Perspective, FriendFried and the Scoble Effect

February 27th, 2008 25 Comments

fflogo1.pngI’m having trouble getting back into the swing of blogging after taking a nice relaxing vacation. When you spend all day eating and breathing technology, it’s always good to step back and realize what else is out there.

Here at the ‘Lab, we consume New Web all day long, and spend a whole lot of time talking to other people about how it’s great. Therefore, we assume it’s important. Needless to say, not everyone agrees. People at Oracle generally spend all day talking software: selling it, designing it, building it, implementing it. Therefore, they assume it’s important.

Taking time away reminded me how few people in the world actually care about Facebook (65 million users) or Twitter (estimated to be near a million users). For perspective, Thailand and Iran have about 65 million inhabitants, and Fiji and Trindad and Tobago are right around a million. Incidentally, there’s a Google feature that provides these numbers quickly, e.g. for Iran, but I digress.

So, while these represent large populations, when mixed in to any given random sampling, you’re not very likely to find someone totally geeked about Facebook and Twitter. Anyway, this perspective reset coupled with a general burnout I’ve been feeling lately have me grasping for topics.

Until this weekend, when Scoble joined FriendFeed.

Not that this is wildly interesting at base, but it interests me for a couple reasons.

  1. I love FriendFeed’s concept and implementation. Customizable aggregation of information is the silver bullet. However, I’ve struggled to accept it fully. I wrote about it back in October when it was in beta, but I’ve floated in and out, only using it sporadically.
  2. As an influencer both positively and negatively, Scoble brings a critical mass of people and data to FriendFeed, which will be an excellent test of its utility. His presence will drive features into the product, and he has the same information overload problems that I have. I’m glad he’s made the jump because it will improve the overall product.

FriendFeed is not yet another social network that I’m advocating as the next big thing all the cool kids are doing. One reason I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter less recently is because of the noise levels these networks cause. It’s work to wade through all the vampire invites in my News Feed and the uninteresting tweets to find useful nuggets of information. I’m not a fan of work for work’s sake, so lately I’ve been following the “easier to ignore a problem than solve it” path.

These networks have value, and I want that value, without the noise. FriendFeed provides the three things I want for my New Web life.

  1. Aggregation
  2. Flexible Consumption
  3. Customization

Aggregation
FriendFeed aggregates all my New Web accounts using their public APIs. They support 28 services right now, but this is bound to rise as more people use the service. I’d like to see TripIt added, and I’m sure Facebook will soon be on the list as they continue to open.

One bonus about aggregation is that it allows you follow a person’s activity in one place, rather than friending on Facebook and LinkedIn, following on Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce, subscribing to a blog’s feed, and adding a Reader Shared Items friend. And you don’t have to join any new networks, e.g. I can see Rich’s NetFlix queue and his Amazon Wish List, even though I don’t use those.

FriendFeed also has an interesting “recommended” feature that points you to friends that have similar interests. Not sure how they do this, but if you find someone interesting, refer to my previous point about how easy it is to consume all their content in a single stream. This feature wasn’t terribly valuable before, but now that they are officially open and Scoble is on board, expect a lot more friends.

Flexible Consumption
I love the flexbility FriendFeed offers. I can install the Facebook app, subscribe to the RSS feed, get updates in GMail or just use their spare web page. Having a feed opens the data up to mashup builders like Popfly, Dapper and Yahoo Pipes, if you feel like doing some information cooking.

I suspect an API will be coming soon, opening up all the same avenues that make Twitter so fun and successful, e.g. AIR clients, mashups, etc. Being open is huge as networks like Facebook and MySpace are discovering.

Customization
The open approach makes FriendFeed a broker of information, an API processor, which ultimately may make it replaceable, but they have enough interesting features to keep it engaging. For example, you can comment on any item in the feed, making it a contextual Twitter-like conversation. This also exposes you to new friends, since all comments are displayed (I think). You can also mark any feed item as one you like.

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Commenting on items in the feed is a lot like Twitter, but since it’s artifact-driven (vs. person-driven) and threaded, the conversation makes more sense when you’re reviewing it.

Over the weekend, my Reader showed over a hundred unread items for my FriendFeed RSS feed, partly an effect of Scoble’s joining and immediately adding everyone as a friend. This underscored one annoyance I had, i.e. my feed for FriendFeed included a lot of overlapping information. For example, I already subscribe to Eddie’s blog and follow him on Twitter, so I don’t want these updates reported in my FriendFeed.

The Scoble Effect actually uncovered a gem that allows you to ignore overlapping updates. In an exchange between Louis Gray and Scoble, Louis mentioned the “Hide entries like this” feature, which allows you to customize the feed. For example, Marshall and I are already friends on Mag.nolia, so I can suppress his Ma.gnolia updates using this sweet feature. This is especially useful for Twitter updates, which tend to overwhelm the FriendFeed feed.

ff_options.png

Speaking of Twitter, it would pretty simple to use FriendFeed as a grouping mechanism for Twitter (as well as other services), since it produces an aggregated feed.

Anyway, I’m liking FriendFeed even more now than when it launched in beta. I hope it won’t wear me down like Facebook and Twitter have as I add more people. The controls do make it easier to ignore channels without hurting someone’s feelings, since unlike a social network, FriendFeed is based on objects, not people.

FriendFeed is in an enviable position too, being mostly self-funded by ex-Googlers with money to spend. They recently closed a $5 million round, led by the founders themselves. Deep pockets make them pretty independent, with little worries about an exit strategy. Ideally, this translates into a more thoughtful product. Plus, intimate knowledge of Google should translate into very efficient use of the search giants information.

FriendFeed recently opened to everyone, so check it out and subscribe to my feed if you like.

Update: A couple cool features I noticed after writing this. 1) Each item in FriendFeed has its own URL, just like Twitter statuses or permalinks, e.g. Paul Buchheit shared this post in his feed. 2) As people like or comment on an item, it rises in the feed, allowing conversations to bubble up across the full network. Of course, if you read through RSS, you miss these interesting items.


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25 Responses to “Perspective, FriendFried and the Scoble Effect”

  1. Boardroom Daily - Daily Top Blog Posts on Business - Powered by SocialRank Says:

    news feed. But it’s more of a dynamic conversation among close friends about what they’re up to all over the web — and not so much a social network – yet.I’ve been using… Covered By: deepjiveinterests.com, techmeme.com, laughingsquid.com,oracleappslab.com, readwriteweb.com, jeremy.zawodny.com .. more

  2. mrontemp Says:

    tester for my product line, I’d do it in a second. He has continuously demonstrated his ability to stress test a product. Look at his Twitter network numbers. As I mentioned earlier, Jake Kuramoto has commented on “the Scoble effect.” Here’s part ofwhat he said: As an influencer both positively and negatively, Scoble brings a critical mass of people and data to FriendFeed, which will be an excellent test of its utility. His presence will drive features into the product, and he has the same information

  3. Ontario Emperor Says:

    We’ll have to see what happens as FriendFeed grows. There are already complaints from people that were under the mistaken impression that their FriendFeed comments were not publicly available.

    The most intriguing part of FriendFeed for me is the ability to follow someone’s thought processes. I stumble upon a video, favorite it on YouTube, tweet about it, then blog about it. Then people can comment on how stupid a song “Send Me An Angel” truly is. :)

    Which reminds me; I don’t think my new StumbleUpon account is on FriendFeed; gotta add it.

  4. Ontario Emperor Says:

    We’ll have to see what happens as FriendFeed grows. There are already complaints from people that were under the mistaken impression that their FriendFeed comments were not publicly available.

    The most intriguing part of FriendFeed for me is the ability to follow someone’s thought processes. I stumble upon a video, favorite it on YouTube, tweet about it, then blog about it. Then people can comment on how stupid a song “Send Me An Angel” truly is. :)

    Which reminds me; I don’t think my new StumbleUpon account is on FriendFeed; gotta add it.

  5. Jake Says:

    @OE: Good point about thought process, the stream of information makes sense inline, not so much in 10 different places, and that’s more work.

    I don’t think Scoble’s plan to friend everyone will ultimately work out for him, since it’s overwhelming. The average beta user had 4-5 services, so across 300-400 people he friended. Ugh. He’s an information junkie.

  6. Jake Says:

    @OE: Good point about thought process, the stream of information makes sense inline, not so much in 10 different places, and that’s more work.

    I don’t think Scoble’s plan to friend everyone will ultimately work out for him, since it’s overwhelming. The average beta user had 4-5 services, so across 300-400 people he friended. Ugh. He’s an information junkie.

  7. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    I’m feeling lucky that I haven’t gotten any Scoble stuff in my feed yet. What’s the big deal with Robert, anyway? I hear about him but don’t know why.

  8. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    I’m feeling lucky that I haven’t gotten any Scoble stuff in my feed yet. What’s the big deal with Robert, anyway? I hear about him but don’t know why.

  9. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: I don’t know if he has a deal per se, but he has loads of friends/contacts/followers making him the equivalent of a storm on any given network. Plus, he brings publicity to any network and is considered to be an influencer by many.

    He’s tested Facebook’s 5,000 friend limit, he’s got 6,800 odd followers on Twitter, and when he joins a network, it tends to test its limits.

    I don’t think this is necessarily bad, since his presence drives the product to improve. Some people think his masses of contacts overwhelm a network. Meh.

  10. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: I don’t know if he has a deal per se, but he has loads of friends/contacts/followers making him the equivalent of a storm on any given network. Plus, he brings publicity to any network and is considered to be an influencer by many.

    He’s tested Facebook’s 5,000 friend limit, he’s got 6,800 odd followers on Twitter, and when he joins a network, it tends to test its limits.

    I don’t think this is necessarily bad, since his presence drives the product to improve. Some people think his masses of contacts overwhelm a network. Meh.

  11. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Thanks for answering. Testing an application’s limits is probably a good thing, as it drives improvement (like you said). Now the only question that remains is: Where does he get all these contacts/friends/followers/whatever? :D

  12. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Thanks for answering. Testing an application’s limits is probably a good thing, as it drives improvement (like you said). Now the only question that remains is: Where does he get all these contacts/friends/followers/whatever? :D

  13. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: Oh right, so he’s best known for his blogging at Microsoft, which made him the influencer he is today. He still carries that reputation even though his days at Microsoft are a distant memory.

    For more, check his Wikipedia entry, natch :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Scoble

  14. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: Oh right, so he’s best known for his blogging at Microsoft, which made him the influencer he is today. He still carries that reputation even though his days at Microsoft are a distant memory.

    For more, check his Wikipedia entry, natch :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Scoble

  15. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Doh! 17,000+ edits to Wikipedia, hours and hours invested, and I forgot about it. Haven’t been spending enough time there lately due to other things that need to get done (*cough* stupid real life *cough*).

    After reading his article, I’m a little closer to getting why he’s famous (being an RSS advocate, not to mention a fan of the Tablet PC, would get him love from the geek crowd). This is almost like figuring out why people Angelina Jolie or [insert name of pop celebrity here]; you don’t know who the person is unless you’re active or interested in the field in which they are famous. For me, I have no idea who just about any popular musician or film actor is, which shows my incredible geekery. Or not, since I don’t know who Scoble is. Hmm…

  16. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Doh! 17,000+ edits to Wikipedia, hours and hours invested, and I forgot about it. Haven’t been spending enough time there lately due to other things that need to get done (*cough* stupid real life *cough*).

    After reading his article, I’m a little closer to getting why he’s famous (being an RSS advocate, not to mention a fan of the Tablet PC, would get him love from the geek crowd). This is almost like figuring out why people Angelina Jolie or [insert name of pop celebrity here]; you don’t know who the person is unless you’re active or interested in the field in which they are famous. For me, I have no idea who just about any popular musician or film actor is, which shows my incredible geekery. Or not, since I don’t know who Scoble is. Hmm…

  17. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: This thread became a post. It’s pretty nuts how we miss the big picture sometimes, and you make a good point about interests.

    I guess because there is so much more stuff and people and ways to connect the them that we assume everyone is in the know.

    Anyway, I like the thread. It’s good for perspective.

  18. Jake Says:

    @Voyagerfan5761: This thread became a post. It’s pretty nuts how we miss the big picture sometimes, and you make a good point about interests.

    I guess because there is so much more stuff and people and ways to connect the them that we assume everyone is in the know.

    Anyway, I like the thread. It’s good for perspective.

  19. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Heh, found it on Technorati while I was snooping around at the sudden reputation++ today. The site I use to track comments is down, so I couldn’t find your comment that way. ‘Tis cool that I’ve been blogged about! Speaking of perspective, that post proves that I don’t, after all, know everything about the Web (yet ;-) ).

  20. Voyagerfan5761 Says:

    @Jake: Heh, found it on Technorati while I was snooping around at the sudden reputation++ today. The site I use to track comments is down, so I couldn’t find your comment that way. ‘Tis cool that I’ve been blogged about! Speaking of perspective, that post proves that I don’t, after all, know everything about the Web (yet ;-) ).

  21. Louis Gray - MyBlogLog Says:

    [...] to your profile   Louis Gray bookmarked links FriendFeed Is Open! « Unique-FrequencyOracle AppsLab » Perspective, FriendFried and the Scoble Effectben barren – rss’ing down under: im into it.How I Use FriendFeed : The Last PodcastIt’s the [...]

  22. davidhaimes Says:

    I agree with Ontario Emperor that you see people’s thought process, reading, sharing, twittering, blogging then sharing the blog post, twittering about the blog post and on it goes.

    It was when I looked at my own feed on friendfeed I decided that twittering every blog post I wrote looked like self promotion, reading my own thought process after the fact was mildly embarrassing. The result is I don’t twitter my blog posts and I don’t read my own friendfeed, other people’s are far more interesting anyway.

  23. David Haimes Says:

    I agree with Ontario Emperor that you see people’s thought process, reading, sharing, twittering, blogging then sharing the blog post, twittering about the blog post and on it goes.

    It was when I looked at my own feed on friendfeed I decided that twittering every blog post I wrote looked like self promotion, reading my own thought process after the fact was mildly embarrassing. The result is I don’t twitter my blog posts and I don’t read my own friendfeed, other people’s are far more interesting anyway.

  24. Jake Says:

    I really like that FF bolsters items that have more comments and likes, even if they’re not recent. This allows a conversation to develop.

    I stopped reading the RSS feed b/c it’s too static, and I constantly had hundreds of unread items. For now, I’ll have to use the web page, until someone writes an AIR app.

  25. Jake Says:

    I really like that FF bolsters items that have more comments and likes, even if they’re not recent. This allows a conversation to develop.

    I stopped reading the RSS feed b/c it’s too static, and I constantly had hundreds of unread items. For now, I’ll have to use the web page, until someone writes an AIR app.

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