Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How does Facebook generate the list of friend icons on the left side of my profile screen?
October 1, 2009 1:42 PM   Subscribe

How does Facebook generate the list of friend icons on the left side of my profile screen?

How does it decide which ones to display? Does it pick people who've visited my profile lately? Or people whose profiles I've visited? Does it try to mix up people from a variety of groups -- these ones from high school, these from that online group, a certain amount of men, a certain amount of women? I have a hard time believing that the process is entirely random because I've noticed some friend icons appear only at certain points during the week and never appearing during other times of the week.

So what's the deal?
posted by jason's_planet to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've always wondered if it was people who had searched me recently because I get a lot of weird ones... ones that I have never looked at.
posted by dragonette1 at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2009


The best I can tell, it's completely random.

Icons on the right side, like suggested friends and whatnot are absolutely NOT random.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2009


If you didn't notice, there's a little pencil icon that gives you some control over it, like only including certain networks or always including certain people.
posted by smackfu at 1:57 PM on October 1, 2009


If you didn't notice, there's a little pencil icon that gives you some control over it, like only including certain networks or always including certain people.

I did actually notice that, thank you.

But I don't want to control which icons are displayed. I'd just like to know how Facebook chooses which ones pop up, because the process just doesn't seem random to me.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:05 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


My unsubstantiated speculation is that it's largely random, though somewhat weighted by a "rank" assigned to your friends, affected largely by how active they are and how closely intertwined your social graphs are.

For a company that collects as much data about its users as Facebook does, I strongly doubt anything there is truly random.
posted by mkultra at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2009


There seems to be some churn, and names rise and fall without -- is far as I an tell -- reference to the factors mkultra cites. However, they do not seem to be totally randomly selected: I will see the same name and pictures five or six logins in a row then these will not appear again for ages.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:48 PM on October 1, 2009


Best as I can tell, it's a mix of who's online at a given time, who posts the most on your wall/status/photos and who visits your profile most often. I think this is seeded with totally random picks to make everything seem all that more difficult to discern. I have a fan page on facebook as well as a profile and I've noticed that everytime I look at it, the "fans" section shows me three people I am personally friends with and three strangers I am NOT friends with. So there is some smart stuff going on there.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:56 PM on October 1, 2009


I think it's a mix of both a little bit of random and the mutual friends of someone visiting your profile. I have noticed that, even with fan pages or friends with hundreds or thousands of friends, who shows up in the box is strongly weighted towards people I know. eg, if I visit a band with 10,000 fans, I have noticed that 3-4 of the 6 fans shown are often my friends.
posted by icebourg at 3:37 PM on October 1, 2009


FWIW humans are terrible at deciding whether things are random. We are so predisposed to find patterns in things that it's not unusual for people to claim they have found a pattern in random data, even after being told that it's random and shown the method of generation (qv lottery numbers, etc).

In other words, don't believe anyone who doesn't have the statistics to back it up :-)
posted by cogat at 3:50 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Having said that, Facebook wouldn't be doing its job if it didn't weight your community experience towards people you know.
posted by cogat at 3:51 PM on October 1, 2009


Same question asked previously.
posted by special-k at 4:06 PM on October 1, 2009


Thanks, guys!
posted by jason's_planet at 9:20 PM on October 1, 2009


Of course, there's also the likelihood that if I'm your friend and visit your page, the six (non-mutual) featured friends that I see might be a result of a whole 'nother algorithm.

But I'm curious about chrisamiller's comment, that the suggested friends are more obviously not randomly posted. I do seem to notice one name more often than others, but it could just be confirmation bias, and I don't have any mutual friends with said person. Can anyone elaborate on that?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:41 PM on October 1, 2009


I'm almost certain they addressed this on the Facebook Blog at one point, but I can't find it. I think they said it skews toward showing people who's profile you click on a lot, or people who click on yours a lot, I can't remember which.
posted by lohmannn at 5:36 AM on October 2, 2009


The issue of "Suggested Friends" is addressed somewhat in today's Slate. From a FB spokesman: "If someone imports their contacts and your name is found, you might get a recommendation to be their friend".
posted by mkultra at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2009


« Older Can you think of any silly &qu...   |  What type of massage should I ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.