10 Ways Google’s Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

10 Ways Google's Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

I’ve been using Google Buzz now for four days since it launched and wanted to take a minute to blog a post about 10 ways that I’ve found Google Buzz to be better than FriendFeed.

1. Google Buzz feels like an exciting product backed by significant Google engineering talent, commitment and dollars. FriendFeed feels like an old mare that Facebook’s put out to pasture, one that if we’re lucky Facebook engineers *might* work on, but not a primary growth product for the company.

2. Google Buzz’s mobile version is impressive. The ability to geotag a post and also to search others nearby is very slick.

3. It’s refreshing to be able to use paragraphs on Google Buzz. FriendFeed did not allow the paragraph. Perhaps they did this to encourage people to be brief, but it’s really nice that Google Buzz allows you to enter paragraphs in your post.

4. Photos are displayed much more elegantly on Google Buzz. In addition to showing actual sized thumbnails (instead of mini square box thumbnails), Buzz has a super cool lightbox feature that allows you to click on a photo and have it displayed in full high res glory without even having to leave the post and go to flickr. Also if you post a link to a flickr set of yours, it automatically pulls in the thumbnails, which is also cool.

5. Buzz allows you basic text formatting options. Want to bold a word or phrase? Put asterisks around it. You can also italicize with the _ or strike text with -. You can’t do this on FriendFeed.

6. The “M” key. If you enable keyboard commands in your gmail preferences you can use the M key on any post to mute it. This allows you to go through posts and filter out what you don’t want much faster.

7. Buzz allows you unlimited characters for your initial post. Character limits suck. FriendFeed was better than Twitter’s paltry 140 characters, but even FriendFeed would limit your initial posts. I never liked that and frequently found myself having to continue my main post in the first comment.

8. Buzz seems much more sticky to my non-geek friends. I’m not sure if it’s because they already use gmail, or if it just feels easier for them to use, but I’ve found more of my non-geek friends trying and using Buzz than I did FriendFeed.

9. Buzz has verified Google profiles. This is just a little thing, but when interacting with strangers sometimes it’s nice to be able to see that.

10. Buzz’s user profile page is much better. FriendFeed just allowed you a sparse little text box to write something about yourself. Buzz has a cool little slider that shows all your flickr photos and allows much meatier profiles. This is nice if I want to check someone out and learn a little more about them.

See also: 10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google’s Buzz

You can follow me on FriendFeed here.

You can follow me on Google Buzz here.

10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google’s Buzz

10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google's Buzz

I’ve been using Google Buzz now for four days since it launched and wanted to take a minute to blog a post about 10 ways that I’ve found FriendFeed to be better than Google Buzz.

1. FriendFeed’s ability to selectively hide content. One of the things I hate about Google Buzz is that is an all or none proposition when you decide to follow someone. I may *love* someone’s Flickrstream, but hate the fact that they send a new tweet every 3 minutes describing a blow by blow version of their day. I might find that I *love* someone’s funny witty tweets, but hate the fact that they put 300 new items into Google Reader everyday about eco-friendly politics. On Friendfeed I can easily subscribe to someone and then choose to hide certain parts of what they have linked up if I want. This is very helpful in managing noise. Google Buzz does not give me this option.

2. On FriendFeed when I block someone, they’re really blocked. When you block someone on FriendFeed you are prompted with the following message: “After blocking this user, you won’t see any of their posts or comments on FriendFeed, and they won’t see any of your posts. If they’re subscribed to you, that subscription will be removed.” When you block someone they become invisible to you. Poof. They’re gone. It’s a truly beautiful thing.

Nothing ruins a good social network like crappy trolls. Being able to blot them out on FriendFeed if I want is nice. Unfortunately, on Google Buzz they take a different approach. They’ll block the troll from my own posts, but they still make me look at everything they post on posts that are not my own. I don’t want to see this. I want to truly be able to block them. Please Google. Let us make the bad people go away.

3. Best of Day. FriendFeed has a great page where each day the most popular entries (based on likes and comments) for the people in my social network are shown. Not just best of day, but week, month, 2 days, 3 days, etc. This helps me catch up if I’ve taken a break from FriendFeed for a day and want to see what the main entries that my friends are talking about are. Buzz doesn’t have anything like this.

4. I can better track my discussions on FriendFeed. One of the nice things about FriendFeed is that they give me a link of all of the threads that I’m currently having a conversation in. While Buzz lets me filter out only my own threads that I’ve started, they don’t give me an easy way to see all of the threads that I’m currently participating in.

5. FriendFeed’s Share This Bookmarklet. On FriendFeed if I find an interesting article somewhere I can use the FriendFeed “Share This” bookmarket to easily post it to my stream, complete with photos from the article. I’m not aware of any such tool for Buzz yet. Someone made one that I tried that was somehow hacked into Google Reader, but I found it very unsatisfying. I tried to share a page from Boston.com’s Big Picture on Buzz and it didn’t inlcude the most important part, the picture.

6. Lists. Lists on FriendFeed are HUGE. Being able to slice and dice my contacts and create different buckets to look at at different times is very cool. On FriendFeed, for example, I can create a list of only my immediate family members. These people may be much less active than my social butterfly social networking friends and so their stuff my get buried if I don’t watch carefully. By going to my family list I can more easily make sure I’m not missing any of there updates in the sea of noise. FriendFeed lets you set up unlimited lists for any reason you want. You can have a list of coworkers. Of people who live in San Francisco. Of photography buddies. You get the idea. At present there is no way to do this on Buzz.

7. FriendFeed lets me pause live updating. Sometimes when you follow a lot of people, real time updates become just too much. On FriendFeed if I want I can pause the live updating. This calms things down a bit and allows me to catch up on what I’m reading without having the screen go all jumpy on me. Google has no way to pause their live updating.

8. FriendFeed is much less buggy. Right now there are still a lot of bugs in Buzz. I’ve seen comments on some of my posts that just mysteriously disappear. Sometimes I’ll scroll down my page and see the same stuff that I just scrolled past but without some of the comments. Sometimes when I mute stuff I find it still comes back. There are still lots of little gremlins running around in buzz. The other day the “Load More” entries link temporarily disappeared. Buzz is still a work in progress it seems. FriendFeed doesn’t have near as many of these little annoyances.

9. Search seems easier and more intuitive on FriendFeed. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time trying to figure out Buzz’s search yet, but I’ve find that initially search feels much easier for me on FriendFeed. For instance. On FriendFeed I can easily search for all entries containing Banksy and filter them by my contacts. FriendFeed has a great advanced search box. Best I can tell Buzz has no advanced search box. I may be able to do some of these things if I can somehow figure out advanced text search strings and operators, but I don’t get a nice advanced search box to make this easy for me.

10. FriendFeed shows my Flickr photos *and* my Flickr Faves. One of the brilliant things that FriendFeed did, was to pipe in not only your flickr photos, but your flickr faves. Because people generally fave really interesting photos, this means that on FriendFeed I constantly get to see really amazing photography. It makes the place much more visually appealing than Buzz, which in some ways feels still a bit clinical, despite the fact that they have a better interface for your own Flickr photos. Getting to see what other people have favorited and getting to play virtual curator and share my faves with other people is nice on FriendFeed.

See also: 10 Ways Google’s Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

You can follow me on FriendFeed here.

You can follow me on Google Buzz here.

Robert Scoble on the Future of FriendFeed

Robert Scoble

The downside for me? I invest time in things that WILL BE not that are. That’s always been what keeps my interest and now that I know that FriendFeed probably will not be, even if it takes five years to totally die, I’ve lost a great deal of interest in it.Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble: So Who is Leaving FriendFeed.

An interesting thread yesterday from my friend Robert Scoble on Friendfeed. Having reflected more on the Facebook acquisition I can see Scoble’s point. Scoble’s always been an early adopter’s early adopter. He’s always been about going where the ball is headed, not where it’s at.

After sleeping on the acquisition news I have two thoughts.

1. Maybe, just maybe, enough of the really good FriendFeed features will somehow make their way into Facebook and Facebook will actually get tolerable enough to use. Actually I’m not optimistic, but I will begin spending more time and using Facebook more because of this. I logged on yesterday for the first time in a while and I’ll probably be spending at least some time there every day now.

2. The FriendFeed acquisition creates a vacuum for a kick-ass life-streaming service. I signed up earlier today and played around with Posterious, but it felt nothing like Friendfeed to me. Last night Scoble suggested Ning. He also said it may end up being Google Wave. If anyone knows how I can try out Google Wave I’d be interested. But actually I think the real opportunity very well may be for, of all things, Scoble himself to create the new place to be online. Scoble’s got a big enough web presence to create the seed necessary to start a vibrant community and he’s got a good jump start with this with his new Building43 efforts. It would be really great to see someone with his vision turn Building 43 into the next FriendFeed.

Facebook Buys FriendFeed

Facebook Aquires FriendFeed

A few hours ago I learned that Facebook had acquired one of my favorite current little playgrounds on the internet FriendFeed. There’s been no talk on the price they paid, but if I just threw a total guess out of left field I’d say it was somewhere around $100 million. That’s just a guess. I’m sure the real number will come out soon enough. While I’m sure that this deal is a fantastic one for the founders of Friendfeed (who were probably already multi-millionaires from their earlier roles at Google and now just became that much richer) I’m not feeling so positive about it for the actual users of FriendFeed.

In the blog post announcing the acquisition, Bret Taylor wrote: “FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being. We’re still figuring out our longer-term plans for the product with the Facebook team.” To me that sentence right there is the kiss of death for FriendFeed as a stand alone service. In actuality, the FriendFeed team probably has a very good idea what things are going to look like in the longer-term and I’m guessing that it doesn’t include FriendFeed operating as a stand-alone little playpen outside of the great gates of mother Facebook.

No. In time it is likely that little by little at first (but completely and entirely eventually) FriendFeed as we know it gets migrated and merged into Facebook. Techcrunch put it more directly in a quote attribute to FriendFeed Co-Founder Bret Taylor and Facebook VP Chris Cox: “Taylor and Cox say that the Friendfeed product will live on independently, and eventually Friendfeed will be merged into Facebook.”

While the million or so estimated monthly uniques that FriendFeed gets are a drop in the bucket to Facebook, in that number are still a lot of super active users and Facebook will certainly do what it can to keep them. But Facebook didn’t buy FriendFeed for the users. Facebook, frankly, could care less about FriendFeed’s users. They bought FriendFeed for two reasons. 1. The superior technology and ideas that it represents for life-streaming (many of them already blatantly copied by Facebook). and 2. Even more significantly, the talented small group of employees that built FriendFeed. A talented group of ex-Google employees.

I spent a few hours this afternoon on Facebook after the announcement playing around on it. I hadn’t checked in with my Facebook account for a while and so mostly I just had a lot of clean up to do. 34 friend requests to approve. 270 or so group invitations to ignore. 90 or so Facebook fan page requests to deny. A bunch of facebook email spam to delete and other legitimate messages to answer. And worst of all, what felt like thousands of little Facebook app requests to have to deal with. The stupidest little app requests you’ve ever seen. Most of which felt confusing, broken, and hard to block or ignore.

FB: You have a pokemon request. Me: Block This Application FB: Something went wrong. We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. You may be able to try again. Sigh.

FB: You have a pokeman adventure request (as opposed to just the regular old pokeman request I tried to block earlier).
Me: click on the “Please Block My Friends’ Pokemon Adventure Invitations :.(FB: “Allowing Pokemon Adventure access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends’ info, and other content that it requires to work. Allow or Cancel?” Me: I have no idea what i’m supposed to do to make the Pokemon people go away.FB: “By proceeding, you are allowing Pokemon Adventure to access your information and you are agreeing to the Facebook Terms of Use in your use of Pokemon Adventure. By using Pokemon Adventure, you also agree to the Pokemon Adventure Terms of Service.” Sigh.

Now hopefully the FriendFeed team will be able to have a positive impact on the whole Facebook experience. I can’t imagine that it can get much worse. But… Facebook is a huge, huge, monster at this point. Getting things done there or changed for the better will be super hard to do. There will be new pressures of having to deal with the influence of advertisers in page design as well as having to try and keep all of those app developers who develop those insipid little apps happy. I suspect that even with the positive influence of the FriendFeed team that it will be far too little to have enough of a positive impact on Facebook to make it really usable.

There are of course lots of other problems with this deal for FriendFeed’s users. Some users use Facebook for their real life friends and family and FriendFeed as something totally different. They purposely want two places to play. And they like having one where their mom and brother sister and cousin and high school girlfriend aren’t hanging out watching everything they do. Facebook is also blocked at a lot more jobs than FriendFeed is. So some people will likely end up losing their daily does of screwing around on the company nickle in the end.

Then there is the whole pesky issue of censorship. One of the things that I really liked about FriendFeed was that it seemed totally and absolutely free of censorship. On the other hand we have Facebook who thinks that breastfeeding moms are evil and must be purged from their system.

A lot of people, including my friend Robert Scoble, seem positive on the deal. But others are negative. Blogger Dave Winer put it very simply: “FB buying FF is bad news for FF users.” I suppose we’ll have to see how it all shakes out in the end, but I do feel sort of sad today, like we did in fact lose something that had so much amazing potential to be something so much bigger than even Facebook. That may be pie in the sky thinking, but that’s how it felt sometimes.

You can add me as a contact on FriendFeed here.

You can add me as a contact on Facebook here.

7 Ways FriendFeed Could Better Engage the Flickr Community

7 Ways FriendFeed Could Better Engage the Flickr Community

My friend Robert Scoble has a blog post out talking about the reasons why FriendFeed is not seeing the sort of growth that Twitter and Facebook are. Personally I consider FriendFeed to be a vastly superior platform to both Facebook and Twitter, but it is interesting noting that it does not seem to be getting the traction of these other services. That said, I think that there is a huge opportunity for FriendFeed to better engage a very large existing community that is Flickr and to offer power user sort of tools for Flickr’s most active users.

I’ve already written in the past about how I think the existing version of FriendFeed represents a superior way for people to browse Flickr than Flickr itself, but I think that FriendFeed could go a lot further and could definitely attract more (and super active) Flickr users if they improved things even more. So this list represents seven ways that I think FriendFeed could build a better way to engage with the Flickr Community. It should be noted that FriendFeed certainly is not, nor I’m sure wants to be, a replacement for the Flickr community. Rather I see FriendFeed as a way for power users to get even more out of Flickr than they already get today.

I should also note that I’m not 100% sure exactly how many of these features could be implemented via the Flickr API but know that the Flickr API is somewhat robust and would think that some of the items below might be possible.

1. Exponentially more important than anything else FriendFeed could do in relation to Flickr (and my current number one FriendFeed feature request), I think FriendFeed should allow an option to import all of your Flickr contacts into FriendFeed like they currently do with your Twitter and Facebook contacts. I know that there are people on FriendFeed who are my Flickr contacts that I’m not presently following. I know that they are out there and would follow them if I could. FriendFeed needs to allow you to scan your Flickr account and auto-add any existing Flickr contact as a FriendFeed contact. This seems like very basic FriendFeed/Flickr integration missing today.

2. Allow you to automatically set up imaginary friends in a “Flickr Contacts” specific list for Flickr contacts who are not on FriendFeed yet. This option would ensure that you could get all of your Flickr contacts photos over to FriendFeed which represents a superior way to browse your contact’s photos as it includes more than just the last 1 or 5 of their photos and it also includes their faves. Combined with matching up with your existing joint FriendFeed/Flickr contacts this would represent a complete way to better recreate one of Flickr’s most popular pages the “photos from my contacts” page. Auto subscribing to these RSS should be possible. FriendFeed should take this one step further though by automatically replacing an imaginary friend contact with an actual contact when this person joins FriendFeed.

3. Allow an option on FriendFeed to see when a Flickr contact creates a group thread.
This technology is sorely missing at Flickr right now and many times you may have a high value contact start a thread in a Flickr group that you don’t know anything about. You miss an entire conversation. By creating a FriendFeed entry to coincide with every contact’s new group post on Flickr you would be notified when this happens and you could then go to that group thread to participate. The top 10% of Flickr users represent a disproportionate amount of Flickr’s traffic. These users are the ones that are most engaged in the groups on Flickr. Groups are where the truly hardcore Flickr users live. By adding this functionality on FriendFeed you’d be creating a tremendous tool currently lacking at Flickr that would engage many people who are 24/7 type web junkies on Flickr.

4. FriendFeed currently gets the Flickr RSS feed wrong. For a while they were presenting it correctly but not for the past few months. On Flickr, hardcore users that post photos there are very cognizant of the order that they post their photos in. Because Flickr only shows your contacts the last 1 or 5 photos, Flickr users generally make sure that when they do a batch upload that their last one or five photos are the best of that batch upload. FriendFeed conversely reports Flickr RSS streams *backwards* — that is they show the first 7 photos uploaded in a batch on your FriendFeed feed *burying* anything beyond that. This means that the photos that I am showing on Flickr as my best in any batch upload are buried 100% of the time on FriendFeed. That’s discouraging to Flickr users and since they used to do it correctly before, I’m not sure why they can’t fix that.

5. Flickr mashup searching streams. There are certain images on Flickr that I’m interested in and do regular searches for. graffiti AND sanfrancisco, neon AND california, thomashawk, etc. FriendFeed should figure out a way to build RSS feeds with these searches and then let me create a sort of custom search feed that constantly scours for the subjects that I’m most interested in.

6. Filter by faves. FriendFeed should see if there is a way to create feeds from Flickr based on favoriting activity. I’d love to have a feed for instance that showed me all of my flickr contacts’ photos with 1 fave or more, 5 faves or more, 10 faves or more, etc. You get the idea.

7. Best of Day Flickr. FriendFeed needs a page where they show the “Best of Day” amongst FriendFeed members’ Flickr photos. Flickr’s Explore page is crappy. It’s a subjective page full of blah photos generally speaking. FriendFeed should allow you to filter your Flickr Contacts photos by absolute numbers of faves on a daily basis. I’d love to be able to see my Flickr contact’s daily uploads organized this way.

If you want to follow me on FriendFeed you can follow me here. If you want to follow me on Flickr you can follow me here.

Building a Better FriendFeed Suggested Users List

Building a Better FriendFeed Suggested Users List

Two days ago Louis Gray pointed out on FriendFeed that when a new user signs up for FriendFeed that they receive 24 suggested FriendFeed users to follow. I’m one of those 24. There is no mystery to how these 24 users are selected for promotion on the FriendFeed platform, they are simply the 24 FriendFeed users with the most followers.

Once a user subscribes to someone this list changes. it roughly becomes the most popular people followed by their friend(s).

And while Friendfeed’s objective and simplified method of promoting users to new sign ups is probably better than Twitter’s much criticized subjective method of elite favoritism, it could be vastly improved yet.

1. The most popular users are not necessarily the people that will provide a new FriendFeed user the best new experience. When I look at who (in addition to myself) the other 23 default suggested FriendFeed users are I’m struck that a number of them, while very active in tech and the blogosphere, are very inactive on FriendFeed. More than simply a feed reader, FriendFeed is a community. You get the most out of it when you participate. Yes, popular users may provide interesting content, but they might also provide zero engagement and interaction.

I would propose a new main recommended user page that combines both a users number of followers (i.e. popularity rating) and their total number of comments/likes (i.e. activity rating) and averaging the two. By averaging these two elements to provide default recommendations this would provide new users both with users who the community feels provide valuable content, but also users who are engaged. Of course users who are popular and engaged would be promoted the most of all. Averaging these two numbers seems like pretty basic math that any computer algorithm ought to be able to do.

2. One of the problems with ranking users based on a combined popularity/activity rating is that this system precludes new users from gaining recognition and new followers. Because of this I think that this same criteria should be applied to users who have been registered on the site for less than 60 days. A special tab on the recommendation page should be for newer users where existing users could regularly go to find the most active/popular new users to welcome them to the site and see what they are up to.

3. Why limit the list to 24? It would seem to me it would be pretty simple to page the list of recommended users so that users could go beyond the first 24 recommended. By letting me page the recommended users list, FriendFeed would help me find more of my friends and users I might be interested in while providing more than 24 users exposure. If FriendFeed can’t page this list for some reason, I still think that they’d be better off taking say the top 200 ranked users (not just the top 24) and then randomizing them as suggested users.

4. Geography sometimes matters. I’ve long (well long in internet years) believed that FriendFeed needs a profile page. While on the last build they gave us a short space to post a sentence or two about ourself, there still is no way for me to indicate to FriendFeed where I live/work geographically. If FriendFeed allowed their users to voluntarily input their city, state, country, zip code, etc., they could then have a tab on the suggested users page showing users within 100 miles of me.

5. Interests sometimes matter. I’m very interested in finding people on FriendFeed who are photographers and love photography. FriendFeed should allow users to submit interests (sort of like wefollow) and then apply the same popularity/activity rating to a list of things you are interested in. Are there popular friendfeed users who are interested in photography and neon signs and graffiti and art and San Francisco? Then I want to subscribe to them. Right now it’s harder to find these people. By providing interest lists I could find even more people to follow.

So that’s pretty much it. I believe the system above would be a vastly superior recommendation system for Friendfeed (for Twitter as well but I’m not sure they are really paying attention).

Building a Better FriendFeed Suggested Users List

By the way, I do think it is *fantastic* that FriendFeed now also lets you scour your gmail/yahoo/hotmail mail and Twitter/Facebook friends to find users on the site that are your email and social network contacts. But my number one feature request for FriendFeed right now is that they give us this same functionality for Flickr. I would think that with the Flickr API, who my contacts at Flickr are would be pretty easy to sniff out. Matching my Flickr contacts up with FriendFeed accounts would vastly improve my already great Flickr/FriendFeed combo experience.

If you are reading this on Flickr by the way. Please sign up for FriendFeed. It’s a much superior way to browse your contacts’ flickrstreams. See more here. If you are a Flickr contact of mine and are already on FriendFeed and I’m not following you, please leave a comment here with your FriendFeed page so that I can add you. You can follow me on FriendFeed here.

FriendFeed is for WINNERS! FriendFeed Launches Simplified New User Interface

My FriendFeed Profile Page With Expanded Flickr Uploads and Flickr Faves

[Note: This news was embargoed until 9:00 a.m. this morning, but TechCrunch broke the embargo.]

At 9 a.m. this morning, FriendFeed launched a new user interface at beta.friendfeed.com. The new beta site will run in parallel with the current version of FriendFeed at friendfeed.com at least for a while.

The biggest difference between the old version of FriendFeed and the new version is the introduction of live scrolling updates. I had early access to the new beta site over the weekend and spent some time playing around with it.

Here are my initial thoughts.

Pause the Real Time Feed

1. Live Updating. I tried playing around with this and have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I really like it. It feels more intuitive and interactive. Other times it’s harder to put into words why I don’t feel like I like it, but the word that keeps popping into my head is seasickness. A lot of the problem here is that I’m following a ton of people (over 6,000) and so the user interface just scrolls too fast some of the time. Too fast for me to read on my main FriendFeed page. It feels chaotic and I can’t keep up. I found that late at night it is slower and more manageable but during prime time it was too fast.

Fortunately for me (and others) there is a pause button which allows you to turn this feature off and manually refresh the page like you did with the old version. Live updating works much better on my smaller lists. I’m sure there are some that will really digg this new feature though, especially since most people are not trying to follow over 6,000 like I am. I’m interested in hearing Robert Scoble’s observations about this feature as well as he follows even more people than I do. This new feature is turned on by default.

I suspect that most of the time I’ll have live updating turned on but that during especially busy times I’ll turn it off.

2. A new design and interface with much more emphasis on your avatar. I have to say I love the new UI. I think the new UI looks much cleaner — beautiful looking with easy on the eyes rounded corners and the what not. I’m assuming Kevin Fox deserves some of the kudos for this new design, but whoever worked on it, hats off to you.

I think one of the things that hurt the old version of FriendFeed was that it just felt too complicated and even a bit clunky. Even though I never thought it was too complicated for me, I heard that complaint from people a lot. All of the little service icons could be intimidating.

Now FriendFeed has dropped the service icons and focused much more on the individual user avatar. It feels a bit more like Twitter now in that regard. I actually like this and think that it will make FriendFeed much less intimidating to people. I also suspect that females with attractive avatars are likely to see a significant spike in followers on this new version. 😉

Direct Messaging on FriendFeed

3. Direct messaging comes to FriendFeed. With this new user interface, FriendFeed has now introduced direct messaging. This small but super powerful new feature is much bigger than I think people will realize at first. I think FriendFeed direct messaging could eventually replace a lot of my email personally. Some of the people behind GMail are on the FriendFeed team so I expect good things from their direct messaging service. It’s nice how FriendFeed shows you a little number next to your Direct Mail menu, much nicer than “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!” But the real power of direct messaging in Friendfeed is that it really incorporates a whole new way to communicate via email. It’s far more collaborative with the live updating.

One of the things I hate about email is that once I send a message it’s gone. Frequently I’ll send an email and then realize I made a typo or misspoke or wish I could in some way edit it. With FriendFeed you can. You just go back into the message and change whatever you meant to say. Because all of the messages are grouped together it’s much easier to follow and track conversations directly than traditional email.

Direct messaging on FriendFeed almost feels more like a chat/mail hybrid than anything. I found that just using this new service for one day that it was one of the stickier things I’ve seen on FriendFeed. I’ve seen very little spam on FriendFeed so far and FriendFeed’s direct messaging feels a lot more fun than regular old email.

Welcome to FriendFeed Filters

4. Filters. Filters rock. One of the most exciting ways to use FriendFeed is to filter interesting ways to view all of the vast repository of information and data it has become. One of my favorite filters is scanning FriendFeed for entries with the word “photography” in them with five likes or more. I’ve found some super interesting photographers and photography related stuff on the internet that way.

In the past I actually just made a bookmark for this and would go to the bookmark myself. It’s nice to have it built right into my main FriendFeed Interface. It will be interesting to see the FriendFeed community builid and share custom filters over time. I suspect that there are many hidden gems out there that we don’t even know about yet. But in the meantime, check out a few of these filters that I’ve already created for myself personally: all Flickr posts, all Zooomr posts, all posts on FriendFeed with 5 likes or more, all Flickr posts with 5 likes or more, posts mentioning the word neon with 1 like or more. These are just a few examples. The sky’s the limit here really. If you’ve got some great filters yourself please leave them in the comments.

5. Profiles. Although they are very rudimentary, FriendFeed has now added the ability for you to add a description to your profile page. I’ve been a big proponent of profiles coming to FriendFeed for a while. Initially I was a bit disappointed with the profile description because earlier yesterday in the beta it was limited to 50 characters. I set my original profile description as “I hate 50 character limit profiles.” But then after I direct messaged Bret Taylor, one of the FriendFeed Founders, about this, Bret extended the character limit and so now I’m able to fit the same tagline that I’m using on Twiter: “Quiet Observer of Modern Nihilism with Box that Captures Light.” Thanks to Bret and the team for giving us a little bit more room for our profile descriptions.

I do think it would be interesting to see FriendFeed add a city or zipcode field in the profile info as well that could then be used to create a list of suggested users in your geographic area.

Overall I’m very happy with the new FriendFeed. I think it represents a simpler more elegantly designed user interface and a huge step forward for the service and for the company. I think this new interface will give FriendFeed much more mainstream appeal and really shows that FriendFeed is the clear leader in the microblogging and lifestreaming space right now.

If you would like to follow me on the new FriendFeed beta you can do that here.

Update, Other blogs and news sites on FriendFeeds Redesign:

1. Official FriendFeed blog post on the new redesign here.
2. Robert Scoble: Tips for Real Time Web working on new friendfeed.
3. Charles Hudson: The New FriendFeed UI – More About Content, Less About Sources
4. Mashable: The New FriendFeed Looks A Lot Like Twitter
5. TechCrunch: New FriendFeed: Simpler, Faster, Better (Maybe Too Fast)
6. CNET: FriendFeed’s redesign makes entire site real-time
7. Venturebeat: FriendFeed’s redesign combines publishing and IM better than Facebook or Twitter
8. The Inquisitor: New FriendFeed Beta: What’s Different
9. Hutch Carpenter: FriendFeed’s New Beta: Taking Realtime Aim at Facebook
10. Financial Times: Real-time web is for real on FriendFeed
11. Louis Gray: FriendFeed Reloads With Real-Time At Its Core

Update #2: Significant conversations about the new FriendFeed beta happening on FriendFeed

1. Bret Taylor: A new design for FriendFeed.

2. RAPatton: you can make your imaginary friends visible to others on FF now; if I only could do that as a child.

3. Jeremiah Owyang: What’s the difference between Friendfeed and Facebook? List them out below

4. Steve Rubel: Wondering if the new Friendfeed update has gone too far. Is it too fast for y’all? It’s almost like having one cup of coffee too many!

5. Susan Beebe: FriendFeed new UI is amazing! So glad I have a fresh POT of coffee here on my desk! wooo hoooo! 🙂

6. Steve Rubel: Friendfeed now tells you how often someone posts too if you are not subscribed to him/her.

7. Robert Scoble: I love it. Everyone is complaining that friendfeed is going too fast. Welcome to my world! Now, learn to use lists!

8. Mashable: The New FriendFeed Looks A Lot Like Twitter

9. Alex Scoble: Is it just me or does friendfeed look a lot more like Twitter now?

10. Shey: Being subbed to 950+ people and dozens of rooms finally comes back to bite me

11. AJ Batac: Cleaner FriendFeed (New Beta) – 04/06/09 | userstyles.org

12. Shey: Will the new FF beta increase interaction? Or will it die down with the buzz?

13. Shey: One thing I’ve noticed — the app icons are gone from posts. No more “discrimination” against Non-FF posts.

14. MG Siegler: i, for one, freaking love the new FF live speed. why slow down information? speed up your intake.

15. Bwana: Filters are awesome. Will be using them often.

16. Robert Scoble: The ones who complain the most about friendfeed beta are the ones who follow the most. Me? I just ride the wave and use the features. 🙂

Update #3: The new FriendFeed User Interface will be discussed on the Gillmor Gang this afternoon at 4pm.

Update #4: Robert Scoble has part one of four a video series of the FriendFeed new beta briefing here.

New User Interface Coming to FriendFeed

The Incredible Scoblehulk
What does this photo of Robert Scoble have to do wth the new FriendFeed UI? Well, not much, but they do have a pair of Hulk gloves at the FriendFeed office and since I didn’t have any photo manipulations of Scoble as the Hulk already, I thought now was as good a time as any to make one.

Earlier this evening FriendFeed gathered a small group of journalists, bloggers and users at their headquarters in Mountain View, California to demo a new beta user interface that they plan on releasing very shortly. The details of the new user interface are still private with an embargo on the news. According to FriendFeed Co-founder Bret Taylor, the embargo is put in place to make sure that when people write reviews about the new interface that it will coincide with the actual launch of the beta enabling FriendFeed users to try the new site out for themselves.

I’ve been a big fan of FriendFeed for the past six months or so. I’ve been a pretty heavy user and at least for me FriendFeed has replaced both my former RSS Reader, as well as Twitter for the most part. I’m also finding that I’m browsing a large chunk of my Flickr views through FriendFeed as well.

Specifically with regards to photography I’ve found FriendFeed amazing. I’m consistently finding really great photography related content to blog from FriendFeed as well as am seeing some of the best new work on the web today. If you’d like to check out some of FriendFeed’s photography I’d recommend this filter of posts mentioning photography with 5 or more likes. You also might be interested in the previous article I’ve written on how to use FriendFeed with Flickr here.

This was my first trip to their Mountain View offices and when I arrived I was surprised at how small their offices and staff are. Presently the FriendFeed team consists of 11 employees, most coming from Google. It was nice finally being able to put names and faces together.

Paul Buchheit, Fueled by BrawndoAnaFriendFeed Conference RoomFriendeed Demo

As part of my visit I was able to take quite a few photographs of both the FriendFeed staff, their offices and some of the other press/bloggers being briefed on the upcoming launch. If you’d like to see my photos from yesterday’s briefing you can click through here.

I can’t really get into details about what is in the new release, but at least at first glance I liked it alot. I’ll be writing a more formal review on the new release once the embargo is lifted.

If you haven’t signed up for FriendFeed yet you definitely should. If you’d like to follow me on FriendFeed you can find me here.

Is Twitter Afraid of FriendFeed?

Is Twitter Afraid of FriendFeed?

Disclaimer: If you are not familiar with FriendFeed this post may not make so much sense to you. If you are familiar with FriendFeed, congrats to you, you’re on the cutting edge. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, what the hell rock have you been hiding under, time to stop taking so many photos and spend a little time on the internets no?

An interesting post over on FriendFeed by Steve Gillmor asking a simple question, "what is the delay between tweets and arrival in FriendFeed?" Steve is talking about how long it takes for a Friendfeed user’s tweets on twitter to show up on FriendFeed. It’s not the first time that Gillmor’s raised this issue.

For those of you unfamiliar with FriendFeed, it is the current mother of all aggregators. It %*$*%ing rocks. FriendFeed pipes in all of your various playgrounds on the internet (Twitter, Flickr, Zooomr, Google Reader, your blog, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc. etc. etc.) into one easy to consume feed. It’s been the most interesting thing to come out for a while. It’s a better way to follow your flickr contacts, a better RSS reader than anything else you might be using right now, and one of the best communities currently on the web.

FriendFeed also though is probably the closet thing Twitter has to a real and viable competitor. As a photographer, the simple fact that FriendFeed offers visuals whereas Twitter is entirely text based alone is enough for me to call FriendFeed the superior platform. Essentially you can do anything on FriendFeed that you can do on Twitter but, well, better. In addition to posting real time post updates on FriendFeed (that are not limited to 140 characters) you get a far more complete run down on what your friends are up to.

The thing is though, one of the things that makes FriendFeed work so well is that you can leverage the existing larger communities elsewhere on the web at places like Flickr and Twitter. This is all possible because of cool things like open APIs and the whole culture of sharing kumbaya stuff that Web 2.0 (for lack of a better name) is supposed to be about. All our data belongs to us. All our data ought to be portable. Companies are able to thrive in 2.0 because they put our (the producers) best interests above theirs. You know the speech.

Unfortunately though, one thing that I’ve noticed in the past month is that my tweets that used to be instantaneously posted from Twitter to FriendFeed seem to be slowing down sometimes. I’m not sure why this is, but a part of me worries that maybe Twitter is doing something to slow down the firehose from Twitter to Friendfeed because they are afraid of FriendFeed as a competitor.

Last month Dave Winer suggested that the reason that FF isn’t overtly challenging Twitter right now is because if they do, "they might find their firehose slows down or develops gltches it didn’t used to have." And, well, that’s what it feels like may be happening. Do keep in mind that Winer did not accuse Twitter of this or any other wrong doing, he merely suggested it as a huge "if" as a possible scenario.

Now I have no idea if the reason why tweets do not seem to be posting as fast to FriendFeed as they used to has anything to do with Twitter. For all I know there could be a technical problem on FriendFeed’s end causing this. But I think the fact that tweets have slowed down on FriendFeed deserves a conversation about the causes.

Of course two of the things that may raise FriendFeed as a greater competitor in the eyes of Twitter could be the recent move that FriendFeed made to allow people to auto subscribe to their Twitter contacts on FriendFeed and to automatically post their FriendFeed postings to their Twitter accounts. Every one of these FriendFeed updates posted to Twitter includes a link back to FriendFeed. This is probably a very useful tool for constantly reminding the Twitter community that a better way to do lifestreaming exists over at FriendFeed.

As an interesting side note, Robert Scoble suggests that in Twitter’s recent move to begin "suggesting" Twitter users to new and existing subscribers that they seem to have bypassed the two FriendFeed users with the most followers, Scoble himself and Leo Laporte. Both of these users have been active on FriendFeed and Scoble probably more than any single other person has been instrumental in promoting FriendFeed as a service online. "I think Twitter is being threatened by friendfeed. The two most popular users of friendfeed (Leo and me) were left off of the twitter recommended friends list over on Twitter," says Scoble in the Gillmor’s thread.

If you’d like to follow my updates on FriendFeed you can do that here. If you’d like to follow my updates on Twitter you can do that here too.

The Day My RSS Reader Died, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the FriendFeed RSS Bomb!

Really Simple SharingI’ve been an RSS junkie for many years. As a blogger who tries to stay on top of photography and other news related topics, I was a very early adopter with regards to RSS. I’ve tried many of the major and lesser known RSS readers over the years. The ones I’ve spent the most time with though were first Bloglines, then NewsGator and finally Google Reader. Every day I’d pour through feeds of my favorite news sites and bloggers looking for interesting items. I had custom search feeds set up. I had lists prioritized into A, B and C content. I had lists organized by subject, etc. etc.

But the same thing seemed to happen over and over and over again. I just couldn’t keep up. And my RSS reader would fill up with tons of posts until I felt guilty enough for falling behind and then I’d just nuke the entire unread reader and mark everything as read and start over.

My biggest problem with RSS can be summed up in four words: “too much crap content.” That’s right. As much as I would find the occasional great story and nugget of news, the vast majority of items were simply of no interest to me. News sites and bloggers (myself included) just publish too much crap.

So about six months ago I did something that seemed revolutionary to me (and felt totally liberating) I walked away from my RSS Reader. I said goodbye. I took my Google Reader icon off of my bookmark tool bar and I haven’t logged in or looked back since.

There was a simple reason why I said goodbye to my RSS Reader. It was FriendFeed. Now for a while I was running around shouting “RSS is dead, RSS is dead,” which isn’t entirely accurate. RSS is actually alive and well. But I think that traditional RSS readers are in fact on the way out.

The biggest difference between FriendFeed and a traditional RSS reader is that FriendFeed better filters your RSS feeds using the FriendFeed community. That’s right. If you choose who you follow carefully (and put them in the right lists) you get basically all the same old content that was swirling around your RSS reader of yesteryear except that now it it ranked and sorted by what the community that you choose feels is most relevant.

On FriendFeed the community can “like” or “comment” on stories that it’s members feed into it. The more a story is “liked” or commented on, the more it is bumped to the top of your screen. This helps ensure that the most popular (and frequently most interesting stories) are kept at the top of your “reader” most of the time. You still miss stuff like with your old RSS reader, but you miss less of the really good and really important stuff.

Now every now and again you still find a popular story that you don’t really care about. On FriendFeed especially a lot of stories that are of high value to a small community of early adopters and friends, might not seem so relevant to everyone else. People’s birthdays, crazy meme’s etc. often time rank high. But this is where the hide button shows its power on your new FriedFeed RSS reader. You find a story you don’t like and you simply hide it. If you find one sort of content that you routinely don’t like (like someone’s tweets about food) no problem. You can hide all that person’s tweets as well (but still get their blog posts).

Sometimes people will say to me as well, well, what if my favorite blogger, news site, etc. is not on FriendFeed already. Well first off, if they’re not on FriendFeed yet they are way behind the times, but even here if you really must watch a feed and it’s not already on FriendFeed, you simply add it as an “imaginary friend.”

How you categorize your feeds at FriendFeed is up to you. Like any RSS reader you can make lists. Photography, DVRs, Microsoft, Apple, A, B, C, faves, superfaves, etc. But in all of these cases, your network is constantly watching these lists and bumping the most popular stuff to the top of your lists.

The other nice thing about the best posts in your FriendFeed RSS reader is that they oftentimes come with tons of interesting comments from people besides the original author. If you want to see this post in FriendFeed for instance click through here and you will see what I’m talking about.

The bottom line is this. A socially filtered RSS reader is vastly superior to a non-socially filtered reader.

I’m not going to get into search much here, except to say that FriendFeed’s search capabilities are very, very strong. The guys behind FriendFeed are some of the early guys at Google. They just rolled out some new tools in fact last week to search FriendFeed even better than you could before. Social search is the future of search by the way and these guys at FriendFeed so far have hit it spot on. Personally I’m surprised that a small little start up like FriendFeed can pull off social search while a behemoth like Yahoo with amazing social properties cannot.

A lot of people still use a traditional RSS Reader *and* FriendFeed. In fact, I’d bet I’m one of the few that has actually abandoned their old reader entirely. What should FriendFeed do to help these folks make the transition? Easy. Build a tool that imports your OPML file (the file with all of your RSS feeds and organization in it) from your existing reader into a FriendFeed RSS list. FriendFeed could search their database to replace feeds that you’ve got in your OPML files with actual accounts on FriendFeed, and auto-populate imaginary friends for feeds that are not claimed by FriendFeed accounts yet.

Over time as imaginary friends come online at FriendFeed they ought to also build an option for users that lets them auto replace imaginary friends with real FriendFeed accounts.

I will say that since abandoning Google Reader that I feel that I’ve gotten a much better and more rich news feed experience from FriendFeed and that I’m really glad that I made the move. It does take a little getting used to and you definitely need to learn how to use the “hide” feature and “lists,” but it’s a vastly better way to keep up with your favorite bloggers and newsfeeds.

If you want to follow my own blog on FriendFeed, you can do that here.