I Need to Use FriendFeed More

FriendFeedDid anyone notice a larger than normal bump in their FeedBurner stats last week?

Last week, the FeedBurner numbers shot up from about 1,000 readers to more than 1,500. I’m behind on my reading, but so far, I haven’t seen this covered anywhere but on the FriendFeed blog.

Some movement in subscribers is common. However, this was an interesting surprise, since FeedBurner often erroneously lowers (not raises) the number of readers, sometimes by 50% or more.

Anyway, this is a welcome addition if you’re a blogger, mainly because it feeds the ego, but also it adds another channel to follow for comments and discussion of your content.

I’ve been a FriendFeed user since it was in private beta, and I love the app. The team behind it constantly adds useful features, months ahead of more popular services like Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook, only to see bits and pieces of their work added to these apps.

FriendFeed is an interesting hybrid. It combines the aggregation of Reader with the immediacy of Twitter (and now Facebook), adding that oh-so-important trust layer on top.

In the latest redesign of Connect, we added RSS import, modeled after FriendFeed’s offering. Lightweight aggregation like this provides an easy way to keep track of multiple sources in a single place, and even though it fractures the discussion, this may be the only choice you have.

In our case, we don’t have the bandwidth (or stroke, frankly) to integrate all the systems used internally for work, so we use feeds to centralize other content systems.

Even though it’s a powerful and useful app, FriendFeed’s traffic has remained stable, despite the usage spikes experienced by other services, prompting some to declare that FriendFeed is the coolest app no one uses.

My biggest problem with FriendFeed is controlling the noise. Unlike Twitter, each user can add multiple channels, making it exponentially louder. They have added some controls to curb the noise, and overlap with Twitter, but I still get overwhelmed each time I jump back in to give it another go.

Recently, the integration of FriendFeed comments into blogs (e.g. Disqus’ Reactions feature) has made it easier to see and reply to commentary about posts. This helps with discussion fragmentation, but it hasn’t yet helped me use FriendFeed for daily information gathering and conversation, its main purpose.

It’s too early to declare failure, especially based on traffic alone, but I do wonder about the FriendFeed team. It doesn’t feel  good to see your innovation appear in other services while your traffic remains relatively static.

I do believe it’s early in the hype cycle. Look at Twitter for an example. Remember back in late 2007 when Twitter made an appearance in a CSI episode? Now, it’s all Twitter, all the time, in all media. As an example, the finale of the Ultimate Fighter this past weekend featured numerous references to Joe Rogan and Dana White on Twitter.

So maybe FriendFeed’s time will come, as n00bs get overwhelmed with goodness from the ‘tubes and seek out a way to aggregate all their content. Hey, FriendFeed may actually accomplish what RSS has failed to do. I certainly hope so.

What do you think? How do you use FriendFeed (ahem, John), and if you don’t why not? What makes it successful for you?

Find the comments here or on FriendFeed 🙂




  1. FriendFeed is a very versatile and robust social network. I call it my central nervous system because it takes in all my activity from everywhere, and routes data outward.

    I did discuss the FeedBurner bump last week, as did some solid folks including Rob Diana and Daniel Pritchett.

    You can see my response here:

    FriendFeed Sneaks Into My RSS Stats And Hits The Big Red Button

  2. Thanks Louis. Like I said, I'm behind on my reading 🙂 I didn't see any mention on Techmeme or TechCrunch and assumed the 3G S launch and Twitter+Iran had buried any coverage.

    I'm wading back in to FF because Twitter has become less useful for me, and I really enjoy the innovation the FF team continues to deploy.

    I agree with the assertion that the FeedBurner count is pretty useless now, and generally speaking, I think we can do better measuring the influence of a blog, which is a general problem with raw number counts.

  3. I have started using friendfeed though after reading your post I think I will give it a try. I am always amazed at what sites like Twitter get picked up by the masses and which ones don't

  4. Well, I'm behind on my reading and my writing. I had seen Rob Diana's and Louis Gray's comments on inclusion of FriendFeed stats in FeedBurner (for the record, my FeedBurner stats increased by an order of magnitude), but I didn't have a chance to read your post until now.

    FriendFeed has been my primary destination (currently tempered a bit by my addiction to Facebook's Farm Town game), primarily due to its conversational aspects. Certainly you can find conversations elsewhere, but FriendFeed clearly lends itself to the conversations – much more than Twitter.

    In terms of reading FriendFeed content, the most powerful feature that they recently introduced is saved searches. I've set up several searches, including some work-related ones (mentions of various biometric technologies, mentions of my employer) that allow me to quickly find relevant content without having to subscribe to a bunch of people to possibly find that content. Obviously you can do the same thing in other services (you could save a Twitter search), but I'm finding that it's becoming much more useful to subscribe to topics than it is to subscribe to people (with some exceptions, of course). Right now the only limitation is the imperfect nature of current search technology (for example, see http://friendfeed.com/oow which captures every occurrence of the three-letter word “oow”).

    FriendFeed also gives me choices as a publisher of content. The multiple channels, rather than making things exponentially louder, actually allows you to exert more control over what you read and what you don't. Not interested in knowing every song that I listen to via last.fm? Then don't subscribe to my “lastfmfeeds” group. Not interested in California's Inland Empire? Then don't subscribe to my “empoprise-ie” group. When a co-worker recommended that I start looking into natural user interfaces, I set up a room dedicated to that topic, and a few others with that same interest have joined that group.

    A lot of this has been learned over time, through trial and error, and taking advantage of new FriendFeed features as they become available. However, FriendFeed has enough tools to let me tailor it to suit my preferences.

    Is this enough to allow FriendFeed to grow its user base substantially? Frankly, I'm not sure. While the main purpose of the recent changes seem to be to make FriendFeed easier to the eyes for the novice, it is still a much more complex application than Twitter. Complexity isn't necessarily a barrier to growth – look how complex Facebook is – but I'm still not sure that FriendFeed's features, while loved by a vocal few (Robert Scoble especially), will necessarily resonate with tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people.

  5. Wow, thanks for the search tip. That is very useful, too bad it captures a lot of Twitter overlap, but still, nice protip.

    Groups and lists do help a lot to control the noise. I've not played with them very much, good reminder.

    I'd like to know how Facebook's redesign has impacted the casual user, since that would be telling for FriendFeed's long-term success. I think it's too early though. FF may be months away from a Twitter-type explosion. Knowing the team, they'll find ways to make it both useful for n00bs and quiet for early adopters.

    Thanks for your insights.

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