Algorithms. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.


When Instagram announced it was going to change it’s feed from a chronological order to one powered by an algorithm, the internet went into meltdown.

Don’t kill Instagram – you shouted.  Leave my feed alone, you whined.

And this.

But love ‘em or hate ‘em they are here to stay, and I love ‘em. And I’ll tell you why.

First of all, what the hell is an algorithm? An algorithm is a mathematical formula designed to solve a problem. That’s right, solve a problem.

But what’s the problem with my feed I hear you ask? The problem is that you only see 30% of what’s going through it now anyway, and 70% of the content you’ve signed up to follow is missed.  And you have absolutely no control over what 30% you do see – it’s just a random act of whoever happens to have posted recently when you log in. 

Wouldn’t it be better if the 30% of the Instagram you did actually see was the stuff you liked the most, the things you are most passionate about and the things you wanted to see more of?

Let’s take a look at Facebook’s algorithm. If Facebook didn’t filter our newsfeed, then the average person could see about 1,500 pieces of content in a day and up to 10,000.  Nobody can handle reading 1500 posts a day, let alone 10k. So Facebook filters the newsfeed to show you around 300 posts that are most relevant to you. This is based on

1) How engaged you are – do you click on this content? Do you message this person, do you like their posts etc.

2) How good the content is – did someone get engaged? Are lots of people commenting or sharing this?

This way the FB newsfeed is the best experience it can possibly be for each individual based on the signals it gets.  And this is all rigorously tested by data – Facebook looks at whether people log in more or less based on showing them more or less content and that data decides the algorithm.

Let’s look at Twitter – I must admit Twitters lack of algorithm put me off Twitter. I followed a whole lot of people when I started out  but found when I logged in none of it was actually that interesting to me. And I stopped using Twitter. This may have contributed to twitters plateauing user numbers and their recent introduction of their own algorithm.

So rather than complaining about the algorithm on Instagram, think about how it will make your experience better, and for gods sake start clicking and hearting and commenting on those 30% of Instagrammers whose posts you can’t possibly do without.