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:

Social Media Effect: Improve Customer Service Before It Hits Twitter

Customer service is the new marketing and you have to Engage and Respect your customers.

Joseph Rodgers, Filter 2 Evangelist, Joseph Rodgers’ Internet Marketing Blog

The above quote actually has two meanings in my mind. The first meaning is to find customers who are having problems with your product or service, and engage them out in social media. Smart companies are doing it more and more, with great examples from Louis Gray, Colin Walker and Sarah Perez.

The second meaning for me is this:

Social media puts more power in consumers’ hands than ever before, and companies need to recognize that the messages their customers post will in time become as valuable as TV commercials, online ads, and magazine and newspaper ads.

Customers should not have to make a complaint on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook or other social media. Rather, companies need to become more aware that the way they treat their customers is going to be broadcast, with positive or negative effects on their brands.

In my previous jobs, I know that customer service tended to be that backoffice operation.  Some guy somewhere worked on that. Not something into which many in the organization invested a lot of thought. The function is not considered strategic, and many companies figured they could outsources the work.  A 2006 article from Business 2.0 pointed out the problems with outsourced customer service.

A 2005 Gartner study predicts that 60 percent of organizations that outsource customer-facing processes will see significant numbers of frustrated customers switching to competitors.

And that was before the rise of social media. Now a customer that is dissatisfied isn’t just switching to a competitor. They’re going to tell their social networks about it.

What this means is that companies need to realize that their operational cost-center approach to customer service needs to change. A couple examples tell the tale.

Adobe Customer Service

Adobe makes some killer products. The Adobe PDF is everywhere. Photoshop continues to be quite popular. Adobe is keeping the photo processing at the leading edge. Adobe Air is the new technology for rich Internet applications. All good stuff, and clearly Adobe is maintaining its market leadership position.

Which makes it such a shame that its customer service is so weak. Here are the most recent six tweets on for “adobe customer service“:

Now when you’re producing kick-ass products, perhaps you can get away with bad customer service. But if viable competitors gain traction and deliver comparable products, what people say about your company will make a difference. Who wants publicity like that above? And those 5 different users have 637 followers on Twitter.

Let’s look at a company that has more favorable than unfavorable publicity.

Amazon Customer Service

Amazon seems to have a particularly good (not perfect) focus on customer service. Here are the most recent six tweets from for “amazon customer service“: does this as a matter of course, and has seen the benefits. The New York Times’ Joe Nocera related his personal experience with Amazon’s customer service in January 2008. Money quote:

There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense. “Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” Mr. Kotha said.

Final Thoughts

Customer service has not traditionally been sexy. It reflects imperfections in the product, service or in the explanations for how to use it. Who wants to deal with that?

But as companies start to see their customers talking about them in various social media, it will become apparent that all customer touch points are chanves to burnish or tarnish their brands.

Customer service groups…please step into the spotlight.


See this item on FriendFeed:

Weekly Recap 062008: Baby I’m-a Want You

Babies sure can take a long time to arrive, can’t they? I don’t want to see an update from Louis until at least an hour after their birth, even longer…first things first…


Benjamin Golub, creator of RSSmeme, received an email from an irate blogger this week…a couple of her posts had been shared via Google Reader, and ended up on RSSmeme. She wanted them taken down…

I was surprised, as I had only seen links and partial feeds for blogs on RSSmeme…turns out, there was a full feed option…

RSSmeme does run Google ads, but Benjamin’s not getting rich off them…they offset the server costs…

Still, it did set up an issue where the full content of a blog was accessible on a different site, and the site was earning money on the content via ads…

Duncan Riley came out pretty strong in favor of the blogger…partial feeds are fine, as the reader must visit the actual blog to read the whole thing…but full feeds crossed the line…I find myself agreeing with Duncan on this one…

The cool thing about RSSmeme is that it indicates how popular an item was by the number of shares…it also tells you who did the sharing…so if someone’s interested in the full blog post based on (i) its subject; (ii) the number of Reader shares; and (iii) who did the sharing, they will click the link to read the post on the actual blog…full feeds on RSSmeme aren’t needed…


TechCrunch posts are published under two separate users on FriendFeed, Michael Arrington and Erick Schonfeld…but the action always seems to be around Arrington’s user ID…

Looking at the past ten TechCrunch posts, Arrington’s FriendFeed has 22 Likes and Comments, Schonfeld has 2…

Why such a disparity?…Arrington is the public face of TechCrunch, so people will gravitate toward his feed even if he hasn’t written the post…Arrington follows 1,329 people on FriendFeed, Schonfeld follows 79…Arrington’s FriendFeed handle is techcrunch while Schonfeld’s is erick…so if you looking for the TechCrunch feed on FriendFeed, you’re naturally going to find Arrington first…


Finally applied the FriendFeed Block function to a user…it wasn’t that he was hassling me, but he has a tendency to spam FriendFeed entries with unrelated things and links…he added one right after I posted a comment on one entry, which disrupted the vibe of the entry…so I finally pulled the trigger…

I actually feel bad about doing it…


With the recent post about nudity on FriendFeed, the search term nudity is starting to show up a regular referral to my blog…not quite was I was looking for, but traffic is traffic…

Which makes me wonder what kind of search term hits Ginger Makela will get for her recent post Now That I’ve Got Your Attention with BOOBS, a Word from Our Sponsor…Ginger did ad sales for Google, so she knows a thing or two about SEO


I did experience a few users unsubscribing from me on FriendFeed the past week or so…you write about nudity, gay marriage and Like Flickr pix with nudity, that will happen…


Some couples on FriendFeed that I enjoy…Lindsay Donaghe and Tad DonagheThomas Hawk and Mrs Hawk


And thanks go out to Steven Hodson for putting this humble little blog up on pedestal…if you’re not subscribing to his blog WinExtra, you should…click here to add it to your reader…


See this item on FriendFeed:

Fred Wilson’s Techmeme Challenge: Can a Little Tweet Go Big Time?

Last week, Fred Wilson asked this:

What will be the first twitter post to get picked up on Techmeme and who will post it?

It’s a good question. First hurdle is a technical issue – Techmeme doesn’t index and scan activity around Twitter.  Here’s Gabe Rivera’s response in full:

It’s hard for me to see how automated aggregation of tweets could be a net win for Techmeme. As others have said, tweets lack context, unlike blog which are much more self contained. Could tweets be reassembled into something more coherent for Techmeme? Automated processes for doing that are too error prone, at least by the standards Techmeme would demand. And even if they were perfect, the results will still look strange and disjointed. And in any case, blog posts tend to emerge quickly for the most important stories “breaking” on Twitter. Techmeme has definitely benefited from the Twitter ecosystem. For one thing, Twitter serves as a backchannel that prompts people to blog about things they otherwise would have discovered too late or not at all. Of course Techmeme publishes to Twitter too. But aggregation of the tweets themselves is a tough nut to crack.

In there, you’ll see the technology answer. He also addresses a larger issue, which is that tweets lack context as standalone content. But Fred Wilson answers that question this way:

But you can permalink to a tweet So if dozens of high profile blogs did that, then would that tweet be techmeme material and would it be right for that to be the anchor post?

Context is the name of the game here. If Gabe ever tracked individual tweets (thus solving the technical issue), I think there are two paths toward getting context.

  1. Self-evident context for the specific tweet
  2. An aggregation of comments around the tweet

These are different angles on the context subject. Let’s break ’em down, shall we?

Self-Evident Context

Fred Wilson hits the nail on the head for one way to evaluate context. What blogs are linking to the tweet?

My understanding of the inner workings of Twitter is incomplete, but one thing that’s important is whether a given party has been on Techmeme before.  Even better if said party was part of the Techmeme 100. Here’s how Robert Scoble described it:

TechMeme works partly on this principle: past behavior is best indiction of future success. So, Techcrunch gets on top for a lot of things because he’s been best in the past.

With zero tweets on Techmeme thus far, any tweet that makes it there will need an extra boost to get there. Self-evident context will be provided by two sources:

  • The Techmeme status of the person who made the tweet
  • The Techmeme status of the blogs that link to it

The Techmeme status of the person twittering is key. It’s one thing for Joe Blow to tweet “rumor: to buy yahoo”. But if Techmeme regular Kara Swisher tweeted it, then we’re talking! There’d be the challenge of linking Boomtown Kara Swisher with Twitter Kara Swisher. But that doesn’t seem insurmountable.

The first element of context – the Twitterer’s Techmeme status – is linked to the second element, which blogs will link to the tweet. Unless we see a delphic newbie emerge, most high profile bloggers will pay attention to existing A-Listers. Here’s a visual description of all this:

This shouldn’t come across as a negative. It’s reality. The A-Listers got there by knowledge and skill, and have reputations to protect. If they put something out there, you really can put greater credence in it.

That’s self-evident context.

Aggregation of Comments Around the Tweet

The second scenario for a tweet would be the aggregation of conversations around it. The thing here is that the heat of the comments drives its placement on Techmeme. Assuming a lot of comments, and that the subject matter fits the Techmeme sphere.

But this scenario for context still requires some Techmeme juice. Both the original Twitterer and the subsequent commenters will need Techmeme status. Using the commenting from FriendFeed, here is an example:

The red boxes on the FriendFeed comments are for bloggers who regularly make Techmeme (Fred Wilson, Mathew Ingram, Louis Gray, Steve Rubel, Robert Scoble). So the presence of those comments gives the tweet the right context. It’s got Techmeme firepower.

I could see the aggregated comments for a tweet driving that tweet onto Techmeme. And FriendFeed makes it easy to track the conversations around a tweet. Which answers one of Gabe’s concerns in his comment above about tracking the contextual conversations around the tweet.

Final Thoughts

Fred ain’t so crazy. I could see a tweet hitting Techmeme, under a couple scenarios. But it will take the right combination of existing A-Lister Techmeme firepower to make it happen.


See this item on FriendFeed:

Knowledge & Innovation: The Journey Is as Valuable as the Destination

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty traditional background in terms of product management. I was an assistant buyer for a retail chain, I marketed as an investment banker, and I’ve had over seven years in the software world. From that work, I’ve gotten a good feel for the process that occurs in producing an end result.

  1. Start with the idea
  2. Bounce it off your boss and peers
  3. Write it up
  4. Email it around
  5. Sit down with people
  6. Re-work the idea
  7. Produce the final version (PRD, white paper, pitch deck, etc.)

For most of us, step 7 is the prize, the definition of what’s valuable. All else is a pain in the ass.

But having spent some time on FriendFeed, I’m starting to recognize the value of steps 2 – 6. The conversations and debates to get from Point A to Point B are actually incredibly valuable.

The problem isn’t the work of getting from Point A to Point B. The problem is the methods we typically have inside the workplace. I suspect few corporate cultures are set up to make the journey as rewarding as the end result.

What do I mean exactly? Well, take the iteration process for a given initiative. You send an email, get single replies back from several folks. You sit in a meeting, and there’s this vague group meeting dynamic where someone with the most passion (right or wrong) ends up controlling the meeting vibe. Maybe you do a series of one-on-ones.

The problem with these methods is that the conversations are limited. Debates take the form of comparing the feedback of different people. I know this. I’ve lived it. You ever try to coordinate the Outlook Calendars of various people? In a series of meetings? It’s a nightmare.

So what has FriendFeed taught me? That there is a way to improve this process. That the journey to  Point B can actually be fun and engaging. And that it has value. Companies should take heed.

Here’s what I would love to see. Companies adopt ways to enable asynchronous conversations around ideas that are searchable, engaging and radiate greater benefits than just producing a final result. Wikis are good, but they too often have an emphasis on maintaining versions of documents. They lack the vital conversations that go into the various versions of a document.

What are the benefits of companies than can figure this out? Plenty! Here are three that come to mind:

  • Context for the end product
  • Other ideas come out of the process
  • Deeper understanding of others’ views and knowledge

Let me break these down a bit more.

Context for the End Product

When consuming the content after it is completed, all someone knows is what they read. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The document says that System A will do Action 3 after receiving Data #. It’s a straightforward recitation of what people are supposed to know.

But if you have context for why things are spelled out the way they are, I argue you’ve got much more informed workers.

I’m personally not satisfied with only reading something. I always want to know why something ended up the way it did. Especially when you’re reading something new, that background is vital context.

But too often, all workers have is the end product. Which means they end up with half the story, and not enough background to really grok the content.

Other Ideas Come Out of the Process

A rich conversation and debate around ideas and projects can become an innovation jam. As people jump in the fray to discuss something, inevitably other tangential ideas come flying out.

In an earlier post FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index, good discussion erupted out on FriendFeed (here, here). If that post was Point A, I’ve already written about Point B, which was an app built by felix to automatically calculate your likes compatibility index.

But there was another idea thrown off from the discussions: how well represented are women on FriendFeed and social media? Mark Trapp wrote Friendfeed Like Factor and the Gender Divide which put some numbers and thoughts to this question. Which got its own discussion going.

I’m quite sure an energetic conversation by engaged employees has the same effect – unplanned ideas come out of them.

Spread some innovation jam.

Deeper Understanding of Others’ Views and Knowledge

It’s funny to say, but I feel like I have a better read on some folks through FriendFeed than I did on people with whom I actually worked.

Why? Because work in some companies is fairly isolated. You may trade some emails, do some calls and attend status meetings. But the fertile soil of engagement is lacking. Aside from missing the benefits described above, employees miss the opportunity to learn more about one another.

Why does this matter? The better you understand your colleagues, the easier your job becomes. People develop instinctive ways of working, and a shorthand language built from prior interactions emerges. Long time employees do this, but it takes while. And new employees have to pick up the signals as best they can.

What I like about this approach is that employee social networks just emerge naturally via the interactions. A more formal social network approach isn’t needed.

Gimme Some FriendFeed Inside the Enterprise

If I could get a FriendFeed-like experience inside a company, I’d be thrilled. For all the reasons stated above. Plus it would just be fun.

I’ve said before that FriendFeed is a social network built around ideas. And the typical work for a lot of folks is also around ideas. Seems like there’s potential.

There would need to be some new features to make it the experience more pertinent to work versus play. But that’s a follow-up post.

Final Thoughts

As stated earlier, I’d like to see companies adopt ways to enable asynchronous conversations around ideas that are searchable, engaging and radiate greater benefits. Things like wikis are a good start as collaboration vehicles, but they lack the interaction aspect that has emerged as the killer feature of social media.

The nice thing is that new start-ups are popping up all the time. I look forward to seeing the ones that take in the next wave of innovation.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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


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

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:

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

[tweetmeme source =”bhc3″]

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.