Gossips
Grouping topics together in Facebook's famous News Feed is leading to hilarious, confusing, and even tasteless results.

What’s everyone going on and on about?

Facebook is in theory, trying to answer that question, by making it easier to see patterns in your friends’ chatter by  launching a new feature that groups status updates under topics in users’ newsfeeds. But the result of the experiment, so far, has been a combination of laughs and eye-rolls.

For example, if several of your friends posted news articles and comments about the London riots, they would appear under a group heading on your newsfeed.

“You may notice some of your news feed stories are now grouped together by topic,” the company posted on its Facebook page Monday. “We want to show you the most relevant and interesting information, and this test is designed to show you trends among what your friends are saying.”

An earlier version of the newsfeed aggregation feature was tested by Facebook last year, but that was limited to grouping posts about a specific link, status update, or Facebook page. With this update, Facebook’s algorithms are scanning text for keywords to find ostensibly related posts.

Most of the initial reaction in the first full day of the features availability has been tempered, with users simply pointing out that the change had been made and asking if Facebook friends and Twitter followers had noticed it. Some, like Chris Brandrick noted that the feature had some kinks, complete with a link to a screenshot showing three unrelated stories, all coincidentally mentioning the BBC but not really about the British broadcaster, grouped together: “Facebook is grouping newsfeed content around topics now, sadly it doesn't work. These aren't really related stories: http://t.co/eqFnoqI

Ed Shahzade questioned the logic of the switch on Twitter: “Grouping newsfeed items by 'subject' was unnatural, @Facebook. We don't pre-group our friends. Discussion just flows. #nerds”

Speculation in the comments section of a Mashable article on the change ranged from painting the move as a defensive one against Google+, Google’s new social network, to predictions of “hilarious miscategorizations.”

“Already happened!” noted a reader who posted under the name strayjohno. “Chatter about the London riots (which started in Tottenham) were categorised under ‘Tottenham Hotspur’, a football team. I know that it’s just a technical mishap, but it still feels tasteless.”

Photo by Hamed Parham

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