Friendfeed: I’m doing it wrong

I’ve been put­ting together a work­shop on social media for the Physics depart­ment here at Leicester. It’s two hours to cover Web 2.0, so to cover it all I’d have to work at the rate of 1.0 per hour. Instead I’ve opted to cover a small range of the most use­ful tools. deli­cious, Google Reader and blog­ging, which I’m using Posterous for. The more ser­vices you sign up for the more dif­fuse your pres­ence, so I’m put­ting Friendfeed at the centre of the work­shop to pull it all together.

The model I’m using is one I’ve stolen from Alan Cann which is that Friendfeed is Facebook for sci­ent­ists. I know it’s not exactly, but it’s close enough as an intro­duc­tion. In some ways it’s a Twitter sub­sti­tute too. I’ve left Twitter out of the work­shop, which I know is a big hole, but Twitter takes a couple of days to under­stand because it doesn’t make sense without the replies and inter­ac­tion, while Friendfeed has more tools for shar­ing stuff. Friendfeed needs inter­ac­tion too, but it is at least a bit easier to see the point of Friendfeed using the Facebook model. If you’re not really plugged into the idea of net­works then Twitter looks like a dull and crippled rip-off of Facebook.

So while I’ve been put­ting this together I’ve also been think­ing about how I use web­sites. Blogs are still the place for gath­er­ing longer ideas like this, and reflect­ing on them. They’re not so good for some other things. I find inter­est­ing things on the web and I want to share them. This is a prob­lem, and it’s one that Brett Holman blogged on while I was put­ting this post together.

How do you put together links for a blog post? You could just put up the links and titles, but that doesn’t make for much of a post. You could blog on each one, but that’s a lot of work. In the past I’ve used things like deli­cious or ma.gnolia to com­pile posts from book­marks. The prob­lem with that is that you need a cer­tain num­ber of book­marks in a post else almost every posts is Links for %date%. On the other hand if you store up links in groups of 10, then link 1 could be out-of-date by the time you have ten links to make a post. Blogging used to be the best way to share links, but now there are bet­ter ways. Brett Holman is using Twitter. I’m using Friendfeed, because the way it handles com­ments is easier and it can post to Twitter any­way; it’s not an either/or choice.

I don’t see it as blog­ging versus twit­ter­ing as some people have either. You could see the move to put links onto Friendfeed as cut­ting back on blog­ging. I prefer to see it as free­ing the blog from hav­ing to carry posts that don’t suit it. Friendfeed or Twitter is the per­fect place for point to this photo of cute nuzz­ling chee­tahs.

There are some prob­lems with Friendfeed. People import their twit­ter streams, and that doesn’t usu­ally work very well. Conversations appear out of con­text, but it’s an easy enough issue to solve. Friendfeed has a ‘hide’ but­ton, and you can hide all entries from Twitter unless they get a ‘like’. You’re rely­ing on other people to find the note­worthy tweets for you, but if you’re on Friendfeed you’re prob­ably also on twit­ter too — so it’s no great loss.

Following that, I’ve made a slight change to the front of the blog, with the Friendfeed stream going to the front instead of the fea­tures gal­lery. If you want to fol­low me, then you can find my Friendfeed account at http://​friend​feed​.com/​a​lun and if you tell what account you’re using I can fol­low you back.

I’ll be post­ing a link to the work­sheets for the work­shop once the class has star­ted on Friendfeed.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

3 Responses

  1. Jo Badge says:

    tip top Alun! Let us know how the work­shop goes :-)

  2. Gary Corby says:

    What fas­cin­ates me about this is your pos­i­tion is almost the pre­cise oppos­ite of mine! I sus­pect it’s because we’re in dif­fer­ent busi­nesses, for all that our interests are so sim­ilar. To me, blog­ging & twit­ter cover the major parts of the spec­trum: macro & micro information.

    Friendfeed and Facebook I can live without entirely. Particularly Facebook since its design and inter­face is almost a text­book example of how to do everything wrong.