Oct 30

Using FriendFeed for it all, broadcasting to Twitter for the users

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FriendFeed is marching on. I prefer it to Twitter these days, but of course the users are still mainly on Twitter. The best of both worlds for me is to run FriendFeed as my “client” yet have Twitter users happily following and not knowing or caring that, that is the case.

We may have the pieces to actually do this right now:

Posting to Twitter

FriendFeed added support for posting activities to Twitter for you. People immediately worry about spamming Twitter with this stuff, so you should think about that and turn off a bunch of services. I currently use TwitterFeed, which I will turn off if I use this feature (as FriendFeed will handle that as I turn on my blog service).

Seeing your @replies

FriendFeed is one of the few companies who have access to the XMPP firehose. They should be able to grok the replies (e.g. @dalmaer) and merge those into the comment stream.

In the meantime, DeWitt has a great hack:

I created an imaginary friend on FriendFeed and subscribed it to http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%40dewitt

I did this, registering “To Dion” as the friend. It is ugly as it doesn’t merge into your flow, you can’t easily tell who has replied, and it is one big link… but it is good enough.

Friend / Follower Syncing

The people I follow on FriendFeed and Twitter isn’t in sync, and it should be. I haven’t caught up on FriendFeed. The beauty of the imaginary friends feature is that you can add Twitter folks even if they don’t have FriendFeed accounts yet. Ideally, I could tell FriendFeed to do the syncing and followee management for me.

For now though, I could try this sync script and see if it does the trick.

Good times for FriendFeed. I also think that it shows how great their real-time Web experience it is, auto updating in front of my eyes. If they implement these features natively, I will be a total convert.

Sep 29

Small feature, huge difference; Correlating entries in FriendFeed

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A week or so ago, FriendFeed included a feature that changes the experience for me on the site.

I used to see this kind of stuff all the time:

FriendFeed Duplicate

Many people would Twitter something with a link, and post it to del.icio.us, and blog about it, and also were members of FriendFeed Rooms. This is a poisonous interface, as it gets very frustrating for the user (at least, for me).

With the new feature, my flow looks like this:

FriendFeed Related

It appears to be quite smart too. It puts together items, kind of like TechMeme, where you see Bob posting to his blog, and then Harry posting about it too appears under that item. It is doing smart grouping, which in turns give you more content.

I would like to see it go further in some ways, and not take up as much space on the “related” line, especially for items that are true duplicates. The algorithm is still getting its grove on, and I often still see the duplicates, but this is a great feature, and knocks down another mini-barrier of my FF usage.

Jul 11

FriendFeed vibe compared to Twitter

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First, I apologize for writing a post with a title that has both FriendFeed and Twitter in it. I understand that most people will hit delete as soon as they can as they are sick of hearing about them.

However, I feel like writing this so I will.

I have dabbled in FriendFeed, but although I thought I should really like it, I never got into it and stayed in Twitter land. It took me awhile to really get the right feel for Twitter though, so I decided to really try to spend time with FriendFeed this week and see how I feel at the end of it.

I think I found the zen a little, but there are good and bad things:

Participation

Once you participate in conversations on the items you see how much nicer it is compared to @replies thrown this way and that in your stream. This is a little like going to conversations in Gmail giving you real threading in email instead of random replies.

One side effect is that you don’t do as many posts yourself, and do more comments on other peoples.

The down side though, is the way the river flows through. With Twitter it is easy, it flows on up. Here though, again a little like email, threads jump around as people comment. I find this pretty weird, as suddenly an item from 4 months ago shows up just because some random bloke “liked” it.

I do find that I actually click on “like” here though, whereas I never “favourite” on Twitter. I don’t know why. I think it is because you actually SEE when people like something so you are motivated to play the game.

Go Away A-List!

One nice viral (organic @kmarks?) feature is that they show you items one friend away (friend of a friend). This seems great, and can make a nice way to find people that you would like to follow. Seeing their stuff allows you to judge that, whereas “find friends” doesn’t.

The downside here though is that I can’t get away from Robert Scoble. No offense to Robert. The problem is that even after I unsubscribed to Robert because most of the posts had something to do about him…. I still get his posts because of this:

FriendFeed Scoble

Since so many people connect to him and other A-lists, chances are that some of my friends are in that chain too. Argh! There doesn’t seem to be a way to explicitly mute these, and using ‘hide’ a lot doesn’t seem to tell the engine to do it itself. “Oh, wait, Dion has hidden this guys stuff a lot so lets lay off.” The net effect is that the A-list folk have way too much of the feed.

Another couple of random things. For some reason I couldn’t get Flickr to work as a service. The interface asks for your nickname or email, so I tried both: my Flickr username (dalmaer), and my email, both personal and the Yahoo! one. No cigar. Finally, I went over to Flickr and duh, the email was foo+flickr@almaer.com in my settings. I plug that in, and FriendFeed found it.

Finally, I am still looking for a bit more. I still want The River to be a tool that I live in, instead of something that sits over there. I hope the good folk at FF push ahead :) I do find that I am very rarely in Facebook now. My social group isn’t really there anymore, and my Dad is on there a lot more than I. The new iPhone app is awesome though, and could become your contact list.

Thanks for putting up with me for this post. I keep thinking that I sound like Steve Gilmor going on about @replies and the power of track.

Mar 26

How FriendFeed could dwarf Facebook and Twitter

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The River

When FriendFeed first came out it looked like a nice little aggregator done by some smart EIRs who just left Google. A few months later they have grown into being the company that is mentioned on TechCrunch, RWW, TechMeme, and Mashable on a daily basis. Quite a change in a short period, so with the launching of their API, I thought I would posit how I think that they could keep on going to much bigger things, and above the hype cloud (everyone wants the next Twitter).

As I look at how I use these services, I have noticed some recent changes:

Stage 1: Really?

I did the Twitter thing when it first came out, and I admit to not getting it. I remember opening up the public view and seeing the odd swearing from Bulgaria and thinking “this is 99% noise, why does anyone waste their time?”. After a Twitter week I kinda moved on. The most I had to do with it was using MoodBlast to send my status updates to Twitter too.

Stage 2: Facebook

I moved from Twitter to Facebook and got much more attached to it. “My crowd” was on their from the tech side, and a bunch of old mates from England too. I got to get up to speed with their lives, and over time keep in touch in that tiny way by the status update, and the odd photo.

I saw huge value in being able to learn from my friends, and dreamed of being able to have my own personal Digg, centering the bell curve on me instead of 12 year olds.

As applications were getting built I was excited to see what “killer apps” will be thrown up on the Facebook platform. Scrabulous was the one I used the most, but I saw far too many Vampires around and kept seeing my notifications list on the top right go up to huge numbers as I couldn’t be bothered to say “No” to them all. I could ignore that though, and still saw value.

Then something strange happened about a month or two ago. The feed started to get less interesting. Note, all I use Facebook for is the feed. I am not someone who jumps around on profiles to find out if Jinny has has a relationship where “it’s complicated”. My feed was getting noisy, and there was less in it. The magic had gone. It seems like the core group that I care about isn’t doing as much on Facebook, so the viral nature in which it erupted has reversed just as quickly. My Facebook tab disappeared and now I can’t remember the last time I logged in.

Stage 3: Twitter part deux

“Twitter is chat where I don’t care about a response”

As Facebook usage was going down, I was also back to Twitter and finally got it. I hit the right sweet spot of following and followers and saw a lot more signal coming through. I stopped using MoodBlast and turned on the Twitter Facebook application, even though I was annoying people with the “is twittering” part of the messages that drive me nuts (Twitter: please let me turn that off!). I guess I should switch to TwitterSync, but I just don’t care.

I have started to get a lot of leads for Ajaxian and cool tech in general on Twitter, and it is a place to call out into the void and you often get a crazy number of responses.

I am starting to wish for more though. Firstly, stability of course. But then, I want features like #hashtags to be grokked by the platform, so they don’t take up valuable characters out of the 140, and that the UI deals with them accordingly. I would love a metadata layer that would allow for the payloads that dave whines so much about, but also more. Let me put in [lat: ..., long: ...] to add Geo. Let me add anything I want and then the apps on top of Twitter are sure to shine. If Twitter doesn’t do this, I think that over time other services will fill that void. Pownce is ready in the shadows, but it needs to be more than Twitter+1. This is where FriendFeed comes in.

Stage 4: FriendFeed = Twitter * 2

FriendFeed is adding cool features on a weekly basis. I have personally worked with Bret Taylor and he is top notch, so I have no doubt that this will continue. A team that has launched Gmail and Google Maps also groks scalability, so I do not expect them to have the same troubles as Twitter.

But then we have the features. I think they can be a great mix of Facebook and Twitter. I want the stream to be more about just chatting. I want the photos to be part of it. I want my personal Digg. I want….

Stage 5: The River

It keeps coming back to my desire for The River, a new email system for all activity.

The key to this is having enough dials to make it tunable. With every feature that FriendFeed adds, they seem to get closer to this. Search is key as it gives you the nob tuning on the fly, and the API is key as it could let someone like me actually implement something that I need.

Here is to a FriendFeed that keeps accelerating. Congrats so far guys.