How FriendFeed Splits the Conversation

FriendFeed ServicesI’ve been hearing plenty of noise among the Alpha Geeks this week about the sudden emergence of FriendFeed. It’s basically a way to aggregate all of your sundry feeds in one megafeed of stuff. I’ve noticed a flurry of new followers of my FriendFeed this week.

I first tried FriendFeed and wrote about it back in October, and here’s what I said:

Holy crap. Who in their right mind would want to see all of that in one place? It’s my stuff, and I don’t even want to see it.

I feel the same way today. I don’t need more stuff, I need less. I went on to remark on the one way I might make use of FriendFeed:

If FriendFeed or somebody else lays some clever filtering on top of my friend’s mega-feeds. To start with, how about a filter that shows me everything my friends tag as ‘fordarren’, regardless of what service it’s in?

Louis Gray wrote a post boosting FriendFeed, and I think his essential point was this:

There are a definitely a wide number of sites out there that let you share all your activity in one place, or to track friends’ activity, but FriendFeed is the only one that lets you share items directly to the feed, elevate discussions through comments and show “likes” to highlight individual posts.

Later, he re-emphasizes the interactive aspects of this very simple service.

Comments Here, There and Everywhere

That may have some appeal, but there’s a downside: FriendFeed splits the conversation around a given chunk of content.

Louis’s post is a great example. Currently there are nine comments on his blog. However, there are two other, distinct comments on the aggregated link in FriendFeed. The FriendFeed readers don’t see the blog comments, and vice versa. It’s like the conversation is happening in two languages, and some people aren’t understanding the whole thing. I occasionally see a similar problem in blog posts imported into my Facebook profile.

The solution to this problem is simple in theory, but painful to implement. There needs to be an open comments protocol that all of these services buy into, so that, for example, a comment in Flickr can also appear in FriendFeed and a blog post displaying that photo.

In my experience, these cross-industry APIs and standards take a long time to hash out and agree upon. Then it takes even longer for the sundry stakeholders to bake into the next release of their software. If this already exists, I’m not aware of it.

In the meantime, FriendFeed just bifurcates the interaction that Louis espouses.


  1. I think Friendfeed may end up as a useful service for a closer layer of things you want to follow. If I’m vaguely interested in someone then I can follow just one of their feeds. If I know them and want to stay more up to date, I can follow their Friendfeed because I like all the stuff they do. But this only applies for very few people / feeds.

    Ironically, I first saw this post in a feedreader subscribed to the DB Friendfeed.

  2. You put your finger on something about these web2 aggregators that keeps me from using them. Namely, that they aggregate around content types and not the events or relationships that generate that content, or that the content refers back to. Between the new SocialThing and FriendFeed, I see some nice pulling together and smart presentation, but little substance other than a nuts-and-bolts approach to what is ultimately a problem of relating a piece of content to what is meaningful for its consumer.

  3. I tried solving this problem a year ago with Flickr and my blog. I’d often post photos on my blog and also on flickr, but as you note, the comments would be split between them. So I made a WordPress plugin to import the contents from Flickr into my blog entry as well. Worked pretty awesome, although it ended up being a tad slow since it relied on a bunch of Flickr API calls.

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