnson was given his devastating HIV diagnosis. She stood by his side and he spoiled her with a lavish, over-the-top 25 anniversary party in September The couple has two children together. Johnson also has an older son, Andre, born in , from a previous relationship. The former baller uses his notoriety as a platform to educate people on HIV with his organization, Magic Johnson Foundation.
Back when he was a junior high student, Magic Johnson knew he was destined for big things LeBron James isn't going anywhere but L. Email Or Call It was a way for Facebook to enlist its users in solving the problem of how best to filter their own news feeds. Publishers, advertisers, hoaxsters, and even individual users began to glean the elements that viral posts tended to have in common—the features that seemed to trigger reflexive likes from large numbers of friends, followers, and even random strangers.
Many began to tailor their posts to get as many likes as possible. Drowned out were substance, nuance, sadness, and anything that provoked thought or emotions beyond a simple thumbs-up. Engagement metrics were up—way up—but was this really what the news feed should be optimizing for? A couple of years ago, we knew we needed to look at more than just likes and clicks to improve how News Feed worked for these kinds of cases.
Only humans can do that. They knew that might mean sacrificing some short-term engagement—and maybe revenue—in the name of user satisfaction. With Facebook raking in money, and founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg controlling a majority of the voting shares , the company had the rare luxury to optimize for long-term value. But that still left the question of how exactly to do it. Media organizations have historically defined what matters to their audience through their own editorial judgment.
But Cox and his colleagues at Facebook have taken pains to avoid putting their own editorial stamp on the news feed. Instead, their working definition of what matters to any given Facebook user is just this: There were about 1, of those people, and until recently, most of them lived in Knoxville, Tennessee. He traffics in problems and generalities, where Alison deals in solutions and specifics. I wrote about several of those innovations here.
Cathcart started by gathering more subtle forms of behavioral data: But what signal could Facebook use to capture that information? Mosseri deputized product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors to oversee the feed quality panel and ask it just those sorts of questions.
Out of that research emerged a tweak that Facebook revealed in June , in which the algorithm boosted the rankings of stories that users spent more time viewing in their feeds. By late summer , Facebook disbanded the Knoxville group and began to expand the feed quality panel overseas.
It took a different kind of data—qualitative human feedback—to begin to fill them in. It has responded by developing a sort of checks-and-balances system in which every news feed tweak must undergo a battery of tests among different types of audiences, and be judged on a variety of different metrics. That balancing act is the task of the small team of news feed ranking engineers, data scientists, and product managers who come to work every day in Menlo Park.
It is exactly the sort of small problem, however, that Facebook now considers critical. Not everyone uses Facebook the same way, however. When Facebook dug deeper, it found that a small subset of those 5 percent were hiding almost every story they saw—even ones they had liked and commented on.
Yet their actions were biasing the data that Facebook relied on to rank stories. It treats your likes as identical in value to mine, and the same is true of our hides. For the superhiders, however, the ranking team decided to make an exception. Tas was tasked with tweaking the code to identify this small group of people and to discount the negative value of their hides.
That might sound like a simple fix. But the algorithm is so precious to Facebook that every tweak to the code must be tested—first in an offline simulation, then among a tiny group of Facebook employees, then on a small fraction of all Facebook users—before it goes live. Diagnostic tools are set up to detect an abnormally large change on any one of these crucial metrics in real time, setting off a sort of internal alarm that automatically notifies key members of the news feed team.
If the team is satisfied that the change is a positive one, free of unintended consequences, the engineers in charge of the code on the iOS, Android, and Web teams will gradually roll it out to the public at large. Presumably, however, the superhiders of the world are now marginally more satisfied with their news feeds, and thus more likely to keep using Facebook, sharing stories with friends, and viewing the ads that keep the company in business. But there is one other group of humans that Facebook is turning to more and more as it tries to keep the news feed relevant: The survey that Facebook has been running over the past six months—asking a subset of users to choose their favorite among two side-by-side posts—is an attempt to gather the same sort of data from a much wider sample than is possible through the feed quality panel.
The algorithm is still the driving force behind the ranking of posts in your feed. But Facebook is increasingly giving users the ability to fine-tune their own feeds—a level of control it had long resisted as onerous and unnecessary. Facebook has spent seven years working on improving its ranking algorithm, Mosseri says.
What do you not want to see? Which friends do you always want to see at the top of your feed? Those are now questions that Facebook allows every user to answer for herself. How to do all of these things is not immediately obvious to the casual user: You have to click a tiny gray down arrow in the top right corner of a post to see those options. Most people never do. But as the limitations of the fully automated feed have grown clearer, Facebook has grown more comfortable highlighting these options via occasional pop-up reminders with links to explanations and help pages.
It is also testing new ways for users to interact with the news feed, including alternate, topic-based news feeds and new buttons to convey reactions other than like. The shift is partly a defensive one. Instagram, which Facebook acquired in in part to quell the threat posed by its fast-growing popularity, simply shows you every photo from every person you follow in chronological order. Facebook is not the only data-driven company to run up against the limits of algorithmic optimization in recent years.
It would be premature to declare the age of the algorithm over before it really began, but there has been a change in velocity. Could giving people the news feed they say they want actually make it less addictive than it was before? The data so far, he explains, suggest that placing more weight on surveys and giving users more options have led to an increase in overall engagement and time spent on the site.