Explaining the simple things well

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This WSJ video on how TikTok’s algorithm works is proof that just really explaining something that’s pretty obvious can be pretty engaging.

Ultimately, I’m not sure there’s a great deal new to what they found—a lot of bots, and a little bit of interpretation, to determine that a lot of TikTok’s algorithmic decisions are based on what you watch, which seems obvious. (I basically never like anything on TikTok and follow almost no accounts: my FYP is pretty clearly based on giving me more of the things I spend most time on.)

But stating the obvious with data is important and can be really enticing.

Now, I’m sure there are methodological arguments happening on Twitter about how they went about that, and I have my own suspicions that the techniques used only tells us a certain slice of self-reinforcing things. That is: it’s not the way content is publicly tagged that makes the algorithm feel like secret sauce, it’s the invisible connections that make the difference.

But still, a great example of taking a thing that people want to know about and showing them the bones.

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