In Computer Science, an algorythm refers to a sequence of actions, usually performed on data. For example, a sorting algorythm will sort the elements of the array, while a search algorythm will find an element of the array matching your request.
Algorythms are essentially recipes. For example, making tea is an algorythm, too. It is even standardized as ISO 3103:
- 2 grams of tea (measured to ±2% accuracy) per 100 ml boiling water is placed into the pot.
- Freshly boiling water is poured into the pot to within 4–6 mm of the brim. Allow 20 seconds for water to cool.
- The water should be similar to the drinking water where the tea will be consumed.
- Brewing time is six minutes.
- The brewed tea is then poured into a white porcelain or glazed earthenware bowl.
Modern software is composed of multiple collections of algorythms, some very mundane. For example, when logging you into a website, the database uses a search algorythm to find your account and check your credentials. To make these search and write algorythms faster, databases often store your data in something called a B-Tree.
What is Instagram Algorythm, Facebook Algorythm, or Google Algorythm
As I covered – algorythm is a sequence of actions to perform on data. In the context of Social Media sites, people care primarily about their ranking algorythms – which content is ranking higher than the previous ones.
Let’s take Instagram as an example:
People upload many pictures, some very funny, some spectacular, and the vast majority mundane and boring. Some of them will feature somebody’s lunch, some of them their gun collection, fabulous dresses, or – and it is my preference – waterfalls and beautiful vistas. But when you scroll Instagram, you want to see lovely photos appealing to you.
How does Instagram take all these photos, and decide what to show on your timeline? It uses what we refer to as “Instagram Algorythm” to “rank” it. It takes many factors into account:
- Are you following this account?
- Are you following tags associated witht the posted photo?
- Have you liked similar photos?
- Have other people that follow similar accounts to the ones you follow, liked this specific photo?
- Many, many others…
And it decides if to show you this particular photo and in what order (after other images) so that you use the app the longest.
The algorythm is here to make you happy
The algorythm is a part of a larger product, and his purpose is to further the goals of that product. In the case of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, the goal is engagement – how often and how long do you use the app.
The algorythm’s purpose is to make you happy, and it is serving you content that it thinks will gain your approval.
“The algorythm doesn’t like that”
Getting your content popular on Instagram or other social networks can be profitable or make you famous, so influencers started creating entries addressing the needs of the algorythm more than humans scrolling by. Instagram stars are swapping tips on what algorythm does or does not like – and they act accordingly. They will post every 3 hours, include a video every x posts, etc.
I mentioned Instagram a lot in this post, but all of this applies to Google, too, and this post is a good example.
The alternative and probably more proper spelling is “Algorithm”. However, quite a few of us search for “algorythm”, so I used that one throught this post. I hope it is easier to rank on the first page of results. Wish me luck.
Algorythms are here to do a job that no human can possibly perform: sort through a staggering amount of data to find you the piece of media that would suit your needs. They provide a valuable service, without which much of today’s world would be impossible. Think of them as automated editorial boards in a newspaper that everybody writes for. They provide suggestions and choose what to feature according to the newspaper’s mission and audience.
Are algorythms bad?
Algorythms helped scale new forms of media, just as access to sugar has helped to scale fast-food chains that were not possible before.
We now live in a world of abundance of both food and information. We have to make deliberate choices about what to put in our mouths and brains. Mass media are like fast food – they will save you from starvation, but you will not be healthy if that is all you consume.
As they say about money, algorythms are terrible masters, but fantastic servants. They can be taught – or trained – and if you take the time to do so, they will serve you better
Social Media ranking algorythms are constantly analyzing your behavior to make sure you like the content they are suggesting to you. Every click on Instagram, or a TikTok video watched a bit longer is a signal that you want more of that. If you are more diligent about your Social Media diet, you will get more nutritious content:
- If your Twitter timeline feels a bit adversarial, the biggest improvement you can make is to change who you follow. An easy way to experiment is to create a new account, and follow @visakanv, and other people he recommends.
- Youtube is a fantastic resource full of world-class educational material. Start with subscribing to:
Once you subscribe to these new accounts, make sure to actually click, and interact with the content they put out. so the algorythm knows you are honest about it. I made the mistake of falling onto my old habits of watching MCU theory videos, so this is what I got.
I will follow this up with a detailed post on transforming your Youtube, and Twitter experience, so subscribe to my email list if you want me to email you when it’s out: