My beef with FriendFeed
Well, there was no shortage of chatter about FriendFeed this weekend. So I signed up for it and gave it a teeny little spin. What it is is a social networking aggregator – so you login and you provide it all your information – your facebook, myspace, flicker, delicious (dropped the dots!), amazon wishlist, or pretty much what have you. It does require you to give it all your login credentials for many of the networks – which I found off-putting, but your trust tolerance may vary. Finally it creates a stream of all your activity in all the sites you provided.
This certainly is a hot topic for the internets – the incredibly, incredibly annoyingly labeled lifestream application – as though my life consisted of only what I’ve done in my social networks… gr. But getting past that, addressing the problem people have with all these different websites and keeping track of all of them and all your friends is growing almost exponentially more difficult. So people are looking to bring them all together – FriendFeed’s one take on the subject.
Some people love it, por ejemplo, Scoble does. Duncan Riley, on the other hand doesn’t. I fall into the don’t really love it camp. Here’s the thing – I think an activity aggregator is definitely a great and useful app. The problem with FriendFeed is that it isn’t just an aggregator it is itself yet another a social network. That is – it allows for commenting on everything that shows up in your feed.
So on the one hand it unifies all your activity into one convenient package – but on the other hand it fragments the conversation around your content. While for some folk like Scoble, maybe that doesn’t matter since he has so much conversation – but for the rest of us who treasure comments like little drops of linguistic gold, splitting it up does not help to promote it. So chances of interesting and non-duplicated conversation are now halved as people are starting new threads in two places. In addition to all the various networks you’re on, you have to also check into your friendfeed meta conversation – which lack any relation to the actual conversation happening on the network of origin.
An interesting take could have been allowing for non-registered comments – like the way almost every blog allows. There’s no required registration so it is open for a wide variety of people to leave comments. This could have been an interesting alternative since it could foster more conversation than the walled gardens that most social networks are – if something happens on Facebook, FriendFeed could provide a clearinghouse for people who simply don’t want to join a network to comment. But alas, FriendFeed’s goal of being a social network makes it just another username and password to remember for all concerned.
Really, though, instead of providing a new place to comment – it should pull comments from the source, where possible, and allow FriendFeed commenting only on elements that don’t allow it, Amazon Wishlist items as an example. Like the way Feedburner shows you how many comments a given blog posting has – that would be a good example of how to provide a really useful aggregation service that also keeps the unity of existing conversation.
I mean, I dunno, but a social network aggregator that itself wants to be another social network? I suppose it isn’t an inherently bad idea – but to me FriendFeed misses the mark. If the goal of social networks is to facilitate conversation (as one FriendFeed proponent suggests) I believe that FriendFeed makes things actively worse for me. Conversation begets more conversation – an empty board is hard to comment on, one with a thriving thread is more thought provoking and easier to jump into – FriendFeed halves my chances of getting to that thriving thread zone by creating a duplicate forum for discussion and dividing my audience. I would much prefer a more distributed solution. Anyone else check this out? Digging it?