Why You Should Use FriendFeed

Duncan Riley

Social aggregation service FriendFeed has turned into this years hot service, and yet to date I've have remained unconvinced of its merits. In an age where people are suffering "over-noise" in terms of information input, FriendFeed adds yet another layer with which many may struggle to keep up with.

FriendFeed has an amazingly loyal user base, and chief among the cheer squad has been Louis Gray. Louis and I have some history, but I thought I might ask him to convince me why I should use FriendFeed through a series of questions. Louis graciously responded with an argument on why you should use FriendFeed Why do you use FriendFeed?

If you get Twitter, and you get RSS feeds, especially Google Reader, you will get FriendFeed. FriendFeed brings both the immediacy and conversation element of Twitter, but the sharing aspect of Google Reader shared items, without the limits that have held each service back, such as total number of characters, adding comments beyond Google Reader Notes, etc.

FriendFeed, essentially, is a single place to both aggregate your own activity, and follow friends and peers' activity. But more than just aggregating activity, which many different sites do, it enables you to make comments, and show you "like" an item. This may seem small, but it's this participation that has enabled the FriendFeed community to grow, as users engage and have conversations, longer than 140 characters.

I use FriendFeed to find new sources for information, to discuss items shared by friends, or see what others have said about items I share. FriendFeed has opened my eyes to some very talented tech bloggers, and helped me get answers to questions in real time from a group, rather than using Twitter, and counting @Replies.

What do you get from using FriendFeed?

With FriendFeed, I get a social platform for communication and participation on the day's news and interesting items, and this platform can be as broad or as narrow as I would like it to be.

As with Twitter, on FriendFeed, I can choose to follow 1 person, 100 people, or 1,000 people. Also, thanks to advanced options that FriendFeed offers, I can choose to hide specific services (like Twitter, YouTube, Seesmic, or Disqus), I can choose to hide specific services from specific people (like hiding all of Robert Scoble's Tweets), or I can get even more granular, by hiding items shared by Friends of a Friend, or saying I only want to view items that have already received comments or likes, letting only the best links hit my screen.

As you can guess, the service is only as good as the community. During FriendFeed's private beta stage, it was an excellent way to talk to current and former Googlers, who dominated the early users. Now, as the doors have opened, a flood of new users are now regulars on the site. I've tried to stay focused on those engaging with tech blogs, or those who enjoy tech, but anybody's community can be different.

Why should others use FriendFeed?

Your friends could be using many different services online. They could be updating their blogs. They could be posting photos to Flickr. They could be choosing YouTube favorites, or sending notes to Twitter. FriendFeed lets them put all of their online activity in one place, and lets you subscribe to their activity there, rather than following them around the Web.

FriendFeed lets you not only see what your friends are doing, but act on it. Also, as your friends find more people to follow on FriendFeed, you can be exposed to the best from their friends, getting you to find new people and new interesting items.

What's your thoughts on FriendFeed being another layer in the over-noise problem

Because FriendFeed aggregates activity from many places, it definitely has the potential to be noisy. But the team at FriendFeed has thought ahead about this, and delivered some extremely flexible filters to reduce the noise and have strong signal:

Using their "Hide" function, you can hide: * Individual items and conversations * Entire services (Like Twitter, YouTube, Disqus, etc.) * Services from specific individuals (Like Flickr from Thomas Hawk or Twitter from Robert Scoble) * Friends of a Friend globally * Friends of a Friend per individual (Don't show me Robert Scoble's Friends' items) * All items or specific services or services by user that don't have comments or likes.

With all those options, you can really make FriendFeed as noisy or as quiet as you want to. What FriendFeed needs to do to make the noise that remains a little less so is to:

* Address issues with duplicate items shared by multiple friends. * Address issues with a single user doing multiple things with an item (Posting to a blog, adding to Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, etc.) * Possibly introduce groups, so you could categorize your friends and see subsets of the stream.

If you pull a Robert Scoble, and follow thousands of people, of course it will be noisy. What I recommend is starting with a core group of people who you know or already follow on Twitter, RSS, etc., and then add as you see others making comments on FriendFeed. You can put your mouse over any name and see their profile, how active they are, and what they share.

Louis Gray is a Marketing and public relations professional in the Silicon Valley with ten years experience for both Internet and hardware companies. His blog, louisgray.com, covers the world of social media, RSS readers, link aggregation and statistics.