The Great Experiment: Integrating FriendFeed With Twitter

I've been playing around with a new FriendFeed feature that lets you copy all your FriendFeed posts to your Twitter account. I think I like it so far, although it's also possible that it will result in the complete destruction of the space/time continuum. Or, even worse, overwhelming Twitter with a lot of noise.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

November 3, 2008

7 Min Read

I've been playing around with a new FriendFeed feature that lets you copy all your FriendFeed posts to your Twitter account. I think I like it so far, although it's also possible that it will result in the complete destruction of the space/time continuum. Or, even worse, overwhelming Twitter with a lot of noise.Integrating FriendFeed and Twitter is a complete reversal of one of my fundamental principles of how to use Twitter effectively: Don't post a lot of links in your personal account. Now, with FriendFeed integration, that's exactly what I'm doing.

So far, the results have been positive. I haven't had any complaints. I'm down two Twitter followers, but I think that's just statistical noise. And, most important of all, I'm getting some good responses to my Twitter posts that originate on FriendFeed.

But the experiment is still a work in progress.

What Is FriendFeed, Anyway?

FriendFeed is an aggregator for your activity on other social networking services, including blogs, YouTube, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Flickr and 40 others. You point FriendFeed to your accounts on those services, and FriendFeed produces a constant stream of all your activity. Other FriendFeed users can subscribe to your stream, and comment on it, and you can do the same on theirs.

I got started on FriendFeed in April, and wrote an overview. This is my FriendFeed stream, and this is the InformationWeek room, where you can read InformationWeek headlines and discuss technology issues with other members of the InformationWeek community.

I have mixed feelings about FriendFeed.

On the plus side, FriendFeed provides something that social networking addicts and power-users want: A single place for aggregating all their activity on all social networks. One place for all your contacts to find you. And I like the conversation and community.

On the downside, I don't think FriendFeed is fulfilling its potential. The community feels much smaller than Twitter, and I don't feel like I'm making the same quality of connections as I've made on Twitter. The InformationWeek room on FriendFeed hasn't been a smashing success; so far it has four (count 'em, four) members, and that includes me.

It's possible that FriendFeed is too much of a niche product to achieve the kind of appeal that Twitter has. It's also possible that FriendFeed is still in its early days; give it more time and it might become insanely huge and vibrant.

A third possibility, of course, is that I'm just bad at FriendFeed -- that I'm doing it wrong.

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More animals.

When FriendFeed announced its new ability to share FriendFeed activity on Twitter, I had misgivings. Twitter, I thought, is primarily a conversational medium, and I don't want to clutter up my feed with a whole lot of bot-generated links. Nor do I want my friends doing that.

On the other hand: If I think something is worth sharing with some of my social networking friends on FriendFeed, why not with my Twitter friends, too? So I decided to give FriendFeed-to-Twitter integration a try.

First, I set it up by going to the "Account" page on FriendFeed. Then I checked off "Feed Publishing:"

FriendFeed - Account Settings

Quite a few options here:

FriendFeed - Account Settings

You can select which services you want to share on Twitter. Since I took that screenshot, I've fiddled with the settings a bit: I'm now sharing all the entries I post to my own feed, plus entries from Amazon.com, delicious, Disqus, Facebook, Flickr, Goodreads, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Ma.gnolia, Netflix, Yelp, and YouTube. Note that, while I have accounts on all those services, I'm not actually active on all of them. I'm not sharing my personal blog posts or InformationWeek blogs and articles because I already have separate feeds to direct those to Twitter. I'm not sharing comments I make on public feed entries, because I think those comments are of little value out of context. And I'm not sharing posts to public rooms because ... well, just because.

My colleague David Berlind asked me on Twitter why I'm using FriendFeed/Twitter integration, when Yahoo Pipes does the same thing. But I've found Yahoo Pipes/Twitter integration to be flaky, so much so that I've abandoned it. And FriendFeed is easier to set up than Yahoo Pipes is.

So far, my Twitter friends seem to like the integration with FriendFeed. I got one nice response to one of my posts, and nobody's unsubscribed from my feeds. But FriendFeed/Twitter integration isn't universally loved. We'll see how it goes.

I've noticed a couple of quirks and shortcomings with the integration.

The feed doesn't seem to send "likes." On FriendFeed, if you approve of a post on someone else's feed, and want to bring it to the attention of your own FriendFeed friends, you can click a "like" link, and it shows up in your FriendFeed stream.

FriendFeed

I think I might like it if those "likes" became part of my Twitter stream. Currently they don't. On the other hand, the fact that they don't pass through to Twitter gives me a finer level of control over what goes into Twitter.

Another potential problem: The links in your Twitter stream go back to your FriendFeed entry, not the original item you shared. That's two clicks for your Twitter friends, where often only one is necessary. FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor said they're planning to change that behavior to a user-configurable option, following a complaint on FriendFeed by user Gregory Lent.

Something to watch out for: Be careful with the titles you give your FriendFeed items if you're sharing them with Twitter. They should be catchy, informative, and make your Twitter friends want to click through. "Weird,creepy clown photos" would have been a better title for this post.

Also, the options menu for setting up the FriendFeed-Twitter integration includes a checkbox to share your Twitter items. Share Twitter items... on Twitter? What's up with that?

FriendFeed - Account Settings

I suspect that option means that the FriendFeed management is considering sharing FriendFeed with other services. I asked FriendFeed about that (I posed the question in the FriendFeed feedback room, which made me feel all tingly and Web 2.0), and company co-founder Bret Taylor responded: "[W]e certainly hope to integrate with other services in the future, but we don't have a specific timeline right now."

Co-founder Paul Buchheit elaborated in a private e-mail, noting that FriendFeed expanded its Facebook integration earlier this week, and also integrates with iGoogle, blogs, and other Web pages via widgets, and supports RSS readers readers. And the company announced SUP in August, a protocol for making feed integration faster and more efficient. Buchheit added:

I guess that's the long way of saying that we're all about integration :). We're definitely planning to continue improving and extending our service integration -- we've always believed that FriendFeed should be available wherever our users want it and in whatever form they want it. We'll probably launch another FriendFeed access option next week (though I can't say for sure since it's not quite ready yet).

I started covering Web business back in the '90s, the days of Web 1.0, when business was all about "walled gardens" and trying to make it hard for your users to move content to other sites. Even after years of Web 2.0, I'm still pleasantly surprised to see services, like FriendFeed, that actively encourage users to go elsewhere.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

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