Colin Walker

on social media, tech, blogging and the internet.

Conversation ownership and the FriendFeed backlash.

OwnershipThe argument over conversation ownership and fragmentation has taken another twist.

Rob La Gesse became unhappy that the conversation around his posts was happening on FriendFeed and so he removed his account from the aggregator. The only problem is that removing all these parent items also removes all of the comments associated with them – Scoble wasn’t happy and called Rob out on it.

Rob maintains that FriendFeed gave no warning that this would happen but others ask what did he expect? This raises a dilemma over the actual ownership of comments on FriendFeed and blogs and has also raised the question of whether we seek a conversation or an audience (a post for a different day perhaps).

Disqus

Compare the situation to what happens on disqus: you do not need to be registered to use the disqus system but there is a fundamental difference in the way your comment is handled if you’re not. Posting a comment as a logged in user leaves the ownership of that comment with them you so that even if the blog (conversation) owner removes it from their discussion you still have access to it on your own list at disqus. Make a comment as an unregistered user and the ownership transfers to the conversation owner and it will be removed permanently should they delete it from the discussion – fair enough.

FriendFeed is different as all posts are made by logged in, registered users – do they own their comments? Does the person who started the discussion? Does FriendFeed?

It is generally argued that the person who posts the comment has ownership but this introduces a conflict when control of the entire conversation is passed to the person who started it.

Need to address

This is obviously something that FriendFeed will need to address and maybe haven’t really considered up to this point. The FriendFeed business model is all about getting data in to the service – perhaps that focus has meant that little emphasis has been placed on managing deletions.

Yes, we should all be able to remove our content if we no longer want it appearing within the service for whatever reason but that’s the point: ourcontent. We should not have control over the content of others so it would seem that we have an issue with content management within FriendFeed.

The best solution – as has already been suggested within the discussion about this issue – would be for FriendFeed to replace top level items that have comments with a placeholder indicating that the item has been removed. The resultant conversation can often stand on its own so, with the issue of ownership hanging over it, should be left intact.

What do you think?

How should FriendFeed handle deletions? Who owns what? Or, is it just a lot of fuss about nothing?

Related Posts

Image by Seattle Municipal Archives.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Social Media | | 24 Comments

The social media time crisis.

time Brandon Werner left a comment yesterday which, for me, really illustrates the need for us to know both ourselves and our audience. He says that he is a victim – like many others – of the problems we have with attention in modern society and on the web. He says that we have reached the point where you can only effectively get your point across in short ‘microbursts’ and that if he writes more than three paragraphs on the same topic he notices a difference in the traffic and comments on that post.

It would appear that his audience is either unwilling or unable to read a long post. He says himself that he skimmed my post to get the salient points and this is a worrying thought and an obvious sign of the times.

Now, if you are investing the time to make a comment on an item that to me indicates that you have an interest in the subject but if you feel that you haven’t got the time to read through the entire item then something is going very wrong.

Analysis

I am lucky enough to converse with a number of bloggers who are really thinking about the online environment that they are engaging in such as Hutch Carpenter, Rob Diana, Julian Baldwin, Steven Hodson, Alexander van ElsasLouis Gray – there is a whole group now who strive to provide some comprehensive analysis rather than a couple of bullet points and let the readers sort it out for themselves. They are digging in to the heart of the matter and trying to provide some answers or, at least, lay the ground work and ask some pertinent questions.

As far as I am concerned, that is was online communication is all about. That is where we’re heading with FriendFeed rooms and what they are designed to achieve; the ability to dive in to discussions in the right environment. It is what I’ve been saying all along about Twitter being the facilitator and not just Twitter.

Sow the seeds

The global conversation is the breeding ground where we sow the seeds and ideas grow, we then have to take those ideas and transfer them to the best environment possible in order to expand upon them and take them to their logical conclusion. The blog is obviously a great place to do this as it is totally under your control. There are no restrictions on what you write – you can be as in depth or as brief as you need based on the subject.

But, if the whole social web is facing an attention crisis then we can’t possibly hope to resolve any issues. If all anyone can stand to read is three paragraphs how can you hope to convey all that you need to in such a short space. It’s a mirror to the argument over discussions on Twitter as opposed to those on FriendFeed. The 140 character restriction on Twitter prohibits meaningful discussion either due to the lack of space in a single post or because parts of the conversation will become spread out in the timeline.

Three paragraphs may be considerably more than 140 characters but it is the same problem. You cannot use such a short space to identify an issue, provide related links or information, assess that information and then provide any kind of resolution or ask relevant questions.

How do we get round it?

Is it because we are trying to do too much? Is it because there is too much noise and we are either not filtering it correctly or haven’t yet got the tools to do so? Where do our issues really lie? Louis Gray says that he lives in a permanent state of continuous parallel attention but not everyone can – or should – operate like that.

I know myself that I’ll sign up for all sorts of services to see what utility they offer and if they will help me in any way but if they don’t offer something to differentiate themselves then they can’t warrant my permanent attention. Why should I waste my time updating too many duplicate services when I can far more effectively concentrate on a limited set and make a much better job of it. It’s nice to contribute but we have to pick and choose where we will do so.

I like socialmedian for Jason’s efforts to really make it a global service with a good degree of user control to differentiate it from other news sharing services. Toluu again differentiates itself by not being just another RSS application. Mark Dykeman asked for a reason to use it instead of other feed tools – the reason is that it is a feed discovery service which works in tandem with Google Reader rather than being another ‘me too’ service trying to compete with it. These are the types of service that I feel I should invest my time in.

Reduce

simplify We need to streamline and to simplify. By all means try things but don’t struggle on with them if they don’t work for you. We mustn’t be hung up on trying to be ever present on all services so must find a good base and which tools work for us. What utility they offer and what they allow us to do so that we can concentrate our efforts and really get the best out of them.

If we are not jumping between multiple services and duplicating our efforts we will have more time for reading, for research, for writing, and more time to concentrate on the important aspects rather than what tool we should be using or what site you will be hopping off to next.

This time is much better spent on planning what you want to say, what posts you want to comment on, how you feel you can contribute to the conversation. Just as Ryan posted in the second part of his communicating with integrity series, rather than jumping in with both feet as soon as we see a point we can relate to we have to look at all of the information. If it’s a long post take the time, and show the decency, to read the whole post; if there are supporting links then visit them as they will be pertinent to the arguments. Read the reference material and get a full understanding of what the author is trying to say – only then can you craft the proper response that the post deserves and add value to the conversation.

Conclusion

If your audience can’t (or won’t) spend the time to properly go through what you are writing then you are pitching to the wrong crowd. You need to either rethink what you are writing or who you’re writing it for. The intention is that we should all be writing for ourselves based on our passions and then find like minded individuals who will appreciate what you have to say – even if they don’t agree.

The value comes when we build on what has been said, whether we refute an argument and give reasons why or expand on an existing idea and spin them off in directions we hadn’t previously thought.

We need to be true to ourselves then find our place and find our audience.

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Images by sarmax and diva bex.

May 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Social Media | , | 14 Comments

Who are our audience and what do we owe them?

AudienceToday I wanted to touch on another hot topic doing the rounds but look at it from a slightly different angle and that is the idea of a ‘Social Contract’ between users (or friends) on social networking services.

I mentioned before that while there was no contract between the blogger and the reader there is, perhaps, an implied promise as to what your blog will contain – that’s the reason your reader subscribed in the first place after all. Does the same principle extend to the connections we make in social media circles?

Birds of a feather

As a general rule we make connections with those of similar interests to ourselves whether it be to further the discussion about a particular subject or just to have some common ground in order to avoid the awkward silence. It is natural, therefore, for us to expect items of a specific type to crop up in our ‘friends’ streams but, with the breadth of services aggregated by sites such as Twitter, we must also be prepared to see items that may not necessarily interest us.

You will often get comments on blogs relating to personal posts saying that it is nice to see the person behind the words; the truth is that relationships have as a goal the aim to get to know the other person, find out who they are and what makes them tick – this has the added benefit of helping to understand why someone may write in a certain way or have a particular opinion. It has been asked “how personal is too much” but this can only be determined in each case by the individuals concerned.

Filters

FriendFeed has the ‘Hide’ feature which helps us filter out the things we aren’t interested in (I now filter out all Last.fm items) but it probably doesn’t go far enough. Hutch Carpenter calls for full semantic filtering and I think it is only a matter of time before we head in this direction but the question being asked is not should we filter what we consume but whether we should have to filter what we produce and take our audience in to account. There are cases for both sides of this argument but I feel it is down to the individual to make their own decision on the information they share in ‘social’ circles.

I use FriendFeed as an example here as that is where most of the debate is centered and it must be remembered that hiding has different options. It is common for users to hide items of a particular type that have no likes or comments – the implication being that for someone to make the effort to ‘flag’ it in either of these ways that it is considered of interest. An item may be ‘liked’ as a way to mark it for your own reference but by doing so you may also be forcing items into the stream of others; perhaps FriendFeed needs a favouriting system for your own benefit rather than just replying on likes and comments.

Who is our audience?

Robert Seidman made a comment on FriendFeed that we “look at the world through a very, very different lens than most people who use the Internet” and as such, are the discussions we have relevant or the points we make true for most people. This leads us to ask who our intended audience is.

As early adopters we do have a specific view based on our point of reference and we communicate this accordingly. Our current peers will be ideally placed to understand our opinions but this again fuels the argument that we are living in an isolated bubble – the echo chamber. Are we becoming too self absorbed or is it a natural process for the early adopters to keep moving on and discussing the way ahead rather than focusing on educating others to the present.

As can be seen in the many conversations recently, any social media enthusiast is hopeful that social media services – or at least the concept of social media – will go mainstream (be that 33%, 50% of internet users or whatever metric you want to apply) so the discussion turns to the future of the social web. Once this occurs then the current conversations will become a lot more relevant to a greater number of people so should we hold ourselves back in the short term or prepare for what’s ahead?

Where does our value lie?

Ryan of Tilling the Soil commented on “Evolution of the social web” saying that the post (and those related to it on other blogs) had lead him to contemplate about how we actually add value to these conversations. He says that we need to rethink not just what we communicate but how we do it so that the social web does not become a “system full of noise” with everyone just shouting their opinions at each other. He’s probably right. In the first of series of posts he says

“I think that many of us have lived for so long just talking without a specific purpose in mind that it is an easy rut to fall into. If we take the time to be intentional in our communication, the conversations that take place will be significantly richer and have the potential to impact far more people.”

We are growing to used too shouting to be heard over the noise which is why I suggested that for anything meaningful to be achieved there would be the need to take elements of the conversation away from the public eye. Doing this will enable us to communicate more effectively and allow us to give what we truly owe: our properly considered opinion and our honesty.

What do you think?

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Image by felipe trucco.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Social Media | , | 5 Comments

Evolution of the social web.

What\'s next?Alexander van Elsas wrote an incredibly thought provoking post about the future of the social web, if you haven’t yet read it then I would advise heading over there before continuing here.

He defines the web 2.0 era as being that where “every user can be a public figure” due to the relative ease in which we can broadcast ourselves and our personal brand to thousands via the various social networking services we have available.

He argues that the changing habits of new generations – who seem to prefer to keep their information private except for their closed circle – will shape the way services in the social space will operate in future. Rather than services aiming to meet the masses he says that there will instead be smaller communities but with more intense interactions resulting in a need for business models which scale down instead of up as at present.

So, will the next wave of services counter the rush towards a global village and instead concentrate more on local, more personalised agendas?

My thoughts

I can agree with Alexander’s ideas to a point but I can see the focus in the social web splitting and going two ways – there will be a bipolar existence but the extremes will not necessarily be mutually exclusive.

Julian Baldwin has said that Web 3.0 will beget a ‘larger conversation’ as new bloggers will benefit from the links we provide to the ‘established audience’ and that those newcomers will be able to build a following much quicker than anyone in the web 2.0 era. While this may be true to a degree I feel that the shift will occur because of the continuing ease with which technology allows us to produce our own ‘Truman Shows’.

Web superstars

Rather than die out, the global conversation will continue to grow; there will always be ego-warriors or web superstars but as it continues to get easier to build a presence we will have a greater number instead of an ‘elite’ group of A-listers. There will be more people with greater access, greater penetration and a greater public profile as the technology to create and distribute the content that we create becomes ever simpler.

Not only is our ability to produce content enhanced but the next generation has an immediate advantage over us; they are growing up with the tools and services as part of their everyday lives. Unlike those of us who have had to adapt to life in the web 2.0 – or even web 1.0 – age our children will be increasingly more comfortable, and familiar with the technology at their disposal allowing for better use to be made of it. There will be less time wondering about the ‘how’ and more spent on the ‘what’.

Downsizing

On the other side there will be, as Alexander says, an increased focus on smaller, more specific communities – maybe for discreet functions, jobs, localities or interests. These smaller dedicated networks will allow a much greater depth of interaction and immersion as they seek to use the benefits of the social web to address specific issues or needs. This is already occurring with services such as Ning but the facilities, uptake and opportunities will increase dramatically.

These smaller networks will focus less on the individual but more on facilitating connections within the group and on the actual ‘output’ – the results achieved by the group, the cumulative effort.

Despite the radical differences in approach between these two extremes there will not necessarily be a separation of the two spheres – there will always be crossover. People will not want to become isolated and retire exclusively into their small networks but there will be a necessity to withdraw to these think tanks in order to achieve the required results.

The global conversation will be the melting pot where ideas form, themes are created and trends emerge; these ideas will be taken back to the subject specific groups where they will get chewed up, reworked, refined and spat back out to the global conversation. The smaller groups will focus on those things that would otherwise get lost or diluted amongst the global conversation, their output will then supply and maybe even re-influence and direct the larger conversation.

Best of both

I feel we are therefore looking at an amalgam of both Alexander and Julian’s ideas but people will drift between the global and local conversations as needed. Perhaps the way the conversations are held will change but the two streams will still exist and both get ever more prevalent.

Because of the juxtaposition of the two spheres of communication I would disagree with Alexander when he says that the next generation will move away from the want to have a public appearance but not in the way you would expect me to disagree.

The ego-warriors in the global sphere will always want to be in peoples faces and making names for themselves – that is just human nature. The fact that more people may be putting themselves in this position, however, means that less emphasis will be placed upon those who do. We only have one Robert Scoble in our web 2.0 world (some may say thank goodness) but in future there will be many with this type of exposure and penetration – it will no longer be such a novelty.

In the local sphere I imagine public appearance to become of even greater importance but not in the exhibitionist way we are currently used to. Instead, the emphasis will shift to the ‘public‘ further encouraging us to take our online relationships offline and increase the actual face to face interaction almost as a backlash to the virtual world we are currently inhabiting.

The shift to more focused, smaller communities will allow this to happen as you will only be trying to organise meetings with a finite group improving the relationships within it, but it will not be at the expense of the global conversation.

Your thoughts

Is it impossible to predict where online interaction will take us? Where do you see yourself contributing?

Image by Crystal.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Social Media | | 16 Comments

Mobile FriendFeed – there has to be a better way.

UPDATE: now there is a better way. Benjamin Golub has created ‘FF to go’ which gives you the ability to like and comment on items like the MojiPage widget but whilst also showing you what’s already there. See this post from Louis Gray for more details.

I recently called for a mobile interface in my post “A static FriendFeed is a worthless FriendFeed” which generated a bit of discussion. Loic Le Meur also called FriendFeed out on this via a direct post on the service itself.

After my post I started looking for other options as the FriendFeed page will not allow me to post to the service or add likes and comments to items thus taking away the whole social aspect of the service.

A few people have been using the FriendFeed widget on MojiPage which is a custom start page for mobile devices. MojiPage lets you add a number of widgets to give you functionality from a range of sites all in one place. The FriendFeed widget does let you post likes and comments but has its own limitations: you can only see the title of each entry (no text, comments etc.) and cannot post a direct message. Flicking between the FriendFeed site to read items and then MojiPage to comment on them is incredibly unweildy and frustrating but the only solution we have at present for commenting on existing items – having two browsers installed on my phone does it it a little easier as I have one page open in each.

While MojiPage does enable some sorely lacking functionality it still does not solve the problem of not being able to post messages directly to the service – cue moblf.

FriendFeed via SMS

Moblf logomoblf (mobile life) is a service which let’s you interact with Twitter and FriendFeed via your phone using SMS. Now, Twitter already has a comprehensive mobile setup via the web and text messaging so that side of things is a bit redundant but the ability to post direct messages to FriendFeed from your phone is presently unique.

How it works

Once you are signed up to the service you follow the moblf Twitter account. By sending direct messages to this account via SMS you trigger certain functionality such as getting the next 5 updates on Twitter. Sending a message with your FriendFeed username and remotekey lets you enable FriendFeed interaction via the moblf gateway and are then free to send direct updates to the site service straight from your phone. Full details of the commands can be found on the moblf blog.

The facility is still not available to share items, only to post a message, and it is of course dependant on Twitter being available but it is currently better than nothing.

While these solutions are not particularly user friendly and are still lacking in functionality they do illustrate that direct interaction with FriendFeed from a mobile is achievable. With ever increasing numbers connecting from their mobile devices we need either the FriendFeed team to develop their own web based solution or for someone to combine all these elements in to one site or remote client.

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May 21, 2008 Posted by | Social Media | , | 8 Comments

The changing face of FriendFeed.

ChangeHutch Carpenter wrote a very intriguing post over at I’m Not actually A Geek which details why he thinks the FriendFeed service will go mainstream but may take ten years to do so.

He defines mainstream usage as 33% of internet users and estimates the timescales involved by looking at the adoption of other technologies and services such as the Internet itself, Google and RSS feeds but what stood out for me in this post was his assertion that, come the revolution, FriendFeed will look rather different to how it does at present as more ‘non-tech’ folks join the service.

In his post “Friendfeed stats show its just Twitter with bookmarks” Alexander Van Elsas advises us that FriendFeed traffic is more than half made up of Twitter messages and that direct postings to the service account for less that 1% of all traffic. Hutch surmises that over time the amount of direct postings (which includes sharing a link directly on the site rather than via somewhere like Google Reader) will rise incredibly as more people latch on to FriendFeed as a worthwhile service but I would personally expect things to further than he has outlined them.

Go to your audience

With the Blogging 2.0 discussion saying that bloggers should go where their audience is I feel it is only a matter of time before this is taken literally. During the debate about linking and attribution I remarked “A FriendFeed blog anyone?” and with a few changes I could see it happening.

All it would take is for FriendFeed to add formatting options to the current comment box and it suddenly becomes a viable mini-blog platform. If they also extended the API so that remote blogging applications could submit proper posts (including images, links etc.) then we could see a shift towards really taking your blog where the audience is. Forget about the worry of having your posts scraped by third party services, what about having your actual content directly in peoples streams?

Please sir, can I have some more?

Despite having been around for a couple of years Twitter is still a relative novelty and once people demand more they will move to services where the potential is greater and the conversation is more engaging.

As I said before, FriendFeed is no longer just an aggregation service – it is now a community and enhancing its capabilities further would put it in a great position to capture the imagination. Current users are already pushing the boundaries; we have gone way beyond just ‘comments’ and moved on to full blown discussions and I feel it won’t be long before we are clamouring for extra ways to get our message across – an ‘inline’ blog seems a natural extension.

Your thoughts

Would  you use a blog hosted directly within an aggregation service like FriendFeed? Can you see the utility is a feature like this or would it bloat the system? How far will content creators go to be close to the audience?

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Image by TW Collins.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Social Media | , | 12 Comments

Social media experts – it’s all relative.

ExpertIt has been said that there are no social media experts and there has been a fair amount of discussion on this particular point. I wanted to expand on a comment I made on the subject over at Julian Baldwin’s blog.

The social media space is relatively new and, because of this, is still changing. Definitions are morphing and the whole social web is constantly adapting. New services appear on an almost daily basis just as others fall by the wayside; the ecosystem surrounding social media is expanding as developers find new ways to use the APIs made available to them.

With such an ever changing landscape can anyone truly be called an expert when it comes to social media?

Let’s have a look at a typical definition of the term expert:

displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience

Now compare this to the definition of an expert witness for legal purposes:

by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the witness’s specialised (scientific, technical or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of their expertise

The second definition may be a bit more in-depth but they essentially say the same thing: an expert is someone who has a high level of skill or knowledge in a certain area.

Social media experts?

How can someone be an ‘expert’ when the playing field is constantly changing? As there is so much change we can’t hope to know everything all the time; we are all learning as the social media space is evolving. Some have more experience and some are better at communicating that experience but does this make them an expert? should we instead be referring to those people as an ‘authority’ on a given area?

If you were to isolate individual concepts, services or applications then – according to the definitions we have above – you could claim that a certain person was an expert for that specific element but I don’t feel that we can apply the term to the social web as a whole when you consider its constant state of flux.

Sharing

The degree to which anyone can be called an expert or an authority is, therefore, completely relative. The level of ‘expertise’ must be looked at in relation to their peers but I would argue that being an authority in this context must extend beyond knowledge alone and include the ability to expedite that knowledge for the benefit of the community. The social web is all about sharing and having the ability to do so in a useful and meaningful way.

Those who immerse themselves in the social web will not only be best placed to take advantage of the benefits it has to offer but will also be best placed to educate and inform those new to the space – they will therefore become the de facto ‘experts’ in this field even if the don’t necessarily match the definition.

Your thoughts

Can anyone actually be a social media expert in this climate on change? Do we already have them and what is the scope of their influence? Who do you look to when in need of social knowledge?

Image by Bonnie Natko.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Social Media | | 16 Comments

Disqus comments now enabled here.

DisqusThat’s right, I have taken the plunge and enabled Disqus commenting for the blog. I was originally in two minds as to whether I should go this route, I was unsure about having the comments held away from the site but soon realised that this is a minor issue when you look at the benefits Disqus can provide.

When you also consider that the majority of the conversation is now happening out in the cloud it makes a lot of sense to also have the blog comments available in places like FriendFeed to enable additional exposure. I haven’t gone as far as adding video commenting as I don’t feel that this adds sufficient value at present, especially when I am not creating video posts myself (yet?) but that is always an option for the future

Thanks to Steven’s short guide, I have made sure that the existing comments were not lost but all posts going forward will be using the new system.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Blogging | , | 12 Comments

Adobe Photoshop Express goes truly social.

Photoshop ExpressThe reach of social media is growing ever wider and this is evident in the direction that software and services are taking. The Adobe Photoshop Express beta, for example, has been updated but the only ‘functional’ change advertised is that you can now perform a ‘Save As’ in order to preserve your original image.

No, the real news here is that Adobe are hooking in to the desire to go social. It seems that we are no longer happy with software or services that just do X – we demand more and we are increasingly demanding a social aspect.

The new features announced are as follows:

  • flickr integration: you can now import images directly from flickr, edit them in Photoshop Express and then fire them straight back to flickr
  • embeddable player: rather than just show off your slide show on the Photoshop Express site you can use an embeddable widget to take you slide show with you across the web.

What’s intersting with the widget is the choice of examples given by Adobe where you would like to display your pictures; they could have mentioned anything but instead refer to “Facebook, MySpace, and other sites where your audience awaits”. Adobe are obviously trying to cash in on the social movement. How long before we get a Photoshop Express Freemium option? Once you’re hooked in to editing your images online will we get a version which charges you for key functionality post beta? Only time will tell.

Photoshop Express is an ideal target for a social application but I think we should all be concerned if many other applications try to force a social element upon us where it just doesn’t fit to do so.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Betas, Social Media | | 1 Comment

Signal to noise on the social web.

No SignalThere are some discussions that just don’t go away and one in particular is that around fragmented conversations. The main catalyst for keeping this conversation alive is FriendFeed and the effect it is having on commenting. This has been getting peoples backs up for a while and recent events are just adding to it.

Signal v Noise

The conversation has taken an additional twist as it has been drawn in with the one about the noise to signal ratio on social sites and services. A post on Mashable asked “Does FriendFeed enrich the conversation or add to the noise?“. Corvida at SheGeeks responded with an emphatic “Don’t Be So Naive: Friendfeed Adds to the Noise” but the truth is that is does both.

It has been suggested that Web 3.0 should be about filtering the streams and reducing the noise and that aggregation services such as FriendFeed should implement more controls to allow the user to do this. Hutch Carpenter over at I’m Not Actually A Geek likened our individual data streams to TV channels and suggested that the first step to controlling the noise is to choose your channels wisely but he also defends the noise.

One mans meat is another mans poison

What is noise to some is interesting to others and must never be discounted out of hand – filtered yes, but not discounted. Robert Scoble is the biggest noise advocate out there, not because he enjoys reading idle chat but because the noise stream will contain the odd nugget – just like panning for gold. He argues that only those willing to sift through the dirt will strike it rich and those covering only the same old sources will only ever skim the surface. He maintains that the traditional news sites are often unwilling to run something from a relative unknown as “You have to convince multiple people who control these sites that your stuff is important” – easier said than done.

And this is where the likes of Twitter and FriendFeed come in.

Despite their obvious facility aggregation services are, however, causing a new problem – duplication. Not just the duplication of content but also duplication of the discussion and this, it is argued, is just compounding the noise problem.

Take for example my recent post “A static FriendFeed is a worthless FriendFeed“. As well as the listing from my RSS feed this post was referenced in the following ways on FriendFeed:

– 3 shares on Google Reader
– 2 stumbles
– 1 bookmark on del.icio.us
– and my reference on Twitter those not on FriendFeed or subscribed to my blog

That’s 8 separate conversations on FriendFeed alone about one single blog post and don’t forget the actual comments on the blog itself. While it is good for any conversation to have as much exposure as possible it is hard to track the threads.

The post achieved it’s aim to get people talking but not necessarily about the point in question. It did, however, identify a real need for services like FriendFeed to look at how data is presented or to allow the user additional control.

Consolidation of aggregation

I have added a search link to each post to show all the instances of a conversation on FriendFeed about my posts but people are calling for ways to combine entries. If someone has already shared an item via Google Reader why isn’t this tracked so that any subsequent shares are entered as ‘likes’ rather than new entries in the stream? Why can’t different sources refer back to the same item?

FriendFeed currently supports 35 services and looking through these there are potentially 16 ways (including disqus comments) that a blog post could be referenced on FriendFeed, be it via RSS, Digg, Mixx, Google Reader etc. If you then consider that numerous users could carry out each of those activities in relation to the same post then the true potential for duplication becomes clear and is frightening.

I’ve always maintained that I don’t care where a conversation takes place as long as I can gather the strands and weave them together to get a full picture but gathering this many strands will become an increasingly harder job and it is therefore easy to see why bloggers are becoming frustrated.

Blogging 2.0

Duncan Riley has taken the whole issue one stage further in his post “Blogging 2.0: It’s All About The User” He takes the current arguements over whether services such as FriendFeed are in the interests of the creator and likens them to the debate about whether bloggers should publish full or partial RSS feeds – a full feed benefits the consumer but a partial feed attempts to drive traffic to the site in order to benefit the blogger.

Now, we all know that partial RSS feeds tend to act as a turn off to consumers, instead of driving traffic to the source it is more likely that people will unsubscribe as they don’t have the time or desire to follow links back to blogs just to read a story – instant fail. The chances are that the same thing will occur with bloggers who try to control the conversation.

“You can’t stop a conversation occurring on FriendFeed, but you can do things like including that conversation on your blog”

Duncan has it spot on but at present the options available to bloggers just don’t quite give them what they need. We have plugins and services to gather the threads of the conversation (Glenn Slaven’s FriendFeed Comment plugin for WordPress, YackTrack etc.) but they are reliant on the APIs of those services that hold the threads.

“I will bend like a reed in the wind” – Paul Atreides (Dune)

Louis Gray breaks this down further when he says that the blogging world has changed and we as bloggers have to change with it. he points out the various ways that he has embraced the social web as a place to hold conversations and highlights that some bloggers are now reporting that FriendFeed is high on their list of referring sites – it is in also my top four.

Just as bloggers have had to relinquish control when it came to publishing full RSS feeds they must also relinquish the control over the subsequent conversation but, if history is anything to go by, this will have a positive impact on the blogging experience. Those who fully immerse themselves in the conversation regardless of where it lies are going to be those that are recognised by the community at large. Those who are participating in all avenues will be the ones to watch and this will drive additional ‘friending’ on social sites and extra subscriptions to RSS feeds.

Engaging in the conversation and being willing to takes those steps necessary will enhance the reputation of any blogger willing to put themselves out there which in turn lead to the secondary benefits we all go on about.

Think not what your community can do for you but what you can do for the community – it will help you in the end.

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Image by La Niña Graphics.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Social Media | , | 7 Comments