An algorithmic Instagram

March 16th, 2016

Instagram is jumping on the algorithmic feed bandwagon. But, they say they have a reason:

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

I believe them. Anecdotally I think that number is about right. I miss tons of photos on Instagram because I only check it once or twice a day at most. I’ve also found the reverse chronological order of the photos and videos in my Instagram feed to be slightly unreliable.

I’ll give you an example; if someone is in a different timezone, and they post a photo to Instagram, it may very well be placed above or below a photo I’ve already seen. Because of this, using a single photo as a visual marker to remember what you’ve already seen isn’t a reliable way to ensure you’ll see all photos posted by those you follow.

The problem stated by Instagram could be tackled in a variety of ways. Accounts could be marked as important or as family. Google+, Twitter, and Facebook all have features that allow you to add accounts to “Lists” (Google called them Circles). So if I am a junky, and follow hundreds of accounts, I can put them in buckets like “Entertainment” or “Friends” or “People I’ve seen Speak at Conferences”. I used to employ a lot Twitter Lists. But I’ve since slimmed way down.

Instagram could have gone in this direction. And I think I would have been happy with that. At present, I’d love to have feeds for family, friends, kayakers, and local.

Gruber says “I trust Instagram to get this right”. And so far Instagram has taken a very thoughtful approach to every feature their product has. So if anyone will tread lightly here it’ll be them.