FriendFeed is for Lurkers too

March 18th, 2008 54 Comments

fflogo1.pngIf you missed it, over the weekend, there was quite a testy blog war between Louis Gray and Duncan Riley, ostensibly started by FriendFeed or rather differing opinions of it. Short version: Duncan doesn’t find value, Louis disagrees, obscenities ensue. Makes for a good read.

FriendFeed has been all the rage lately among the usual suspects and me. You know, the people who were raving about Facebook this time last year, then Twitter last Summer/Fall, and now FriendFeed. It’s very easy to dismiss all the coverage as hype, and well you should.

Then, FriendFeed released search functionality yesterday.

Suddenly, FriendFeed has become something more than a social network aggregator with a(nother) network attached; it’s a destination. Search allows FriendFeed to serve as a user-created information source. I assume you’ve seen the statistics that something like 2% of people online create the user-generated content (UGC) you hear so much about; another 10% or so lurk, i.e. consume the UGC but do not contribute.

FriendFeed serves those people very well. You can join but not add any services, so you don’t have to contribute any feed. You can subscribe to the feeds of your favorite contributors (e.g. yours truly, Rich, Paul) and consume the goodness directly within FriendFeed or via RSS. Search now allows you to find historic content posted by contributors, and I think their friend-of-a-friend feature allows you to see updates from the extended network too.

All this without joining or contributing. Say you don’t want to join Twitter, but you’re curious to see what’s said there.  You can do so in FriendFeed by subscribing to the feeds of people who interest you. Twitter still has no native search functionality, although services like Tweet Scan do a good job filling the void. Some company named Google indexes twitter.com statuses too. In either case, it’s a bit like search for a needle in a tweetstack.

The commenting feature shows you what’s being said about each item, so you get context around tweets. Plus, there’s the whole aggregation aspect, giving you access to the 360 degree social view of a contributor.

In addition to aggregation, FriendFeed has a superior implementation of some services, e.g. Google Reader Shared Items. Reader recently opened up Shared Items to your “friends”, which it interprets as anyone on your Google Talk list who is also using Reader. Of course, Google already assumes that if you send GMail to another GMail account, that account should be your Google Talk buddy.

This makes for a confusing experience, as people pop up in Reader inexplicably; I’ve had this happen a few times with people I’ve sent email from GMail. Surprise, we’re suddenly Google friends forever.

Oddly, it’s not all that easy to explain the steps of how to do this to someone you actually want to share Reader items with; I’ve tried.

In contrast, FriendFeed publishes my Shared Items in my feed because that’s what I told it to do. Anyone subscribed to me sees them. That’s it, no additional friending in another service required.

So, now you can lurk in one place. Maybe this makes you want to join the conversation, maybe not. But I’m starting to think that FriendFeed has more value for consumers than for contributors. For example, if you use Twitter and FriendFeed, and have added your Twitter account to FriendFeed, you’ll get duplicate updates when people tweet.

Bummer for you, unless you find the hide feature, or hack something together with Pipes. Either way, it’s work for contributors.

There’s very little work required for consumers. Just join and subscribe, and I don’t feel the same peer pressure that exists in other networks, i.e. the “if someone follows me, I must reciprocate or seem rude” effect. I guess this is because I’m a feed of data and not a person in the FriendFeed world. Or maybe I’m a jerk. Meh.
Other apps, like SocialThing, also do social aggregation. However, SocialThing relies on your existing networks, which makes it easy to start (no re-friending required), but not so useful for lurking. Plus, SocialThing is a pure aggregator, so there’s no interaction around the items it collects. I’ve found the comments on FriendFeed to be interesting, e.g. here’s the conversation around the Louis-Duncan dust up direct from the source.

Anyway, FriendFeed seems to be moving toward a UGC repository, like Google for UGC. I guess that makes sense, based on the founders’ roots at Google. If so, it’s an interesting model that seems to be succeeding.

  1. Offer aggregation for the over-consuming types so they can consolidate, encouraging them to populate the system with loads of UGC.
  2. Support the existing networks, storing links rather than loads of content and making it dead simple to get started.
  3. Make it sticky enough to keep your content providers involved, e.g. through commenting on each other’s items, which is such a better implementation than something like coComment.
  4. Offer easy loads of ways to consume the content that’s aggregated, supporting lurkers and contributors alike.
  5. Print money.

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54 Responses to “FriendFeed is for Lurkers too”

  1. Jake Says:

    @christophe: FF is aggregation and discovery, too, in addition to the commenting and network effects. That’s why it’s successful, at least so far.

    I say feed readers are for serial readers.

  2. Jake Says:

    @christophe: FF is aggregation and discovery, too, in addition to the commenting and network effects. That’s why it’s successful, at least so far.

    I say feed readers are for serial readers.

  3. christophe Says:

    “I say feed readers are for serial readers.”
    Yes, if a comment feed is available on the blog. But still, managing so many feeds is a nightmare (for me) 😉

  4. christophe Says:

    “I say feed readers are for serial readers.”
    Yes, if a comment feed is available on the blog. But still, managing so many feeds is a nightmare (for me) 😉

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