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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.

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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

Power Twitter Gets More Powerful with Latest Release

fred-wilson-power-twitter

A few days back, I noticed something in Fred Wilson’s tweets. He was using some sort of app called Power Twitter. Now Fred is the highly visible Union Square Ventures VC behind Twitter. When he uses an application to engage with Twitter, I’m curious why. So I checked it out.

Power Twitter is a Firefox add-on built by Narendra Rocherolle. Power Twitter, as its name implies, supercharges the web -based interface of Twitter for Firefox browser users. The added features are those that a lot of Twitter users want. As John Tropea tweeted:

@bhc3 twitter should have this inhouse, just like what happened with replies, and what also should happen with hashtags

Power Twitter got good coverage on TechCrunch in January of this year. On February 26, a slew of new features were released. These new features have made Power Twitter even better, and perhaps give a glimpse of what Twitter could do in the future.

Packed with Valuable Features

Here’s a screen shot of the Twitter page with Power Twitter installed:

power-twitter-home-page

Let’s talk about the numbered features.

#1 – Post Photo: Have a picture you want to tweet out? Use the handy Post Photo link. When you click it, you’ll be presented with a familiar dialogue box asking you to upload a picture. Once you select your picture, it is automatically posted to TwitPic. Your TwitPic picture will have its own URL, which is automatically pasted into the “What are you doing?” box. Then you type out whatever you want to accompany the picture. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#2 – Shorten Link: Sharing links is a prevalent activity on Twitter. According to Ginx, 20% of tweets are sharing links. With the Shorten Link feature, you paste a long URL into an input box, and Power Twitter automatically shortens it using bit.ly (see previous bit.ly coverage here). You then type whatever message you want. One downside is that it doesn’t associate the bit.ly URL to your bit.ly account. But for most people, that’s not an issue. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#3 – Retweet: The retweet is emerging as the new thing to do on Twitter. As Robert Scoble wrote in a comment in a FriendFeed discussion: “I judge myself off of how many times I get retweeted. That demonstrates readership, credibility, engagement, interest, etc.” Power Twitter now makes it easier to retweet those tweets you like. Every entry has a little “RT” to the side. When you click the “RT”, the entire tweet is copied to your “What are you doing?” box, along with “RT @[person]”. Very easy. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#4 – Expand Shortened URLS: One problem with the shortened URLs is that you don’t know where they go before clicking them. Power Twitter automatically expands the shortened URLs so you see the full URL. This is something that was implemented on FriendFeed a while back, and it’s great for fully extra secure before clicking those links.

#5 – Search and Saved Searches: Search is another aspect of Twitter that is emerging as hugely important. Twitter bought the third party search service Summize to provide search to its members. However, they have maintained search as a separate URL from the Twitter home page, although they are testing the addition of search to the homepage currently. With Power Twitter, you don’t have to wait. Search is embedded right on your home page. When you run a search, Power Twitter runs it against the Twitter search engine and presents the results right on your homepage.

Power Twitter also links # hashtags to a Twitter search. When you see a hashtag, click on it. Power Twitter returns a set of results including the hashtag. Power Twitter retains a list of your previous searches if you want to run them again. The saved search history is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#6 – @Mentions: Twitter added the @replies tab a while back, which shows those tweets that begin with your Twitter handle (e.g. @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). Power Twitter also includes @mentions, where your handle is included elsewhere inside the tweet (e.g. RT @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). A quick way to see if someone retweeted you or otherwise mentioned you in a tweet.

#7 – Facebook: You can view the status updates of your friends on Facebook, right from the Twitter page. I assume this leverages the new Facebook status updates API. For me, this is a hugely valuable addition. I don’t log in to Facebook too often, meaning I don’t see the updates of my connections there. Now, I regularly check the Facebook tab in Twitter to see what my friends are up to. Really, really helpful.

In-Line Media

This isn’t new, but merits mention. Power Twitter displays the media associated to links to several different services including:

  • TwitPic
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Song.ly
  • Others

The song.ly links include a simple player to hear the song that was tweeted. Very nice. Here’s an example of what a TwitPic looks like as it hits your Twitter stream:

power-twitter-twitpic-inline

That tweet only had a link to a TwitPic URL. But Power Twitter found the TwitPic URL, and pulled the actual picture into the tweet.

Some people may not like the inclusion of media in their Twitter stream, preferring text only. If that’s the case, Power Twitter lets you turn off the inclusion of rich media in tweets.

But one thing that occurred to me is that this resembles somewhat the experience you have with FriendFeed, which does a great job with including media inline on its pages.

Quick View of People’s Last 5 Tweets

Power Twitter also lets you see the last five tweets of people. When you move your cursor over someone’s picture, a hover box appears. The hover box shows the last 5 tweets of that person. Here’s what it looks like (I added the red dotted line to highlight):

power-twitter-last-5-tweets

A very nice way to get a quick look at what someone is up to.

Continual Innovation

Power Twitter isn’t done innovating either. One of the items listed with the latest release is:

added foundations for new upcoming features

Looking forward to new features in the future. If you want to get more from Twitter, I recommend installing Power Twitter.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22Power+Twitter+Gets+More+Powerful+with+Latest+Release%22

The Serendipity of Attention

In the recent post Forget Dunbar’s Number, Our Future Is in Scoble’s Number, commenter Adam Metz wrote:

H-Dog,

Maybe I’m missing something, but where’s your definition of Attention? Can you add it in to the second or third paragraph? Good idea, but a little rough around the edges.

Calling me “H-Dog” is one way to get my attention. ;-) But back to the definition of attention. Putting it simply:

Attention = time + interest

Time being a real-world constraint. There are only but so many hours in a day, so attention is bound by that dimension. If I’m tied up with work or playing with the kids, I’m not going to give anything my attention. The second aspect is interest. Say, I do have some time. If I’m viewing something on the foraging habits of the scaup bird, my interest is quite low and I’m likely not to pay attention even though I have the time. I’ll find something else.

I will observe though, that while time is a concrete and unyielding dimension, interest is fluid and dynamic. Our moods, activities, friends and life events  affect what is interesting at any given point in time. It’s not like it’s totally random – there is a baseline of things that consistently interest us. While time is rigid, interest is a flexible dimension of attention.

Next question is how we find things that are of interest to us when we do have the time.

The Reducing Bands of Attention

I think I can make this statement with certainty:

You will miss the vast majority of information which would fit both your interests and time available to read

Anyone disagree? That’s probably a frustrating aspect of our information age. Am I finding the things I should know? How do I improve that? How can I be both more efficient and systematic in finding what interests me?

Technology is making it easier to be more efficient and systematic, but we’re nowhere near perfecting that. And we can’t get too perfect, because as I mentioned before, our “interests” are fluid and I don’t think we could possibly catalog all of what interests us.

Honestly, we have to accept a certain serendipity of attention. And realize we’ve got a much better system of discovery than we did just ten years ago. I’ve thought about my own experience. What’s my personal system for attention?  It’s a mix of ways, as the graphic below shows:

bands-of-managing-reduced-attention

Let me describe the bands.

Dunbar’s Number: This is the theoretical limit on the number of individuals whom you can follow closely. The number is pegged at 150, a number of people which even Robert Scoble uses for his core basis of attention. My Dunbar’s number includes the 70 or so people I’m following each day on my Enterprise 2.0 List on FriendFeed. It then includes some other folks who fall outside Enterprise 2.0 but interest me in other ways.

With people in your Dunbar’s Number, you read what they create, share and talk about. My guess is that this is the core use case of Facebook members. Note that you expand the number of people you track via this group when they share content or talk with someone outside your core 150. The expansion is temporary though – based on what someone you follow has engaged with.

@replies: I use the Twitter @replies function as shorthand for the ways in which people reach out directly to you. This includes the @replies, the DMs, the Facebook messages, email itself,  etc. Now I’m not inundated with these, so they still get my attention. As you rise in the social media pecking order, apparently you get bombarded with these directed messages. Then they probably move to an outer band of attention for you.

Keyword tracking: This is how people, information and conversations outside my Dunbar’s Number most often get my attention. I track content that includes keywords in which I’m interested. This is the most systematic way I have for improving the efficiency and coverage of things that interest me. As I often write here, I use the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed for this. Another good option is Filtrbox. I’m sure there are others.

Other groups: OK, you’ve got the core group of people you follow in your Dunbar’s Number. But there are others you like to keep up with as well. This is where the group functions come in to play. You can group people based on some characteristic, and check on those groups as attention allows. On FriendFeed, these are Lists. TweetDeck lets you group people.

Groups are great for when you’ve already seen your Dunbar’s List and @replies. And sometimes you just need a break from the usual topics and people on which you’ve put focus.

Random views: I do this as well. For some, it may be dipping into the public timeline of Twitter. Or FriendFeed’s everyone tab. Once you’re following a large number of people, checking out the tweets or FriendFeed entries of everyone you follow becomes a form of random views. Because you can’t possibly take in the full river of content all the time. You’d get nothing else done. But it is worth it to dip in occasionally.

Scoble’s Number Requires a System

In the graphic, I categorize all the bands outside Dunbar’s Number as the province of Scoble’s Number. To track people well outside your core 150, you need a way that aids the goals of better efficiency and more systematic coverage, while preserving the serendipity that accompanies the fluidity of our interests.

That’s where I am these days when it comes to attention. How about you?

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See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22The+Serendipity+of+Attention%22

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