Micro.blog

jayeless
jayeless
On Mastodon and Algorithms jayeless.net
jean
jean

@jayeless I think you are right. Every organizing strategy is a choice between something and something else. Reverse chronological favors the voices who post the most. I never looked at it this way. Thanks for the food for thought.

jayeless
jayeless

@jean You're welcome! It is true that everything you could do is a balancing act, which makes it tricky. At least Micro.blog doesn't have boosts, and most people here post thoughtfully, and not 100 times a day 😆 So reverse-chronological order here feels better – more manageable – than on Mastodon.

rom
rom

@jean +1 to @jayeless too.

sod
sod

@jayeless Great post! There's a lot of room for experimentation in this problem space. Fraidycat is a feed reader with an interesting approach:

There is no news feed. Rather than showing you a massive inbox of new posts to sort through, you see a list of recently active individuals. No one can noisily take over this page, since every follow has a summary that takes up a mere two lines.

And speaking about algorithms, I absolutely love how transparent Bear is on their Discovery Feed. Scroll to the bottom to find the algorithm and explanation: Score = log10(U) + (S / D * 8600).

jayeless
jayeless

@sod Fraidycat is a cool find, thanks for sharing! It reminded me a bit of Spring '83 (I'd forgotten the name so it took me sooooo long to find what I was looking for), and how it envisaged a spread where everyone got one board to make their own, and updating meant replacing the previous board. I could see a cool alternate Fediverse interface being one like Fraidycat's, with each account getting the same amount of space at first glance, and expansion being required to see the older posts (or lower-scored posts if some algorithm was used to select the highlighted post).

That's neat that Bear is so open about their algorithm, too 😅

fabio
fabio

@jayeless great post! Nice to read you! A possible idea for a balanced timeline could be: a list of users who posted recently, ordered reverse chronological based on who posted the most recently, but only one post for each user and an expanding box under each that when clicked opens other recent posts.

jayeless
jayeless

@fabio Thank you! That'd definitely make for an interesting alternative interface. I guess that's similar to how status.lol works, too.

odd
odd

@jayeless I’m so going to read this later. I was in the second semester of 7.th grade back then. I had just started listening to AC/DC. Remember it well.

matti
matti

@jayeless @sod The idea is cool, but the introductory video is hard to watch. (I may have become boring.)

KimberlyHirsh
KimberlyHirsh

@jayeless This was a really interesting read. Thanks for sharing these ideas! I find myself struggling with Mastodon and now that I think about it, a lot of it probably is about how many boosts I'm seeing.

mcg
mcg

@jayeless Great post. I do hope we see some more organizational “algorithms” appear. Assuming interest continues, I think we will. The difference will be who controls them, knowing how they work, and motivations for building them. We’ve had almost none of that with adtech, engagement driven commercial silos.

JMaxB
JMaxB

@jean 1. I've occasionally unfollowed people whose posts I like just because there were so many that they dominated the timeline. 2. How I read M.B.: I scroll down to the last item I can remember reading, then work my way up to the most recent. If I've been away from the computer there are too many and I give up. I'm not sure what room for improvement there is here, but @jayeless and the rest of this thread have some tantalizing thoughts.

ReaderJohn
ReaderJohn

@jean FWIW, I review my MB Timeline the same as @JMaxB describes. I try to get there two or three times per day. My only suggestion for improvement would be synchronization between the desktop and smartphone MB apps, so if I've seen it on the phone, the desk will know it.

jean
jean

@jayeless If someone posts several times in a day, they will probably appear only once in Discover here. I say “probably” because I don’t use any tool to keep track. I do see how many times a person’s posts have appeared in Discover, which is a little bit of a guidepost.

I think it would be hard to have any kind of automated Discover that plucks posts from the timeline based on a formula, because Micro.blog accounts are not all equal. Some people use Micro.blog as a blog and are here for the social component. I try to divine whether someone is interested in being on the timeline before throwing them into the fray. We have companies on Micro.blog, but we don’t feature them because we want to promote interactions between individuals. And then of course, there are all the spammers. Some are getting pretty good at appearing like real people at first glance.

jean
jean

@ReaderJohn Tagging @help so Manton sees the suggestion.

jayeless
jayeless

@jean I think the way you manage Discover is really good, and I agree it'd be really difficult to automate it in such a way as to do a comparable job. There are a lot of judgement calls to be made 🙂

@KimberlyHirsh @mcg @JMaxB @matti Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful replies, everyone :)

help
help

@jean @ReaderJohn 👍

gregmoore
gregmoore

@jayeless Your post describes the biggest reason why I thrive on Micro.blog but fail to engage with Mastodon. My hope is that Mastodon, being part of the open internet, figures out a way to allow writing and installing custom algorithms so everyone can shape their timeline in a way that’s most useful to them. It would be especially good if it worked on your account like email rules.

Right now, Micro.blog feels like a small house party where I can have fun conversations with small groups of interesting people. Mastodon, on the other hand, feels like an infinitely-expanding block party where everyone is just shouting over each other.

jayeless
jayeless

@gregmoore Yeah, I get that! I've never once thought to myself, "Man, I follow too many people on Micro.blog, this is overwhelming." I think the lack of boosts helps, and also that people aren't so worried about "building a following" (because you can't see who follows you anyway)… people just post, generally thoughtfully, and then they talk. It's relaxing. Whereas Mastodon is more chaotic in comparison. It can be fun, and it has a larger community (so more niche interests are represented), but there's also a lot more low-quality posts, and some people have no restraint with the "boost" button. I do like both, but better tools for end users to mitigate some of the downsites of Mastodon would be helpful, I think.

matti
matti

@jayeless I actually felt a little bad about my snarky reply to you and @sod about Fraidycat's introductory video.

I'll say though that I enjoyed your post and love the idea of a user-customizable algorithm.

Related but not totally relevant: I would wish that micro.blog had an app with timeline sync. Right now I lose my place in the chronological timeline all the time, which is a stressor of its own (not only can't I thin out my timeline algorithmicly, but I can't easily succeed in completely reading my timeline, because I lose my place all the time). I'm looking forward to improvements in the clients of mastodon/m.b.

dfj
dfj

@jayeless Thank you for this post! The overload of keeping up with a busy feed really resonates with me. Beyond social media, I think this is a factor into why I keeping finding my RSS reader to be less than satisfactory. It’s too much to keep up with, and posts I would like to see from infrequent posters get buried.

I like the model we have here on MB, but I’m sure I’m missing things in the timeline because I now follow enough people that I can’t keep up with it all. And then, even with the Mastodon support, MB’s timeline doesn’t represent everyone online I’d like to follow.

This is an interesting space, hopefully the decline of Twitter will encourage a lot more experimentation and alternatives. I know I’m certainly excited about the possibilities.