Three (More) Ways FriendFeed Actually Reduces Information Overload

Let me start by saying… no, I’m not obsessed with FriendFeed lately. :) I’m merely obsessed with finding the best way to consume the neverending supply of online content. FriendFeed is merely the best way I’ve found so far to consume this data.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that FriendFeed is an uncontrollable firehose of data. I disagree. If anything, I’ve found that with a few tweaks it can actually help you manage your information better. Here’s a few tips:

You Don’t Have to Follow Everyone

This one sounds obvious. But ever since I started subscribing to feeds or following folks on Twitter, I’ve been very selective about adding A-listers. Why? Those folks tend to produce a hell of a lot of content. Following too many prolific A-listers can really turn your feedreader into a mess.

My theory has always been to follow bloggers with whom you share similar interests. They’ll tend to chime in about the stuff that’s worth talking about. I’m thinking of Brian Oberkirch here. You can’t believe how much time I’ve saved over the last two years by reading Brian and NOT reading other people.

FriendFeed gets this. I don’t need to follow Robert Scoble. I just wait for some of my friends to let me know when they’re interested in something Robert posted. It appears in my feed like so:

FriendFeed shows you items your friends liked from folks you're not following

Never Miss an Important Tweet Again

I’ve already talked about how I can filter my FriendFeed feed by service, letting me read all tweets on Twitter and not duplicate them on FriendFeed.

But, I’m hitting that “following” threshold that makes it difficult to keep up with EVERY tweet on Twitter. So, if I only have time to skim the last few pages of tweets or I go offline for a few hours (or, more realistically, Twitter does) and can’t catch up on every tweet, FriendFeed will let me know which of my friends’ tweets are being “liked” or commented on.

FriendFeed will resurface tweets if someone liked them/commented on them

Follow Stuff that was Previously Clunky to Follow

Does Del.icio.us even have a “friends” feature? I don’t even know. It very well might.

If it does, nobody uses it. And that’s a shame. Think about the mundane things you find yourself reading about folks on Twitter. Then, when you consider that you’re missing an important activity like taking the time to read an article online and save it for later… It’s crazy.

It’s true that everyone with a Del.icio.us account has had an RSS feed, but with FriendFeed it has never been so easy to subscribe to all of someone’s services at once. There’s gold in those Del.icio.us feeds. And the more you rely on your friends’ bookmarks, the less you’ll need to subscribe to a billion blogs.

Saved bookmarks on Del.icio.us appear as individual entries in FriendFeed. This is awesome because now I can see, for example, what Joshua Porter is bookmarking. Chances are, if he’s bookmarking it, I want to read it.

FriendFeed showing a Delicious item

I used to appreciate when people would have a post of “this week’s links on Ma.gnolia” or whatever. I didn’t want to have to hunt for their bookmark feeds. But now, there’s a downside to those blog posts. I’m now subscribed (through FriendFeed) to the blog feed AND the social bookmarking feed. That means I get duplicate content.

But, FriendFeed has all sorts of options for hiding this duplicate content. For example, if you have a FriendFeed friend who has social bookmarking links published in their blog feed, you can just hide all social bookmarking entries from that person. Similarly, you can turn off the other two features I profiled here—you can choose not to see friend of friends’ content or tweets that people “liked”/commented on.

So, FriendFeed can be a firehose, I suppose. But they have put a lot of tools in place to help you turn down the pressure.

5 Comments

  1. On May 31st, 2008 at 1:42 pm Noah Carter said:

    Adam – really good stuff. You are emerging as one of my favorite thinkers/writers on this and related topics – don’t stop.

  2. On May 31st, 2008 at 2:01 pm TJ Sondermann said:

    del.icio.us does have a “friends” feature. Under ‘Your Network’ you can aggregate individuals to form a single stream.

    Not nearly as elegant as what you’ve described above, however.

  3. On May 31st, 2008 at 8:33 pm Adam Darowski said:

    @Noah: Thanks, man. I’ll try to keep it up. Kinda back into blogging lately. Twitter had consumed me for a while. That damn whale made me realize there were other ways to express myself. :)

    TJ: Good to know. I had never really even thought of exploring that feature. Strange how helpful I find it now.

  4. On June 5th, 2008 at 7:23 am Mark said:

    Adam,

    Thanks for all the content on friend feed. My boss of sorts wants me to start using friend feed – and your posts have been a great primer. Technology aside, what effect do you think all this information aggregation will have on the way people interact over time, with resulting societal implications?

    We often think about the technology and the issues with it’s immediate application, tuning feeds, tweaking stuff, aggregating, piping, etc, etc. But what are the results? Will we become broader and more aware? Will we have more to talk about, and will those conversations become more or less productive? Our temporal reference is pretty short – lot of discussion on all the Web 2.0 stuff that have really grown up in the last 4-6 years, with heavier emphasis on the last 3-4. If we think about how people interacted when they all got their information from the printed word – “extra, extra, read all about it…”, to the time of radio, to TV, you can see changes perhaps in how people assimilated, and reacted to information. How did the societal dynamics change, and what do you see occurring now based on web 2.0, and now out 10, 15 years?

    Mark

  5. On June 5th, 2008 at 1:27 pm Adam Darowski said:

    Hi Mark:

    I’m still wrapping my brain around FriendFeed, to be honest. There are really two components when evaluating it…

    1. The individual user lifestream – Example – My personal FriendFeed feed has EVERYTHING of mine, in chronological order.

    2. The aggregate of all lifestreams – seen on FriendFeed.com when you are logged in – This shows items from all your friends, but re-orders based on what is currently popular/being commented on. Also, you have options to hide certain content (for example, if you don’t care what YouTube folks are favoriting and you don’t want to see what their friends of friends are doing).

    So, while #1 favors information overload (if you read many people’s individual feeds), #2 attempts to help you clear through the clutter. I think it is a very interesting way of having both be part of one system. I’m still waiting to see how it plays out.