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Experiment: Stream All FriendFeed Entries with Selected Keywords into Rooms

With the new ability to pipe feeds directly into Rooms, I wanted to try something new. Why not pipe all FriendFeed entries with a keyword into a particular room? In doing this, you can expand the Room’s content to include more than just what its member share.

What do I mean? Here’s an example. I’ve set up a Room called “Enterprise 2.0″. I searched on the ‘everyone’ tab for the term “enterprise 2.0″. I turned the search into a feed, and added that URL to the Enterprise 2.0 Room. Voila! I’m now channeling all FriendFeed entries with the term into the room, not just the stuff that is re-shared by individuals.

Here’s how you do that, courtesy of Mark Krynsky at lifestream blog. Run a search. At the end of the URL for the search, add this

&format=atom

So an atom feed of a search for “enterprise 2.0″ looks like this:

http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22enterprise+2.0%22&public=1&format=atom

I set this up for a couple other rooms as well:

The biggest concern is that for high volume topics (e.g. “FriendFeed”), you’ll overwhlem all Room members’ FriendFeed streams. But more specialized topics, it’s a great way to capture content that other FriendFeeders have produced or filtered.

One quirk…I noticed this one entry for Enterprise 2.0 kept repeating itself.

So there was the original entry from Kanwal, a Google Reader share. That entry hit my FriendFeed stream as blog entry I created (the search term feed). Hence the entry “Hutch Carpenter: Enterprise 2.0: Kanwal…” Well, that newly created entry hit my FriendFeed stream. Which in turn became another instance: “Hutch Carpenter: Enterprise 2.0: Hutch Carpenter: Enterprise 2.0: Kanwal…”

As I write this, that’s the only entry showing that behavior, and it has stopped repeating. Let’s hope it doesn’t take down the FriendFeed servers…

So there you have it. I wanted to share this little experiment. A good way to consolidate topical entries into a FriendFeed Room. Especially for those of us too time-pressed to re-share everything.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Experiment%3A+Stream+All+FriendFeed+Entries+with+Selected+Keywords+into+Rooms%22&public=1

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Same Sex Marriage in California – What Change Will We See?

Same sex weddings begin today here in California. I’m wondering how this is going to change things around here.

Before Same Sex Marriage

I have some gay neighbors. I see them driving around. I see one of them walking their dogs. Chat with them on the sidewalk. They buy groceries over at the neighborhood store. Other neighbors ask them for advice on home remodeling. My kids say hi to them.

After Same Sex Marriage

I have some gay married neighbors. I see them driving around. I see one of them walking their dogs. Chat with them on the sidewalk. They buy groceries over at the neighborhood store. Other neighbors ask them for advice on home remodeling. My kids say hi to them.

Weekly Recap 061308: Social Media Exposure

Social media means exposure…exposure of your life…exposure to people interested in and knowledgeable about subjects you like…exposure to things that might offend you…exposure for your company

*****

Had fun this week with my post Nudity on FriendFeed: What Are Some Sensible Rules?…I wrote it for two reasons…(1) to get a temperature check from FriendFeed members as to where they stand with regard to nudity in their streams…(2) to point out that users have some control over their exposure to such things…

Michael Hocter, whose Flickr Favorites entry prompted me to write the post, reports that he gained a lot of new FriendFeed subscribers…and he’s sticking with the nudes (NSFW)…

I also learned that showing a topless model in your blog post will drive site visits better than anything…usually, my posts have a greater number of subscription views than site views, but this post was the opposite…a lot of click-throughs to the blog…

One concern…the word nudity in the post will get me some unwanted attention from odd spammers…thank goodness for Akismet

*****

Interesting development…FriendFeed now has a ‘block’ feature…as I write this, the FriendFeed guys haven’t posted anything about it yet to their blog…but here’s what the text says when you use the ‘block’ feature:

After blocking this user, you won’t see any of their posts or comments on FriendFeed, and they won’t see anything you post. If they’re subscribed to you, that subscription will be removed.

Here’s how Bret Taylor describes the philosophy of the feature: “Blocking is not a filtering mechanism, but an abuse prevention tool.”…this is going to come in handy…

****

NBC News’s Tim Russert passed away today, from a heart attack…I enjoy following politics, and when I lived in Washington D.C., I couldn’t get enough of it…Tim Russert served up outstanding questions, a respectful demeanor and a tenacious pursuit for answers to his questions…I also enjoyed his book Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons

Amazing array of items related to Tim Russert on FriendFeed…blogs, direct posts, news articles, tweets, photos, videos…

*****

Jeremiah Owyang asks Does the President need to know how to use a Computer/Web?…NO!…there are so many things that go beyond our technology world, why would we stress this?…give me an authentic leader, who can surround himself with a talented team, who has positions with which I agree, and who can drive an agenda at home and abroad…computer user is pretty low on my list of requirements…

*****

How FriendFeed has altered one of my behaviors…I often share only three items at once in Google Reader…three is the maximum number of shares that display with titles in FriendFeed…do more than that, and you get two blog titles visible, all others relegated to the dreaded “[N] more” link…

*****

Caleb Elston released new features this week for his company Toluu…those are great, but I thought an equally cool story was how Caleb leveraged his blogger relations and presence on FriendFeed and Twitter to spread the word…

I added up the Technorati Authority of the eight blogs that covered the new features…the combined Authority of 872 is the equivalent of getting a Top 5000 blogger to write about you, but even better…those eight different posts were bouncing to the top of FriendFeed over and over for each blogger’s set of subscribers, meaning the exposure was not dependent on one blog post getting traction…something to think about for future marketing…

*****

If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out Louis Gray’s post this week about The Five Stages Of Early Adopter Behavior…my favorite is Stage #4 “Sense of Entitlement, Nitpicking and Reduced Use”…I’m not an early adopter type (I still have a mini-brick Sprint cell phone), but I’ll have to watch myself for these stages…

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Weekly+Recap+061308%3A+Social+Media+Exposure%22&public=1

Smart Social Media Marketing: Caleb Elston and Toluu

Interacting with bloggers called vital for business

Brice Wallace, Deseret News, June 7, 2008

Toluu released several new features on Wednesday. The features are cool, and are covered in another post on this blog. Which leads to the point of this post…

Caleb Elston did a masterful job of getting coverage for his fledging company Toluu. By himself, with no PR firm. How?

Caleb is a participant in social media. He’s established relationships and credibility with bloggers, and with others on FriendFeed and Twitter.

In a recent post, I asked Will Brands Figure Out FriendFeed? The idea is that rather than rely only on standard press releases and marketing campaigns, companies should look at engaging customers out in various social media, with a focus on FriendFeed. Establishing these deeper relationships pays dividends:

  • Reliable audience for updates
  • Viral distribution of company information
  • Customer advocates
  • Feedback from the market, with the ability to follow-up on questions/comments

Caleb has all of these advantages through his efforts in social media. How involved is he? On FriendFeed, he subscribes to 278 people, has 248 Comments and 244 Likes. On Twitter, he’s following 479  people and has 734 updates. In other words, he’s involved. Which is actually pretty amazing considering he has a day job on top of building out Toluu.

Yesterday, his involvement paid dividends. He reached out to bloggers the day before to let them know of an upcoming release for Toluu, and asked us if we wanted to cover it. Well, since I know him already, saying ‘yes’ was easy. He got eight different bloggers to write about the new release:

The combined Technorati Authority of those eight blogs is 872, which is like getting a top 5,000 blog to write about you. Many of the bloggers are active on FriendFeed, which combined with their existing subscribers, meant that a lot of people saw the news about the new features.

Caleb describes the payoff:

All I can say is wow. Yesterday was an amazing day for Toluu, you helped us shatter every metric we track. We had a record number of pageviews, visitors, signups, new feeds, connections made, invites requested, and time spent on the site. All I can say is thank you.

He even picked up technology celebrity Leo Laporte as a user. Said Leo, “I’m in dire need of a feed reset!”

Admittedly, as a small start-up with limited resources, this is all he could really do. He can’t crank up the PR, marketing and advertising machine.

But that doesn’t devalue the accomplishment. Caleb managed to get people interested in his company thanks to his active involvement in social media.

Big companies…are you listening?

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Smart+Social+Media+Marketing%3A+Caleb+Elston+and+Toluu%22&public=1

Nudity on FriendFeed: What Are Some Sensible Rules?

An interesting issue cropped up on FriendFeed. Nudity. Specifically, some of the Flickr pictures that come through on FriendFeed contain topless or fully nude models. It’s an interesting tension between user generated content and community norms.

This is an issue that has been raised numerous times in the United States, where community norms are more conservative. Europe seems to have been celebrating the human body since the Renaissance.

On FriendFeed, there’s a good discussion around a (not safe for work) set of Flickr favorites by Michael Hocter. The set includes pictures of topless and nude models.

There were several people applying ‘Likes’ to the set, including me. Hey, I liked the pictures, what can I say? They are artistic and beautiful.

The way FriendFeed works is what has caused some discomfort. If you subscribe to Michael Hocter, you’ll see his photos come through your feed. If you don’t subscribe, you won’t see his pictures initially…

Until someone to whom you subscribe Likes or Comments on them. Then they hit your FriendFeed stream via the friend-of-friend feature. As Michael Hocter himself says:

I photograph nudes, so I tend to favorite nudes on Flickr. A lot of them don’t show up here because most of us nude photographers mark our photos Moderate or Restricted. But sometimes when the photographer doesn’t do that, they end up here. I’m sure the majority of people who subscribe to my feed are aware of it and don’t mind, but the friend-of-a-friend feature is problematic.

This problem is somewhat unique to FriendFeed. You can publish photos on Facebook, but only people who are your friends will see them.

One female FriendFeeder who is subscribed to me, edythe, had this comment with regard to the photos:

yeah, i have some mixed feelings about the topless women. we had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about nudity appearing in flickr favorites. no one liked it when it was male nudity. I don’t object to this. i just have mixed feelings about it. (yes, i know i can hide it. ;) )

Being an adult means you get to see things that you wouldn’t have when you were a child. I don’t want Victorian winds blowing through the feeds on FriendFeed. But I also recognize that there are sensible guidelines that govern the type of pictures that are appropriate.

A Few of My Own Guidelines

So I propose a few guidelines for nudity on FriendFeed:

I know it when I see it. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Both content submitters and those who Like or Comment need to use some common sense as to what constitutes porn. It’s particularly incumbent on those who Like and Comment to be reasonable.

Artistic vs. exploitive. This is one that probably varies by person, and really good arguments can be made on both sides. Here’s one way of thinking about it. Michael Hocter photos = artistic. Penthouse photos = exploitive. Playboy pictures = in the eye of the beholder. Want a better description of artistic? Here’s female photographer Dawn M. Armfield:

I don’t photograph nudes (obvious to anyone who follows my photography), but I really appreciate great nude photography, male or female. The contours of the human body are just as beautiful as any other shapes we photograph.

Sexual acts. Nope, don’t go there. Over the line.

Gender. Male or female models.

Anatomy. All normally visible parts of the human body (e.g. no goatse).

Frequency. Oh, this is a good one. If you’re an originator of content (e.g. Flickr favorites), I don’t think there should be any restrictions on how often you add content. Fire away as much as you want. If you’re a Liker or Commenter, use common sense in your frequency. Your subscribers probably aren’t looking for a high volume of nudity. If they want that, they can subscribe to the originator.

Don’t Be Afraid to Like or Comment. One of the great things about FriendFeed is you can give feedback to content submitters. I just said that Likes and Comments shouldn’t be overly frequent. But don’t stop giving feedback altogether…that would be another form of censorship.

Use the Hide function. Those who are offended by nudity should make good use of the Hide function. Assuming folks follow some of the guidelines above, the initial view of the pictures hopefully won’t cause cardiac arrest. After the initial shock, click that Hide link. No more of the offending pictures.

Final Thoughts

The hell if I know whether these make sense to others. I’m not a First Amendment public policy expert. I’m not a professional photographer. I’m not a woman who might feel excluded or offended by interaction around these pictures. But they make sense to me, a regular dude.

What do you think?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Subscribe or Not? Toluu Just Got Better at Helping You Decide

A couple months ago, I had a chance to review Toluu, the blog recommendation site. The site is great, and has gotten really good uptake. In that review, I did write this:

I’d like to get a little more info about some of these blogs in a summary fashion, without having to click each one.

Well, Caleb Elston and team have delivered some nice new features that do just that. Here’s what is new at Toluu:

  • View the most popular posts from a blog
  • Who else has subscribed to the blog within the Toluu world
  • What other blogs those same subscribers have subscribed to recently
  • Posts now have datestamps
  • The contact page loads 5 times faster

The new features providing context around a blog are particularly interesting for me. Let’s look at those.

Toluu Before and After

Here’s a screen shot of the page for a blog before the updates. The most recent post for the blog is shown, without any date information.

Next, the same screen with the updates. Below, you’ll see new tabs for the blog: Recent, Popular, Subscribers. Also, note that the post for the blog now has timestamp information (“Yesterday”).


With the addition of the tabs, you now have quick access to more information about the blog.

Popular Posts = Better Insight into the Blog’s Best Stuff

As you’re checking out whether to subscribe to the blog, you click on the Popular link. This is pretty nice. The blog’s most popular recent posts are shown. At a glance, the user can see if the blogger’s top stuff is interesting. A good way to gauge what animates the blog.


According to Toluu founder Caleb Elston, the determination of what’s popular for a blog is “a combination of our own data mixed in with some data from AidRSS and soon a few more sources.”

The list shown for this blog is a pretty good indicator of popularity.

Subscribers = Who Else Likes this Blog?

This feature is really cool on a couple fronts. As a user deciding whether to subscribe to a blog or not, the list of subscribers provides a reference of sorts. Who feels like there’s enough “there” to warrant a subscription?


You can see what other blogs the subscribers have added as well. For example, I see that Corvida added Blogsessive. I checked it out, and decided to add it myself. A really nice way to leverage the filters of others in finding blogs you may like.

In fact, in terms of human filtering, you now have three ways in Toluu to handle that:

  • The algorithm-based matches to others
  • Your selected contacts’ additions to their feeds
  • What are the other feeds of people who subscribe to your blog

As a blogger, I also find this feature very nice. You may know your number of subscribers, but do you know who they are? Well, with Toluu, it’s pretty easy to see who some of them are.

Nice Job

These changes are a great step forward in helping you decide which blogs warrant your subscription. Better sense of the blog’s content. Better sense of the crowd that likes a particular blog.

My wishlist still includes better macro, summary recommendations for blogs. But all in due time. Hats off to Caleb and team for adding these excellent features.

Also – I invite you to check out my Toluu page: toluu.com/bhc3 If want an invite, just leave me a comment.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Subscribe+or+Not%3F+Toluu+Just+Got+Better+at+Helping+You+Decide%22&public=1

Will Brands Figure Out FriendFeed?

No one wants a relationship with their mustard.

NeoAtOgilvy COO Greg Smith, via Kara Swisher at Boomtown

Two posts caught my attention. Kara Swisher has a nice post titled Social Ads Not Cutting the Mustard? In the post, she breaks down the issues that brands have in being part of the social media world. And Jeremiah Owyang hypothesizes about How Brands Will Use FriendFeed.

The two pieces do a good job of highlighting the challenge of social media for companies. Social media is authentic, it emerges from everyday people, it’s governed by its own community rules, it’s random and it’s an ongoing conversation. How do profit-oriented companies requiring measurable results and consistent formats deal with this?

The general thrust of companies’ social media efforts is to create enthusiasts who will turn around and do viral marketing on behalf of the company. Word of mouth (WOM) marketing. It is a big deal, and it would be wrong to suggest it doesn’t exist. It’s quite powerful when it happens.

But a problem with most WOM marketing is that it’s too dependent on big hits that catch the imagination of people. The fantastic YouTube video. The funny widget for Facebook and MySpace. The imaginative web page.

Those types of mega-hits are incredibly important, and are a requirement for every marketer’s toolkit. The problem is when a company’s social media strategy only relies on the big hits.

Jeremiah talks about how companies should engage users on FriendFeed:

The one caveat is that brands will need to be part of the discussion that happens among these social tools, as what’s really important is the people that are talking, debating, and discussing what your company is announcing. For those that get it wrong, no one will subscribe, no one will talk about it, no one will ‘like’ it and spread it to their network. So be active in the comments, conversations, and an open manner.

He lays out a good philosophy that companies should follow. Don’t simply rely on the big hits. Get out there and engage people. Become part of the community.

I’m wondering what exactly does a company’s participation on FriendFeed look like? Jeremiah points to Ford Motors as a company with one version of social media press releases. So how would Ford use FriendFeed?

To Do’s for Brands on FriendFeed

Create a Ford Motors room: Every company should have a destinaiton on FriendFeed. As an individual, my presence on FriendFeed is defined by subscribing – both by me and to me. A company should have a more permanent home than just being in a list of subscribers.

Find your initial audience: The everyone search is a good start. Start with people who are talking about your company, good or bad. Search on ‘mustang‘. Search on ‘F150‘. Search on ‘Ford Verve‘. Subscribe to these people.

Like and Comment: If Ford comes across someone’s interesting content, throw a Like their way. Jump in with some comments. Here are a couple examples.

First, there’s this Tweet:

Going to test drive F150 tonight. We must be crazy. Prius won’t pull horse trailer though.

Great opportunity for Ford here. In this case, someone from Ford could add a comment like, “Yeah, we made the F150 pretty powerful for those big jobs. I can get you set up with a special visit at your local dealership if you want.”

I’d also avoid laying the smack down on the Prius, tempting as it is for Ford. Criticism based purely on a profit motive is a fast way to undermine authenticity.

Next, here are some Flickr pictures of a ’67 Mustang:

Ford occupies a unique place in Americana, and this picture taps into that. Ford would definitely want to Like these Flckr photos. Add a comment too: “Those 67′s were classic cars. Takes you back to a different time, doesn’t it? We have several of them here in the Ford museum. One thing we’re realizing here is that people still love that style, and look for the new 2009 model to reflect a lot of what made that car great.”

See? Ford has engaged a person. The interaction caused the pictures to pop into others’ streams. And Ford got to plant a seed for what’s coming out later in the year.

Engage on topics that fall outside pure product: Establish a presence beyond just talking about specific products. It will help the company’s social media ‘cred’, and make it more interesting for people to follow. The downside? Your critics will find you, and you can get stuck in a nasty throwdown. So choose your topics carefully. Rising gas prices are a recurring topic on FriendFeed and other social media. A lot of people would want to know what Ford is doing in terms of gas-powered fuel efficiency, as well as in gas alternatives, such a hybrids.

This is a chance for Ford to blow it, or to shine.

Here’s what blowing it looks like: “We continue to believe that California’s efforts to enact higher gas mileage requirements are wrong.” Say that, and you’re just itching for a fight. People will no longer focus on Ford the car company. They’ll focus on Ford the antagonist.

Here’s what shining on FriendFeed looks like. “We see the market segmented into those for whom gas mileage is important, and those for whom capacity and power are important. And our view is that the fuel efficiency segment is growing fast, and we are responding to that.”

Stick with it: This type on engagement is a long term play, with benefits that will be realized over years rather than a quarter. There will be direct benefits as consumers learn more about companies. And companies will get a lot of publicity for their efforts until it becomes mainstream and everyone is doing it.

Final Thoughts

I’m no brand expert, but these are my thoughts on how companies could use FriendFeed, and other social media as well. Done right, this type of marketing could emerge as an important part of  companies’ engagement with the market.

What do you think?

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22will+brands+figure+out+friendfeed%22&public=1

Nick Carr: Google Making Us Stupid? How About Smarter?

The media or other technologies we use in learning the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains.

Nick Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, The Atlantic, July/August 2008

Nick Carr has a really interesting piece in the current issue of The Atlantic (CNET coverage here). The premise of the article is that use of the web is possibly rewiring our modes of thinking. We’ve become much more adept at the light skimming of content than the deeper understanding of long thought pieces. If that’s the case, what does that mean mean for intellectual progress in the future?

The article is full of historical references (e.g. how Friedrich Nietzsche’s writing changed when he went to the typewriter) and scientific studies (e.g. the plasticity of the human brain enables us to adapt to new learning modes).

One area that Nick doesn’t talk about much is apophenia, which Maki on FriendFeed first alerted me to. According to Wikipedia:

Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.

Robert Scoble employs apophenia as part of his profession. In one of his posts, he says: “I like the noise. Why? Because I can see patterns before anyone else.”

In this way, the larger consumption of data in lightweight chunks can be thought to bring a new kind of intelligence to people. Your subconscious is collecting a series of signals along the way. At some point, all of this information lurking just below your accessible thought pops up, and you’re suddenly aware of an emerging dynamic.

I really like this idea. And it fits with how we pick up information ourselves in the physical world. You don’t stop and ask people what they’re talking about on the street. But you may pick something up as you listen in to their conversations. You may not read the planning commission report, but you see how development is progressing in your town based on the construction you see.

I’ll contrast apophenia with traditional learning, in which a person can go deep with the thinking of a few selected masters in a field. But I draw this contrast not to dismiss traditional learning. Not at all. Understanding things based on a deeper reading of learned intellectuals and practitioners is a vital part of learning.

I hope Nick is wrong about losing our ability to sit through a longer piece. I haven’t lost that – I read his article twice this weekend.

If we can add a new mode of learning via apophenia to our traditional forms of undersatnding concepts, we’re all going to be smarter in the long run.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Nick+Carr%3A+Google+Making+Us+Stupid%3F+How+About+Smarter%3F%22&public=1

Three Big Questions Facing FriendFeed

I write about FriendFeed. A lot. Someone told me they wondered if I was employed there. Nope, just really enjoying the service.

Then I see a couple of bigger names in the online world, Robert Seidman and Steve Rubel, expressing their view that FriendFeed feels like it’s going to be the next big thing.

And I realize I’m not the only one with great enthusiasm. It’s growing.

As FriendFeed continues to acquire new users, innovate and roll out new features, it’s inevitable that some big decisions will need to be made. I want to discuss three of them here. Shall we?

1. How Will FriendFeed Balance Signal, Discovery and Noise?

This question really hits on two fundamental elements of the social media experience:

  • Distribution of information
  • Consumption of information

Managing information is a BIG deal. It’s hard to get the balance right – when do users really need a piece of info, when are they in the mood for a bit of discovery and at what point do they tune out because of information overload?

Google’s success was in recognizing the need for better information access, a process they continue to refine and improve. The thing with Google is that you search when you have a defined need. User intent is known. It’s what makes Google’s advertising so successful.

FriendFeed has a bigger challenge. Intentions vary by person. By hour. There’s time the river of content needs to deliver a hard dose of signal. Other times, you need a break from some work you’re doing, and you want a bit of discovery. But above all, please recognize what I consider to be noise!

So FriendFeed has to figure out the user intention, a burden that Google doesn’t have.

They’re off to a great start with these:

  • You choose the people to whom you subscribe, providing the first cut on topics you’ll see
  • Excellent Hide function
  • Rooms to isolate discussions around topics
  • Ability to view top content by likes, comments and other signals

This will be an ongoing war for FriendFeed, particularly as the service grows beyond its information junkie user base.

2. How Much of a Social Network Does FriendFeed Want to Be?

FriendFeed states their mission as follows:

FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends.

A simple goal. And yet, early users of FriendFeed are finding the social network aspects of FriendFeed to be compelling. I personally have established a completely different network of people on FriendFeed from what I have on Facebook or LinkedIn. I didn’t just port over my friends from those services, I established new connections.

When I was training for my first marathon back in 2003, I regularly participated over on Runner’s World message board. A group of us were running the California International Marathon in Sacramento, and an online bond formed. We conversed on the message board, and decided to meet up in Sacramento. How’d we do it? One guy posted his disguised email address, and we all emailed him. We then did the email thing to coordinate.

FriendFeed is above that level of social networking right now, but not by a whole lot.

FriendFeed has the potential to be a very powerful social network, one rivaling Facebook and LinkedIn. Why? Facebook is your network from school. LinkedIn is your network from work. FriendFeed is your network based on stuff that interests you. That’s what makes it so powerful.

Remember the interest in felix’s FriendFeed Likes Compatibility Calculator? People were really curious about who they match up with based on shared interests.

A few things come to mind as “best of” elements of social networks:

  • Direct messaging (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter all provide this)
  • Profile page – express yourself, complements your content, Likes and Comments
  • Status – for those times when you’re just not around or you need to get personal

Want to take it further? I can see FriendFeed becoming a more robust professional network than LinkedIn. You like all those comments and content? Maybe you’d look at that person as a potential hire. How about calendaring? Coordinate events, and it’d be a real nice complement to the Rooms.

How far does FriendFeed want to go in social networking?

3. How Will FriendFeed Make Money?

Ah, the money question. It’s inevitable and ultimately must be addressed to justify the venture capital.

I can see two possibilities for making money at this very early stage in the company’s history:

  • Advertising (duh…)
  • Business uses

Social media advertising has potential, but is not without its issues.

FriendFeed has a a few things to address and going for it when it comes to advertising. Users’ affection for the Refresh function means a lot of page views, but how much time will they spend on the ads. There’s a field of white space off the right, so real estate for ads won’t be a problem.

But FriendFeed does have two good weapons in its arsenal when it comes to advertising:

  1. A search function with a ton of potential (and search is the killer advertising feature)
  2. A mountain of data about what users’ interests are

As for business uses, my first thought when I saw the Rooms feature was that it could be a great thing for companies to use. Employees can trade thoughts on ideas and projects via Rooms. In fact, that’s how the FriendFeed guys use Rooms:

It started when we wanted a better way to share feature ideas and product plans with each other here at FriendFeed

I can also see media companies adding Rooms functionality to their sites. A much richer way to let readers discuss content than the current commenting systems.

Final Thoughts

I’ve written plenty about FriendFeed, and I’ll probably write more in the future. Partly because it’s such a compelling site for me. As a full participant, I can see a lot of stuff going on. And it doesn’t hurt that the site is getting hot in the blogosphere.

But there’s something deeper here as well. In FriendFeed, you can see some of the bigger issues that all social media have to deal with. For instance, I’d written a series of posts about the noise issue on FriendFeed. My most recent post stepped away from being FriendFeed-specific, and took a look at the broader issue of signal vs discovery in social media. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb took it a step further with a great post Why Online “Noise” Is Good for You, pulling in scientific studies on the value of noise and discovery.

FriendFeed is tackling some meaty issues, as described above. Since they’ve got traction, a talented team, an innovative spirit and an attentive audience, their efforts to address the big questions will be a terrific study of the larger social media realm.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22three+big+questions+facing+friendfeed%22&public=1

Weekly Recap 060608: Ferris Bueller Was Right

The week that was…

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris Beuller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Consider that line in the context of the recurring demand for more signal

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FriendFeed rolled out a new feature to let you see the content that has risen above the noise…Personalized recommendations let you see the stuff that has the most likes and comments, but only for content provided by your network…actually, upon closer inspection, there’s one other component to the ranking…from the blog post: “based on your friends’ comments and ‘likes’ and other signals”…other signals?…hmmm…wonder what those are…

It’s a very cool feature, with some real potential…early benefit seems to be finding the good stuff missed during extended time away from FriendFeed (like more than 2 hours)…it also gives you a personal meme as well…

Robert Seidman has a good post describing potential pitfalls…

What winds up happening is that people are finding “best of” items so easily that they naturally are and adding more “likes” and comments to them which causes them to jump to the top of my regular FriendFeed stream (even outside of “show best of”). I don’t love this.

I noticed this too…older posts with lots of likes/comments suddenly were showing up in my stream again…because people using the “best of” feature were liking and commenting…let’s see how the dust settles once people get used to it…

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Robert Scoble, on the value of noise

If you don’t have noise, how can you tell what is signal?

Stop and think about that for a little while…

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I’ve been harping on the noise and filter issue for a while…I was really stoked to see ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick pick up the issue with a beautiful blog post Why Online “Noise” is Good For You…a few good points Marshall brings up…

  • Scanning quickly over large quantities of roughly relevant information can turn up invaluable resources, opportunities, context and contacts.
  • The ability to recall passively collected information that was gathered purposelessly in the past and put it to use in the future is a particularly powerful form of intelligence.
  • Some people worry that being exposed to too much information will lead to not remembering very much of it. Scientists say that’s not necessarily the case, though.

There’s a lot more there, you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t read it…

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Plurkkarma“…gonna wait on this one…

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Had a chance to visit the FriendFeed office this week during their open house…if you’ve seen Robert Scoble’s Qik video, you’ve got a good sense of their office space…big, spacious, plenty of room to grow…they actually share the space with another company…

Paul, Bret, Kevin, Casey, Ross, Dan, Ana (bios here) were all just as nice as can be…I’ve actually never gone to one of these start-up open houses before, is this some sort of Valley tradition?…one thing I got from talking with Paul was his interest in the distribution and consumption of information, which is what FriendFeed is all about…

Got to meet a few folks I’ve seen online…Ginger Makela, Adam Lasnik, Adam KazwellLouis Gray was there, and he had this awesome shirt that has his blog graphic on it…it actually made it easier to identify him if you’ve never met him before…as Chris Brogan’s been writing, you need to establish your online brand (even in offline meetings)…

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Weekly+Recap+060608+Ferris+Bueller+Was+Right%22&public=1

Social Media Consumption: You Want Signal or Discovery?

In yesterday’s post A Definition of Noise, I talked about two types of social media consumers. Those who have a strong desire to receive only signal (signalists) and those who are looking for stuff outside their own interests (discoverers).

I thought it would be interesting to explore this a little further. Shall we break it down a little more?

Where are you on this table?

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22social+media+consumption+you+want+signal+or+discovery%22&public=1

A Definition of Noise

FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor has a nice interview with CNET’s Dan Farber today. In the interview, Bret mentions that FriendFeed will be introducing ranking algorithms soon. These will create your own personalized FeedMeme.  Which is going to be interesting. Dan Farber then asks whether user controls over content will be rolled soon. Bret answers ‘no’.

In the discussion around this link to the interview, Kingsley Joseph comments:

great interview. Bret’s got it right – ranking algorithms, not filtering is the key to noise processing

This was an interesting comment. I think of noise as a very personal thing. And the ability to define your own take for what constitutes noise makes sense to me. But Kingsley has a different point of view.

So I wondered…are we talking about the same thing. What exactly is noise?

A Definition of Noise

The diagram below is my definition of noise.

Signal is all about the stuff you actually want. For some, it’s a steady stream of social media entries. For others, it may be a steady stream of parenting items. Or baseball discussions.

Discovery is the middle ground. It’s things you weren’t looking for, but find interesting. Maybe Flickr Favorited pictures. An interesting tidbit from the world of science. An Inquisitr celebrity update.

Noise is the stuff you just don’t have the patience to put up with. It’s not anything you’re seeking, it’s annoying you that it’s even on your screen.

In this definition, there’s a fine line between discovery and noise. I’m argue that its the quantity of entries that determine whether something is noise or not. A few items creeping into your FriendFeed is probably all right for all but the hard core signalists. At some point though, when the volume of stuff you’re not seeking crosses a threshold, the entries become noise. You’re not getting enough of the stuff you’re seeking.

Everyone has their own threshold for discovery versus noise. This is the personalization required for noise control. Alexander van Elsas touches on this issue in a recent post:

It’s the noise problem (Try a search on “noise” here for example). How can we find the things that are really important from that huge pile of information floating around. That is partially why we have aggregation and filtering services. Each of them, using one algorithm or another, tries to compile a tiny subset of the universe and present that to its users. The question that remains is whether or not the right tiny space is presented.

Alexander strikes me as being closer to the signalist end of the information spectrum.

FriendFeed Rooms + Ranking Algorithm > Filters?

This brings me back to Kingsley’s point of view that ranking algorithms are optimal for noise control. Ranking algorithms are absolutely terrific. I love them. They provide a lot of benefits in a number of areas (e.g. Google Search).

I’m should also note FriendFeed’s Rooms as the other initiative for isolating topics and controlling noise.

Are they enough to control the noise? It’s hard to say yet. For Rooms to be effective, members are going to need to use them pretty frequently. That can happen over time, but it’s still dependent on the broadcasting member using them. There won’t be 100% compliance because:

  • I can’t perfectly predict what my subscribers will think is noise
  • Likes and Comments on something outside my usual programming put entries into my subscribers’ streams

The ranking algorithms will be interesting. Looking forward to seeing what gets rolled out. Knowing the FriendFeed gang, it’ll be good.

The difficult part is finding the middle ground between the hard core signalists and the discoverers, who like a fair amount of entries outside the stuff they seek. Neither group wants noise, but the threshold for the number of unseeked items varies greatly. My tolerance is pretty high, so I guess you’d call me a discoverer.

Balancing the desires of the signalists and the discoverers, and the varying thresholds of individuals will be the challenge. Let’s see what the ranking algorithms do.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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