Can Facebook Separate Signal from the Noise with New Comment Rankings?

Facebook is testing two new features this week, in hopes of making it a bit easier to navigate the sea of comments usually found on popular posts.

The first addition is the ability to reply to specific comments – a change that improves the way users interact in discussions, or at least in theory.  This feature can potentially save a lot of scrolling for individuals absolutely bent on following a conversation in the comments section, but some users say that it generates unnecessary clutter.

The reply capability is currently limited to News Feeds and threaded discussions, the second enhancement that rolled out this week.

“This current test sorts comments by Likes and replies, but it is not personalized for each user as it is with the comments plugin. With the plugin, Facebook will show comments from a user’s friend or friend of friend first. This would be useful for page comments as well, so we’ll see if it makes it into another iteration of the test.”

In recent years Facebook has funneled a lot of resources into making ads more relevant to the user, in hopes of boosting low click-through rates that still draw criticism from marketers.  It invested considerably less in making the content people actually care about more accessible, but this latest update seems to be a step in the right direction.

Building smarter social tech

Facebook, which operates one of the largest Hadoop clusters in the world, is lagging behind the industry in terms of its targeting capability, in spite of an apparent technological advantage over many of its peers. And vendors such as the recently funded DataSift are quickly filling in the gaps.

The social media analytics startup raised $15.25 million in a second round of funding announced yesterday, not long after an equally significant update from the mobile space: Millennial Media entered into a data alliance with MediaVault.  Meanwhile in the Google camp, Viralheat added G+ support to its social sharing extension for Chrome after “roughly 30 percent [of its users] inquired about Google+ integration.”