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The New Friendfeed – who’s supplying the barf bags?

Well that is pretty similar to the last twenty minutes I’ve sat here watching the real-time web go scrolling by at breakneck speed on the new Friendfeed beta site. Besides being in bad need of some Gravol (anti-nausea drugs for you non-Canadians) I am really wondering if this fascination with slapping us in the face with all the world’s inanity is really what people like Tim Berners-Lee thought of when the whole idea of the real-time web came about.

M.G. Siegler wrote in his enthusiastic review of the new Friendfeed beta

Look, information happens in real time. One of the reasons the web has exploded in popularity is because it gives you access to more information, faster than ever before. This new version of FriendFeed does the exact same thing, to the extreme — it’s wonderful. Are people really complaining that we should slow the information down? It may be a bit extreme to say, but that really is a form of censorship. Don’t slow the information down, tweak the way you consume it.

Uhm …. M.G. don’t get me wrong because I think you’re a pretty smart guy but can we please cut the bullshit here. People being able to easily digest what is happening in the world and their social circle doesn’t mean having to feel like you are constantly going to fall off of a cliff. As for the crap about censorship c’mon bud let’s not drink too much of the kool-aid shall we.

The fact is that what Friendfeed had before with it’s auto-refresh every minute or so; with the option of a real-time puke up your lunch timeline, worked really well. Now though all you have is the option of reaching for the barf bag or putting everything on pause. Excuse me but how is this considered user friendly in the slightest sense of the word.

Jeremiah Owang talks in his post about the changes and how we are facing some real challenges in the world where everything is a river of news

Challenges to Navigating the “River of News”
As the web continues to move faster and faster towards real-time (we see this in Twitter and elements of Facebook), it creates several challenges:

  • If you’re not watching all the time, you’ll miss something
  • An incredible amount of hay is created with very few needles
  • Managing these feeds take effort, you have to setup filters, lists, groups, and manage it.
  • You’re going to get less work done if you watch, and participate in the real-time web.

New Social Tools and Processes to Emerge
If the social web is a ‘river of news’ then we’re going to need new sea-faring technologies to manage it:

  • Anchors We need more anchors to slow it down and make sense of it, Friendfeed offers a ‘pause’ button that actually freezes the stream, allowing users to navigate the content.
  • Dams and Distibutaries Dams will stop the flow of content (users will unsubscrbe) and distributary are rivers that split off from the main river, as a result you’ll see a need to use filters and lists to group people in smaller categories.
  • Maps and Compasses are needed to help guide us to what’s important. Expect digests, analysis, and those who boil down what matters to matter more than ever. Traditional reporters will help make sense of thousands of opinions.

As right as he might be about it all becoming a river of news it shouldn’t mean that we live in dread of being seasick at the thought of trying to read it. In fact more than a river it seems that we are facing more of a tsunami.

Louis Gray in his one of a couple posts about the changes at Friendfeed said this about the information firehose on steroids

But if you follow a ton of folks, be prepared for an onslaught of information. If people thought FriendFeed delivered a ton of information before, just wait until you see the beta. The realtime flow means an item might move lower in the page while you’re still reading it. You might click like on the wrong item. And you probably aren’t going to get the chance to read everything. That’s why there is a pause button at the top. You might find yourself hitting pause just to catch a breath. But if you’re an information junkie, there’s really no better source.

Don’t get me wrong – I still think that Friendfeed is one of the best lifestreaming aggregators out there and I have whiled away many an hour following along but this move to an either or proposition with its real-time presentation has devalued it for me. Regardless of the fact that you can create all kinds of lists or rooms the fact is that with this new design the more people you follow the sooner you’ll heading for the great white telephone like a drunken sophomore.

Even Robert Scoble in one of his many posts this morning acknowledges that this real-time presentation can have an impact on your workflow

Here’s some tips I’ve learned after using the new friendfeed for a while:

1. Turn it off. There’s no way to be productive doing something else while the stream is moving and distracting you. Two ways to turn it off: 1. close the browser. That’s brute force method. 2. Push the “pause button” at the top of the feed. That will keep it from moving. You can then refresh the page to see more items, or push play when you want to start seeing new items again.

The point is, there is real-time and then there is having your head shoved into a 1,000 mph wind tunnel. What Friendfeed had before was a real workable real-time presentation whereas what they have with this new taste your lunch in your throat activity stream is highly questionable. I realize I am going against the kool-aid drinking stream – as evidenced by the many goo-goo-gaa-gaa type posts out there today but I am sure glad that even with all the good new feature in the beta I can still go back to the old style.

As to what I’ll do when this change is forced down our throats I’m not sure … maybe I’ll have to stock up on Gravol and barf bags. Or perhaps hope against hope Friendfeed will rethink this move and give us some more alternatives to control our real-time stream.

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