Why I Have Resisted FriendFeed

I stand in the world without a FriendFeed. It may be a slightly darker, colder less RSS-blissful place, but I am okay with that for the moment.

If you’ve been trapped under some Web 1.0 rock, FriendFeed is an aggregate service that allows you to link all your social media profiles, blogs and services into one site and feed — Lifehacker can walk you through getting one and Tamar Weinberg analyzed it for us. With your account and page on FriendFeed created, you can connect with friends and contacts to follow the feed from their page and give them your own online activity feed.

In the end, through all your connections on FriendFeed, you create one massive RSS feed of doom that tracks all the actions of your friends online. Why would I resist such a thing of wonder?

To tell you the truth, I have been tempted to jump into FriendFeed for quit awhile ever since Robert Scoble began championing it even while it began to fracture commenting on blogs, but I have several reasons to wait on this one.

Online Account Zen – I’m a Minimalist

Call me a commitment-phobe, but I simply don’t want another account online. I have a profile on almost every major social media service, and yes, the idea of having it all linked together appeals to me.

Unfortunately, I don’t want to sign up for a service JUST to aggregate all my other services. I am an account minimalist and have recently been taking stock and collecting all my various accounts online. The count is already very high. With privacy concerns on every site where I sign up and port my online existence, I don’t want to put myself out there unless it’s really necessary.

Coming Soon…from someone else

The aggregation FriendFeed provides is something I see happening in the social media networks where I already participate, so why move and invest in a new social network?

Unlike some media powerhouses and major blogging moguls, it takes me some time to promote an online service to my many Web 1.0, non-blogging friends, create email invites, offer explanations and grow my network. It’s not worth it for me to go through all that trouble if FriendFeed will soon be competing with the services I already use.

I’d rather wait for Facebook or Google to integrate all my other social media feeds so that I have a one-stop shop for all interaction. It looks like my wait-and-see approach might pay off too since Facebook is already implementing FriendFeed-like features.

Bringin’ da Noise

As Scoble himself and others have pointed out, early adopters tend to thrive with a lot of noise. While I would love to be able to digest everything going on, and I enjoy the noise on Twitter, I am not sure that more noise in my life would add value.

I am limited to what I can easily track daily in my RSS feed reader. Blog posts, Facebook, Pownce and Twitter overflow my inbox and RSS feeds each morning.

Another online service that repeats some of the same messages would be overkill. I need no more sources to sift through every morning — at least not until I do another feed reader audit.

Fragmenting Comments

As a blogger, I have really enjoyed the feedback from hosting conversations about my ideas in the comments. Okay, Okay, I’ll admit it. I like the ego boost of getting comments as well.

With FriendFeed, my posts collect their own comments in various places that never ping back to my blog. These comments are never shared with regular readers. Even though there are now ways of pulling comments out of FriendFeed, it doesn’t catch all of the discussion, which is scattered throughout FriendFeed as Scoble explained (number 9), never to be reunited.

Spreading the discussion across different networks and feeds shatters the commenting system of blogs in my opinion. I love sharing my digital content, but I do enjoy that it all comes home — comments, trackbacks, social media shares and emails — to my main domain.

If FriendFeed would unite all the conversations happening on one item within their own network and then, minding privacy restrictions, port that conversation back to the original blog, I could be happy with the way the service shares blog posts.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

While I like the idea of aggregating all my social interaction, I have different networks and relationships within the various social networks. For example, I use Facebook for a great deal of personal interaction with people that I have met and known off-line. My network there is a little more personal. On the other hand, my Twitter followers and follows are mostly people I have never seen in real life. Twitter is like my great big cocktail party.

Combining these networks into one feed and joining with friends from both networks would be similar to hosting a party with your great grandparents and your drinking buddies in attendance. Now, I don’t have anything to hide in that situation, but you get the idea.

I maintain a pretty unified social presence across all services, but for those who do not, connections originally from one social media service might be bored or offended by your social actions and blogging within another service. As Tamar pointed out, the watch of others could make you censor what you do online.

In the end, I’ll probably cave…

FriendFeed certainly has a great deal of benefits and a lot going for it. If they have the motivation beyond dominating lifestreaming aggregation, they could scare or possibly overtake Google in the search market with their wealth of social, human-generated data. If they can accomplish that, the company should be around for a long time or until “the next Google” — has “the next Google” become a scary bedtime story that we tell to children yet?

In the interest of keeping it simple, I will try to hold my ground and wait for this whole aggregation business to mature. While I love to root for the new guys, I am hoping that Facebook or Google can implement the same kind of aggregate service so that I can simplify my daily online routine…but I might eventually cave for you, FriendFeed.

UPDATE — May 22, 2008: This post has been shared in FriendFeed. Scoble thinks I’ll cave with the conversation going on there. We’ll see how long I last outside of the FriendFeed.

UPDATE: I caved.

I am a slave to my Google Reader–efficiency is simple ignorance

It started as such an innocent tool. In my love of Gmail, I stumbled upon the powerful Google Reader (reader.google.com) and begin to fill it with RSS feeds from my favorite Web destinations. Instantly, my reader became the fastest way to skim through the gaming blogs, tech news and business musings of the talking heads of Internet.

I’d say I had a good six weeks or so where the RSS feeds made me more productive. I didn’t have to surf the Internet because I had it delivered to me–right there within Google’s little window. As I sorted through my feeds–keyboard shortcuts and all–I would star posts that were noteworthy or that I wanted to blog. I could also send posts to friends that I found helpful and pass along funny quotes.

The sinister force that was the RSS master emerged when I started to expand my tastes. I would stumble upon a particular site or one post from a blog and find it interesting, and there it went into my reader. After awhile, I had to go in and reorganize my feeds. I had too many loose, uncategorized ones, but after a quick shuffle, my RSS heaven was back to the organized filing system I had created.

One weekend, somehow in my techy ignorance I left the computer. That’s right. For 48 hours, I stepped away from the digital world. When I returned to it Monday morning, the Gremlins had owned my system.

My unread posts counter read (1000+). Uh oh.

For the next three weeks, I tried to catch back up and manage, but for the non-Scoble, you just can’t handle following that many bloggers. In fact, you never get a chance to blog a post yourself if you spend your entire day reading what 100+ others have said in the last day.

I was a slave to the RSS reader everyday. I loathed leaving it with 100+ unread posts. I was becoming a Google addict. It became an impossible task, so I had to step out and selectively nuke my system.

I devised a way of removing blogs that no longer needed to be followed. If it updated too frequently with information that I didn’t cherish everyday, it was gone. If two blogs covered similar topics, I made myself choose the one that covered the topic more completely or that was more worthwhile for me to read as a fellow blogger. If given the choice between a blog that posted 30 times a day, and one that posted once or twice a week with the same basic info, I went with the less frequent, more complete option.

I went simple. I became ignorant to what 50+ or so bloggers were writing about, but I got my life back–my life outside of RSS. It was entirely necessary, and I tell you now: Ignorance is bliss.

You can’t follow 1000+ blogs and still exist outside of the online world. Keep that in mind before you start getting crazy with the RSS subscribe button.

Monitoring the Web: Where in the Google are you?

I’ll take your Seth Godin, and I’ll raise you one.

I suggest a tip I got a long while back from Scott Ginsberg, “The Nametag Guy,” about tracking your presence on the Web:

Set up a Google Alert for your name.

Really, go do it now.

By setting up a Google Alert for your name, you can easily keep track of when you are being discussed on the Internet and how extensive your Web presence becomes. Your alerts are handy for connecting you with people that discuss you on the Web. Hopefully, it’s all positive info, and you can enjoy increased alerts as you expand your interaction through the Google world, blogging and social networks.

Without my Google Alerts, I would never know how many different locations I can find to buy books written by the Jewish author of same name. That’s an added bonus.

Of course, for you college crazies, a Google Alert can also help you combat negative press out there. Didn’t know those Flickr pictures you tagged of yourself showed up on Google when someone searched for your name? Well, now you do, and you can go take care of untagging and removing the things better kept private when you apply for a job.

It’s a good idea to set up a Google Alert just so you are aware of what your potential employers will find when they type in your name and punch the dreaded “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. You don’t want it to be your Xanga from 1994 where you ranted on how much you hated your homeroom teacher, do you?

Why Google’s Android will revolutionize cell phone usage, smartphones

As part of my recent Zen-ifying and simplifying of life, maximizing the amount of productive time in my day, I have downgraded.

I traded in my MDA for a basic Samsung candybar phone. Why would a techie downgrade? Time wasted because smartphones are not good enough for either of their fucntions today. I couldn’t justify using my phone to access the Internet in most situations because my laptop — or a text message to Google — was faster, and when it came to doing normal phone operations, my phone took too long to access a number or dial.

For me, the current gen of smartphones won’t satisfy…then along comes Android. Check out a quick features breakdown.

Major wireless providers haven’t put a great deal of resources into improving the mobile Internet/multi-tasking phone operation. That lack of interest has left the door open for Google to bring their “open” platform.

“The fundamental problem that most phones people have today is that they don’t have fully powered Web browsers,” explained Schmidt, noting that Google so far has to create specially tailored versions of popular applications like search and gmail for mobile devices. Android will encompass a browser that delivers an end-user experience more similar to surfing the PC-based Internet. via MediaPost

Google also has OpenSocial, their newly announced initiative to develop applications for social networks. With a platform like Android built with the same principles, Google might create the same buzz applications that have made Helio and Boost mobile somewhat of a success — bridging the gap between social networks and real life. Speculated applications and leaks have already generated some buzz for the initiative, and with Google’s knowledge of how to make a killer app (Gmail, Google Maps, Google Reader, etc.), they can certainly weed through to find the best of the litter.

I think Google saw what Apple was trying to do with the iPhone and thought to themselves that they could do a better job making an “open” version of that — especially with all the complaints and hacking tools out there. Even though Microsoft may not think that much of the project, Android could revolutionize the way we use our phones and what we demand from a phone OS. Carriers may just have to open everything up instead of locking up our electronics tight.

But they agreed that Google’s new open mobile platform Android would help accelerate expansion of the mobile Internet and pose a serious challenge to carriers’ “walled garden” strategy of tightly controlling content on their phone menus.

While the full implications of the deal are not yet clear, it will make Google a powerful player in the mobile realm as well as in the PC-based Internet world, they say.

“This opens the door for Google to be the network for the operating system the way Microsoft adCenter powers MSN,” says Jeff Janer, former CMO of mobile ad platform Third Screen Media. “So I think the impact will be major.” via MediaPost

Facebook vs. Google: If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em–Google’s OpenSocial and Facebook Ads

Losing a bid to for a profitable investment to one of your major rivals is bound to be upsetting. It might even be so upsetting that you take a blood oath to destroy that investment or bend it to your will…

Facebook may have missed out on the chance to be a part of Google’s next big strategic move, but without their part ownership, Google moved on without them to launch their “Maka-Maka” initiative in the Facebook space. Facebook’s only rebuttal thus far is their new Facebook Ads services–Beacon, Insight and Social Ads.

Maka-Maka will integrate their major applications like Gmail and Google Maps into the social space and provide features similar to the Facebook “News Feed.”

The deadliest part of Google’s Maka-Maka plan is OpenSocial, which opens up a new development standards for integrating user information and competes with Facebook’s open API applications. With standards established, Google could pioneer a move that would allow users to keep in touch even outside of their social networks. Google is seeking a solid start to the movement by soliciting a number of the top developers of applications for Facebook.

OpenSocial will truly be open. Google is even allowing their competitors to take advantage. Google operates a social network called Orkut, more popular outside of the US than in it, but services such as Hi5, LinkedIn and Friendster have already jumped on board for OpenSocial, too. Even bigger news was made when shortly after the initial announcement, MySpace jumped on the bandwagon.

“Our partnership with Google allows developers to gain massive distribution without unnecessary specialized development for every platform,” Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO MySpace, said in a statement released late Thursday.

As a member of OpenSocial, MySpace is providing the group with platform experience and user mass, as it is still the most popular social network online.

MySpace is by far the biggest partner in this initiative as the largest, most popular social network to date and Facebook’s only close rival. Open Social applications could help them stop the rumors that Facebook will begin to steal away their users in the coming months. While Google makes itself the champion of open, Facebook continues to emphasize keeping it closed and private. TechCrunch warns that this move might make them the Apple of the social networking scene–as more and more developers see greater benefit from focusing on their OpenSocial apps that work across a larger number of sites and services. But is it so bad to be Apple? They aren’t doing so bad lately.

If you see OpenSocial as the upper hand for Google, you are overlooking Facebook’s possible stunning business move. As Mark Cuban pointed out, Facebook has a more valuable ad network because they have truthful, honest info on their profiles, and he suggests a licensing to someone like Yahoo! could be phenomenal.

So back to Yahoo and the Facebook API. I thought that if you put the 2 together, enabling Yahoo to access the Facebook database of users within the current API constraints, Yahoo search and ad serving would improve considerably. Expand the Facebook database with an opt in option to add further personal data that could be used FROM WITHIN THE YAHOO WEBSITE, the results for Yahoo could be extraordinary. A Yahoo searchbox within Facebook , or a search from a Yahoo site that recognizes you are the owner of a Facebook profile and customizes the results according to information culled from your profile would be incredibly powerful

I don’t know if anything can or would come of my little referral. Maybe now with MicroSoft buying into Facebook, they can get a free crack at the Facebook API and Facebook profile owners who also use MicroSoft Live can get better search and ad results. Who knows.

It’s a great thought, but it is probably not likely. Facebook prides itself on keeping user information within the network and private. Permissions have to be given for each individual application to access information. College students, the base users of the program, need to be extremely sensitive about what info goes out on the Web about them these days with employers going to Google to scope out candidates before they step in the door. Until Facebook finds a way to balance its emphasis on privacy and usability for developers by opening up the data a little more, they will remain the Ivory Tower in the social networking space.

Unfortunately for Facebook, if they don’t make this move, Google will certainly bring social networking into the search space to overwhelm Facebook’s offerings.

As an additional encroachment to the Facebook business model, Google has not only started to woo the hearts of application developers but is also planting the seeds of pay-per-action ads. These ads could eventually lead to a movement of developers utilizing AdSense in their apps on Facebook and get AdSense into the belly of the Facebook beast.

Facebook has not yet made any substantial response to Google’s move. With they’re anticipated ad services announcement today, Facebook provides some increased public uses of their info. Advertisers will be able to make use of Insight to collect info about the people who click their ads, Beacon to use Facebook profile widgets as endorsers and Social Ads to target specific interests that users have specified.

I don’t think Facebook Ads is the open direction that I was looking for with opening up their platform–as Wired states, it probably just means more spam. This ad move will probably just create another set of miffed users on Facebook as do many of Facebook’s pioneering steps. I would like to see the data opened up for more useful application around the Web, but only time will tell if Facebook will take the plunge or stand their ground try to wear out the Google “open” attack.

Google certainly has a great chance for revenge.

Mark Zuckerberg: He put your face on a book

I think it’s appropriate in this new media landscape that we start off the profiles by talking about an entrepreneur that is as close to my age.

No matter how exactly Mark Zuckerberg got the idea, he has quickly established himself as the man to beat in the social networking scene.

Zuckerberg’s launch strategy was the real genius move. By allowing only college students to login to the network and securing it by requiring an .edu address, Zuckerberg was able to provide an asynchronous communication and sharing network for busy college students. Right at that time in your life where networking becomes so important and faces are thrown before you on a daily basis, Facebook made it all easy. Colleges talked up its benefits, and the networks spread like wildfire.

Only after establishing a strong and loyal user base did Zuckerberg even consider opening up to the public. By that time, he was already known as the kid who turned down $1 billion from Yahoo! when their original offer fell apart and gave him a chance to convince his board that Facebook could be bigger solo.

According to Wired, analysts think he might be the United States’ richest man under 25, and Silicon Valley loves him

As a result, Facebook is the now most buzzed-about company in Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg is constantly compared to visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Even some of the tech industry’s most legendary figures are genuflecting before Zuckerberg. In an entry on his blog, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen called Facebook’s transformation “an amazing achievement — one of the most significant milestones in the technology industry in this decade.” Says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, “I’m in awe.”

Zuckerberg emerged as a true leader after turning down the Yahoo! offer and led Facebook through a transformation that would make it the beast it is today.

I remember where I was when “News Feeds” were announced. I was in class when I was invited to a group on my laptop protesting the new feature. Students hated it because they felt it would open up their inner stalkings and flirtations to all who friended them. Being a college player could never be the same.

Luckily, Zuckerberg recovered with what made Facebook strong in the first place, privacy. New privacy settings gave users the ability to lock down everything on their profile if desired so that could keep friend A from finding out about friend B — or “hookup A” from finding out about “hookup B” in the college “hookup” culture.

Zuckerberg’s original idea was basically to make Facebook a database for your life. In his own words via TechCrunch interview:

MZ: a social graph is a model for Facebook, we’re not trying to make new connections, but mirror the real world. On platform, the idea is providing more utilities for users, part of the bigger social graph.

The public launch was a smoother success. The site continues to grow significantly with members over 35, and my guess would be that is mostly because Facebook is a far easier beast to navigate than the jumbled and flashy MySpace. With the industry looking to him, Zuckerberg now has to establish the advertising revenue of Facebook to make a business.

For all the excitement, one sobering fact remains: Facebook has yet to prove itself as a business. The site’s nearly 40 million active users generate more than a billion pageviews a day, but ad clickthrough rates are low. An estimated half of its $150 million in revenue comes from an advertising deal with Microsoft. Independent developers are drawn to Facebook because Zuckerberg lets them keep any advertising revenue their applications generate; if Facebook can’t prove itself as an advertising venue, the deluge of new applications will slow to a trickle.

Moves are being made to establish this next step for Facebook and take it officially from startup to cash cow business. With the incredible valuations coming from all corners of the tech world that some have warned against, Facebook marketed itself well enough to have Microsoft fork over $240 billion for Facebook to expand its operations.

It’s not often that a young company gets to decide between Google and Microsoft, but Facebook did and became the fifth largest Internet company behind only Google, eBay, Yahoo and Amazon. With this new money, Facebook can launch the ad network it has been talking about for some time.

http://blip.tv/web-20-summit/web-2-0-summit-2007-mark-zuckerberg-440073

Now rumors are circulating that MySpace users may soon make a mass exodus to Facebook. While this is all just rumors and speculation, there could soon be a mass migration if Facebook continues to develop above the heads of MySpace’s innovators.

The latest secret findings point towards Facebook integrating the tools of LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Allowing users to separate friends into groupings with separate privacy settings and providing resources for networking could easily bring in more users from the 35+ age group that is showing growth on Facebook and draw people away from the limited connection options of LinkedIn.

One thing is for sure, Zuckerberg is not taking the easy way out. He is now worth an estimated $3 billion and leading Facebook into its next strategic moves. Via his TechCruch interview:

Q: hypothetically, News Corp buys Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, how would the merge.
MZ: it will never happen (laughter).

For more on the future of Facebook and their upcoming advertising program release, check out this article from Wired.