Two days ago Louis Gray pointed out on FriendFeed that when a new user signs up for FriendFeed that they receive 24 suggested FriendFeed users to follow. I’m one of those 24. There is no mystery to how these 24 users are selected for promotion on the FriendFeed platform, they are simply the 24 FriendFeed users with the most followers.
Once a user subscribes to someone this list changes. it roughly becomes the most popular people followed by their friend(s).
And while Friendfeed’s objective and simplified method of promoting users to new sign ups is probably better than Twitter’s much criticized subjective method of elite favoritism, it could be vastly improved yet.
1. The most popular users are not necessarily the people that will provide a new FriendFeed user the best new experience. When I look at who (in addition to myself) the other 23 default suggested FriendFeed users are I’m struck that a number of them, while very active in tech and the blogosphere, are very inactive on FriendFeed. More than simply a feed reader, FriendFeed is a community. You get the most out of it when you participate. Yes, popular users may provide interesting content, but they might also provide zero engagement and interaction.
I would propose a new main recommended user page that combines both a users number of followers (i.e. popularity rating) and their total number of comments/likes (i.e. activity rating) and averaging the two. By averaging these two elements to provide default recommendations this would provide new users both with users who the community feels provide valuable content, but also users who are engaged. Of course users who are popular and engaged would be promoted the most of all. Averaging these two numbers seems like pretty basic math that any computer algorithm ought to be able to do.
2. One of the problems with ranking users based on a combined popularity/activity rating is that this system precludes new users from gaining recognition and new followers. Because of this I think that this same criteria should be applied to users who have been registered on the site for less than 60 days. A special tab on the recommendation page should be for newer users where existing users could regularly go to find the most active/popular new users to welcome them to the site and see what they are up to.
3. Why limit the list to 24? It would seem to me it would be pretty simple to page the list of recommended users so that users could go beyond the first 24 recommended. By letting me page the recommended users list, FriendFeed would help me find more of my friends and users I might be interested in while providing more than 24 users exposure. If FriendFeed can’t page this list for some reason, I still think that they’d be better off taking say the top 200 ranked users (not just the top 24) and then randomizing them as suggested users.
4. Geography sometimes matters. I’ve long (well long in internet years) believed that FriendFeed needs a profile page. While on the last build they gave us a short space to post a sentence or two about ourself, there still is no way for me to indicate to FriendFeed where I live/work geographically. If FriendFeed allowed their users to voluntarily input their city, state, country, zip code, etc., they could then have a tab on the suggested users page showing users within 100 miles of me.
5. Interests sometimes matter. I’m very interested in finding people on FriendFeed who are photographers and love photography. FriendFeed should allow users to submit interests (sort of like wefollow) and then apply the same popularity/activity rating to a list of things you are interested in. Are there popular friendfeed users who are interested in photography and neon signs and graffiti and art and San Francisco? Then I want to subscribe to them. Right now it’s harder to find these people. By providing interest lists I could find even more people to follow.
So that’s pretty much it. I believe the system above would be a vastly superior recommendation system for Friendfeed (for Twitter as well but I’m not sure they are really paying attention).
By the way, I do think it is *fantastic* that FriendFeed now also lets you scour your gmail/yahoo/hotmail mail and Twitter/Facebook friends to find users on the site that are your email and social network contacts. But my number one feature request for FriendFeed right now is that they give us this same functionality for Flickr. I would think that with the Flickr API, who my contacts at Flickr are would be pretty easy to sniff out. Matching my Flickr contacts up with FriendFeed accounts would vastly improve my already great Flickr/FriendFeed combo experience.
If you are reading this on Flickr by the way. Please sign up for FriendFeed. It’s a much superior way to browse your contacts’ flickrstreams. See more here. If you are a Flickr contact of mine and are already on FriendFeed and I’m not following you, please leave a comment here with your FriendFeed page so that I can add you. You can follow me on FriendFeed here.