Your year in review on social networks: Twitter vs Facebook

Sunday, January 6th, 2013 at 9:14 am

On December 12th I noticed a link on Facebook: “2012: Your year in review”. Boldy it proclaimed:

“A look at your 20 biggest moments from the year including life events, highlighted posts and your popular stories.”

2012 in review

I love these ‘end of year reviews’. They’re one of the best things about the close of the year — looking back over the year that was and reliving highlights (and often lowlights). Some of the more interesting ones from 2012 were Google’s Zeitgeist 2012, 2012 Year on Twitter and The Atlantic’s 2012: The Year in Photos.

Naturally I was really interested to see a personalised year in review from Facebook. Given that I use Facebook a lot — and therefore Facebook knows a lot about me, and has a lot of my data — my expectations were quite high.

Unfortunately, my Facebook year in review was woefully underwhelming. (If you’re friends me on Facebook, you can see my Year in review — or see your own — which is hopefully more interesting than mine).

So why was mine so underwhelming?

Ten months is not a year

My retrospective started in October. What about November and December? And why not start it in January so I can relive the most distant memories first? (Some friends has theirs for the full year — why not me?)

I’m actually not in many of the “highlights”

Facebook selected 20 key events through the year. Of these, I’m not even in two — which more than anything shows the problems that arise when people tag you on Facebook even though you’re not really involved in the post but will appreciate being included — as a courtesy or ‘heads up’.

Odd choices of highlights exposes dumb automation at work

My October highlight was probably the weirdest: a link to ASOS that was terribly puerile in nature.

ASOS doozie

Yes, it attracted many likes (16) and comments (7), but hardly a highlight of my month. And obviously Facebook concluded that because this had the most comments and likes, it was the most important post of the month.

However, if you examine the cute photo of the squirrel I took on October 28th shown below, it’s clear this is a far superior (and fluffier) highlight.


(That said, the ASOS shirt is still pretty funny.)

One of my favourite posts wasn’t even shown

And not just that, it actually came up in my partner’s highlights instead! I tagged her in an upload “courtesy-style” (as I discussed before) and because of this it was in her year in review — but not mine.

The post was a screenshot of a review I wrote for Homebase after they asked me to review a £2 box of nails I bought.

Homebase review

(Read it here, if you’re so inclined — and for the record they didn’t even publish it. I wonder why.)

OK, so maybe it’s a bit pointless ragging out Facebook’s ranking algorithm here. I think the problem is not really the algorithm, rather two more simplistic issues.

First problem: framing and expectation

This year in review was never going to live up to my expectations, as my own view of my year was going to be wildly different from what an automated algorithm would come up with based on likes, shares and comments. I can tell you a story of my 2012; but it would not even resemble what Facebook has shown. It’s not even telling any sort of story; just a random bunch of snippets.

Second problem: failure to actually do anything with data

How many check-ins, comments, shares, likes and other interactions does a standard user perform in a year? At the top of the year in review it does touch on this by showing how many new friends I’ve made this year (personally I’d be more interested in how many people have defriended me this year) and how many pages I’ve liked (really though, who cares about this?)

I’m lucky to travel a lot, and in 2012 from London I travelled to Italy, France, Germany, Mexico and the United States. Yet apart from a few photo albums very little was made of this.

How about my most talked about topics? Events? Moments? I attended several London 2012 Olympics events and this is barely visible from the year in review page, yet it was for almost everyone in the UK probably the event of the year.

Twitter’s My Year in Review: a much better example

Twitter attempted a similar year in review feature (in conjunction with Vizify) and did a far better job. Have a look at mine here: My Year on Twitter 2012.

Why is it better?

It tells a much better story

It doesn’t just focus on a few select ‘moments’ that appear important to an algorithm. Twitter/Vizify analysed every tweet I made and created multiple timelines based on my most common words.

It includes people in a far stronger way

I love their ‘golden follower’. Considering Facebook is arguably a more ‘personal’ platform than Twitter, their year in review felt relatively cold. It showed people, but it didn’t really illustrate any connection with them. The Facebook year in review would’ve been fantastic if it showed my top commenters, likers and people I most often checked in with. And people I most often tagged. And so on…

In closing

As the title says, Twitter (along with Vizify) really trampled all over Facebook with far less data to draw upon.

I was tempted to to create my own Facebook year in review as I would have like to have done it — if you really want to see this, then comment below and if there’s enough interest, I’ll give it a shot.

One Response to “Your year in review on social networks: Twitter vs Facebook”

  1. Angela says:

    I must say that mine was rubbish. All it served to do was remind me of random crap I’d posted and forgotten about, which obviously has its own merits in an ‘obscure B-sides’ way, but isn’t exactly my ‘year in review’. No mention of organising my wedding, no mention of the people I interacted with most, etc, etc. Shame, as they could have done so much more.

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