I changed over to the the new Timeline shortly after it's inception back in September, and throughout October saw a general pattern in the 6 friends that were appearing in the top friends box. This was when I decided to conduct my own fun little experiment that began on the 1st of November and ended today (31st January).
I wanted to see if there was a correlation between appearances in the box and interaction on facebook, or was it all random.
What I did was simple. Over that 3 month period, everytime I logged onto Facebook I noted the 6 friends that appeared in that box, and at the end of each week tallied them up - a kind of keep-score. In essence this was a frequency count based on appearances.
I also introduced two rules:
1. Limit MY page viewing of those people that appeared; and
2. Increase MY Facebook interactions with real life close friends.
My most consistent finding throughout that whole period was that appearances were NOT random. Of the 650 or so of my friends, I counted a total of 39 that appeared in the box (25 in the first week, which jumped to 31 in the first month, 35 in the month of December and 39 by the end of January). Some friends dropped out and were replaced by others but in the main these were people I have/had interacted with recently and over the course of my time on Facebook.
Some interesting findings:
* My list based on appearance counts read like this; friends of friends, recent exes, random friends, siblings, close friends (in real life and on Facebook), and other family relations - IN THAT ORDER;
*Of the 2 people whom I can honestly say I have interacted with the MOST since joining Facebook, only 1 of them appears in that list of 39, and that person doesn't even make the top 10 appearance counts;
* My exes have pretty high counts;
* The #1 and # 2 spots in terms of appearances aren't even close friends and our interactions on Facebook can best be termed as sporadic.
My most vain attempt at an explanation would be that they were my or I am their stalker, but that's too simplistic. A more plausible (and sensible) explanation is in line with the original answer at the top of this page. The people who appear in the top friends box are a combination of :
* Interactions - such as page views, wall posts, status likes, comments and viewed pictures etc on Facebook (recent and overtime);
* Mutual associations (friends, relationships, groups, Fan pages, photos and attended events ; and
* Online status.
It must be said though that this was a subjective test based on simple data (frequent appearance counts) that was, let's be honest here, anecdotal. Short of soliciting an answer from someone at Facebook who worked on the 'algorithm' (if there is in fact one), we will never truly know but to say it's totally random is a fallacy. What is true however is that this has been a fun little time-killer and at the end of the day, Facebook is what it is, a social network that's meant to keep 'friends' in contact.
3 months of procastination.