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Posted
9 April 2008 @ 9pm

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friendfeed

FriendFeed is about intention

I was just reading Alexander van Elsas’ piece on FriendFeed and intention. As usual Alexander does a great job digging deep into one issue. This time, it’s what he sees as a major flaw in FriendFeed – the lack of intention in sharing the items that appear in the FriendFeed stream.

Here is why he thinks this is an issue (my emphasis):

Social networks aren’t interesting because I can track down every (mostly dull) action a friend is taking. Social networks are interesting because they should allow people to interact. That is, to intentionally reach out to each other to share stuff, communicate, play, have fun etc. That is what makes it social.

Now, Alexander argues that the nature of FriendFeed is counter to this:

I said earlier that the stuff we all produce in Friendfeed is less valuable because there is no intent or conscious act when things get shared. Looking at the statistics above I now believe that Friendfeed is nothing more than a techie bloggers echo chamber. It could vastly be improved if either Friendfeed or some API builder would produce a page with statistics about what is being shared most right now.

Alexander goes on to argue that some of the problem here is with the fact that many items often get shared many times over by different people, which creates a steady stream of duplicates – and I fully agree with him that this is a problem, though I also think that the FriendFeed developers are aware of this and will, over time, create a solution for this.

However, I don’t think that the value of FriendFeed is dimished because of this.

I think some of the most active FriendFeed users are very aware that an item they share on on Google Reader, for example, will pop up on FriendFeed. For myself, I have changed my behavior because of this and share fewer, but more interesting items. At the same time, there is a good chance that I will not subscribe to somebody’s stream if I find their stream to be without intention at all – such as users who just feed their Twitter account into FriendFeed.

Also, as Alexander points out, the value of social networks is in the interaction – and at this point, I am not aware of any other network where there is more intentional interaction than on FriendFeed. Just look at the discussion that formed around Steven Hodson’s piece about Alexander’s article. Because FriendFeed makes commenting so completely frictionless, there is a lot more interaction between users. And I would be surprised if the ‘linking’ mechanism wouldn’t allow a third-party developer to built a Techmeme-like site on top of the FriendFeed API.

That said, I think Alexander makes a good argument for the danger of FriendFeed becoming a “techie blogger’s echo chamber.” However, I think it’s in a user’s best interest to avoid this by intentionally searching out who to follow (and who not to follow).

I look at FriendFeed as a tool – and like every good tool, it allows users to chose how they want to use it.

p.s. I have found that hiding most Twitter streams until they have been ‘liked’ or commented on has brought down the signal/noise ration of FF by a lot for me.

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