The [Non] Value of Friendfeed

Over the past year or so, I’ve fiddled around on Friendfeed. Sometimes actively, sometimes passively. The notion of aggregating all social content into a single place is an enticing value add to anyone who spends time on multiple services across the internet.

As I’ve thought about the value of Friendfeed and it’s potential to be a market disruptor, I’ve come to realize it’s not. I operate much like other “non personal” brands do. I monitor reputation, mentions, links and traffic. I make decisions based on what will help me get more business for my company and increase key metrics of success. As a result, the value I find in Friendfeed, as a technology platform, is limited.

Twitter is a highly valuable tool for me, mostly because the mobile integration is highly important and integral to the service. Twitter was built to be a mobile tool. While there are services that will allow Friendfeed to be used via mobile (and by mobile, I do not mean iPhone), it was not built with mobile as a key cornerstone. As such, it does not behave in a way that is friendly to me as a mobile professional.

As a measure of mentions, however, Friendfeed shines beyond other aspects of it. Though there is not a significant marketshare of people using Friendfeed, thus making even it’s shiningest feature somewhat dim, it is built on the concept of aggregation and so having search feeds and other monitoring mechanisms on Friendfeed is hugely valuable for businesses.

Where Friendfeed breaks down is its community. Though many (perhaps most) of Friendfeed users who are active are okay, there has been a much larger proportion of people, as compared to other platforms, that use the platform for nothing more than troll behavior. They disagree just to disagree. They argue just to argue. They call names just to call names. Hardly something that is productive for a business to be involved in and as an early adopter of technologies, I decided to call it quits.

Comedy ensued.

In fact, not only did comedy ensue, but my point of trollish behavior was demonstrated on numerous occasions in the epic length thread.

Robert Scoble, perhaps the most vocal critic of me, accurately figured that I was giving a big middle finger to the community. He is correct in that I was sending a message to Friendfeed that, “If you want to be valuable outside of a very small early adopter, tech-heavy community, you need to find a way to be valuable to those people on the outside of “the group”. Right now, that value is missing.

At this time, I cannot suggest to a major media organization that they should use Friendfeed for anything other than monitoring. I cannot suggest that a small business can have productive dialogue with customers via Friendfeed. I just can’t.

Certainly, Friendfeed has done a lot in recent months to enhance the experience with a new look and feel, real time commenting, etc. But they haven’t done enough. At some point, Friendfeed needs to show community value to businesses if they are going to be successful.

I am tremendously grateful for the kind words and the pleas to not leave Friendfeed. Truly, I did not know I had the kind of impact that some have suggested. Thus, I’ll give it a week. I’ll decide next week if I want to kill Friendfeed or not. If I have to make the decision today, I’ll leave. But if it’s truly valuable for all those people to keep me around, then prove it. If you’re okay with the community being the way it is, then that’s fine. Best of luck to you and I’ll see you around the web. However, if my presence is that important, then show me value. Don’t make me find value. Show it to me. I’m willing to be wooed back.

But right now, I don’t see the benefit of investing time and energy in a platform that has little ROI for me and my business.

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

32 thoughts on “The [Non] Value of Friendfeed

  1. “…there has been a much larger proportion of people, as compared to other platforms, that use the platform for nothing more than troll behavior.” I’m trying to figure out a gentle way to ask what evidence you have to back this up. I rather think this is supposition on your part. Since I can’t figure out how to state it gently, I hope you will take me at my word when I say it’s not an attack, just a request for some way I can see that this might actually be a fact.

    1. Was it directed at you personally?

      Anyways, it doesn’t matter. This is not about a person or thread. It’s about a pattern and the pattern isn’t useful or productive for me or my audience which is largely business owners. So as is typical here, I act as a filter and am suggesting a “No go” on Friendfeed.

  2. This is like the discussion we had before. Not every outlet is going to work for every person (or company). Everyone has to find what works for them. You are always on the go, so I can see why Twitter works for you because there are tons of app that you can use to access it. There if a Friendfeed app, but it’s only for the iPhone, so it won’t work for Blackberry users (like you and me).

    The only reason that I could see you keeping FriendFeed is for avid users, like me, who see your updates and respond from the site. However, if you don’t want to keep it, then don’t. I think your post was more to say “I’m not going to be on here, but for those who don’t follow me on Twitter or FB, here is my information.” I guess others didn’t see it like I saw it.

    We are both DC, Blackberry people, so we will be in touch in some shape or form.

  3. Ok, I know you say that thread doesn’t matter, but this is an example I think of getting out what you put in. If you say to your audience, “all women,” then how many women in the audience will feel your statement excludes them? What, then, would half of the audience take away from that? If the people with whom you interact get a good vibe from you, you should certainly get one back. I would think the same would go for business usage, but I will have to defer to your knowledge for that. I fix computers, not businesses.

    1. Everyone has the choice to be offended or not to be offended. It’s a choice. This is not the place, though, for conversations about a specific thread, so it will be the last I say on it.

  4. it’s funny, okay maybe not funny but rather appropriate, that you bring up the business/ROI aspect here. when I first heard about twitter some two or three years ago, I didn’t see how it could benefit me personally but I did see it had great potential as an asset to businesses and brands. my reaction to FriendFeed was quite the opposite. I thought FriendFeed offered a great platform for having conversations around things that inherently don’t allow that to happen – i.e. tumblr, delicious, google reader shared items (no comments at the time), and yes, twitter.

    so when you make the decision to leave FriendFeed because you “don’t see the benefit of investing time and energy in a platform that has little ROI for me and my business,” it makes complete sense to me. it’s not a business tool.

    (actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve seen some businesses here use it for customer service purposes much like twitter, but definitely not to the same scale.)

  5. I’d been thinking a lot about Friendfeed lately myself and your move today prompted me to finally put down some words (http://budurl.com/fmmh).

    I think I must have spent even less time than you may have in Friendfeed because I’ve not encountered the trolls; but, I had seen some people getting upset when they commented on someone’s item and did not get a return conversation. It never occurred to me that something that was just an aggregation tool would morph into a community of its own.

    Don’t think I’ll close my account, but I doubt I’ll have time to become active in yet another community, so apologies in advance to anyone who tries to engage me in conversation on Friendfeed – I won’t see it. Like Aaron, you’ll find me over on Twitter.
    @LPT

  6. I think that you are distorting the conversation a bit here. The issue has nothing to do with whether or not you should spend time and energy on FriendFeed, it has to do with cutting off readers when it takes no effort or energy to leave it on auto-pilot. In other words, what’s the value of deleting it?

  7. In the end, it’s your choice. I think the point about trolls on Friendfeed is pretty weak though as an argument because you find that sort of thing everywhere. Trolls appear everywhere a discussion takes place online. You learn to ignore them.

    So using Trolls as one reason to not recommend Friendfeed to businesses? I don’t agree at all.

    It’s also unfair to so readily dismiss the platform as it is fairly new, and it took Twitter three years to hit a critical mass. If you have problems with the tech crowd on their, I do, that’s fine. But you can’t make a blanket assessment about a social networks worth because of the early adopters. That’s also foolish.

    As the story goes, the folks who hang on to the social network they find and put the work in are the ones who succeed.

  8. What I don’t understand is the difference between a FriendFeed that you don’t delete and don’t attend to – and a ghost FriendFeed (which you suggested as a possible route for those who want to use FF to follow you). Aren’t the same “trolls” going to be commenting on both? In fact isn’t the potential for brand damage much worse in a ghost feed? At least when you create and control the FF you provide a much more accessible and accurate data source for prospective fans, followers and customers. In deleting your account you push all of that work to the potential client and erect an unnecessary barrier between you and potential engagements. Essentially you eliminate any chance of serendipity finding you via FF. To my eye it seems like an arbitrary elimination of a potential business and communication channel that could possibly take zero additional effort on your part to preserve. Sort of like if the Romans had cut off roads to Gaul because the didn’t particularly like the way the Gauls smelled.

  9. Actually, FriendFeed is doing tremendously well since they’ve redesigned their site in May. You can easily read what your friends are up to around the web in a real-time stream. In fact, I’m getting more friends signing up to Friendfeed than I’m getting on Twitter.

      1. Friendfeed has a better interface and just creates a much better user experience

        … if you’re using the web. Clearly you didn’t actually read my article because 1) you don’t completely agree (which is ok, just observing) and 2) you ignore my argument about mobile being the cornerstone of what I need.

        Thanks for playing.

  10. It seems to me with so many different ways to communicate, if one spends so much time telling people what one is doing, when does one have time to actually accomplish anything that is really productive? Spreading oneself that thin can have its pitfalls!

    1. That is true to an extent, but if your business is in the economy of ideas then you must find as many ways as possible to not only perpetuate your own ideas, but also engage others as well. In effect “telling others what one is doing” is akin to telling others what you are thinking, which is pure marketing (and pure productivity) for an idea merchant.

  11. I’m a F-list player on the interent
    Always looked up to the A-list folks for wisdom & tips
    Today after reading the top stories on FF
    I see what this dude is speaking of
    Won’t look up to the A-listers anymore
    I will look down at them

  12. Friendfeed is not a quick light snack, It’s 3-4 full course meal with dessert and mints after. Really you have to be awful strong not to engulf yourself in the 24/7 conversations happening their. Aaron I commend you for breaking the chains but not for your listed reasons. A person who needs to quickly scan, digest and apply info isn’t suited for friendfeed right now…

  13. I’ve hooked into most sites. And I have to say: FF … I never got it. It just … I couldn’t see it.
    Then stuff like, say, I click on the link in someone’s tweet and what do I get? I get to see precisely the same text, but on their FF page. Something about that transaction leaves me de-motivated to continue on to whatever link they might have there.

    It’s almost as though there’s something fundamentally wrong with the design … something missing, or too much of what we don’t need.

    1. You’re right – FF has its flaws – all services do. Still – that particular flaw is actually a user preference. The annoying action you describe is the default. I have my shared links set to go to the source and not FF.

  14. As you might know, I’ve been skeptical of the value of FriendFeed as a tool, to the extend of having some pretty harsh words about it with Robert (a guy who I generally like). I’ve been using it a little more lately, but I certainly wouldn’t call myself an advocate. It’s a useful tool, but nothing more.

    But as you may also remember, I didn’t see the point in doing what you did, which wasn’t just “quitting” it, as you frame it above, but deleting your account. It’s not simply that you will no longer use it, but that, in deleting your account, you make it harder for remaining FF users to follow you.

    For some users – not me, I didn’t follow you anyway – that was always going to feel like a slap in the face, a rejection, something that you were doing not simply because you no longer wanted to use the service, but because you wanted to antagonise them.

    I’m not saying those were your motives – your motives are your own, and I’m sure they were honourable – but that’s why some people reacted in the way they did.

    The interesting thing is that I remember the early days of Twitter, and Twitter felt exactly the same: A small community of EXTREMELY passionate advocates, who could sometimes smother newcomers with their passion. Of course, some of those people have gone over to FF now, and it shows.

    1. Now /that’s/ why it feels like FF and I are on different wave-lengths: Twitter felt exactly the same to you? To me it’s like satin and sack-cloth; I jumped into Twitter whole hog from day one and stayed with it daily ever since.

  15. Yeah, I just don’t get FriendFeed. I mean, I get it. I understand the point. I can cognitively understand the arguments for the supposed benefits — I appreciate how it acts as an aggregation lifestreaming service (though Facebook now does that just as well, if not better), but I don’t fundamentally get the appeal. If only because I just don’t have enough time to invest in keeping up on a million micro-conversations about stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter.

    I sometimes feel bad that I have such a dormant Friendfeed account, meaning, I don’t use the FF specific features, but I figure, if someone wants to follow me there. Fine. If someone wants to comment? Fine. But it goes to my GMail account I check a few times a week and not 5000 times a day.

    I have noticed the trolling thing though. It’s hilarious.

  16. I am right there with you Aaron. The idea behind FriendFeed is great, but I don’t see value in utilizing it. Maybe if it really streamlined time for me or did something extraordinary or unique – I would be interested, but in all reality it doesn’t meet any particular needs for me

  17. I wonder if this embracing of all the social media tools is going to aggravate a generational gap?

    As I get older, I find I am less interested in the newest things and more interested in the tools I have already mastered and am comfortable with. I don’t just sign up for every little thing anymore – I have to be convinced of the need or value first, and if it doesn’t work out I don’t have a hard time giving it up or walking away.

  18. I’ve had a Friendfeed profile since private beta so here’s my .02:

    It’s extremely low-maintenance and everyone I follow has more than just their Twitter accounts linked to the feed.

    I think the primary reason I prefer it over some of the other life stream services I’ve seen is because it has very simple GUI but I’ve been around since the days of MSDOS so I’ve never been a fan of too much graphic crap on a page anyway.

  19. Friendfeed is the solution to a problem I’ve never had. I found that being selective in who and where I follow/friend people was a better way to go than to try and cram everything into one catch-all list the way FF does.

    As to the troll point, is Friendfeed really any worse than Youtube or Digg?

    1. I don’t think Friendfeed is worse, it gives us another type of communication. We can use Digg for sharing our bookmars, Youtube for videos and Friendfeed for thougs or texts

  20. All the social media sites have value because they each cater to a specific audience or medium point blank, if you had to meet your customers at their favorite hot dog to get their business, would you do it? Yes, if you wanted their business, of course you would! I find friendfeed.com has excellent real time discussion services, search capabilities and unique ways to communicate with small to large groups. You can take a group talk directly from twitter’s 140 character rule nonsense, bounce them directly on to ff without that group even missing a beat. IF you selling, even better, if you informing, even better, if you marketing, even better, just go folks!

    If you have information, then by all means all should use friendfeed, if you are just talking to friends and a select group then FF might not be for you, however it’s automatic and does not require any real maintenace, on average, I have about 10 people weekly signed up to read my blog about real estate and other news, so it’s a easy call for me since I’ll meet my clients at their favorite hot dog stand to get their business.

    How you use social media or FF is really about how flexible you want to be to meet the “marketplace” not your ego of where you want to spend your time. Most entprepreuers look at this as marketing, Marketing is war, you do what it takes to win the battle versus arguing about what color is your uniforms, just win the marketing battle, distribute your info, it’s free for now!

    Jonathan

  21. i’ll tell you when comedy ensued… comedy ensued when i tried to click on your ‘comedy ensued’ link… that’s when comedy ensued…

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