Facebook story bumping introduced to News Feed to make it more relevant

Facebook has announced it is making some small changes to its News Feed feature within Facebook including something called Story Bumping that automatically highlights older stories you never got around to seeing in front of those you've already read.

While that sounds complicated and somewhat confusing, it is just one of the ways Facebook says it is trying to make Facebook News Feed more relevant to users, and according to internal figures, it is already working. In testing it has seen a 13 per cent increase in "read" stories.

"The average person today has 1,500 stories per day that they could see," explained Lars Backstrom, engineer manager of News Feed Ranking, to Pocket-lint and a few other select journalists.

The huge number of posts that the News Feed team has to handle is just a glimpse of the task at hand for Facebook every day as it works to try to make the social network relevant as growing numbers of us become more social.

Present from the start of Facebook in 2003, the News Feed has changed drastically from what it was then, to what it now. The News Feed feature received a major revamp earlier this year with a stronger focus on automating the way the information is delivered to users and taking it away from the basic offering it was at the start of Facebook.

"News feed ranking in the past was about turning knobs. It wasn't very scientific, but it worked because of who we were dealing with when we first started," says Chris Cox, VP of product News Feed at Facebook.

In the constant battle of balance, Facebook says it is doing everything it can to balance relevance with publishers and companies demanding that people see their posts.

That system involves Facebook individually scoring posts on a number of factors including whether you have interacted with it, others have interacted with it and so forth.

"We have a system that looks at the way people are interacting, and then tries to balance the content that way. Shares are more important than likes, which are more important than clicks," says Cox.

"We are constantly A/B testing, typically one per cent," says Backstrom. "We change the rules, or maybe the score, and then see how they react. If we make things more relevant. People use Facebook more, they like more stories, the read more posts."

Other changes include a new signal that looks at what you like and then changes the way your feed is shown for the rest of the day. An example would be by liking a friend's comment at the start of the day, you are more likely to see more from her over the next 24 hours.

Facebook isn't stopping there though: in the coming weeks it hopes to roll out a new feature that will chronologically post stories as they happen rather than being controlled by the rules outlined above.

"If you are following a football game," says Backstrom, "we don't want to deliver the punchline first."