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How I Use FriendFeed, and Why I Love It

This post came out of an email conversation I had with a friend, who was asking why I like FriendFeed so much. He’s an active social network user, so it wasn’t a newbie question. Rather, he was wondering how I integrate it with all the other forms of connectivity we have – Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, etc. My reply to him got kind of long, so I thought I’d repost it here for everyone to share. πŸ™‚

(Update: In case you’re wondering about FriendFeed’s pedigree, Marshall Kirkpatrick has this fortuitously timed piece over on ReadWriteWeb about the guy that built FriendFeed – Paul Buchheit, former Google employee, the guy who built Gmail in a day, and then built AdSense in a day. FriendFeed is no rickety side project.)

In the beginning, I didn’t really “get” FriendFeed. I signed up for it, piped in all of my stuff (Twitter, blog, photos, etc.), but never really used it much. Why would I go to yet another social network to read the stuff I was already seeing elsewhere? What changed it for me is when I happened to pop in to FriendFeed, and noticed that stuff I was sharing was being discussed on FriendFeed, a LOT, and I was completely missing out on the conversation. That’s when I decided that I needed to make it part of my “regular” routine.

I keep FriendFeed open all the time in one of my “standard loadout” tabs (along with Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I usually end up looking at it anywhere from once to a few times a day. One of the great things about it is that the order of stuff is not strictly chronological, like Twitter, but also weighted by activity/conversation – if something is getting a lot of comments and/or a lot of “likes”, it will bubble up to the top. This makes it REALLY easy to find what’s “hot” or interesting among the people I follow.

As far as the problem of duplicate posts from Twitter, “noise”, etc., one of the most brilliant features of FriendFeed is its filters, and ability to selectively hide stuff. For example, I still pay attention to Twitter, because I follow tons of people there that aren’t on FriendFeed (though I could create Imaginary friends for all of those, it’s not practical). To avoid seeing double tweets from the people who are on both FriendFeed and Twitter, I can tell FriendFeed to hide all tweets, UNLESS they’ve been liked or commented on. That way, I still see occasional tweets, but ONLY when there’s some extra value (likes or comments). Otherwise, I never see them. Hiding is VERY flexible. You can hide each type of message (tweets, photos, Facebook, whatever) from everyone, or just from specific people, and you can conditionally show them if they’re getting activity on FriendFeed, or just hide them altogether (I hide most last.fm updates from everybody – I just don’t care what you’re listening to. Sorry. πŸ™‚ ). It’s easier to show you how this works in person than to explain it in words, but trust me, it’s dead simple to hide stuff you don’t care about in FriendFeed. Mine is very tightly customized to show only the stuff that my friends are doing that’s interesting to me, and nothing else.

I use FriendFeed a lot on my iPhone, too. They have a nice iPhone web interface at http://friendfeed.com/iphone/. You can do most anything you can on the desktop web version. There’s also http://fftogo.com if you have a BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or other web-enabled phone. I haven’t found any good iPhone apps for it yet, though I’d love to see one come out. There are a couple (BuddyFeed, I think, is one of them) that are kind of awful. But in the mean time, the iPhone interface is quite good – it’s often my “home” page in Mobile Safari (along with Google Reader).

Another feature I love is the “best of” view. Say I haven’t been paying attention to FriendFeed all day, but I still want to see if there’s anything “hot” that my friends are sharing or discussion. You can click “best of” to see the most shared/discussed/liked items for the day, week or month. It’s a GREAT summary, and really helps with my “Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)”. πŸ™‚ Works on either the desktop or iPhone version.

You can also create lists of friends, to filter. So I have all of the people I know from work in one list, and I can view only their updates if I want. Same for people I know from the Portland geek world. And family. And developers. And “People I’ve Never Met In Real Life”. Friend lists are very powerful (and something I wish Twitter had!).

You can also create groups (these used to be called Rooms), which are good for discussion specific events/topics. I’m sure there’s going to be at least one good BarCampPortland3 room on FriendFeed somewhere.

Like Twitter, FriendFeed’s usefulness depends on having a clean, relevant list of people you’re following. If you’ve already built that carefully curated list of people on Twitter or elsewhere, you can take it with you to FriendFeed. Not too long ago, they released a Twitter importer that will look at who you follow on Twitter, and let you easily start following them if they’re on FriendFeed. Very handy. I wish they’d released it before I went and spent hours doing it completely by hand. πŸ™‚

You may find that you still don’t have any use for FriendFeed, and that’s totally cool. But for me, it’s become an extension of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. My theory of “social gravity” (“go where your friends are”) applies here – a LOT of the people I am interested in following, and am already connected with in some manner, are on FriendFeed. It makes sense for me to be there, too. I suspect you might find that’s the case for you as well, but if not, there’s no real reason to force yourself to use it, or try to convert all of your friends to FriendFeed.

Anyway, I hope that helps you understand how I use FriendFeed, and why I love it. Have YOU tried FriendFeed? Are you still scratching your head, trying to figure out why you should keep using it? Or have you given up on it? Give it another chance. Try configuring it the way I’ve described (a good friends list, filter what you don’t care to see), and you just might find that the conversations and ability to easily see “what’s hot” are interesting enough to stick around. It took me a while, but now, I’d have a hard time living without it. πŸ™‚ I’m jabancroft there – feel free to follow me, and leave a comment here, or there, and let me know what you think!

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My Cool New FriendFeed Email Signature. Let Me Show You It.

I’ve wanted a fancy schmancy email signature that shows my latest status/posts/whatever for a while now. FriendFeed added the ability to do an image-only embed a while ago, so this afternoon, I put the two together, with the help of the Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures Firefox extension, et viola! This is what now graces the end of all of my Gmail messages:

————————————————————————————–
Josh Bancroft — http://www.tinyscreenfuls.com — 503-334-1889

View my FriendFeed
View my FriendFeed

That’s actually two FriendFeed embeds combined into one – the “badge“, and the “feed” widget. The “status” widget only shows the last update, and I wanted more than that. I also had to hack the URL of the feed widget to display 3 items, instead of the 1, 5, or 10 that the builder on the site will let you choose, but that was trivial.

Now, to dig into Outlook and make an HTML signature with this in it for my work email. Then, I’ll be able to annoy EVERYONE equally. πŸ™‚

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Tying Your Tubes with WordPress – My Session at WordCamp Portland

I’m giving a session at WordCamp Portland today on “Tying Your Tubes with WordPress“, all about integrating all the difference places you probably write, read, and discuss things on the web into your WordPress blog. This post is the reference for the session, with the slides (such as they are – most of it is going to be discussion) and links to the plugins I talk about.

Here are the few slides I put together, on Google Docs. I’m working on them as we speak, but by the time the session starts, they should be more or less final:


And here are links to the plugins/tools that I’m going to talk about:

  • Alex King’s Twitter Tools – to put daily tweet digests on your blog as posts (great for archiving them, since Twitter cut off access to tweets older than a few pages).
  • K2 Theme – besides the TON of other great things it can do, it’s great for putting tweets, etc. in a sidebar using “Asides”. The K2 Support Forum is a GREAT resource if you have questions or need help.
  • How to exclude a category (say, your tweet digest) from your site’s RSS feed. Either have people subscribe to the funky URL you get from this, or if you use FeedBurner, just tell it that the funky URL is your source feed.
  • FriendFeed Comments – show comments and likes that your post gets on FriendFeed right on the post itself.
  • FriendFeed Feed Widget – for showing your last 10 or so items that end up on FriendFeed right on your blog. There are some other cool badges on that page. Similar to Twitter badges, which I don’t use (I use Twitter Tools’ daily digests instead).
  • soup.io, for publishing blended feeds. I use this for my lifestream and my linkblog.

I’ll add any other info that comes up during the session, and if you have any questions, post them in the comments! Woo hoo WordCamp Portland! πŸ™‚

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Twitter is Old and Busted. FriendFeed is the New Hotness.

(This post started as an email to @verso on Twitter, in response to her question “I’m wondering how much longer #pdx will take it from Twitter. “Come on baby, you know I love you” won’t work forever will it? Alternatives?“) I had been trying to reply via Twitter itself, but it’s been either down or eating my updates – oh, the irony!)

FriendFeed finally sucked me in this week. I finally “got” it. It’s the next logical step up from Twitter, because it is a superset of Twitter – I see my friends tweets, often before I do through Twitter itself, and I can reply to them once, and have it go to both places (FriendFeed and Twitter). Plus there’s so much MORE FriendFeed can do – import and show people’s blogs, shared items, photos, etc. It kicks ass, seriously. I highly recommend you give it a try. Twhirl, the popular Twitter client,Β  works with it (though I haven’t got that working well yet), and http://fftogo.com is an awesome mobile interface for it for your phone (looks and works great on my iPhone).

The thing that got me to accept it (I’ve been resisting for a while now) was there was finally enough “social gravity” – enough of my network was participating there, and there were conversations happening on FF (a LOT of them) that I was totally missing out on because I was staying completely in Twitter.

It’s not a Twitter-alike, with a few differentiating features (like Jaiku and Pownce). It’s a whole new, better, crack-like way to interact with people. It is the evolution of what Twitter started.

I’m jabancroft on FriendFeed – feel free to subscribe to me. I’m still going to use Twitter as my “micropost” method, until it croaks completely. But in my FriendFeed, you’ll also see my blog posts. photos I upload to Flickr, things I share on Google Reader (with my commentary), and more. And the coolest thing about it all is that there’s CONVERSATION happening around ALL of those things. It’s amazing. I love it.

So come join me. You don’t have to give up Twitter, or Jaiku, or whatever. You can connect them up in FriendFeed. But don’t limit yourself to just one channel of conversation, when you can have so much MORE on FriendFeed. It’s fun, it’s easy, it makes me smarter, and a big part of my network is already there. I’m convinced! πŸ™‚

Update: Phil mentioned below that he posted his comment to this on FriendFeed, and that reminded me of something. If you’re not a FriendFeed user, you’d be missing out on the discussion around this post that’s happening there. That’s why I’ve installed Glenn Slavin’s excellent FriendFeed Comments WordPress Plugin. If you are looking at this post on its own page, where you can see the “normal” comments people have left, scroll down, and you’ll also see the “Likes” and comments that people have left for this post on FriendFeed. Post get sucked up into FriendFeed, and great discussion happens there, but this plugin brings the relevant discussion back here, to the original post, so you don’t miss out if you’re not on FriendFeed. I love it.

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