June 28, 2008
I used to be annoyed by people who commented on my Twitter messages (tweets) in FriendFeed, rather than replying directly to me in Twitter (the platform I was using). However with the introductions of 'Rooms', FriendFeed is no longer a lifestream aggregator anymore - it is the perfect platform for sharing and discussing content with groups focused on a specific topic.
Up till that moment of conversion, my problem with Friendfeed was that it fragmented conversations. Socialthing! on the other hand, is similar to FriendFeed in aggregating lifestreams, but when you reply to someone using Socialthing!, you're not replying within Socialthing!, rather your reply goes back to the original platform.
On May 22nd FriendFeed announced a new feature - rooms.
The concept isn't new. Forums and Google Groups are supposed to serve the same purpose. FriendFeed's implementation, however, is simple and easy to use, and robust at the same time. And overnight, my opinion of FriendFeed changed completely, largely because the function of FriendFeed changed for me. And I'm not alone, there has been a huge influx of new users, as well as increased activity from old users, just because of Rooms. I still ignore people's comments on my general lifestream, but I have created a social media room and everything I share there, along with everything the 800+ other members share there is up for debate and conversation.
FriendFeed is not a lifestream aggregator anymore (at least to me and hundreds of others), it is the perfect platform for sharing and discussing content with groups focused on a specific topic. It is Forums 2.0, if you will and it is precisely what the social web, even with gods like Facebook, Digg, YouTube, and Flickr, are severely lacking. FriendFeed solves problems by scaling conversations between large groups of people and allowing people to control those conversations. You can automatically seed rooms with content using feeds, the community can share and re-share content, and you can search specific topics you're interested in. You can also assign multiple administrators to moderate the conversation and remove spam (sound familiar?)
This experience from hating FriendFeed to evangelizing FriendFeed was an interesting one because it shows the power that a single feature has to push your product over the edge and into the mainstream (or at least much larger acceptance). As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his books, The Tipping Point, little changes sometimes have big effects. It seems that FriendFeed made the right little change. They didn't stop there either.
Two weeks after announcing rooms, they added personalized recommendations. This new feature allows you to log into your FriendFeed network and sort everything that anyone from your circle of friends has shared in order of popularity over a day, week, or month. Some people have argued that this feature will decrease the incentive to hunt for hidden gems and people will migrate to conversations made popular by other users. The reality is that every social or collaborative community will have a core membership that shares and comments, and then have a passive community that just sorts by popularity and consumes. This new system just rewards the people who share good content by making it more accessible and makes it easier for passive users to find this good content and if they wish, participate in the conversation with just one click
What the past 3 months have shown is that FriendFeed is evolving. This is a good thing because it differentiates it from other services that do virtually everything FriendFeed did at its core. It is also a good thing because the service has morphed into something truly useful and the community is responding appropriately. The new features have almost made FriendFeed a better Digg. One that doesn't judge content by vote popularity, but on the basis of conversation and actual sharing of the content. Finally, it shows that it's not the sheer number of features and tools you have (i.e. Digg with all its useless visualization tools), rather it is what nuanced changes you make and the small features you add that enhance the user experience - and FriendFeed seems to understand that nuance very well.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier this week, ReadWriteWeb integrated FriendFeed comments into our own RWW comments. So you can now comment on one of our posts in FriendFeed and it will show up here on RWW! But wait, there's more... you can also push your RWW comments into FriendFeed. So this is a two-way process. (Richard)