FriendFeed Tags Make Your Stuff Findable

A theme I come back to repeatedly here is that FriendFeed will be a terrific platform for research and discovery. In fact, for this purpose, FriendFeed gets better the more people use it. That’s a contrast from the information overload meme that has emerged, in which too many friend updates overwhelm people.

Another way to put it: “Research” FriendFeed versus “Friends’ Updates” FriendFeed.

A good point of comparison for Research FriendFeed is Google. Google is the first stop for most people when they want to find information on something.

A key difference between FriendFeed and Google is that Google indexes all the content on each page. A Google search will go deep into a web page’s content. FriendFeed has only limited information in each update:

  • Blog or article title (blog post, del.icio.us, Google Reader, Reddit, etc.)
  • 140-character message from Twitter
  • Name of the Flickr photo
  • Etc.

This puts a lot of pressure on the title of the article to well-represent its content. Many times it does. But more often than not, the article is richer in information than the title can convey. Also, contorting your writing – including the title – to maximize search effectiveness is just a bad move. Bad for writing, bad for reading, bad for authenticity.

These two dynamics – lack of full content, incomplete information in the title – call for innovation within the FriendFeed world.

Where will that innovation be? FriendFeed comments.

Comments are free-form, and easy to add. And they’re part of the FriendFeed search index. If a good conversation erupts around an activity feed, those comments can be helpful for searches. But the conversation may not hit the mark either. And the majority of updates do not have a rich conversation around them.

As the author of a blog post, you may want to take a more active role in whether your content shows up in searches on selected terms. May I suggest tagging as an answer here?

In a comment, simply type ‘tag:’, followed by any tags you’d normally use. Using the “tag” prefix lets everyone know that it’s not a conversational comment. It’s a metadata comment.

Here’s an example. I recently wrote a post called, “Innovation Requires Conversations, Gestation, Pruning“. The article can apply to any general environment where innovation occurs. However, the focus of the post is really on employees inside companies. Internal blogs can be powerful centers for incubating innovation.

The post has a strong Enterprise 2.0 theme. Yet the title of the post doesn’t tell you that. So I went into the comments section for the FriendFeed blog post update, and added this:

tag: enterprise 2.0

Sure enough, the post now shows up in a search for ‘enterprise 2.0’. It also showed up in my RSS feed of ‘enterprise 2.0′ updates from FriendFeed.

Not everyone will bother with tags, of course. But tags are mighty useful things. If you create content and want to make sure it’s findable, tags are a good strategy to make sure it’s “findable”.

And this idea extends to adding your own tags to others’ content. You could create your own tags to associate to content you like and want to track.

And tags help others understand the context of the content.

This post may be a bit early. But it is something to think about in a future where FriendFeed is the third leg of research: Google, Wikipedia, FriendFeed.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22FriendFeed+Tags+Make+Your+Stuff+Findable%22&who=everyone

Will Enterprise 2.0 Increase Web 2.0 Adoption?

On ReadWriteWeb, Josh Catone asks Is Facebook for Business Really Coming? The post is a good breakdown on how Facebook is growing in terms being useful for business. It touches on areas such as employees networking on Facebook, concerns about security around private content and groups, and inroad against LinkedIn.

The post is a good reference point for thinking about the effects of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. I’ve been out at the Gartner portals conference the past few days. Plenty of good analyst presentations and vendor updates. Expect to see more tagging, implicit activity integration, blogs, wikis, mashups, social networks, etc. Coming to a company near you!

As I listened to the presentations and talked with companies at our vendor booth, I came away with a strong impression that companies are looking at implementing Web 2.0 inside the enterprise. Yes, there are business cases to be built, but more companies are bringing Web 2.0 inside the firewall.

Assuming increased Web 2.0 usage inside companies, what are the outcomes? Of course, there are business improvements that will occur.

But, I think there’s another outcome from this increase. Web 2.0 tools will become more mainstream as employees are introduced to them in the enterprise.

Now, I want to make two points with regard to that statement. One is that “mainstream” is a relative term. In the U.S., there are 211 million Internet users. So one definition of mainstream could be say…50 million users. In the one quarter range. The other point is that plenty of great web sites can/will go mainstream without enterprise adoption. Nice thing about this Web, eh?

OK…with that out of the way…

This idea that companies lead the way for consumer adoption of technologies is not without precedent. Apple had the better PCs in the 1980s and 90s, but Microsoft’s operating system became the standard for the consumer market (Compaq, Dell, IBM). Why? Microsoft became the corporate standard, and employees bought the same technology when they got computers for the home.

As companies adopt Web 2.0 technologies, employee adoption is key to maximizing their benefit. As employees adopt the Web 2.0 technologies at the office, they become more familiar with them at home.

Let’s look at tagging. Del.icio.us has 3 million users. An impressive number, but only fraction of the 211 million Internet users. Many enterprise software companies are offering companies social tagging and bookmarking solutions. What happens once tagging becomes a regular part of the application stack inside the enterprise? People become comfortable with it. They ‘get’ why tagging has value (easy personal classification system, basis for discovering new content). They tag content inside their own companies. They click on tag clouds. They then come home, and want the same tagging experience.

How about RSS? RSS is a terrific way to easily stay up to date on new website content. But how many of those 211 million Internet users actually have an RSS reader of some type? Google Reader, FeedBurner, Firefox subscriptions, etc. Not that many yet. But RSS is going to be more pervasive in companies. Heck, you can even add it to Microsoft Outlook. What happens when people get used to staying updated via RSS feeds at work? They ‘get’ it. And when they get home, they’re stuck with email and their bookmarked websites. Until they realize they can enjoy the benefits of RSS on their computers.

You’re also going to see social networking introduced in the enterprise. Big as Facebook and MySpace are, the majority of Internet users do not have accounts on these services. Once employees are automatically enrolled into their companies’ social networks, they’ll start playing with them and begin to ‘get’ the value if being connected in this way. Maybe they had held off on social networks before (that’s for the kids). But after their work experience, what happens when they get home and want to keep up in a similar fashion with family and friends?

Companies need to be on top of the technology trends to stay competitive. This happens regardless of whether employees are itching for the change (how many employees were demanding groupware?). As companies roll out Enterprise 2.0, how long will it be before employee adoption makes Web 2.0 applications mainstream?

Search Smackdown: Mahalo – del.icio.us – Google

I was reading the Crowdsourcing vs. Expertsourcing: A Misleading Comparison post over at Mashable. In it, Paul Glazowski analyzes a Newsweek article that suggests the bloom is off the Web 2.0 rose. Too much junk is enabled via everyday people logging on, and there’s a movement for more professional, expert information sourcing.

One example of expertsourcing is Mahalo. Mahalo was started to be a guide to Web content. Paid professionals own a topic, they research a number of sites related to that topic, and post the links that provide the best information. In their opinion, that is.

I’ll admit to some skepticism here. Google has been so good at revealing information and letting me see what’s out there. The idea of limiting my results to what someone deems worthy seems so incomplete. I’m afraid I’d be missing something that’d be really important to me.

But Mahalo has gotten some traction, so there’s something there.

I decided to run my own simple test of Mahalo, pitting it against two other ways to find relevant web content: del.icio.us and Google search. Quick backgrounder on those. del.icio.us is a bookmarking/tagging app that lets you save websites you like, and give them terms that have meaning to you. You can also find content on a given subject by searching tags, and seeing what others have bookmarked. Google is, of course, the preeminent Web search engine.

I tested three separate search terms, going from broad to specific:

  • Running
  • Marathon training
  • Tempo run

My scoring system is simple. For each search term, gold, silver or bronze will assigned based on my own subjective view.

SEARCH TERM #1: RUNNING

‘Running’ is a fairly broad topic. There are a lot of areas that may apply, making it a challenge to return results that are relevant . With that in mind, let’s see what the three search apps returned.

Mahalo: SILVER

The foundation of Mahalo’s search results is “The Mahalo Top 7”. These are the seven best links for a given topic. It is the Top 7 where expertsourcing proves its value.

The ‘Running’ Top 7 provide links to two running publications and wikipedia’s entry for running. Another link is to About.com’s page for running, itself a form of expertsourcing. A little uninspired, but a serviceable offering.

Mahalo also has several other sections in its running page. These include health-related topics, oddball sites, web tools and user recommendations. The web tools include MapMyRun.com, which lets you map a run or view others’ running routes. A user recommendation includes LetsRun.com, which is the best site for the competitive runner.

One other thing that’s good. All the links relate to the physical exercise running.

del.icio.us: BRONZE

This search shows both the power and the weakness of bookmark/tagging sites. On the plus side, I love the running results that are returned. Very interesting variety. The downside? A lot of sites that aren’t exercise running-related. Things like “Running a Windows Partition in VMware” and “Internet Explorer 7 running side by side with IE6”. In fact, 26 of the first 50 results were not related to exercise running.

There are interesting sites that del.icio.us users have posted related to running. MapMyRun.com is here. How to Select a Running Shoe by eHow.

Several, but not all of the Mahalo Top 7 appear in the first 50 del.icio.us results.

Google: GOLD

You can see how Mahalo picked its Top 7 websites…they’re all the top results in Google search! Google also returns the fun stuff in del.icio.us.

Then Google offers a plethora of other sites, and only 6 of the first 50 are not related to exercise running. Pretty much everything on Mahalo is there, plus other interesting sites. A site listing running movies. A company that sells the running skirt! Ultrarunning.

SEARCH TERM #2: MARATHON TRAINING

‘Marathon training’ is not nearly as wide open as ‘running’. This search is for someone who has a a goal in mind.

Mahalo: BRONZE

First, let me say that the bronze here is a very strong showing. If there was photo finish, you’d have a hard time telling Mahalo hadn’t won this test. The presented sites are all good and worty of consideration for anyone contemplating a marathon.

There are a variety of programs available here: Runners World, Running Times, marathontraining.com, etc. And to Mahalo’s credit, there’s no listing for Galloway’s training program! Editor bias there, I’ll admit.

I was disappointed that Pete Pfitzinger’s program isn’t shown. It’s my own favorite. But I liked the CrunchGear site, listing stuff marathoners would want.

del.icio.us: GOLD

One thing that immediately struck me this time is that all 50 of the del.icio.us results were related to marathon training. The greater specificity helped del.icio.us here. Also, “running” has several meanings, but “marathon” has few.

Several of the Mahalo Top 7 are in the first 50 results. Missing are the Running Times program, the AIDS national training program and the Boston Athletic Association program. But Team in Training is included (if you’re offsetting charity-related programs).

Several other valuable sites are here. For example, there’s McMillan Running, which includes running pace calculators and marathon time prediction workouts.

Unfortunately, Jeff Galloway’s site is bookmarked here. But…Pete Pfitzinger is included as well. Bonus points for that.

Google: SILVER

Google does its usual excellent job in its results. 6 of the Mahalo Top 7 are here; Running Times is missing from the first 50 results. Surprisingly, Team in Training is not in the top 50 results.

Google gets dinged for no race calculator in the first 50 results. No Pete Pfitzinger. But Jeff Galloway is there! Noooo…

SEARCH TERM #3: TEMPO RUN

A tempo run is a specific training technique in which you hold a fast pace over several miles. It’s a tough workout, but it can advance your performance dramatically. Obviously, we’re now in the technical weeds of running.

Mahalo: DISQUALIFIED

Mahalo has no entry for tempo running. We’ve gone too detailed for Mahalo here. DQ’d.

del.icio.us: SILVER

Use of the term “run” again confuses poor del.icio.us here. 34 of the first 50 results are not related to exercise running. But there are several good sites related to the tempo run. Runner’s World has Learn How To Do A Perfect Tempo Run. Running Times has A Tempo Run by Many Other Names.

And this is one of my favorites…a LetsRun.com post/discussion about Tempo run length vs. speed from 2003. One would have to go pretty deep into the LetsRun site to unearth that one. A true credit to the power of social bookmarks & tagging.

Google: GOLD

Incredibly, all of the first 50 results were related to exercise tempo runs. Very impressive. Lots of good info about the temp run. A LetsRun post/discussion, but different than the one on del.icio.us. Bloggers describing their tempo runs. Formal programs that advise on the pace of the tempo run. Just really good stuff.

Recap: Broad, Narrow, Technical

Broad search: Google, Mahalo, del.icio.us
Narrow search: del.icio.us, Google, Mahalo
Technical search: Google, del.icio.us, (Mahalo DQ’d)

Conclusions that I draw from this admittedly small, subjective test:

  • Mahalo is a good starting point for finding information on something that’s not familiar to you. It only covers broader, more popular categories. It does appear that the Mahalo expert just skims the top results from Google. But the clean interface and human filtering makes it a decent place to start your search.
  • del.icio.us is challenged by results that are not related to the search topic, which is consistent with its user-generated chaotic nature. It’s also a really good place to find hidden nuggets of valuable information not easily found elsewhere. And for a narrow topic with words that do not have multiple meanings, del.icio.us really shines.
  • Google still makes sense as the first place to look. Breadth and depth of results, and it takes on all comers. It also does an exceedingly good job of figuring out what sites relate to a search topic.

One final note in favor of Mahalo. There is research that shows consumers are actually better off with fewer choices than more. Give me 7 good choices, and I’ll be able to begin my journey to learn more about a topic. Give me 50 choices, some great, some terrible, and I’ll be flummoxed as I try to read them all.

Mahalo does have the advantage of providing a simple, limited set of good results to get beginners going. There is value to that.