Overnight Success And FriendFeed Needs

It was an interesting weekend with the Twitter phishing and hacking and the FriendFeed bitchmeme. I was trying to avoid getting involved until I read Paul Buchheit’s post. First, I want to point out something that is very important. As he states in the title of his post, “Overnight success takes a long time”. I do not remember any website or software program that was an instant success. In most cases, the product had been around for a while before it really gets widespread adoption. Paul says it a little better:

This notion of overnight success is very misleading, and rather harmful. If you’re starting something new, expect a long journey. That’s no excuse to move slow though. To the contrary, you must move very fast, otherwise you will never arrive, because it’s a long journey!

We have gotten used to hearing about companies and their products at the launch. We have even gotten used to hearing about many of these products months before a public beta. In some cases, these products are not anywhere near ready for public use, but when they get launched we have started to make judgments on the first day. In those early days we should remember to focus on the potential of the application, not the current state unless the current state is ridiculously bad. So, give startups a while to grow into something before writing them off. With this in mind, Paul asked people to make comments on what they want changed or added to FriendFeed:

If you’d like to contribute (and I hope you do), I’d love to read more of your visions of “the perfect FriendFeed”. Describe what would make FriendFeed perfect for YOU, and post it on your blog.

Like everyone else, I have an opinion. I am also a FriendFeed addict, so I have some things I would like to see. First, I want to comment on what Louis Gray requested.

User Interface Issues

Louis mentions a few items regarding how hard it is to get into FriendFeed.

  • FriendFeed Must Have a Lite Version for New Users
  • FriendFeed Should Help to Get New Users Engaged More Quickly
  • FriendFeed Should Deliver A Desktop Application and iPhone App

I think a lite version would be a mistake, as it would dilute the value of FriendFeed. However, there is a very good point that is raised. The current user interface is difficult to use for new users. For experienced users, they have already gotten used to the existing minimalist UI. Some of the improvements could be as simple as better grouping of the same item. The little arrow to expand the other items is good, but a better visual cue may be needed. In addition to that, the comments need to be expandable and collapsible on demand. By having the comments collapsed by default with text similar to “10 comments on this item”, users could expand the comments if they want to view them. This may take something away from the experience, but it would remove some of the clutter that tends to be on the page.

The desktop and iPhone applications would be a good idea once the general UI issues are resolved. Those types of applications would allow for further adoption as well.

Marketing and Business Development

The other major group of items from Louis were related to marketing the application.

  • FriendFeed Must Have a Sense of Urgency
  • FriendFeed Should Help You Find Your Real Friends Better
  • FriendFeed Must Be Doing Outreach and Communication With Inactive Users
  • FriendFeed Needs to Better Define What It Is and How People Use It

FriendFeed has a marketing problem. More specifically, it has a lack of marketing. The FriendFeed team is very helpful when asked, but they have not been heavily promoting their site. Most of the promotion has come from users like myself, Louis and Robert Scoble. What they need is someone to really work with the community. They need someone who will write the tutorials on good ways to use the hide feature or cool ways to use lists and rooms. Currently, all of this information is coming from the users. To make their job easier, they probably could just take examples from the user community and write a tutorial on those uses. Self promotion is not a bad thing if it is done tastefully and at a normal pace (there is no need to spam people).

Stuff I Still Want

I had a post regarding FriendFeed fixes I do not want to beg for. Thankfully, some of those fixes were added and made my life much happier. However, some of those were ignored. So I will try again.

  • Language Filters – Please, please, please give me language filters. There are several people that have half their content in a different language. I do not want to see that content, but I do not want to lose the English-language content either.
  • No page reloading when subscribing – I find this really annoying because I tend to be reading something and subscribe to someone who said something interesting. However, if the page refreshes, sometimes the post is old enough to scroll off to the next page. In other cases, the order of the items on the page changes so I have to hunt for what I was just reading. So, can you just spawn an ajax request and throw a message at the top of the page? That shouldn’t be too hard right?
  • More options on the shares and comments – There are a few things I would like added. First, I want favorites. Likes are good, but favorites would be a way to “bookmark” something. Favorites should be applied to shares as well as comments. We also need to “like” comments. Basically, sometimes the actual post is not that interesting, but there is a comment that is worth sharing. A “like” or a “kudos” or something would be a really cool addition. Comment threading would be a nice addition, as some of the conversations get lengthy and it can be difficult to determine who a person was replying to. Lastly, knowing where the comment was sent (i.e. Twitter) would be helpful. I am assuming that the “reply using Twitter” function will be replicated for other services at some point, and knowing that the reply was sent to another service would be good to know.
  • [UPDATE] From commenter Kathleen Anderson – I would like to see the posts I make to rooms appear in my feed when I click β€œMe”.

That last bucket is a bit big, but it is a bunch of little items all around the post or comment. Thankfully, this is all I have at this point. The main reason my list is “short” is because my biggest wishes (lists, grouping duplicates and hiding a specific feed for a user) have already been completed. Is there anything that you would like to see? Let me know and if I like it I will add to my list above or forward it to the FriendFeed team.

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13 thoughts on “Overnight Success And FriendFeed Needs

  1. Robert

    Thanks for reading, and I am glad you like the list. I am not sure if FriendFeed will get a “track” feature directly. The real-time updates give you a lot of ability to do something like it already with searches and private rooms. I believe you mentioned you had an ego search like that setup already, and that may be as close as we get.


  2. Remember the phrase, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”?

    That’s no doubt what we’re all doing. Looks like nobody except me likes the idea of a “lite” FriendFeed. It’s getting slammed from East Coast to West Coast to Canada and Australia, so far as I can tell. πŸ™‚

    The FriendFeed team debuted some great features I would not have predicted. That’s what they’re good at. My major concerns, as repeated elsewhere, is that many people tried it, didn’t like it, and haven’t come back. My goal was to find out what pushed them away, and what could be done to pull them back in.

    Practically the whole post was about focusing on new users, not the core like you, me and that Robert guy, whatever his name is.


  3. Louis,
    Blogging allows us to express our opinions on something. As you said, together we could come up with a camel. However, if there are just one or two good ideas from users that the FriendFeed team likes, then we have helped.

    Regarding the “lite” version, it sparked conversation because of what you were trying to say. I try to focus on what the real problem is, the UI is too minimalist for the amount of information presented to new users. I also like baby steps, so that people do not get shocked too often. You brought up a solution, which at least means you are thinking about the problem. I also wanted to be careful about what we request, you may just get it πŸ™‚


  4. Great list. The main one for me is knowing where a comment is coming from. I usually reply to myself when someone responds to a Tweet of mine, but he/she didn’t.

    I don’t see it on your list, but another one is filtering by service. I know there is a GreaseMonkey script that does this, but when I am on Safari or Chrome, it doesn’t really help me. It’d be great if it were within FF.

    A new FF FeedFlare. I see there use to be one, but it has been deleted. =(

    Great post!


  5. Shevonne,

    I have looked at filtering by service at times, and sometimes I think it is a good idea, others not as much. When I went to using lists, I eliminated most of the need for that type of filtering. Also, I believe someone has gotten greasemonkey to run on chrome, but I don’t remember where I saw that.


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