One of my friends recently got engaged and posted that fact on Facebook. I missed it.
It’s one of the frustrations of the constantly flowing river of news in social networks — births, deaths, weddings and job changes get lost amid the links to pictures of kittens, “what state should I live in quizzes?”, stories about Internet celebrities and the other trivia of life.
There’s no way to get a summary of the important stuff. On many news sites, we have a variety of clues: the size of a headline and the relative placement of stories serve as indicators a story’s importance. We need similar clues for social media.
One place to start is the publisher: the author knows how important it is relative to other entries they write. I post content to social networks on average 5-6 times a day. About once or twice a month I post something that I’d want to call extra attention to. But short of posting it repeatedly (further polluting the stream) there’s no way to call attention to it.
Something like this wouldn’t work in an open Web environment where spammers would designate everything they create as spam; but in a social context, the network serves as a check against excessive spamming.
Another way to identify important content is to look at how many people act on it. If a lot of people like a post or comment on it, that post is likely more significant than others. This should be normalized so that someone with a lot of followers or a more active network doesn’t drown out others with smaller networks.
Identifying important content also helps when looking at a longer period of time than the last hour or last day. It would be useful to be able to look back through my Facebook or Twitter history and see what were the most important things this year.