Tag Archives: FriendFeed

Facebook Knows Best

n27233634858_8547As the Facebook management continues their ongoing march to make up for failing to buy Twitter by copying features from Twitter and FriendFeed, there seems to be a grim inevitability about the way each new change is greeted.

First off there is usually a cheery posting on their blog explaining how they’ve made it a whole load easier to use the site, this is usually swiftly followed by loads of complaints, and protest groups. However, this is generally to no avail, the changes stay, as do most of the people complaining – which is after all what Facebook and their advertisers are interested in.

So what is the change this time? They’ve updated the friend pages to make it even easier to group your friends into lists, which you can then use to filter the home feed. The problem being that in doing so they’ve taken out two tabs that showed recent status updates, and which a lot of people used to get a quick overview of all the statuses of all their friends. Neither Twitter or FriendFeed have such a page, so obviously Facebook doesn’t need one either.

The Facebook argument is that you should be getting this information from the home feed – the problem of course is that the home feed is so full of application spam that you can barely find status updates, and whilst you can spend time going through the filters to try and get a simple status list it’s not nearly as convenient as a single page list of everybody.

What is bizarre about the whole thing is that in terms of numbers, Facebook far outstrips Twitter and FriendFeed (even combined) in terms of users – users who like the Twitter or FriendFeed ways of operating have set up accounts over there. Trying to turn Facebook into one of those services, sacrificing popular features and annoying large numbers of users in the process seems nonsensical. Whilst the changes thus far haven’t produced a wholesale exodus, it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that if they keep doing this they will.

Facebook claims they are listening to their users, but the fact is that the vast majority of their users aren’t the ones who participate in feedback groups. Essentially it seems they are following a minority who want a Twitter clone, at the expense of those who want Facebook as it is. If they had any sense Facebook would be looking at how the average user uses the site through their stats – it seems that there are a large number of users who come in and used to go straight to the recent status updates page.

Discovering Great Flickr Pictures

Last week, blogging photographer Thomas Hawk wrote a great piece extolling the virtues of FriendFeed for discovering great pictures on Flickr.

I’m certainly with him in that respect for a couple of reasons. Firstly, unlike the contacts page on Flickr itself, FriendFeed has a nice expanding interface that allows you to see all the picture thumbnails in a particular batch. Secondly, it shows you more than the Flickr contacts page, in particular it shows you pictures your contacts have marked as favourites, and also pictures posted and marked as favourites by their FriendFeed contacts. As a result you get a great, and sometimes pretty eclectic collection of great pictures coming through. Thanks to the filtering features you can even get to a page of only Flickr items.

The down side? Back to the old chestnut of having to manually add people to FriendFeed, which is an incredibly tedious process with a lot of contacts (Thomas has over 9000).

So what sort of things have I been finding? Check out this great set of pictures of Ghost Towns of Saskatchewan from bonedad:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Imitation Is…

Back in February, a group of former Google employees launched FriendFeed, a site that allowed users of multiple social networking sites to aggregate feeds of their data from those sites into a single stream that could be shared with their friends, so for example my account on FriendFeed aggregates my blog and my Google Reader shared items along with feeds from BrightKite, Del.icio.us, Facebook, Disqus, Flickr, LinkedIn, Pownce, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Twitter, Upcoming, Vimeo and YouTube. Thanks to a handy Facebook application, I could also pull the contents of my FriendFeed feed into my Facebook account, bringing in those friends and family whose social networking only reached as far as the walls of the Facebook walled garden.

Then back in May, Facebook added a new feature, importing data from third-party sites into the mini-feed – albeit with a much more limited selection of sources (hence why I’m still using FriendFeed).

One the big draws of FriendFeed – and ironically one of it’s biggest controversies, is that it provides the ability for other FriendFeed users to comment on items in the feed. This results in conversations taking place initiated by the posting/sharing of an item. The reason for the controversy is that if the initial item is a blog posting there is quite often a separate conversation going on back on the blog, and whilst there are ways to link the two, some bloggers do not like the separation of feedback on their content. Anyway, a month on from the first set of Facebook mini-feed changes, this week Facebook announced the addition of mini-feed commenting, leading to accusations that they are copying FriendFeed. Again from my point of view it’s not up there with the FriendFeed implementation due to the lack of services it is aggregating, and the fact that it is all within the walled garden of Facebook.

Having said that, FriendFeed isn’t all conquering either. Although I quite often use the site, the feature where it shares FriendFeed items liked by people I am following quite often throwing up some gems, I’m still regularly logging on to SocialThing! The two are subtly different in what they set out to achieve – fundamentally SocialThing! is aggregating feeds from my contacts on social networking services, rather than aggregating my feeds for someone else to subscribe to. The big downside of FriendFeed is that if a particular friend I have from a service such as Twitter is not on FriendFeed I have to manually create what is called an imaginary friend in order to be able to view their feed in FriendFeed. Whilst that may seem fairly straightforward if you consider the number of services and the number of potential friends you could have on each service the size of the job starts to grow rather a lot. Over on SocialThing! if I add a new Twitter feed or Flickr account their content just starts appearing in my account without any further intervention from me. There are some third-party solutions around, but fundamentally with FriendFeed if you expand your social circle, you end up having to duplicate the addition if that person is not already on FriendFeed.

So who is going to win out? Facebook has a big advantage in terms of numbers, but how many users really know about the aggregation and commenting features? Since Facebook is very reliant on having a captive, easily target-able user base, it is important for them to try and keep up to stop people going elsewhere – in their world they’d rather you didn’t post your pictures and videos somewhere else, but it seems they’ll now let you link to them to keep you using their service. However much like their photo and video applications, the mini-feed aggregation is not nearly as good as the specialist services like FriendFeed and SocialThing! FriendFeed has a burgeoning user base, and the current reliability problems at Twitter are starting to push conversations from there onto FriendFeed. SocialThing! is still in beta, and whilst it lacks some of the conversation features of FriendFeed, is a lot easier to handle, and certainly enhances using the other third-party services rather than bringing in another.

Taking a Tumble

Probably to a general chorus of ‘Oh no, not another thing!’ I’m giving a Tumblelog a try. The wikipedia entry explains the concept pretty well – it is essentially a short-form blog, so the posts will be a mixture of links, pictures, quotes and short text rather than the long-form stuff that I post here.

As a concept it does overlap somewhat with things like the aside posts that I have on here, and my link blog which links to articles I’ve found interesting that have come up in my Google Reader feeds. The difference is that the Tumblelog brings in various other forms, and is useful for linking to items that aren’t in Google Reader where I’ve previously had to fiddle around with to link to.

The Tumblelog can be found at http://tumblr.peat.me.uk, and is also added as a sidebar item to the main page of this site, and comes complete with it’s own RSS feed.

However by far the easiest way to keep up with all the different sites I use is to head over to FriendFeed or Plaxo Pulse, both of which are combining all the various feeds from blogs, link blogs, tumblelogs, pictures and so on into one. You can find my FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/rtpeat.

Am I a Lifestream Junkie?

So I’m now trying out a third Lifestream utility – well fourth or fifth if you include the people bar on Flock or the solution I cobbled together using Facebook applications. Thanks to an article on TechCrunch this morning, I’m trying out a beta release of SocialThing! alongside FriendFeed and Plaxo Pulse.

I have to say, I didn’t set out to run three in parallel. I tried out FriendFeed to use as a replacement for the multiple applications on Facebook. The big problem with those was that not all of them updated automatically – thanks to limitations in the applications, some of them often needed a kick to get updates to be registered. FriendFeed takes feeds from all of the sites I use day to day, and posts them eventually into my Facebook feeds. Thanks to the way FriendFeed works – using RSS feeds, plus the vagaries of updates to the Facebook mini-feed it does sometimes take a little while for updates to get through.

The Plaxo Pulse account came as a side effect of my having given Plaxo a go for trying to get my address book and calendar details transferred to home. Again this is using RSS feeds for updates so is a bit slow.

Having said that, whilst both sites bring together all of my own updates, they don’t bring together all my friends updates unless they also sign up to the relevant site. FriendFeed has a couple of contacts, as does Plaxo, but on my people bar on Flock there are massively more people. The other annoyance with Flock is that the people bar is totally independent on each of the different computers that I am running it on.

This is the particular advantage of SocialThing!. Unlike FriendFeed and Plaxo Pulse it isn’t working on RSS feeds – instead, in much the same way as Flock it uses the various API’s provided by the supported sites to link all of your information together. Again as with Flock this limits the number of supported third-party sites, however it does mean that it gives me a complete view of all of my friends in one place without them having to sign up on the SocialThing! site.

SocialThing! have a new little FAQ document which explains the differences between what they are trying to do and FriendFeed. Whilst I can see from the explanation how they’re different, my thought is that to the man on the street the difference is pretty subtle, FriendFeed, SocialThing! and Plaxo Pulse, along with a number of other sites are all doing essentially the same thing, and certainly a good few of them are going to fall by the way side.

Having said that, on initial impressions if SocialThing! can get things into the Facebook mini-feed and also support my blog, that would remove the need for FriendFeed… Equally if FriendFeed can pull in all my friends from various services automatically in the same way as SocialThing! has done, then I could go with FriendFeed – and of course the same applies to Plaxo Pulse. They are all doing slightly different things, which if combined would offer me the solution I wanted. Until then, I guess I’m going to continue looking like a Lifestream Junkie…