Jocelyn Goldfein joined Facebook about two years ago as its director of engineering.
Since then, she’s overseen teams working on many of Facebook’s most important features, including photo sharing, a key feature of the service, and search, an area where Wall Street has big expectations.
But she’s got one particular favourite, she told Business Insider. That’s the update to News Feed that happened about a year ago. It was her first really big product release at Facebook and she admits she was nervous about it.
“It’s a product I use and love,” she says which made it “scary to change” because any change “runs the risk of upsetting people.”
Still her team wanted to fix a fundamental issue for Facebook users. As people added more stuff to their News Feeds by “liking” things, it was too easy to miss big, important messages from their friends.
They needed to find a way so that news from friends like having a baby, getting accepted to grad school, or getting engaged stuck around in the News Feed until the next time a friend logged in, even if that was only once a week or a month.
But identifying those messages was tough.
“We tried thousands of combinations and variations” of things that indicated a post was important, Goldfein said. Lots of likes or comments could indicate an important post, but it could also be a popular cat video.
“We finally ended up dong some natural language processing and looking at the words,” Goldfein said. “Things like ‘thank you’ and ‘congratulations.'”
Then they rolled out the change in the background. Users didn’t have to change a thing about how they posted updates or read the News Feed—they just saw a different mix of stories.
Today, “I get a thrill every time I see one of those stories” show up in her own News Stream, Goldfein said. “It just feels so so satisfying.”