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How to Improve Facebook

On our first homework assignment, there was a question asking us what information might a social networking site use to recommend new friends to a user. Since coming to Cornell, most of my friend suggestions on Facebook have been other Cornellans even though I usually have more mutual friends with the students from my high school who are suggested by Facebook. How does Facebook “know” that I now attend a different school? Well, it’s simple, the geniuses at Facebook must have figured that, as soon as I changed my school option to Cornell, I would be more open towards making new Facebook friends from Cornell. But how could a social network improve upon this system of recommending new friends to a user? Surely, much of your Facebook friend suggestion page is still populated by complete strangers.

At first glance, this new “intelligent” Facebook friend lists may only allow you to group people as close friends, family, old friends, friends in (insert city)… etc and bring focus to your inner groups of friends, but it could also potentially be used to rid many of the complete strangers from your friend suggestion page. The new friend list is Facebook’s way of letting you tell it who’s in your close friend circle. Using the new list, Facebook could start suggesting friends who have more frequent interaction with people you group as “close friends”, which will be a huge improvement over the current system of suggesting other Cornellians just because you attend Cornell. This method of friend recommendation would more effectively use triadic closure as this friend recommendation system “knows” the strength of the relationship between two people, whereas the old Facebook doesn’t. Constant changes to Facebook could be really annoying, but if taken advantage of, this new feature could be used to develop the new generation of friend suggestion tools.


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September 2011