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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120409

From the home office in the middle of the road by my smashed up SUV with a nine-iron imprint on my face…

#1: RT @parkerlsmith Foursquare: Democratizing the Loyalty Program http://post.ly/Dpfx > SMBs can use @fourquare as a loyalty program

#2: FT.com – We’re all selling now: the evolution of online reputations http://ow.ly/Izba #socialmedia #e20 #reputation

#3: What can email interfaces learn from Twitter clients (e.g. Tweetdeck) to manage the overload? http://post.ly/Dlww

#4: Collaboration Is Hot: Why Now? > Forrester survey shows idea mgt tools are a top 2 #e20 priority http://post.ly/DuBB

#5: IT@Intel Blog: All I Want For Christmas is my #E20 > ideation was the one measurable ROI #innovation http://post.ly/E8Nt

#6: Fox: Cisco has a product ideas wiki for employees. Dedicated VC funding for ideas. Similar to what AT&T is doing w/ Spigit. #ois09

#7: Lasher: Innovation lever = do small thing w/ big result. Avoid going right for big bang. Otherwise corp antibodies kill you #ois09

#8: McKinney: 60% of ideas generated internally. Via HP Garage. Use employee crowdsourcing to filter and refine these. #ois09

#9: RT @AndreaMeyer: HP Labs saved $2 bln $ from its supply chain through internal innovations #ois09

#10: Just started a posterous account: http://bhc3.posterous.com/ Collect stuff I find along the way. FriendFeed meets Evernote meets blogging.

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Noted: Innovation Management races past Enterprise 2.0

I belong to two groups on FriendFeed, Enterprise 2.0 and Innovation Management. These groups track tweets and Delicious bookmarks related to their respective topics. The Enterprise 2.0 Group was set up in June 2008, meaning it’s about 15 months old.  The Innovation Management Group was set up July 24, 2009, meaning it’s  about 1 1/2 months old.

So the Enterprise 2.0 Group has a 13 1/2 month head start in terms of attracting members.

Which makes this all the more remarkable:

Innovation Mgt vs E2.0 - FriendFeed GroupsThe Innovation Management Group tied the Enterprise 2.0 Group in membership last Friday (9/4/09). It now has 607 subscribers vs. 590 in the Enterprise 2.0 Group.

Noted.

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed is now part of Facebook. For many of us FriendFeed users, this was quite a shock. We didn’t know exactly what FriendFeed’s future was, or how it was going to make money. But Twitter has set the current mental model of not worrying about such things. And in some ways, Amazon.com did the same in the 1990s with its grow-don’t-make-money strategy. In both cases, the companies persevered and are now enjoying mainstream success.

Rather than follow this model, FriendFeed sold itself to Facebook. Perhaps this is a case where the founders saw something we didn’t. After all, for every Twitter and Amazon, there are thousands of startups that don’t make it.

But given the heavy attention and usage of FriendFeed by the technology Early Adopter crowd, it’s worth examining this:

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

I’m referring, of course, to Geoffrey Moore’s classic and still-relevant book where he examines the challenges of moving from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority segments in the technology adoption cycle:

Crossing the Chasm

The biggest issue is that what appeals to Early Adopters doesn’t work for the Early Majority. If you’ve tracked public reaction to FriendFeed, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In Moore’s book, he counsels that companies need to establish a toehold in the Early Majority segment by focusing on a vertical niche. Let’s use that approach in examining FriendFeed’s options.

FriendFeed’s Early Majority Options

In the table below, I’ve come up with six possible use cases that might have been bases for breaking into the Early Majority. Each use case has a potential Early Majority niche noted. And each use case has one or more existing competitors listed:

FriendFeed Early Majority Options

Let’s analyze things by use case…

Company public groups: In this use case, companies set up shop on FriendFeed, with their own groups filled with content. PepsiCo set up one, called Pepsi Cooler. The idea is a stream of content produced by a team from Pepsi. If you look at the stream, it’s primarily tweets.

If FriendFeed had decided to pursue this option, it needed to create points of permanence on the page. Having just a stream of content makes it hard to establish objects that focus on your brand and let’s you run events. Creating an experience like this was something that would have given FriendFeed groups more value.

Alternatives? Companies run their websites, upgraded with social media streams of content. And Facebook has really pushed this with its pages effort. Facebook’s 200+ million members gives it a big leg up here.

This would have been a tough one to break into the Early Majority, as Facebook really owns this niche. The easy ability to stream content would have been FriendFeed’s advantage.

Collaboration spaces: Let employees work together on projects in their own private groups. Content can be streamed in certainly, but more important, people can post things directly into a collaboration space. Teams can comment on posted items to advance projects. Documents can be included in posts, letting the same version be accessed by everyone. Direct messages can be sent to one another.

In June of 2008, I wrote Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed? In it, I argued that FriendFeed could be used for getting work done in teams. I saw some things I’d want there: better “stickiness” for current projects and documents. Can’t have everything fly by in a stream. Also, accept RSS feeds of document changes from Google Docs, Zoho and other cloud office productivity apps. Chris Brogan saw the potential too in a post from August 2008,  How to Use Friendfeed as a Collaborative Business Tool.

Collaborative business apps are an area of overall growth, but one that is filled with competition. Atlassian  has been delivering this for a while with its Confluence wiki, and Basecamp is a favorite small business collaboration tool. More recent entrants like SocialCast have added activity streams as part of their core functionality.

FriendFeed could have been a strong player here, but it needed a lot of focused feature development.

Social web monitoring: This is my use case. FriendFeed has a marvelous way of handling RSS feeds into separate groups, and managing people and groups into separate lists. I found these to be quite helpful for staying on top conversations and content that is getting attention. I actively monitor three groups formed specifically to be my “news tickers” on the social web. I don’t use them as communities for conversations, but as information management tools.

The real-time feature is great for this purpose. As soon as something is made available via RSS, or in Twitter’s case it’s posted, you’d see it show up in your groups. I find this to be highly valuable for jumping into conversations on Twitter, and to understand what’s buzzing now.

FriendFeed doesn’t have the powerful analytics and structure of the new premium Social CRM apps. I’d argue that for SMBs, that’s not needed. What’s needed is an ability to stay on top of topics and conversations relevant to your industry. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick was seeing the same thing in How FriendFeed Could Become the Ultimate Social Media Tracking Service.

To my mind, this is the use case that was most promising relative to unmet need and dearth of competition. And FriendFeed had great technological advantages here in terms of its SUP work and real-time updating. Feels like an opportunity missed.

Real-time conversations: When FriendFeed made the switch to real-time updating by default, one thing users gained was the ability to see new comments on threads without constantly refreshing the page. Thaty meant you could engage others easily on the page as people posted back-and-forth.

For live events, this is pretty fun. It’s great to share a common moment this way. Be it sports, political events or technology conferences. And that’s what makes me think the real-time conversation platform would be great for online media sites. Imagine CNN.com outfitted with real-time conversations by FriendFeed. News events are constantly, and always will be, unfolding. Giving site visitors a way to converse quickly with one another would be great. Admittedly, this real-time conversation flow is something that is already present for webcasts.

The limitation for the value of real-time conversations is (i) the existence of alternatives; (ii) limited utility for most people. Twitter isn’t real-time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good-enough conversation platform with a large subscriber base. Forums will do the threading work for multiple participants. And the people that got the most use out of real-time were social media A-Listers who get a lot of comments on their threads. Most people don’t get that level of interaction. So the value of real-time conversations was lost on them.

Following friends’ activities: This was the original purpose of FriendFeed: “FriendFeed is a service that makes it easy to share with friends online. It offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends.” Makes sense…”friend”…”feed”.

The challenge is that it is quite RSS dependent on friends’ streams. Which means people need to have content available via RSS. That’s still a slowly growing dynamic. The other issue is similar to that described above for company public groups and collaboration spaces: lack of ability to create more permanent objects on your profile. If Friends don’t RSS, they need a good way to manage content they directly post.

This really is Facebook’s game. Once they added the ability to follow RSS feeds of friends, much of the rationale for FriendFeed was lost, at least in terms of following friends. There’s still a great use case in following people that may not qualify for the traditional definition of “friends”. But you can stay on top of the likes of Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble, and others.

Personal information management: If you participate in several different social sites, you can create a diverse amount of content: tweets, Flickr photos, blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, etc. As you create it, you want to be able to reference it. The most obvious way to do that is to go to each site individually and search for some part of your content.

FriendFeed is marvelous for managing all the different content in one place. This is something I talked about recently in Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*. One place for all your content, with amazing search capabilities. Much better than what Twitter offers. With FriendFeed, you can actually access old tweets via search.

This use case is great, but it’s ability to penetrate the Early Majority is questionable, at least for now. It takes people who have these diverse social sites where they’re posting content. As we know from the 1-9-90 rule of participation, the number of people actively posting new content is still relatively low. But as social sites proliferate, I believe you’ll see increased numbers of people posting original content. 1-9-90 may apply to any one site, but viewed from a portfolio perspective, the ratio will be higher for the general population.

Am I missing something?

Those are the use cases that come to my mind. What do you think? Did I miss some important ones? And how about the assessments I made for each of the use cases? On target?

My own thought is that FriendFeed had a great opportunity for social web monitoring. It’s an area of growing interest, and FriendFeed had the technology and raw feeds to be a big player there. More and more, the mainstream is interested in the workings of and information available on social media.

Let’s see if Facebook sees a similar opportunity.

Build it and they will come: Innovation Management FriendFeed Room

friendfeed-logoOn this blog, I’ve talked previously about the value of using FriendFeed for tracking topics from around the web (here, here, here). For instance, the Enterprise 2.0 Group, with 508 members, is a great place to track the latest in enterprise social software.

When I joined Spigit, I wanted to get up-to-speed fast on the topics and people driving the energy in innovation management. So I set up another FriendFeed Group, called Innovation Management. This one I set up as a “private, invite only”. I just wanted a nice place where I could learn and keep up with happenings in the field. I was tracking tweets with the hash tag #innovation, the words “innovation management” and Delicious bookmarks tagged with innovation. I also have the tweets of as number of people in the field captured in the Group as well. My own little private news service.

But a funny thing happened. People found my “private” Group. I had 17 different people requesting to join the Group. How’d they find it? I don’t know. FriendFeed Group search says “Find public groups“. It wasn’t public.

Regardless, there were 17 people who requested to join my little Group of 1. What to do?

I opened it up. What the hell, why not? So if you’re interested in tracking what’s happening in the world of innovation management, go ahead and click the link below:

Innovation Management FriendFeed Group

40 people are members already. See you there.

FriendFeed adds file attachments. Next up, Google Wave?

FriendFeed just took a fairly significant step forward. And in doing so, I wonder if they have an ultimate destiny as some sort of business platform.

FriendFeed now supports file attachments. When you post a new entry directly to FriendFeed, there is now an option to Add: Files. Here’s a test post I did:

FriendFeed entry with file attachment

You can see the PDF attachment, along with the file size. From an extended conversation by the community with the FriendFeed team about this release, here are some other details:

  • Documents are virus-scanned
  • The amount you upload will be governed by undisclosed limits per file, and in aggregate over a rolling 24-hour period, but most people won’t hit the limits
  • Videos aren’t supported with this release
  • Audio files are limited to 3 per day

Last December, I wrote If You Had to Choose One Form of Digital Communication, What Would It Be? In that post, I assessed six different technologies: email, IM, SMS text, Twitter, social networks, FriendFeed. At that time, I picked Twitter, because I could send directed messages to people. I also added this:

A word about FriendFeed. If they ever decide to support direct messaging and something similar to the @reply tab of Twitter, then they would become my communication mode of choice. There is so much more that can be done there via different media types, along with Rooms and Lists.

Communication Mode Poll 121608

Poll from the December 2008 blog post

Meanwhile, in response to that post many said ‘email’. Here are some who provided some explanation, on the blog and on FriendFeed:

For now, I had to choose e-mail, especially for exchange of attachments.

I hope and pray when FF becomes the one and all platform. It is so well thought out. But for now, I wouldn’t be able to function without email. That is my number one choice!

email – still the most versatile, and durable

Email. Free wins. Other things are free but not as full featured.

Email – for better or worse, literally everyone has an email account. Plus it’s essential in the workplace.

Since I wrote that post, FriendFeed has rolled out these three major advances:

  1. Direct messaging
  2. Real-time comments, added to the thread for an entry
  3. File attachments

You see those developments, and you start to realize that, “Hey! They’re building a communication and collaboration platform over there!” They’ve basically answered whatever shortfalls people expressed.

Now social networks are all fun and games, right? So what does this latest release say about FriendFeed’s direction? From their blog post:

We’ve certainly been using this feature internally and have found it extremely useful. We hope it’ll help make you and your collaborators even more productive, and a little more attached to FriendFeed.

FriendFeed is certainly touching on activities that define the work day. I mean, if you look at what Yammer or Socialcast does (e.g. microblogging, direct messages, file attachments, groups), you’ll see FriendFeed is overlapping much of that. FriendFeed, the business application? Certainly it has plenty of revenue opportunities there if the advertising model is not of interest. Well, maybe there are revenue opportunities in the small- to mid-sized business segment.

And a final point. Google Wave is an outstanding technology, with its real-time sharing and communication, server-based access and federated protocol. As I said in my post about Wave, it will be the young guns that incorporate it and advance it inside the enterprise. Since FriendFeed is pushing forward strongly on being a leading company in communication and collaboration, adoption of Google Wave seems like a natural. The federated protocol is a terrific opportunity to create collaborative ecosystems.

I’m sure the FriendFeed team is experimenting with Google Wave right now. We’ll see what they come up with.

What’s in your FriendFeed Fave 5?

My FriendFeed Fave 5When FriendFeed recently introduced limited bios for members, they included the option to display 5 different services on your profile page. If you don’t select 5, they’ll assign 5 of your feeds to the page (assuming you have at least 5 feeds).

I hadn’t yet updated my five on FriendFeed, until today. I’ve got 14 different services piped into my FriendFeed account, so I had to decide which of them to display. My FriendFeed Fave 5 are shown in the graphic to the right.

It occurred to me that this is a lot like posting badges on a site, or stickers on your laptop. You’re telling the world what’s important to you. You’re making something of a statement.

Here are why I picked my Fave 5:

  • LinkedIn: Professional network, quick read on my work and education
  • Twitter: I’m active there, it’s where my Enterprise 2.0 and Innovation peeps are
  • Blog: This is where it all springs from, I’m quite proud of this little blog
  • Diigo: I bookmark fairly regularly, and I like Diigo’s features
  • SlideShare: I have all of 4 documents up on SlideShare, but each of them took a lot of effort. One has over 3,000 views.

While I really enjoy my other feeds as well, I figured these were the 5 that best represented me. Out of curiosity, I checked several other folks on FriendFeed to see what was in their FriendFeed Fave 5. Here’s what I found:

Mark Trapp

Fave 5 - Mark Trapp

Mark’s Fave 5 are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, his blog and his Tumblr.

Anika Malone

Fave 5 - Anika Malone

Anika’s Fave 5 are Twitter, her blog, Flickr, Goodreads and Last.fm

Steve Rubel

Fave 5 - Steve Rubel

Steve’s Fave 5 are Facebook, Twitter, his blog, Flickr and Google Reader.

Mona Nomura

Fave 5 - Mona Nomura

Mona likes turtles…her Fave 5 are Twitter, her blog, her ffffound account, Identi.ca and Brightkite.

Daniel Pritchett

Fave 5 - Daniel Pritchett

Daniel’s Fave 5 are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, his blog and his Twitter favorites.

Tina the FFing Enigma

Fave 5 - Tina

Tina’s Fave 5 are her drop.io blog, her blog, her Tumblr, her Google Reader and her Google Talk.

Thomas Hawk

Fave 5 - Thomas Hawk

Thomas Hawk’s Fave 5 are Twitter, his blog, Zooomr, Flickr and Netflix.

A Couple Observations

Observation #1: There’s a lot of commonality in this group, including me. We like Twitter and our blogs. Flickr, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Reader also make appearances.

Observation #2: There’s something about the 5th position feed that really distinguishes each person. My 5th position feed is SlideShare. Thomas Hawk’s is Netflix. Tina’s is Google Talk. Daniel’s is his Twitter favorites. Mona’s is Brightkite. Steve is his Google Reader shares. Anika’s is Last.fm. Mark’s is his Tumblr account.

Perhaps we should pay attention to that 5th item to really understand a person.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 052909

From the home office in Pyongyang, North Korea…

#1: Twitter may add some FriendFeed features to the service, is what @scobleizer heard today at #140tc http://bit.ly/d87Av

#2: Business Week includes the Cisco fatty story in its article about managing corporate reputations online: http://bit.ly/3ZCG9

#3: @justinmwhitaker I take a broader view on innovation. The perception is that it’s all Clay Christensen disruptive. Most will be incremental.

#4: You know what I like about working at Spigit? Plenty of competition out there. Fun to see them laying the smack down on us. Love it.

#5: Four of the most damaging words to corporate innovation an employee can say: “Aww, forget about it” #innovation

#6: Great post on critical distinctions in #e20 use cases, and ‘collaboration’ vs. ‘participation’ by @johnt http://bit.ly/12umLp

#7:  @dhinchcliffe Very keen to hear enterprise perspectives on Google Wave. Will it compete w/ SocialText, Socialcast, CubeTree, Yammer?

#8: When does a company need a dedicated product mgt function? $1.5-$3.0 mm in revenue and/or 20-25 employees: http://bit.ly/C2CTr

#9: Dara Torres sets a new record in 50 meter butterfly http://bit.ly/lsRER And sadly, I find myself wondering how a 42 y.o. is setting records.

#10: Just looked at my E*Trade account for the first time in months. Less bad than I thought.

Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*

FriendFeed Triple PlayFriendFeed has got to be one of the most innovative companies around these days. It seems every week, it’s hatched something new with its service. That alone makes it worth being there.

Then there’s the interactions. When those are rocking and rolling, it’s a lot of fun. Even a few Likes and comments are worth the experience. Of course, not everyone is engaged enough on the service to fully benefit from that. Which is something I completely understand, by the way.

I’ve got three reasons you should be on FriendFeed now. Not for the conversations. Not for the real-time experience. But three reasons that will be valuable to you personally.

The FriendFeed triple play.

#1: Google Juice

You likely know the background of much of the FriendFeed team – Google. Yeah, these guys know search. Even more importantly, they know something about how Google manages search.

So it comes as no surprise that FriendFeed can rank pretty highly in Google search results. Here’s a favorite example of mine.

Alex Scoble (yes, Robert’s brother) is planning his wedding reception. One candidate location for the reception was the Hillsboro Cultural Arts Center. But the managers of that location were not very flexible in working Alex and his fiance. On FriendFeed, Alex posted about the Hillsboro Cultural Arts Center, with some comments explaining why he was not going to use them. It’s not a flattering portrayal of the Center.

Well, check out what a search on the Center’s name returns: Alex’s FriendFeed entry is the #6 result.

Not something that Center wants in their search results, but a great way for Alex to let others know about his experience with the Center.

FriendFeed’s Google prowess shows most strongly in name search results.

On this FriendFeed discussion, Mark Trapp noted that his FriendFeed account always ranks higher than his personal site. Well, if you run a search on mark trapp, you’ll also see that his FriendFeed account is ranked #1, ahead of some attorney named Mark Trapp. Without FriendFeed, that attorney would own the #1 search result.

And FriendFeed member Brian Chang noted this back in January: “I just discovered that my FriendFeed comes up on the first page of Google search results for my name. I think that’s the first time something of mine has actually done that.” A quick search on brian chang reveals he’s not on the first page, but he’s still there, among a lot of brian chang sites.

FriendFeed shows up #3 on a search of my own name.

#2: Personal Content Database

Let’s assume you participate in more than one social media site. Maybe Twitter, Del.icio.us, blog and Flickr. FriendFeed, of course, lets you pipe all of that into its site. If nothing else, having one place where you can search for all your content easily is reason enough.

Returning to the search pedigree of the FriendFeed team, there’s a really good reason to have your Twitter account piped in. It makes it easy to find your tweets. As Louis Gray noted last week, it’s much easier to find tweets in FriendFeed than it is with Twitter’s search. On FriendFeed, you’ve got an archive of all your tweets. On Twitter, you don’t.

Here’s an example. I’ve tweeted a few times about “friendfeed” and “search”. On Twitter, I get one result when searching my tweets for those words. On FriendFeed, I get many, as I’ve actually written those two words in a number of tweets. See the screen shots below, which show only a portion of the FriendFeed search results:

FriendFeed vs Twitter search

Remember when the bookmarking service Ma.gnolia lost all its users’ data? If you had saved your bookmarks there, you were out of luck. There was no recourse to getting that data out. In a post here, I noted that bookmark service Diigo lets you save to De.licio.us simultaneously. The idea being that you needn’t rely on just one service, in the wake of Ma.gnolia’s data loss.

Well, that same notion of mitigating your risk carries over to FriendFeed as well. I pipe all my Diigo bookmarks into FriendFeed. So now I have my bookmarks in three places: Diigo, Del.icio.us and FriendFeed. And when I need to look up one of my bookmarks, where do I usually search? FriendFeed.

#3: Tracking Web Content about What Interests You

Probably my biggest use case for FriendFeed is as a tracking platform for various topics I care about. I’ve got a room to track Enterprise 2.0, which I augment with following 70+ individuals from that world. I’ve got a room for tracking my company Spigit, its competitors and the innovation management field.

The importance and value of tracking the Web this way is something I’ve discussed here many times. You can visit those prior posts for greater detail on how and why.

But I’ll say this. Whenever I need to get up to speed quickly on something, setting up these FriendFeed Rooms and Lists is one of the first things I do. You’d be amazed at how effective they are. And unlike a lot of social media monitoring programs, FriendFeed doesn’t cost you a thing (although some would pay for these features).

Wrap-Up

Those are three powerful reasons you should be on FriendFeed. Right now. They don’t require you to get in there and apply Likes and comments to entries if that’s not your thing (that’s powerful in its own right, but more the province of social networks). But you will immediately start benefiting from what the service offers.

Know anyone holding out or just unaware of FriendFeed? Send ‘em this post.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 052209

From the home office in Cleveland, Ohio…

#1: One thing I like in what FriendFeed is doing…they’re thinking in terms of business use cases. See Tudor’s comments: http://bit.ly/BEXQd

#2: FriendFeed provides better tweet search than does Twitter, notes @louisgray http://bit.ly/WFyYA

#3: Reading: Nine worst social media fails of 2009… thus far by @mediaphyter http://bit.ly/vvKS0 Two girls, one sandwich? Really?

#4: Bit.ly’s lead developer @nathanfolkman provides insight as to why bit.ly’s click counts can be significantly overstated: http://bit.ly/IgImp

#5: WSJ – Look at This Article. It’s One of Our Most Popular http://bit.ly/Era5b Problem w/ simple popularity – may not mean merit or relevance.

#6: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: General Mills 5-Step Innovation Program http://bit.ly/ghqhr #feiboston

#7: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: Great Companies Enable Constant Choices – Jim Collins http://bit.ly/RFWWM #feiboston

#8: This is hilarious – Tweeting Too Hard: A site for shaming the twitteringly self-important http://bit.ly/PCzTD

#9: Anyone remember the 70s song, Escape (The Pina Colada Song)? Happened in real life to one married couple: http://bit.ly/171wjg

#10: Took my 5 y.o. son to a pet store today, where he saw his first chameleon live. Damn thing zapped a cricket w/ its tongue. My boy loved it.

FriendFeed’s New Beta: Taking Realtime Aim at Facebook

FriendFeed released its new beta on Monday morning. I’ve had a chance to play with it the last day or so, and I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • I like it
  • It appears to take aim right at Facebook

That second statement may surprise some people. But after looking at the two sites, I see a lot of growing similarities. And given Facebook’s incredible momentum, it’s not a bad thing.

The new features are described in detail, but here are the highlights:

  • All real-time, all the time
  • Cleaner separation of individual entries
  • Direct messages
  • Preset filters
  • More people-centric visually
  • Limited bios
  • Other nice touches

I’m going to hazard a guess that the default real-time experience is going to cause the biggest reaction.

Before discussing the explicit Facebook angle, let’s examine the new features.

All real-time, all the time

This may be the most abrupt change for people. The current FriendFeed offers two choices: pages that reload every minute of so, or real-time. The new FriendFeed is only available in real-time.

Now since there already is real-time with the current FriendFeed, what’s the difference with the beta release? Take a look at the side-by-side comparison of the different versions below:

friendfeed-beta-vs-current

On the left is the new beta UI. On the right is current real-time UI. Now on the right, take a look at the top there. See those gray bars with smiley faces and text? That’s how a Like comes through in real-time. Disconnected from the original entry. And see that comment by Luke Kilpatrick? That’s how comments come through. Again, disconnected from the original entry.

On the left, the beta solves this problem. When a new Like or comment occurs for an entry, it remains connected with that entry. Just like the non real-time version of the current UI, Likes and comments cause the entry to “bounce” back  to the top of your page.

If the stream of entries is too fast for you, you click Pause to slow things down. In my useage on a Sunday (lower volume day), the pace of entries flying thorugh my home feed was fast, at times too fast. But then I’m following 1,600 people. On a regular work day, I’m guess things will be flying by rather quickly.

But if you follow a more limited number of people, say 150, the real-time pace will be fine. Or live in your Lists more regularly.

Cleaner separation of individual entries

The new display of entries is very well-done. Each entry stands alone, partitioned by light gray lines. Visually, this separation helps a lot with tracking distinct content on FriendFeed.

On the current UI, separation is achieved with an extra margin of white space. This makes separation visible, but the page in total can run together in a blur of text and graphics.

The cleaner separation will be welcomed by users.

Direct messages

Yes, FriendFeed now allows you to send direct message to others. This has been something that users have asked for. I love this feature.

You can’t just DM anybody on FriendFeed. You can only send DMs to people who follow you. Twitter has the same restriction on DMs. Once you DM someone, they can reply with a comment. So your original DM includes a thread of the entire conversation. Very nice. You can send a DM to multiple people at once. You can include a picture with your DM, which is very handy. Someday…files?

One thing missing is the ability to search the conversations you have via DM. I had a DM conversation with Louis Gray, and he used the word “marathon” in one comment. I later ran a search on “marathon”, but our conversation didn’t show up in my search results. Adding that would be useful for later recall.

Preset filters

Got a favorite search you like to do? Well now you can set up a search, and save it as a filter on your side bar. The search becomes another “filter”, which you access with a simple click. The saved search can include all the parameters that FriendFeed provides on its regular search, including:

  • Specifying which users or groups to search
  • Keywords
  • Titles
  • Comments
  • Minimum number of Likes and/or comments
  • Likes or comments by specific users

The saved search is a powerful feature for finding relevant information.

More people-centric visually

With the move to all real-time, all the time, the user picture becomes the focus of each entry. In the current UI, the icon of the service that fed the entry is dominant. In other words, you’ll see a Twitter icon, a FriendFeed icon, a Del.icio.us icon, a YouTube icon, etc.

The prominence of the service icon in the current UI puts the focus more on the source of the content. And for many people, it matters. I’ve seen a number of users say they hide all Twitter entries, for instance.

The beta UI puts the focus on the person first.  It’s actually hard to see which service is the source for the person’s entry. Your first impulse is to think of the person.

I like this. Philosophically, it says people are the core, regardless of the source of their content.

Limited bios

This is another oft-requested feature. People can now include a short bio on their profile pages.

This is very handy, it’s a quick way to find out a bit more about someone without going to their LinkedIn profile or blog About Me page.

I decided to put my job, the fact that I’m a father and my location into my bio. HTML tags aren’t supported, but you can include a link.

Other nice touches

There are some other nice features as well. Two caught my eye.

First, there’s a page called “My discussions”. Previously, there was a hard separation between entries you originate, and entries you comment and Like.

My discussions dispenses with that separation. It includes everything that you’ve:

  • Created
  • Liked
  • Commented on

This is a great move. Makes it very easy to track all content you’ve touched in FriendFeed.

The other thing I noticed is a change in the way those you follow are listed. The Subscriptions box appears to show those with whom you’ve more recently and most often interacted. The current UI shows a random set of subscriptions.

Making those with whom you interact more prominent in your Subscriptions list is a great way to foster repeat visits to those peoples’ feeds. Which means more interaction.

Facebook similarities

Take a look at the comparison of the FriendFeed beta and the new Facebook home page:

friendfeed-beta-vs-facebook

Here’s are the similarities I see:

  • Person’s picture leads the entry
  • People can Like and comment on entries
  • Clean separation between entries
  • Timestamp of the entry
  • Filter (on the right for FriendFeed, on the left for Facebook)
  • Ability to message others directly
  • Bios of each user

The soul of the two services still differs. FriendFeed makes following anyone easy, and everything is searchable. The new beta puts a premium on real-time, and it delivers. And with saved searches and a million filter possibilities, information management is still at the heart of the service.

Facebook has the two-way follow requirement, and you can’t search for anything that people have previously posted. Things still feel slower there, although that is probably because I follow much fewer people on Facebook, and those people tend to share share less abundantly.

All that said, I still see the gap narrowing between the two. This competition between the giant and the innovative start-up is great for users.

Give it a road test

The URL for the beta is:

http://beta.friendfeed.com/

Give it a try, and let the FriendFeed guys know what you think.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+New+Beta%3A+Taking+Realtime+Aim+at+Facebook%22

My Ten Favorite Tweets: Week Ending 040309

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: Tim O’Reilly talks about how every appliance has a unique electrical signature. Useful for ID/control. #w2e

#2: Nice shout-out from @jowyang on my move to Spigit http://bit.ly/1aqFO

#3: Writing my own bio for a press release for Spigit. I agree with @tacanderson http://bit.ly/FO7M I find it painful to do these.

#4: Perhaps a note of caution in any Twitter acquisition talks…YouTube may lose $470m this year. http://bit.ly/OxZrx

#5: Gartner predicts that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be standard in 80% of social software platforms http://bit.ly/4CFdRm

#6: RT @SameerPatel Add Your Twitter Blog to Technorati Directory http://bit.ly/1aEguw by via@labnol

#7: SocialText raises $4.5 mm, lays off six: http://bit.ly/Y3icM In line with the times. Nice fund raise.

#8: Great to meet @thomashawk last night at FriendFeed meet-up. Nice collection of pics of people that were there: http://bit.ly/r1pD

#9: Just finished touring the #w2e floor w/ @mediaphyter Great to meet in person!

#10: Using the word “users” in write-up. Alternative is “employees, customer, partners”, which is wordy. Or “people”, which describes 6 billion.

Four Tools for Tracking Topics in Social Media

binoculars1

Photo credit: jlcwalker

I’ve written previously about the inadequacy of Google Alerts for tracking information and conversations around a given topic. Google has some algorithm for determining what content ends up in your daily email. Sometimes it’s good, many times there’s little value there.

Today, Telligent’s George Dearing tweeted this:

i’ve got a Google Alert set-up for enterprise 2.0..can you say diminishing returns? Paltry at best. #enterprise2.0

I’m currently using four different services for tracking information and conversations around ‘Enterprise 2.0′. With these four, I’ve got good coverage on the state of the sector and what people are buzzing about.

I wanted to share the four services I’m currently using. I follow  ‘Enterprise 2.0′, but you can use them for any topic you’re tracking. The four tools differ in how they use ‘authority’ as a basis for surfacing what’s new and relevant for a topic. Here they are:

four-info-tools-plotted-by-authority

I’ll describe the four below, starting from high use of authority and working backwards.

Google Alerts

Yeah, Google Alerts are imperfect. But they’re still pretty good for a quick read on potentially interesting topics. I don’t know exactly what Google uses, but I think it’s safe to assume it follows a similar path to search results.

Google Alerts do give a nice selection of news, website and blog updates around a topic. They limit the number of results, which makes them easy to scan quickly to see if there’s anything of interest.

One problem with these results is that they often contain links that really aren’t helpful in keeping up with a topic. I attribute this to the imperfections of computer algorithms in identifying what’s valuable.

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Sacha Chua, whose blog always manages to make it into Google Alerts for ‘Enterprise 2.0′. She may have cracked the Google Alerts algorithm.

Filtrbox

Filtrbox is a service that lets you track mentions of keywords you’re tracking across a variety of media types:

  • Mainstream media
  • Blogs
  • Social media

The service is great for digging up nuggets throughout the web. The daily email can be a little daunting, with many more results than what you see in your Google Alert.

You can create separate folders on Filtrbox. For instance, I have an ‘Enterprise 2.0′ folder. Inside that folder, I track mentions of ‘enterprise 2.0′ and ‘social software’ as sub-folders. My daily email includes both sub-folders. This sub-folder approach is a great way to tie different keywords into a common topic.

Filtrbox lets you decide what level of authority to use in filtering results for your topics. Called FiltrRank, the algorithm scores content on a 1 to 10 scale.  You simply “turn the dial” to require a higher level of authority in your results. I don’t know what the secret sauce for FiltrRank is.

Filtrbox also lets you block domains, so that you can avoid seeing results for specific websites. Pretty handy, actually.

MicroPlaza

MicroPlaza is a service, in beta, which tracks content based on tweets. The core idea is that the higher the number of tweets, the more interesting the tweeted content is.

MicroPlaza doesn’t just scan all tweets to deliver popular posts. Rather, it uses who you follow as the starting basis. If someone you follow tweets a link, MicroPlaza will rank the content based on all tweets of that link, not just who you follow.

But it starts by having someone you follow tweeting it. Otherwise you won’t see it in your list of popular content.

The really innovative thing that MicroPlaza has done is Tribes. A Tribe is a group of people you follow on Twitter, according to however you want to group them. For instance, I’ve created my own ‘Enterprise 2.0′ Tribe.

This is powerful stuff. Tribes narrows the range of content I see to be more closely linked to a topic I care about. It still leverages the total popularity of those tweeted links throughout Twitter, but only if someone from my Tribe tweeted it.

MicroPlaza is still in beta. I may be able to get you an invite, leave a comment if you’re interested.

FriendFeed Lists

FriendFeed is the uber information tracking service. With one subscription, you get a variety of a person’s activity streams: tweets, blog posts, bookmarks, Google Reader shares, etc. You can also track people that haven’t joined FriendFeed via the imaginary friends feature.

FriendFeed includes a feature called Lists. Lists are your own selected groups of people you follow on FriendFeed. I have an ‘Enterprise 2.0′ List with over 70 different people I follow in the industry.

I’ve also created a public Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. This Room tracks tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks related to the Enterprise 2.0 world.

FriendFeed Lists can include not only people, but Rooms as well. So my Enterprise 2.0 Room is included in my Enterprise 2.0 List. The List becomes my one place to track the ongoing observations and relevant content for what I want to track.

I ranked this the lowest in terms of authority-based filtering. The filtering really happens by who you put in your List. You can select individuals who for you personally constitute authorities, and leverage what they’re finding interesting. The Del.icio.us bookmarks constitute another implicit basis for authority. Bookmarking is a fairly engaged activity of retention, meaning the associated content has value.

As I wrote before in Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone, FriendFeed Lists are a great way to stay on top of a topic.

How About You?

Those are my current tools for tracking what’s happening on a topic. I’m sure there are others out there. What are your favorite tools?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Four+Tools+for+Tracking+Topics+in+Social+Media%22

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