FriendFeed is a Tool, Use It However You Want

Obviously, people like lists. The problem is that if people do not end up on the list they get upset. This week’s installment of “you forgot about me!” is started by Robert Scoble. He posted a list of “tech” people that he considered the most interesting on FriendFeed. I know I complained at first as a poor attempt at humor because I was not on the list, but also because he was taking recommendations. As expected, there was an interesting discussion about this on FriendFeed. The important thing to note is how Robert is using FriendFeed. Some people are using it more as a conversation destination, Robert has a different primary purpose:

By the way, I don’t care about participation that much. I use FriendFeed as an aggregator first, community tool second. So, if someone is bringing great content in here (like TechCrunch, who is my #1 most “Liked” feed) then I’m perfectly happy recommending that feed to others, even if he/she doesn’t participate here.

Don’t Hate The List

After some of the backlash died down, people started looking at lists themselves. Kyle Lacy has a really good post on the dilemma of using FriendFeed lists. First, they take time to manage. Given the problems with Scoble’s list, there will also be complaints about what list someone put you in. Kyle even quotes Shel Israel who does not like putting people into categories or boxes.

Another wonderful thread on FriendFeed comes from Rah(sheen). He shared his requirements for subscribing to someone. Was his “activity bar” too high? I do not know and I do not care. However, several people voiced their displeasure and someone went so far as to block him.

U Wanna Be My Friend?

Because FriendFeed has a social component in its subcribers and subscriptions, people need to “friend” or connect with one another. This is standard protocol for any “social” application. The problem is that people take the friending very personally. Maybe this stems from the difficulty of getting onto Scoble’s list or maybe they just need a hug. However, in social applications, friending is serious business and sometimes considered the “currency” of social media. Cranky old man Steven Hodson had a terrific rant regarding the lengths that people go to get you to friend them. He does make a very good point towards the end:

I have written previously about how I feel that just because a person has friended me I shouldn’t be forced to feel obligated to friend them back. They might not have interests that even come close to things that I find interesting.

Of course, Mr. Hodson did not complain just for the sake of complaining. Besides the reaction to Scoble’s list, another blog post riled him up. Mark O’Neill at has a post stating that FriendFeed is all about friends who reciprocate. The post is best summarized by the following:

if you subscribe to someone and they don’t return the favour, that isn’t networking, that’s just being downright rude.   It’s like standing in the middle of a street and talking to a brick wall.

I can not disagree more. Someone who does not reciprocate a “friend” request is basically saying either I do not know you or I am not willing to “connect” because I do not know anything about you. Call me crazy, but I am OK with people who do not automatically reciprocate.

Do Not Tell Me What To Do!

The real problem here is that people are trying to tell me how to use a tool. Social networks are applications that allow you to connect with people. Even Facebook states that you should actually know the person before friending them. If you choose to friend people you know about or reciprocate a friend request even when you do not know the person, that is your choice. These social applications, and many online applications in general, do just that. They give you choices. They give you various options. They allow you to use a tool in any qay you see fit.

As I previously related, Scoble uses FriendFeed as an aggregator. So in his tech people list, there are plenty of people who are not “active” on FriendFeed. For him, that is not the point, regardless of how active he is. He is looking for information and the conversations that follow. Rahsheen only wants to subscribe to people who are active on FriendFeed. He is looking more for the community aspects of FriendFeed. if you just share your Diggs and StumbleUpon bookmarks, you are not part of the community. Rahsheen wants you to like stuff and comment on various shares. Personally, I am somewhere in between. I am mostly looking for information, but I do subscribe to active FriendFeeders who are not tech heavy. The reason is that I believe anyone may find that nugget of gold you were looking for that day.

In the end, FriendFeed is a tool. They are not telling us we need to use it a particular way. If the owners do not tell us, please do not try to force some methodology on me. Unless a tool has a very specific purpose, it is open to interpretation. Use the tool however you want. If you do not make my “newsies” list or my “bloggers” list, do not feel bad. I look at all of my lists. However, if you start telling me I am using it wrong, I will get angry because it works for me. As much as it pains me, I might just unsubscribe as well.

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9 thoughts on “FriendFeed is a Tool, Use It However You Want

  1. Great post! I’ve been saying the same thing since I started using FriendFeed, everyone will get what they want out of it. My experience is and will be completely different from the next person.


  2. What a great post. This list thing has been on my mind,probably because everyones talking about it. I’m just glad you put everthing into perspective so well. Thanks! I knew Robert had his reasons for what he was doing, and to be honest, I didn’t really care enough to find out why. I did read the list and congratulate those who I know on it. The bottom line is that I’m really enjoying my time on friendfeed, and regardless of other peoples lists, I intend to continue doing my thing. Should I ever have a fraction of followers that Robert has, I think I’ll understand his course of action much better. I’m not even close to having to think about it.


  3. @Steven, I would not call your post fodder. It definitely highlighted one of the problems with social networking.

    @Justin, thanks for reading. People have a tendency to think there is a “right” way. I have been guilty of it as well. I am trying to avoid doing it again.

    @Michael, thanks for the praise. The FriendFeed lists give a lot of power, the downside being that people may see what list they are in. I am in someone’s “glance” list. That is fine with me.


  4. I found this post via Kyle Lacy’s friend feed. It’s stupid and self promoting to assume that everyone you are interested in will be interested in you. It’s not like talking to a brick wall, it’s like talking to someone you’ve never met and really creeping them out. If you want to be genuine with social media, do it because you like it and it makes you happy, not to force your agenda down everyone else’s throat. Right on!!!


  5. @Franklin, your post was 2 months ago, that is like 5 years in social media 🙂 “Long live the user!” I love it.

    @Colin, thanks for reading and I hope you stay a while. I absolutely agree with the “creepiness” of some of this social networking stuff. Cyber-stalking must be ridiculously easy now.


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