FriendFeed for project collaboration

For me, FriendFeed has been a new answer to an old question — namely, how to collaborate in a loosely-coupled way with people who are using, and helping to develop, an online service. The elmcity project’s FriendFeed room has been an incredibly simple and effective way to interleave curated calendar feeds, blog postings describing the evolving service that aggregates those feeds, and discussion among a growing number of curators.

In his analysis of Where FriendFeed Went Wrong Dare Obasanjo describes the value of a handful of services (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in terms that would make sense to non-geeks like his wife. Here’s the elevator pitch for FriendFeed:

Republish all of the content from the different social networking media websites you use onto this site. Also one place to stay connected to what people are saying on multiple social media sites instead of friending them on multiple sites.

As usual, I’m an outlying data point. I’m using FriendFeed as a lightweight, flexible aggregator of feeds from my blog and from Delicious, and as a discussion forum. These feeds report key events in the life of the project: I added a new feature to the aggregator, the curator for Sasktatoon found and added a new calendar. The discussion revolves around strategies for finding or creating calendar feeds, features that curators would like me to add to the service, and problems they’re having with the service.

I doubt there’s a mainstream business model here. It’s valuable to me because I’ve created a project environment in which key events in the life of the project are already flowing through feeds that are available to be aggregated and discussed. Anyone could arrange things that way, but few people will.

It’s hugely helpful to me, though. And while I don’t know for sure that FriendFeed’s acquisition by FaceBook will end my ability to use FriendFeed in this way, I do need to start thinking about how I’d replace the service.

I don’t need a lot of what FriendFeed offers. Many of the services it can aggregate — Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare — aren’t relevant. And we don’t need realtime notification. So it really boils down to a lightweight feed aggregator married to a discussion forum.

One feature that FriendFeed’s API doesn’t offer, by the way, but that I would find useful, is programmatic control of the aggregator’s registry. When a new curator shows up, I have to manually add the associated Delicious feed to the FriendFeed room. It’d be nice to automate that.

Ideally FriendFeed will coast along in a way that lets me keep using it as I currently am. If not, it wouldn’t be too hard to recreate something that provides just the subset of FriendFeed’s services that I need. But ideally, of course, I’d repurpose an existing service rather than build a new one. If you’re using something that could work, let me know.

9 thoughts on “FriendFeed for project collaboration

  1. Pingback: UCOSP

  2. Tony Karrer

    Jon – when I see that description – “Republish all of the content from the different social networking media websites you use onto this site. Also one place to stay connected to what people are saying on multiple social media sites instead of friending them on multiple sites. ”

    It makes me realize that this is probably plumbing – not as much an end-user application. We just had a discussion about a survey result where 90%+ said they would be interested in getting timely, relevant links to interesting URLs but most saw no value in twitter.

    Unless FriendFeed can position itself outside of plumbing, it’s going to primarily have value to geeks. I agree with you that there’s real value there. A bit like Yahoo Pipes. But the value proposition needs to be something less geeky for it to really have value.

    Reply
  3. Jon Udell Post author

    > Unless FriendFeed can position itself
    > outside of plumbing, it’s going to primarily
    > have value to geeks.

    Another way to think about this: Until and unless non-geeks become aware of the ways in which their online activities produce feeds that can be usefully recombined, services like FriendFeed that enable recombination will primarily appeal to geeks.

    The whole point of the elmcity project is, of course, to invite non-geeks to produce feeds — in this case calendar feeds — so that they can then experience and benefit from recombinatorial network effects.

    [The dictionary says recombinatorial isn’t a word, although combinatorial is. But, with Erin McKean’s approval — http://abriefmessage.com/2007/10/17/mckean/ — I’m boldly neologizing.]

    Reply
  4. Tony Karrer

    Jon – recombining feeds is certainly high value to us geeks. However, it’s what you end up doing with the recombined feeds that likely is what is of interest to the real audience.

    elmcity is an interesting one. There’s potential for it to be a non-geek solution, but right now I must say it seems more geeky to me. Likely you need someone pretty technical and social media adept to quite get it at the start. However, as you package it into examples of its use, it may make more sense to more people.

    And I could be completely wrong on it, but it’s a bit of what we face with Browse My Stuff as well. And I would claim that we are trying to be even more end-user focused, but it still requires the right person to get it.

    Reply
  5. Jon Udell Post author

    > However, as you package it into examples
    > of its use, it may make more sense to more
    > people.

    When you plugged http://www.coachingourselves.com/ into your hub, you only had to tell them: “Use one or another of the following calendar programs to keep track of your stuff, and tell me the URL.”

    At that level, it’s purely an end-user exercise.

    Of course that only happened because you understood the model from the get-go.

    How do I get, for example, local newspapers to grok the model? I need to be able to point newspapers B..Z at newspaper A which is using the model successfully.

    So I’m doing a ton of handholding to try and get newspaper A up and running.

    Reply
    1. Tony Karrer

      You are right that to get newspapers to grok the model, you have to sell them based on examples and based on the value. The value is: what if I could provide a community calendar that you didn’t have to maintain?

      There’s going to need to be more than that. Especially right now for newspapers.

      Reply
  6. Jon Udell Post author

    > Melkjug

    That appears to be a personal feed aggregator?

    What’s wanted is a service that:

    1. Works for groups

    2. Mixes feed aggregation with discussion.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Social Media 101 | Holland-Mark Blog

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