Are Facebook Users or Apps Spamming the News Feed?

Since Facebook released their new design last week, a number of users have been complaining about the prevalence of applications within their news feed and I can understand why. Many feed stories have been showing up from a number of applications which end up publishing multiple stories about a user in a short period of time. The end result is that users will occasionally view their homepage and suddenly there are 5 or more feed stories from the same application.

While some users may actually choose to display a feed story, the odds of a user deciding to publish multiple feed stories in a short amount of time seems highly unlikely. While I understand the value of application feed stories, for an application to publish multiple feed stories because they sent multiple drinks to friends doesn’t justify them littering my feed.

This is a serious issue for feeds because sometimes, while a user has taken multiple actions on a site, we don’t want to hear about them. For example, it would be interesting to know that a user listened to a song but we don’t want to know the whole soundtrack to their lives necessarily by publishing a story every single time they listen to a new title.

Users Learn To Manage Feed Stories Over Time

One other reason for a decreased value of unfiltered feeds is that users are going through a natural evolution of understanding status feed stories. For example on Twitter, the content within early streams were essentially useless. Some users would tweet about even the most personal items including “Sitting on a toilet” or a more popular story “Eating a hamburger”.

Perform a search on Twitter for the term “eating” and you’ll quickly see a large number of early users of Twitter. If you check the more active users (that are not celebrities), I would bet that you’ll see a higher density of tweets that actually add value to their followers. For example, sharing an extremely interesting news story provides value.

Some Applications Violate Our Trust

On Facebook we often find interesting photos and videos display right within our feeds but statuses have yet to come up to par with rich-media feed stories. Some applications appear to be pushing the limits of feed publishing, ultimately decreasing the value of a user’s feed at any given moment. There are few occasions in which publishing multiple feed stories truly add value.

When all is said and done though, should the developers of applications or Facebook be responsible for the volume of stories being published? Ultimately, those applications that continuously publish valueless feed stories will decrease in popularity, right? Twitter places few limits on the applications that integrate with the site, meaning a user’s feed could theoretically be spammed.

Twitter users will typically place blame on the user and unsubscribe from their feed. Based on conversations I’ve had, users on Facebook typically place blame on the application not the user since their Facebook relationship frequently has a much higher priority.

So who do you think is at fault for spamming your feeds: users or applications?

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