One of the aspects I love most about being online is the spirit of community that comes across in conversations - even as we talk with perfect strangers. There are plenty of strangers in my FriendFeed - mostly friends of either Robert Scoble or Mariela de Marchi (on the other side of the pond). Both Scoble and de Marchi are curious and interested and so are their friends. And that is good for me.
I am contradicting a point I listed a long time ago, one that got Stephen Baker's attention at Business Week. Sales as pull-only has its allure, but as Baker pointed out, loosening our reins to receiving more than we ask for does expand our network of friends and knowledge. This is why I am starting to enjoy the opportunities of FriendFeed.
The concept of FriendFeed is quite simple. You add disparate accounts across blogs and social networking services, and Friendfeed aggregates them so your friends can follow what you’re doing. The interface is clean, and using it is easy. The new design allows you to separate your various subscriptions into groups. The new feature launched in mid September with a most requested addition - detection of duplicates, or related stories.
If conversations are fragmented, then a smarter aggregator, one that shows what people (and their friends) are working on in a threaded format, can help you keep track better. If you were to be looking to track certain conversations or detect patterns and pockets of interest, this is the tool to see that. I should point out that the majority (but not all) of what comes through FriendFeed consists of tweets, some of them with additional comments made directly inside FriendFeed.
While for many the jury is still out on what is so special about FriendFeed, there are three reasons why I find it useful and relevant (and this is valid of individual use and company use):
(1) It provides a 360 view of someone's online activity. Because it is designed to aggregate feeds from different tools - for example, Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, Google Reader, blogs RSS, Digg and Stumble Upon activity, etc. - you get a better feel of someone's social media imprint, tone, voice, attitude, including yours. What is the sum total of those impressions?
On the company side, it gives you the opportunity to see people respond to the conversation in real time. A recent example of that interaction is the Pepsi Cooler, a room Pepsi started upon the launch of their product's new logo.
The room provided a place for those who were curious as to the selection criteria of the initial group of bloggers for the outreach to make themselves heard, as an example. With the use of hash tags and the ability to see comments in aggregate, the Pepsi team is able to gage interest and the temperature of the conversation. FriendFeed entries run fairly high on Google searches as well - and the tool is free. Think about that.
(2) It shines a light over international discussions. While I have many Italian, Belgian, Australian and French professionals in my Twitter stream, their activity is drowned by the sheer volume of American chatter. Ever since I have been paying more attention to FriendFeed, I've been able to see the activities and conversations of my Italian network, for example, which makes very good use of the tool. Images, reports, and discussions all neatly captured in threads that on the Twitter surface would seem unrelated and disjointed.
I am biased, so I say that upfront. Italians know how to do conversation and they have a really nice network of friends of friends. From my USA colleagues there are only a couple who stand out for their network, Robert Scoble (link above) and Louis Gray.
Now imagine being able to see what the friends of friends like and say in the context of a product or service.
(3) It's full of surprises. A friend of a friend may post something quite interesting that I would never in a million years have thought of looking for and there is more than one dimension that is beyond broadcasting. For some reason it reminds me of conversations you strike when on a train in Italy or as you wait in line at a store - casual can mean interesting. If a thread strikes a chord, it will keep bubbling up in the stream, intact for you to catch up on hours later.
FriendFeed seems to be mostly about discovering and discussing content. I have seen some of my posts shared on Google Reader and "liked" - feedback I would have not otherwise had. Likewise, I have found it easier to share links to favorites with my comments from a variety of feeds.
Because the model allows you to see the activity of friends of friends, you have the ability to meet new people constantly, especially if your friends are Scoble and de Marchi. I have been gravitating more towards FriendFeed as of late. The pace is not as frantic as that of Twitter, and the conversations that are getting attention remain there for me to catch up with later in the day.
Do you use FriendFeed? What makes it worthwhile for you? If not, why aren't you?