Friendfeed: I’m doing it wrong

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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 On the other hand if you store up links in groups of 10, then link 1 could be out-of-date by the time you have ten links to make a post.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.

Meanwhile in the Lifestream today

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Science of the Invisible: How I learned to stop wor­ry­ing and love FriendFeed
After read­ing this post I’m think­ing about how I use FriendFeed. I think there are dif­fer­ences in how AJCann and I would use FriendFeed. There’s a large and act­ive Life Sciences posse on FriendFeed, no so much for the Humanities. Still there’s bet­ter ways to hook up Twitter and FF. And I’ve never been happy with using Twitterfeed to announce posts. FriendFeed (or even RSS!) can do that much bet­ter. I’m also exper­i­ment­ing with hook­ing up the ‘Fresh from FriendFeed’ plu­gin for WordPress to the sys­tem. That may work, or it may be unplugged rapidly.

BBC NEWS | Landscape photo of the year 2009
Some amaz­ing pho­tos here. I par­tic­u­larly like the Aberdeen and Kilnsey pho­tos and now have a huge urge to get a wide-angle lens.

This was an exper­i­ment with a plug-in which pulled in posts to FriendFeed. It’s not really work­ing well for me, so I doubt I’ll be using it in the future, but I’ll be blog­ging about it.

Friendfeed: Tech Tuesday

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So far we have Twitter, Flickr and pos­sibly Audioboo. We could add more ser­vices like deli­cious or Zotero in the future, but we’re get­ting messy. How can you pull them all together? The answer is Friendfeed. I found Friendfeed easier to under­stand than Twitter, but I’m told I’m in a minor­ity, so I’ll try and take it slowly.

If you sign in to Friendfeed you can then sign in to all your other online ser­vices. Friendfeed then pulls together a page of the latest things you’ve been post­ing around the web. So in my case if I com­ment on AJCann’s web­log, which uses Disqus for com­ments, those com­ments will appear in my Friendfeed stream. That’s because I’ve told Friendfeed where to find my Disqus account. It’s a bit like a col­la­tion of what you do on the social side of the inter­net. Like a lot of social things it gets more inter­est­ing when you add people.

If you have a Friendfeed account you can go to my page, sub­scribe, and you’ll see what I’m up to on your page. Do that with sev­eral friends and it starts to look like the social web in one con­veni­ent loc­a­tion. You won’t just see our tweets, you’ll see pho­tos, blog posts and many other things. You can also add unsup­por­ted sites if they have an RSS feed, because Friendfeed can read RSS. This is how Friendfeed knows what’s in my Cite-U-Like account, and when I get around to tack­ling Zotero prop­erly to store my ref­er­ences, it’ll be able to handle that too.

On top of that, each entry on Friendfeed is open to be com­men­ted on or ‘liked’. Commenting is fairly obvi­ous, but like is more ambigu­ous. If you ‘like’ some­thing you’re merely draw­ing atten­tion to it, so that other people fol­low­ing your stream can see it. For instance if Bora Zivkovic men­tions a nat­ural dis­aster, click­ing ‘like’ just means that I think it’s import­ant. Sadly the Friendfeed inter­face is poorly designed here, because if someone put up the mes­sage “OMG! An aster­oid hit Essex and wiped out Basildon” and I thought it was import­ant, my response would look like:

n-smile Alun liked this.

You can add com­ments, like Twitter. You can also add links eas­ily through a book­mark­let. You can also set up for­ums for dis­cus­sion using the rooms or groups fea­ture. One of the feeds I’ve added to the right is a list of what’s recently been added to the Archaeology group. Like Flickr, I would have thought it would be use­ful for a schol­arly soci­ety, because you could make the feed pub­lic, but limit the abil­ity to post and thus pub­li­cise your own work, to soci­ety mem­bers. Like Flickr, I’ve prob­ably over­looked some very basic point about schol­arly societies.

You can fol­low me at http://​friend​feed​.com/​a​lun. If you sign up to the site leave your use­name below and people will be able to fol­low you.