The Algorithmic Timeline Comes to Strava

7 April 2017 #Thoughts

Announced with much excitement via an email and blog post this morning was an update to Strava’s timeline. What was omitted from the announcement was the dreaded word ‘algorithm’.

(Note: I cannot write the word algorithm without the help of spell check, just like definitely)

Like Facebook, Twitter and most recently Instagram before it, social networks seem to have a problem with showing all the activity their users sign up for as a dumb pipe of chronologically ordered posts. What they prefer – and apparently drives engagement – is an algorithmically ordered set of posts.

Typically a social network announces the change, people complain, and engagement increases.

In my reality I don’t look at Facebook as a feed of posts (it’s not useful to me outside of groups). I use Tweetbot for Twitter to still get a full chronological feed.

And since Instagram went algorithmic I’ve almost completely stopped posting and barely ever open the app (though that’s much to do with notification overload as well). Instagram’s change seemed to bury my friends photos (as they get so very few likes) in favour of showing posts from influencers and brands.

Not that everyone’s a fan…


Strava, for me is a different case because I follow so few people (43), almost no celebrity/professionals, and I actually pay for Strava Premium so have an in-built expectation of some ownership over the platform. That’s a misguided expectation to be sure, but one that comes from any financial transaction between a customer and a service.

The feed updates are positioned as making sure I see the ‘best posts every time I visit’. Claiming that many users miss feed updates. What hasn’t helped me navigate the Strava feed over recent months is how large the UI has become, how the feed is now filled with friend suggestions, advertisements for blog posts, and more.

For example if I open Strava right now on my enormous iPhone 7+ I can only see one of my friends activities, and two ads for blog posts on the Strava website. If Strava’s truly concerned about me missing my friends updates they could start by getting out of their own way.

If you’re not a fan of the change, submit your thoughts to Strava directly. Or furthermore, cancel your Premium subscription if you have one. But I’m fully aware that they’re unlikely to change course given how apparently successful the algorithmic timeline has been for other networks.

There are ways Strava can improve their feed without ruining the current experience. But if they’re only concerned about new users and improving engagement then they’re duty bound to follow industry trends.

That such radical changes are put upon paying users puts them in a unique position compared to actual social networks.

If my premium subscription allows for disabling this setting I’d see the value in it.