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. // Internet Duct Tape Says:

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  2. engtech - FriendFeed Says:

    [FRIENDFEED] FriendFeed is for Lurkers too

  3. Bret Taylor Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful writeup, Jake. We are really happy to see how many people are getting immediate value from the search feature. Better appealing to consumers of this content as well as producers has been a top priority of ours since launch, so it makes me really happy to see posts like this :)

  4. Bret Taylor Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful writeup, Jake. We are really happy to see how many people are getting immediate value from the search feature. Better appealing to consumers of this content as well as producers has been a top priority of ours since launch, so it makes me really happy to see posts like this :)

  5. Jake Says:

    @Bret: Thanks, I’ve enjoyed seeing FriendFeed evolve since its inception. You guys are doing cool stuff.

    For those of use who contribute, it would be nice to have a “hide all” option for services like Twitter, rather than individually hiding each person’s tweets:

    http://friendfeed.com/e/6717fa0f-78b3-fe83-f278-9314364d1511

  6. Jake Says:

    @Bret: Thanks, I’ve enjoyed seeing FriendFeed evolve since its inception. You guys are doing cool stuff.

    For those of use who contribute, it would be nice to have a “hide all” option for services like Twitter, rather than individually hiding each person’s tweets:

    http://friendfeed.com/e/6717fa0f-78b3-fe83-f278-9314364d1511

  7. Ontario Emperor Says:

    I too have been puzzled by Google’s linkage of Google Talk with Google Reader Shared Feeds, especially since I never use Google Talk for its intended purpose.

    One major benefit of the search function is its ability to find related conversations. Because FriendFeed doesn’t necessarily link conversations (the conversation for your post is separate from the conversation linked to someone’s Google Reader share of your blog post), search offers a way to find other conversations about the same topic.

  8. Ontario Emperor Says:

    I too have been puzzled by Google’s linkage of Google Talk with Google Reader Shared Feeds, especially since I never use Google Talk for its intended purpose.

    One major benefit of the search function is its ability to find related conversations. Because FriendFeed doesn’t necessarily link conversations (the conversation for your post is separate from the conversation linked to someone’s Google Reader share of your blog post), search offers a way to find other conversations about the same topic.

  9. Jake Says:

    @OE: Yeah, I wonder how long before they have some grouping by URL that hangs the Reader post together with the FF share?

    I guess it really doesn’t matter, since the conversation alone bubbles the item up to the first page. It’s probably fine that people have fractured conversations about the same functional item.

    On Google, the automatic GMail-GTalk-Reader flow is a bit creepy. Should be easy to add the folks that use all of them, but not automatic.

  10. Jake Says:

    @OE: Yeah, I wonder how long before they have some grouping by URL that hangs the Reader post together with the FF share?

    I guess it really doesn’t matter, since the conversation alone bubbles the item up to the first page. It’s probably fine that people have fractured conversations about the same functional item.

    On Google, the automatic GMail-GTalk-Reader flow is a bit creepy. Should be easy to add the folks that use all of them, but not automatic.

  11. Andy C Says:

    I like FriendFeed and am still playing with it. Originally, I thought it was just a lifestream, aggregating all my puerile outpourings in a single feed.

    But now I increasingly use it for discovering new content (bloggers, twits, people with shared interests).

    Like others, I feared ‘information overload’ but the clustering of items seems to make this manageable (although I only follow 10 people – quality not quantity).

    As Louis Gray pointed out, until you participate (comment, like, follow), you are barely scratching the surface.

    Initially, I was aghast at the fragmented commenting system but now I am coming round to believe this is a positive advantage.

    Search is a great addition too.

  12. Andy C Says:

    I like FriendFeed and am still playing with it. Originally, I thought it was just a lifestream, aggregating all my puerile outpourings in a single feed.

    But now I increasingly use it for discovering new content (bloggers, twits, people with shared interests).

    Like others, I feared ‘information overload’ but the clustering of items seems to make this manageable (although I only follow 10 people – quality not quantity).

    As Louis Gray pointed out, until you participate (comment, like, follow), you are barely scratching the surface.

    Initially, I was aghast at the fragmented commenting system but now I am coming round to believe this is a positive advantage.

    Search is a great addition too.

  13. Jake Says:

    @Andy C: I noticed you were out there commenting. We share several of the same experiences. When I started with FriendFeed, it didn’t seem to have much appeal, aside from the lifestream, which it turns out, isn’t that key for me.

    A few things I like:
    1) the new features come quickly and are seamless
    2) the founders are actively engaged on FF and elsewhere (like here!)
    3) it’s the same old voices (Scoble, Arrington, etc.), plus a bunch of new ones that are interesting (Voyagerfan5761)
    4) the commenting system rules because I no longer have to keep track of my comments on various blogs or use a third party

    I was a bit worried that it would overwhelmed by a surge of new members, raising the noise level, but the controls seem pretty good so far.

    FriendFeed augments other stuff I already use, too, which is good. I’ve stopped using Facebook because Twitter is more dynamic with essentially the same network. FriendFeed doesn’t make me want to stop using Twitter.

  14. Jake Says:

    @Andy C: I noticed you were out there commenting. We share several of the same experiences. When I started with FriendFeed, it didn’t seem to have much appeal, aside from the lifestream, which it turns out, isn’t that key for me.

    A few things I like:
    1) the new features come quickly and are seamless
    2) the founders are actively engaged on FF and elsewhere (like here!)
    3) it’s the same old voices (Scoble, Arrington, etc.), plus a bunch of new ones that are interesting (Voyagerfan5761)
    4) the commenting system rules because I no longer have to keep track of my comments on various blogs or use a third party

    I was a bit worried that it would overwhelmed by a surge of new members, raising the noise level, but the controls seem pretty good so far.

    FriendFeed augments other stuff I already use, too, which is good. I’ve stopped using Facebook because Twitter is more dynamic with essentially the same network. FriendFeed doesn’t make me want to stop using Twitter.

  15. christophe Says:

    One thing that make me a little uneasy is the commenting: this mean that on an article you publish, you start to have two conversations: one on your blog and on the FriendFeed. And the last one is out of your blog, so does not necessarily bring traffic to your site.

  16. christophe Says:

    One thing that make me a little uneasy is the commenting: this mean that on an article you publish, you start to have two conversations: one on your blog and on the FriendFeed. And the last one is out of your blog, so does not necessarily bring traffic to your site.

  17. Jake Says:

    @christophe: Both valid. From my own experience, the value of FF comments comes from extending my readership to include people who don’t already read here. I’m happy to maintain two comment streams (and maybe cross-populate them) if I can get more people to read my posts.

    I don’t concern myself with driving traffic here, for traffic’s sake. I prefer engaged readers to pageviews. Blogging about FF did cause a mini-spike though the last couple times. I think this is due to FF users clicking through. FF only shows the title, so you have to click through to read the content. That drives traffic.

    In both cases, you get the network effect of an expanded readership, which is gravy.

  18. Jake Says:

    @christophe: Both valid. From my own experience, the value of FF comments comes from extending my readership to include people who don’t already read here. I’m happy to maintain two comment streams (and maybe cross-populate them) if I can get more people to read my posts.

    I don’t concern myself with driving traffic here, for traffic’s sake. I prefer engaged readers to pageviews. Blogging about FF did cause a mini-spike though the last couple times. I think this is due to FF users clicking through. FF only shows the title, so you have to click through to read the content. That drives traffic.

    In both cases, you get the network effect of an expanded readership, which is gravy.

  19. christophe Says:

    Got your point: so you see the conversation on FF as a “teaser” to read the article.
    But, in the case of blog posts, I guess the user will first read the article before commenting, so he will comment on the blog itself, rather to come back to FF to comment.

  20. christophe Says:

    Got your point: so you see the conversation on FF as a “teaser” to read the article.
    But, in the case of blog posts, I guess the user will first read the article before commenting, so he will comment on the blog itself, rather to come back to FF to comment.

  21. Jake Says:

    @christophe: Does it really matter where people comment? If you blog and want to engage discussion, you’ll do so where ever you can, in your comments, in comments of blogs that trackback to your posts, in FF. Personally, I don’t care where the comments are, as long as they are :)

    Blogging into silence is depressing.

  22. Jake Says:

    @christophe: Does it really matter where people comment? If you blog and want to engage discussion, you’ll do so where ever you can, in your comments, in comments of blogs that trackback to your posts, in FF. Personally, I don’t care where the comments are, as long as they are :)

    Blogging into silence is depressing.

  23. christophe Says:

    :-) Totally true: a blog article without comments is not good for the publisher, but also for readers (I personally like to read the comments as it often contain some other point of view that really helps). And this is not only for blog article: media sites that provide commenting on news are for me much more valuable. Ok: more garbage to filter, but also so much ideas…..

    Now, having this content (the comments) in multiple places does not make that so easy as a valuable comment might not be linked with the article.

    I do see commenting as a conversation: a good comment without an answer is also depressing…..

  24. christophe Says:

    :-) Totally true: a blog article without comments is not good for the publisher, but also for readers (I personally like to read the comments as it often contain some other point of view that really helps). And this is not only for blog article: media sites that provide commenting on news are for me much more valuable. Ok: more garbage to filter, but also so much ideas…..

    Now, having this content (the comments) in multiple places does not make that so easy as a valuable comment might not be linked with the article.

    I do see commenting as a conversation: a good comment without an answer is also depressing…..

  25. Jake Says:

    @christophe: I’m waiting for you to mention how you do it better/differently at coComment :)

    I haven’t used it for months, but I don’t recall coComment doing anything more than tracking my comments, which still means the discussion happens in multiple places. So, it seems like fractured discussion is a necessary evil.

    Did I miss something?

  26. Jake Says:

    @christophe: I’m waiting for you to mention how you do it better/differently at coComment :)

    I haven’t used it for months, but I don’t recall coComment doing anything more than tracking my comments, which still means the discussion happens in multiple places. So, it seems like fractured discussion is a necessary evil.

    Did I miss something?

  27. christophe Says:

    Yes, we do track the conversation, so you know when someone post a comment (this is why I can answer you quickly ;-)).
    But we never duplicated the conversation: our links are always pointing to the original post and we do not enable commenting from our site.
    If I follow you on coComment, and see a conversation you have that interest me, I will be able to participate, on the blog. And the link to the post is available directly from coComment web site, or from my RSS feeds.

  28. christophe Says:

    Yes, we do track the conversation, so you know when someone post a comment (this is why I can answer you quickly ;-)).
    But we never duplicated the conversation: our links are always pointing to the original post and we do not enable commenting from our site.
    If I follow you on coComment, and see a conversation you have that interest me, I will be able to participate, on the blog. And the link to the post is available directly from coComment web site, or from my RSS feeds.

  29. christophe Says:

    By the way, I was not suggesting we do something better ;-)
    We just do something else. My interest was more on the subject of multiple conversations on the same article.
    But I do see an added value if FF would integrate our tracked conversation to:
    – Enable you to show your friends what you say
    – Display the blog conversation with the item.

  30. christophe Says:

    By the way, I was not suggesting we do something better ;-)
    We just do something else. My interest was more on the subject of multiple conversations on the same article.
    But I do see an added value if FF would integrate our tracked conversation to:
    – Enable you to show your friends what you say
    – Display the blog conversation with the item.

  31. Jake Says:

    @christophe: FF has the network already, so I can see what people whose feeds I subscribe to are saying in comments.

    As for multiple conversations, I honestly don’t care. It was nice to have Bret comment here, but if he had commented on the feed item instead, I wouldn’t care. Some people will engage here, directly or clicking through from a reader or other source (FF, Twitter, emailed link, whatever). Others will engage on FF. As an author, I want to extend my reach, even if it means more work for me.

    As FF grows, the evolution of their commenting system is going to be interesting to watch for you and the rest of us.

  32. Jake Says:

    @christophe: FF has the network already, so I can see what people whose feeds I subscribe to are saying in comments.

    As for multiple conversations, I honestly don’t care. It was nice to have Bret comment here, but if he had commented on the feed item instead, I wouldn’t care. Some people will engage here, directly or clicking through from a reader or other source (FF, Twitter, emailed link, whatever). Others will engage on FF. As an author, I want to extend my reach, even if it means more work for me.

    As FF grows, the evolution of their commenting system is going to be interesting to watch for you and the rest of us.

  33. christophe Says:

    Interesting: in FF, do you also see comments they do not write on FF ? I tried to get my comments in my FF profile but didn’t find a way to do it.

    The way you mention multiple conversation works for you. But I’m also interested on the comments people are leaving on your post. So I will end up tracking two conversations :-(

    And, although I’m not a blogger, I’m a big reader and sometime commenter, and, as I mentioned, I read the post and comments. So tracking conversations is very important for me. Maybe you should display the FF conversation also in your post page so I can read both without searching for the item in FF.

  34. christophe Says:

    Interesting: in FF, do you also see comments they do not write on FF ? I tried to get my comments in my FF profile but didn’t find a way to do it.

    The way you mention multiple conversation works for you. But I’m also interested on the comments people are leaving on your post. So I will end up tracking two conversations :-(

    And, although I’m not a blogger, I’m a big reader and sometime commenter, and, as I mentioned, I read the post and comments. So tracking conversations is very important for me. Maybe you should display the FF conversation also in your post page so I can read both without searching for the item in FF.

  35. Jake Says:

    @christophe: No, you can’t see what people write in comment off FF. What I meant was FF has a network already, and I can see what people in that network are doing, including their comments within FF.

    You make a good point about a FF widget, and I’m hoping that will be coming soon when they release an API.

    FYI: Here’s a link to the item in FriendFeed.
    http://friendfeed.com/e/f7b7ec41-3343-4ab3-15a6-de5cde34bf58

  36. Jake Says:

    @christophe: No, you can’t see what people write in comment off FF. What I meant was FF has a network already, and I can see what people in that network are doing, including their comments within FF.

    You make a good point about a FF widget, and I’m hoping that will be coming soon when they release an API.

    FYI: Here’s a link to the item in FriendFeed.
    http://friendfeed.com/e/f7b7ec41-3343-4ab3-15a6-de5cde34bf58

  37. christophe Says:

    I like this post from Andy: http://andybeard.eu/2008/03/the-death-of-blogging.html
    And I would like to quote:
    “How many times have you found the answer to a question by reading a blog comment?

    For me it is actually quite frequently – comments quite often provide alternatives to the original content that offer improvements.

    A large part of blogging is engaging your audience in conversation”

  38. christophe Says:

    I like this post from Andy: http://andybeard.eu/2008/03/the-death-of-blogging.html
    And I would like to quote:
    “How many times have you found the answer to a question by reading a blog comment?

    For me it is actually quite frequently – comments quite often provide alternatives to the original content that offer improvements.

    A large part of blogging is engaging your audience in conversation”

  39. Jake Says:

    @christophe: There’s discussion at FF about this topic and how the API could support widgets to bring comments from FF into your blog and/or bring blog comments into your feed.

  40. Jake Says:

    @christophe: There’s discussion at FF about this topic and how the API could support widgets to bring comments from FF into your blog and/or bring blog comments into your feed.

  41. christophe Says:

    Just an idea for now……

    What if we, in coComment, give you the possibility, as the owner of this site, to do the following:
    – We track the conversation on the original post
    – The site owner have the possibility to attach to this conversation any other conversations related to this post
    – Someone tracking the conversation on your post will automatically track all related conversations
    – The main link is still to your post
    – We have “sub-links” to the related conversations so people can choose where they want to comment.
    – Someone tracking just a related conversation will also see the link to the post.

    What do you think ? Would you see this as helpful to follow more efficiently fragmented conversations and to keep people coming to your site ?

    Thanks for your comments

  42. christophe Says:

    Just an idea for now……

    What if we, in coComment, give you the possibility, as the owner of this site, to do the following:
    – We track the conversation on the original post
    – The site owner have the possibility to attach to this conversation any other conversations related to this post
    – Someone tracking the conversation on your post will automatically track all related conversations
    – The main link is still to your post
    – We have “sub-links” to the related conversations so people can choose where they want to comment.
    – Someone tracking just a related conversation will also see the link to the post.

    What do you think ? Would you see this as helpful to follow more efficiently fragmented conversations and to keep people coming to your site ?

    Thanks for your comments

  43. Jake Says:

    @christophe: I suppose that would be helpful. Sounds complex, frankly coComment holds value for serial commenters more than casual commenters like me.

    One great effect of FF for small blogs is that it puts your content into the feeds of people who wouldn’t see it otherwise. For example, I doubt Scoble reads here or subscribes and why would he? But since he subscribes to me on FF, he’ll see my posts there, and if he wants, he can comment, no mess, no fuss.

    Plus, if he comments, my post bubbles up, and others see it and comment.

    In the end, fragmentation doesn’t matter to small fish. Attention does.

  44. Jake Says:

    @christophe: I suppose that would be helpful. Sounds complex, frankly coComment holds value for serial commenters more than casual commenters like me.

    One great effect of FF for small blogs is that it puts your content into the feeds of people who wouldn’t see it otherwise. For example, I doubt Scoble reads here or subscribes and why would he? But since he subscribes to me on FF, he’ll see my posts there, and if he wants, he can comment, no mess, no fuss.

    Plus, if he comments, my post bubbles up, and others see it and comment.

    In the end, fragmentation doesn’t matter to small fish. Attention does.

  45. Jake Says:

    Dawn Foster has hacked together a Yahoo Pipe that tracks items in any user’s FF that have garnered likes or comments:

    http://fastwonderblog.com/2008/03/20/solution-to-missed-friendfeed-comments-friendfeed-comment-finder/

  46. Jake Says:

    Dawn Foster has hacked together a Yahoo Pipe that tracks items in any user’s FF that have garnered likes or comments:

    http://fastwonderblog.com/2008/03/20/solution-to-missed-friendfeed-comments-friendfeed-comment-finder/

  47. christophe Says:

    @Jake: yes, true. The initial value is more for your readers/commenters. But at the end, this is also value for you if you make your reader’s life easier.

    I would be surprised that Robert follow you on FF but do not track your blog. If he is interested by what you say, he should read your blog. But I’m probably wrong ;-)

  48. christophe Says:

    @Jake: yes, true. The initial value is more for your readers/commenters. But at the end, this is also value for you if you make your reader’s life easier.

    I would be surprised that Robert follow you on FF but do not track your blog. If he is interested by what you say, he should read your blog. But I’m probably wrong ;-)

  49. christophe Says:

    By the way: you mention the value of coComment to serial commenters. I would also add serial readers like me.

  50. christophe Says:

    By the way: you mention the value of coComment to serial commenters. I would also add serial readers like me.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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) ;-)

  54. 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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