FriendFeed Becomes Useful by Adding Search

I really wanted FriendFeed to be useful for me; however, I was having a hard time really finding much use for it … until they added a search feature. Until now, I found that my FriendFeed content was completely useless due to being overwhelmed by Twitter, which has orders of magnitude more traffic than any other service. I tried tracking my friends using RSS, but almost everything was Twitter, and since I follow most of them on Twitter already, almost all of the content was duplicated.

With the addition of search, I can see myself using it to quickly find friends who have expertise or who are at least talking about a topic. For example, a quick search on “OAuth” tells me that Chris Messina and David Recordon are talking about it the most (big surprise), and a search for “startupalooza” shows me some interesting bookmarks and discussions about the upcoming event. This is a great way to quickly find friends with knowledge about a topic along with their bookmarks, Twitter thoughts, and blog posts. Very cool addition to the service IMHO.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Yahoo Pipes: Track Twitter Replies with RSS Part Deux

A while back, I modified Justin’s Twitter Reply Sniffer to add a little more functionality. The reply sniffer is really useful to help find Twitter @ replies directed toward you from everyone (whether you follow them or not). This is incredibly helpful for me in a couple of ways. First, it finds replies that I missed from people I follow. Second, I just can’t keep up with the noise if I follow everyone who follows me; however, I think that the conversations are one of the most important aspects of Twitter, and the reply sniffer helps me participate in those conversations.

My issue with the original reply sniffer is that it was based on, which was down all day yesterday, so I decided to modify it to use a similar service, TweetScan. Here is the link to the new and improved Twitter Reply Sniffer pipe.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Twitter and sxsw

Yes, I was at sxsw last week as you know from the obnoxious and constant tweets about how awesome it was. I also heard a few people talking about how tired they were of hearing about sxsw.

On an unrelated topic, I was playing werewolf with the from the guys at Toonlet last night, and I thought it would be cool to play around with it over lunch today. I came up with this quick sxsw / Twitter comic:

Twitter at sxsw by geekygirldawn

Girl - normal: HOW WAS YOUR WEEK? Bow - normal: I WAS AT SXSW. YOU KNOW,

Portable Social Networks session at sxsw

Here are my relatively raw notes from the session with David Recordon, Chris Messina, and others.

People are tired of re-creating our data and friend lists on every new sites. We need to make it easier to move content from one site to another. Every website starts from scratch instead of building on things you have already created. This is why Facebook apps have been so successful – you can use the apps with your existing friends and existing information.

You don’t necessarily want all of the same friends on every service, and you don’t want to impose your new apps / sites on all of your friends by flooding them with friend requests. You may also want to message people on other services and integrate with various services so that you can use the sites you like, your friends use the ones they like, and both can still communicate and share information between them.

Who owns your friends email addresses? Do you have a right to port your friends email addresses from Facebook to Plaxo? You want to be able to contact your friends and easily find their email addresses without violating the privacy of your friends.

Terminology is getting confusing for people. Social networking, social graph, etc. The web is way more than terminology, it is really about the people and the experiences. Should we be using the terminology “friends”? Are these people your “friends”, are they contacts, etc.? There are many more interesting ways to frame it around actions (Dopplr with fellow travelers).

Contacts can be imported by giving them your email address and *password*. Do you really want to do this? Does it set users up to be phished?

Google released an address book api that can be used to get your contacts without giving away your email address and password.

Building blocks exist today to build portable social networks:

  • hCard can be used to import contact information from other public services into another service. The point is to make it like magic: let them know what it does, what information would be shared, and how it will be used without necessarily confusing normal users with the terminology (leave it as a link or on an about page). Focus on explaining what you are doing for the user and not necessarily how you are going to do it. Also need to give people the option to only pull in certain contacts – just the ones that you want on a particular service.
  • Need better ways to validate which accounts belong to a friend by following a trail of links. Is the David Recordon on Twitter the same one as the one on Facebook. Once you can specify your accounts and your friends accounts, you can also focus on using the same methods to bring in additional content and information. You are already creating the information, but adding some additional annotation around it makes it easier to find and make the data portable. Google social graph api is one way to do this – all based on public data.
  • Enabling trust on the web with OpenID – you already have these accounts on the web, and OpenID is a good method of verifying your identity. You can use it to log in now and say who you are. If you have other profile information in your hCard, then the other site can discover it. But maybe you only want to share certain information.
  • OAuth is more about authorization than authentication. Authorizing access to your resources using tokens to sign messages, like what you do with Flickr uploader by going to the Flickr site to log in and give the uploader authorization to access your photos. OAuth is really important for giving control to certain websites without giving them access to your username and password, which on Google would give them access Google Checkout in addition to mail / contacts. You can also revoke the tokens and not have to change your password to revoke access. A lot of the big players are moving in this direction.

These ideas are a big part of the evolution of the web. It will be difficult, but it’s a bit of tough love in the meantime.

Social Strategies for Revolutionaries Session at sxsw

Social Strategies for Revolutionaries was Charlene Li’s presentation to a full audience in one of the big rooms at sxsw. She will also be posting the slides on SlideShare after the presentation, so this post just covers a few of her key highlights.

There have been a few social revolutionaries driving campaigns like reviving Jericho with peanut shipments. This is a groundswell, a social trend where people get information from each other (also the name of her upcoming book).

Four-step approach to groundswell:

  • People – assess customers social activities.
  • Objectives – what are you trying to accomplish
  • Strategy – Plan for how you will get there
  • Technology – decide which technologies to use after you figure out the above 3 points

Age is a major driver of participation. Participation in social networks tends to drop off as you look at older populations, since much of the content isn’t geared to older people on social networks, but this is gradually changing.

Blendtec has increased sales dramatically from the viral nature of the “will it blend” videos on YouTube. Ernst & Young is successfully using Facebook to recruit college students, not by using it as a marketing tool, but by having conversations with students and answering questions at the executive level. She also used Josh Bancroft as an example of someone who made something happen inside a big company using social software (wiki) to create Intelpedia under the radar of the executives (bonus points for a little Portland geek cred) πŸ™‚

Find and support your revolutionaries within your organization, and let those people use their passion to make the company better, but this involves education for executives to help them understand what is happening and why. You also need to make it safer to fail for the people who are driving these initiatives. It also helps to start small, but think big and iterate to make corrections and adjustments as you figure out what works and what doesn’t. The social strategy also needs to be the responsibility of every employee and not just one person or group. These transitions and cultural changes take time. It can’t happen overnight and requires a great deal of patience.

BarCampAustin and BarCampPortland Compare & Contrast

This is my second BarCampAustin, and it’s been interesting to notice some of the similarities and differences between Austin and BarCampPortland. For some reason, Austin seems to have more presentations and pitches instead of the informal round table discussions that people seem to favor at BarCampPortland; however, Austin also has more of a party atmosphere. Last year, it was held in a bar with lots of drinks all day, and this year, they had beer on tap all afternoon. They also had a live band, karaoke, and stage diving. Austin throws parties; Portland plays werewolf πŸ™‚

Both BarCamps tend to be full of really smart people with great questions and great conversations both in the sessions and in the hallways. I’ve been running into and meeting people that I only get to see in person at conferences like these. It seems like a lot of my techie friends seem to favor BarCamps, which isn’t surprising since many of them are fellow community managers and community-minded geeks.

On a final note, it wouldn’t be a whurley organized event without something over the top & crazy happening. BarCampAustin had a runaway battlebot that jumped the curb in the parking lot and attacked the air conditioner at a neighboring house. Final score: battlebot 1; AC unit 0.

Community Reputation Systems Session at BarCampAustin3

A lot of people are anti-reputation system taking the position that since they might be gamed, they can’t be useful. Personally, I don’t agree with this approach. I think you have to be careful with reputations, but they can be useful.

Basing it on activity alone can be a good way to build the community, but eventually you need to base the reputation only on helpful or productive participation, not just everything. Cubeless uses a karma system with a heavy weight on whether answers are helpful or not, and they have separate numbers for activity and helpfulness; however, they plan to combine them into one number. They also plan to hide the number in the future and only show categories that are based on the hidden number. I think this helps, but it also helps to make the content very transparent, so that you can see the types of contributions. If you can see the people who have a lot of activity of the “good post” or “nice job” can probably be easily ignored while focusing on contributions from people who have helpful and interesting feedback.

We do something similar in the Clearspace reputation system with a combination of activity and helpful points.Β  I also like the idea of hiding the overall number. We currently show the number, and it makes it easier to game and compete for points.

When does activity become less important to weight the currently activity more heavily than past activity so that people who leave don’t stay at the top. The really need to gradually drop off as newer contributors become more important.

Twitter Session at BarCampAustin3

Last week was the biggest week ever based on the number of updates. This doesn’t surprise me, since last week, I was finding it really difficult to keep up with Twitter. This week is even worse with sxsw, so I’m guessing that they will beat their record again this week.

Twitter is about simplicity and communication between people. Based on contraints: 140 chars, etc. Focus is on building the services that power all of the other tools, rather than on promoting the additional services.

More than 1/2 of the users are outside of the US (40% US, 39% Japan), and they are working on localizing Twitter. A group in Japan has created a site that skins the Twitter site in Japanese. It’s also interesting to note that Twitter does not work in Japan via SMS, so mobile isn’t driving this adoption.

People use Twitter for shared experiences. They have mapped spikes in Twitter activity based on superbowl events (Giants touchdown, etc.). Blaine compared it to being in a virtual bar seeing a big virtual cheer in the Twitter activity. Super Tuesday had similar effects.

People also use Twitter as a personal diary. One women has a private account for herself where she tweets about things her son said to keep as a record. Very interesting to look a 6-month summary of these kinds of life experiences.

Others use it for promotion, which Ben says may be slightly evil, but on the other hand, you can turn off the people who become obnoxious and solely self promotional. Some news (earthquakes, etc.) hit twitter 20-30 minutes before it hits the mainstream media.

Stability is the big focus (duh). The devs use the service, are passionate about it, and are really motivated to keep it stable. Moved to a new data center and are spending a lot of time now on scalability, more clusters, etc. in addition to adding monitoring tools and other system management and reporting tools. They have more than doubled the number of servers in the last 2 weeks. The problem is really hard to solve: maintaining the privacy context, real time posts to thousands of people, etc. It really is more difficult than what people think – it’s not just an easy sms application. They have occassionally “fucked up”, and are willing to admit it. They are working on capacity issues, database optimization, etc. to keep improving the stability. So far, it’s been up and fast at sxsw, which is a pretty big achievement. They are having a hard time keeping up with all of the api apps that ping twitter every minute, but they aren’t willing to cap it at 5 minutes, since it makes the service so much less valuable.

Trying to encourage people to have rich interactions that stay meaningful and trying not to encourage the people who just want to collect followers. They are also looking at adding some analysis / attention functionality. It would be awesome to know how much your traffic is going to increase when you are looking at adding another follower, for example. Also looking at allowing people to authenticate via OpenID.

A lot of people are working on Twitter bots. One lets you sms an Amazon bot to get back the price of something on Amazon.

Beginnings of a pubsub application for people doing Twitter aggregation and using the Jabber/XMPP protocol really reduces the load and increases stability.

Caveat: The stuff here from Blaine are things he’s thinking about and not necessarily a future feature. Jabber gives them addressability and ability to subscribe to specific things from other applications, like Pounce, to help break down barriers between sites to communicate with friends despite the site that they prefer to use. Lots of people are talking about building their own Twitter, which can be really difficult, but they want to allow these people to integrate with them rather than having just another silo. The focus is on openness.

Note: Blaine hates SMS πŸ™‚