Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed?

I believe that Participation is the killer app.

Whether it is end user participation in content driven conversations on blogs and wikis, or end user developed applications, mash-ups and widgets, I think that it is participation that key difference between Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise 1.0.

Rod Boothby, Participation Is the Killer App, Innovation Creators

Making work more interesting and more engaging would have benefits for companies and workers. To that end, I’ve suggested that FriendFeed has aspects applicable inside the enterprise. Steven Hodson took it a step further, suggesting engineers could use FriendFeed rooms to manage their software development.

The idea of using rooms for work purposes has been broached by other as well:

  • possible248: “Companies already have blogs and wikis, is there going to be something like a FriendFeed room that they can host on their own server?”
  • Jigar Mehta: “How would it be, if FriendFeed allows users to attach documents (doc, docx, ppt, pdf, txt, rtf) and discuss over them!!”

Personally, I think there’s a lot of merit to this idea. I’ve seen so many good discussions around ideas on FriendFeed. And for many of us, work is the creation, advocacy and execution of ideas – projects, presentations, campaigns, financings, etc.

The land of wikis is well developed, but most of them suffer from only emphasizing multiple user changes to documents and revision tracking. They lack the interactive participation that makes FriendFeed so compelling.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a list of features that would provide very basic wiki functionality in FriendFeed rooms. Wikis can have all sorts of advanced features. What would be the minimum feature set to make rooms function as lightweight wikis?

To be clear about the objective…I’ll set the wiki bar low. A room would only exist to manage the production of a smaller project or document. No large-scale stuff here. And that’s probably a good approach in business anyway.

Rooms already have three key elements for making them into wikis:

  • Ability to manage who the room members are
  • Room-specific search
  • RSS directly into rooms

Here are my four features for wikifying FriendFeed rooms:

  1. Better handling of RSS feeds for document changes
  2. Sticky setting for entries
  3. Timestamp comments
  4. New comments and entries notification

Better Handling of RSS Feeds for Document Changes

In Jigar Mehta’s entry, Nick Lothian commented:

Doesn’t GDocs have a RSS feed for changes? Hook that up and then you can have discussion about the changes to documents

That makes a lot of sense to me. FriendFeed doesn’t need to upload the document and maintain revisions. It can leverage that functionality in another app, like Google Docs. And this use case is exactly how FriendFeed works: users read blog entries and then come back to FriendFeed to Like and Comment.

I set up a public document on Google Docs, and had the document changes feed into a specific room: Rooms Wiki Experiment. If you go there, you’ll see my original entry, “Politics 2008 – Google Docs”. I commented a couple times. Then you’ll see another entry called “Restricted”. If you had access to the source document, you’d see information about revisions. I, of course, do have access. And that link only takes you to Revision #3. I made 15 revisions, but those changes didn’t stream into the room.

So that needs to work better, either from Google Docs or within FriendFeed.

Sticky Setting for Entries

Brad McCrorey posted a good question on FriendFeed:

Would having a “sticky” setting that keeps an item at the top of the room be too “forum like”? I think I’d get some use out of it.

I like this idea. In terms of advancing a project or document, this feature would let key decisions remain visible to everyone in the room.

Timestamp Comments

This is a recurring request. And it makes sense in terms of the wiki. Projects and documentsd evolve, and the timestamp helps one understand whether a comment was made before a change or after it. Or before a decision, or after it.

Timestamps give an extra bit of context to the interactions that occur around the project.

New Comments and Entries Notification

Inside a company, you are busy with multiple tasks. You’re not likely to keep the FriendFeed room up all the time (although that may be possible).

But it’s important to know when new entries have been posted. These entries would be:

  • New changes to a document
  • New direct posts of someone with an idea or question
  • New document added to the room

Notification provides the visibility needed to ensure interactive participation and timely decision-making.

Final Thoughts

The comment at the top of this post reflects my position regarding the future of work. More open, more interactive, broader participation, more engaging. FriendFeed, and Twitter as well, have created terrific interactive models not seen in most Enterprise 2.0 apps today.

I’m sure the FriendFeed guys aren’t worried about this now. But somewhere along the line, companies may see the potential in FriendFeed and begin asking for this type of functionality.


See this item on FriendFeed: