Tag Archives: FriendFeed

Why I Am Ignoring Google Buzz

Note: This post is purely personal opinion based on my preferences and work style. If your are looking for an analysis of Google Buzz based on methodical primary research, abort now.

I have heard many people say that their email inbox is the mother of all social networks. For me, however, email is  the antithesis of a well-built, functioning social network, because it is a communication channel, not a collaboration enabler.

I value my social networks because I can work with members of those communities to get things done. When I worked at IBM, a very large company, my email inbox was more of a proxy for the organizational hierarchy than an instantiation of my social graph. Too much of my email activity was about low value (or value-less) communications and interactions imposed by command and control culture and systems. When I needed to communicate something up or down IBM’s or a project’s chain of command, I used email. When I needed to get something done, I contacted collaborators on Sametime (IBM’s instant messaging product), the phone, or BlueTwit (IBM’s internal-only, experimental microblogging system). In short, the contacts in my large corporation email address book were more reflective of the organizational structure than of my collaborative networks.

That is precisely why Google Buzz is a non-starter for me. The Google Contact list on which it is based does not represent my collaborative network, on which I rely to get work done. Very few of the people with whom I collaborate are represented, because I don’t interact with them via email. At least not often. A quick analysis of my Google Contacts list shows that Google Voice usage contributes more actionable, valuable additions to the list than does Gmail. My Gmail inbox is filled with communications, not action items, and most of them are low-value messages from application and service vendors whose tools I have downloaded or use online.

Google’s design of Buzz demonstrates ignorance of (or disregard for?) the reality that many social interactions happen outside of email. Had I wanted to use my Google Contacts list as a social network, I would have imported it into FriendFeed months ago. Strike One.

I just mentioned FriendFeed, which was my primary social network aggregator for several months. One of the reasons I backed away from heavy usage of FriendFeed was because it became little more than another interface to the Twitter stream. Yes, it is easy to inject updates from other sources into the FriendFeed flow, but, in reality, the vast majority of updates cam from Twitter (and still do.)

I see the same thing happening with Buzz. Too many people have linked their Twitter accounts, so that everything they tweet is duplicated in Buzz. And Buzz doesn’t allow for integration of the vast number of information resources that FriendFeed does. Talk about low-value. Strike Two.

I have not taken enough swings at Google Buzz yet to have recorded Strike Three. So, for now, I have not turned Buzz off. However, I am ignoring it and will not experiment again until Google provides integration with more external social networks.

In the meanwhile, I am still looking for a social tool that blends contacts and information streams from many sources, but lets me filter the flow by one or more sources, as desired. That would allow me to work both formal organizational and informal social networks from the same tool. Gist is promising in that regard, but needs to be able to capture information from more sources with corresponding filters. Hopefully, someone will read this post and either point me to an existing solution or build it. Until then, I will have to continue using multiple tools to communicate and collaborate.

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Why I Do Not Like the Acquisition of FriendFeed by Facebook

FaceFeedNote: The following post is not written in my usual role as an information management software industry analyst. Rather, it is made as just another user of social networking technology and a member of the FriendFeed community.

On December 26 1919, the Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable — they sold Babe Ruth to their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. The reaction to that transaction was profound and long-lasting (especially if you believed in The Curse.) In an instant, the game of baseball was changed forever.

A similar event occurred yesterday, when Facebook announced that it had acquired FriendFeed. To say that the two were arch-rivals is highly inaccurate. Facebook has over 250 million registered users while the FriendFeed community numbered just under 1 million. However, the immediate reaction by the majority of FriendFeed members appeared to be as passionate and anguished as those of Red Sox fans in 1919.

I learned of the acquisition just a few minutes after it had been announced, and my initial reaction was decidedly negative.

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I was not alone. An informal poll conducted by a FriendFeed member indicates that 76% of respondents did not like the Facebook + FriendFeed combination.

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Most of the comments I saw on FriendFeed communicated a sense of not just shock and disappointment, but of betrayal. How could the FriendFeed team sell out the community to Facebook?! Many FriendFeed members said that they had avoided Facebook intentionally and did not have an account on the service (myself included). Others indicated that they had Facebook accounts, but had let them fall inactive.

So why the strong negative reaction to the acquisition? I cannot speak for other FriendFeed members, but I can and will share my perspective:

  • FriendFeed has an open philosophy and design; Facebook locks everything down (requires membership and has granular privacy settings)
  • FriendFeed is an aggregator of content from other sites; Facebook is a walled garden
  • FriendFeed = early adopter technology community; Facebook = friends, family, and institutional colleagues
  • FriendFeed is about conversations; Facebook is about applications
  • FriendFeed has no ads and very little spam; Facebook is filled with spam and advertising
  • FriendFeed rapidly innovates new, requested functionality; Facebook has copied many of FriendFeed’s innovations

I can sum up my objections in a single sentence:

The eventual shutdown of FriendFeed will force me to move to a platform that has unwanted noise and features, is populated mostly by people that I don’t care to interact with online, and has an operating philosophy with which I don’t agree, assuming I want to join Facebook just to continue using the great functionality that was provided by FriendFeed.

I established a Facebook account shortly after hearing about their acquisition of FriendFeed, but I honestly don’t expect to use it. I simply thought I should grab the real estate while I still could. I think I will spend more time on Twitter and wait to see to which service the early adopter technology community eventually migrates.

Am I (and the vast majority of FriendFeed members) over-reacting? Or am I right to not plan to embrace Facebook just to continue using the great functionality that FriendFeed pioneered? Please let me know what you think and why.

Update: I found the video below just after I originally posted this entry. The video is a great parody of the reaction that many of us had to the news that FriendFeed had been bought by Facebook. I hope no one is offended by the main character.

The Migration of (Social) Species

MigratingWildebeestHerd

There has been much interest in, and discussion of, a report written by a 15 year old Morgan Stanley intern regarding the perceived lack of Twitter usage by teens. I saw a link on Twitter to an article about this topic first thing Monday morning, and it grabbed my attention for three reasons:

  1. I have a 15 year old son who doesn’t twitter (nor do his friends)
  2. the topic came up and was discussed in an unconference session at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference last month
  3. I had a discussion on this topic even more recently with some peers from the knowledge management community

After casually researching and thinking more about the topic, it is clear that there is evidence supporting the notion that teens have not embraced Twitter. To wit:

However, there is other evidence that suggests that teens are beginning to use Twitter, but, perhaps, more slowly and differently than older users. Here are a couple of examples:

Either way, too many pundits are making sweeping generalizations about age and technology usage. I am not a firm believer in generational technology usage patterns, such as Gen Y is more likely to use social software than Baby Boomers, because I do not fit neatly into the pattern associated with my generation by advocates of those demographic patterns. I am a Boomer, but my online behavior is much more in sync with the Gen Y profile, if you buy into the common wisdom regarding generational differences.

So rather than continuing to look for root causes of generational differences in Twitter uptake, I decided to seek a common theme that cuts across the age demographic.  Here is what I found:

People register for, and use, the social networking service on which the most members of the their community/tribe/clique are located. They will continue to use that service, and disregard others, until the privacy of their group is compromised or the tribal signal begins to be drowned out by irrelevant noise. When either of those disruptions occurs, leaders of the group will migrate to a smaller (and usually newer) social networking service and the other members will eventually follow, abandoning the previously used service.

Evidence suggests that teens have lost the privacy that they enjoyed for so long on Facebook, now that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents of close friends, teachers, coaches, and so on have begun to dominate the service:

  • “Then Facebook became necessary for university life and keeping in touch with high school friends, which eventually progressed to my siblings, some aunts, cousins, girls from my soccer team, and random people I met at a party.” (Source: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/06/11/twitter_is_for.html)
  • “Just when all the grown ups started figuring out Facebook, college and high school users have declined in absolute number by 20% and 15% respectively in a mere six months, according to estimates Facebook provides to advertisers that were archived for tracking by an outside firm. Facebook users aged 55 and over have skyrocketed from under 1 million to nearly six million in the same time period. There are more Facebook users over 55 years old today than there are high school students using the site.” (Source: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebooks_own_estimates_show_youth_flight_from_sit.php)

Other evidence indicates that the signal to noise ratio has deteriorated to the point where teens can no longer use Facebook for focused communication:

However, the migratory behavior displayed by teens leaving Facebook and moving to Twitter is not exclusive to their age group:

Others see a parallel between this migratory behavior and the way terrorists and other activist groups use collaboration and communication tools:

  • “Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences.” (Source: Page 8 of http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/mobile.pdf)
  • “Oddly enough, this is quite similar to the way many (self-described) jihadists use Twitter. They make protected accounts & sub-accounts in mini-circles. Many don’t trust Twitter that much, and still use IM heavily, changing accounts frequently.” (Source: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/06/11/twitter_is_for.html).

In nature, herds of animals, flocks of birds, and schools of fish migrate from one habitat to another when certain specific conditions signal that it is time to move on. People appear to be no different, at least when it comes to social networking services. Age has little, if anything at all, to do with migratory behavior, whether the moving species is human, animal, bird, or fish.

Photo Credit: Angelo Juan Ramos (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wandering_angel/)

Social Software: The Unemployed Knowledge Worker’s Best Friend

layoff-headlineReading headline after headline announcing new job cuts has sparked some thought regarding what’s different between this nascent recession and the last economic slowdown of the early 1990s.  Several things, to be sure, but the most important one may be the ability of the unemployed knowledge worker to connect with others to mine employment and new business opportunities.

I predict that we will remember the the 2008-2009 recession as the time when the public availability of free social software proved to be the unemployed knowledge worker’s best friend and savior.  And, perhaps, the global economy’s as well.

When I was laid off in 2003, after the Internet bubble burst, I had several tools with which to stay connected with my professional and social networks.  Telephone and e-mail were the primary communication vehicles, of course.  Instant messaging wasn’t as pervasive then as it is today, but I used it to stay in touch with a few people in my network.  The best method to network was — and still is — by meeting with someone face-to-face.  In fact, it was an in-person conversation that triggered the chain of events that lead to my employment at IBM in 2004.

Knowledge workers in this economic downturn have all of those tools available, plus several more.  Online profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace), blogs, microstreaming (Twitter, FriendFeed), content sharing (GoogleDocs, Box.net), bookmarking (Del.icio.us, Digg), and other species of social software have greatly increased our ability to stay connected and work with others in our professional and social networks.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, we rely less and less on employers to provide the communication and collaboration tools needed to connect and work with others.  That’s great news for those who have, or are about to, become unemployed!  Knowledge workers in 2008 have so many more ways to mine their contacts to find regular or contract employment compared to those who lost jobs five years ago.  The ability of unemployed knowledge workers to explore business ideas and start new ventures has also been increased by the public availability of free social software.

I am optimistic that the current recession, as painful as it will be, will breed the kinds of opportunities that will leave all of us better off in the long run.  There is one caveat to my optimistic outlook though.  If you haven’t been maintaining and building your professional and social networks all along, your ability to leverage them to find employment or start a business will be very limited.  It’s not too late to start building networks now via social software, but don’t expect to harvest immediately from a plot that you’ve just sown.