Agency & Control
Preference Signals

Circa 2021 Netflix releases a documentary titled The Social Dilemma that paints a nefarious picture of social networks usage data to manipulate our behaviors. This narrative quickly became a strain on the Facebook brand, spurring Nick Clegg, Facebook's President of Global Affairs, to write a formal response titled, You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango.

Although Facebook addressed it, the public perception wouldn't change until people felt they had more control over their Facebook experience.

Custom Feeds

UXR surfaced that users required both agency – the feeling of being in control – and actual control over the content they see on Facebook and the ways in which they engage with others on the platform.

With this premise, I created a series of explorations that ranged from overhauling the app by enabling users to create recipes for their Feed, to smaller feature changes, that would bring more clarity and predictability to every day experiences, like changing the way your feed displays visually.

Dual axis chart

In order to assess our success for each idea, we created a dual axis chart based on an audit of all existing controls UI. The X axis ran from Passive - Active, describing user's engagement with the control. The Y axis ran from Inferred - Deterministic, describing the anticipated outcomes of existing interactions. In an ideal scenario, the UI enables users to Actively manage their Facebook experience in ways that have Deterministic outcomes.

The first feature to ship from this work is called Preference Signals. A simple way for users to directly tell the algorithm which content they want to see more and less of. The UI for this appears in two ways: contextually, if the recommendation algorithm didn't have enough signal to know with certainty that this content is worth your time, and directly, via the ••• overflow menu that appears on every Feed post.

Our Preference Signals solution was featured in a Podcast hosted by the Verge. Tune in as Tom Alison – Head of Facebook App – discusses how this feature helps FB App compete with TikTok and win back Gen Z.