Statistics on Friendfeed usage provide interesting insights

A small update: I just saw a post of Justin Smith (Inside Facebook)  interviewing Bret Taylor (co-founder of Friendfeed) about the difference between the Facebook and Friendfeed newsfeed. I don’t usually add links afterwards, but this one fits really well. I guess they hadn’t read this post yet ;-)

A few days ago I wrote a post in which I explained that I wasn’t as enthousiastic as most bloggers seem to be about the social network aggregator Friendfeed. My reason for this is simple. If actions of users are shared with others without intent, that is the person performing the action is intentionally sharing, the content that gets shared is usually less valueable.

I have been thinking about that some more the past few days and decided to digg into this a little deeper. I’ll show you some statistics about Friendfeed in a minute, but first some Facebook.

Today I went to my Facebook profile (which I rarely use, but that is the topic of yet another post), and looked at my “newsfeed” there. Here is an example of a typical newsfeed of mine (I erased personal details from friends).

My Facebook newsfeed

I just found out from a computer, not from my friends, that someone is playing a game, someone added another application, someone changed a profile picture, etc. etc. I also get informed by Facebook about some top networks I should be on. None of these items were intentionally shared by my friends and in my personal opinion none of the items provide me any value. Is this because I have the wrong friends. I doubt it. The problem for me is that the wrong information is shared. Social networks aren’t interesting because I can track down every (mostly dull) action a friend is taking. Social networks are interesting because they should allow people to interact. That is, to intentionally reach out to each other to share stuff, communicate, play, have fun etc. That is what makes it social. What we see here is an Orwellian report about activities that the actor doesn’t even know it is being shared, and to me as a receiver it is of no interest. It’s Big Brother watching you, but it doesn’t provide anyone value. Not even the Big briother (in this case Facebook). They are data hoggers, and collect all these actions to get a grip on user profiles and social graphs. For advertisement purposes. Well, it’s great to know that my friend plays Scrabble. I can see the advertisers getting all excited about that already. I’m not interested to read “Alexander went to Amazon to buy book X”. I’m interested in “He John, I just bought book X. It’s about Y and I am sure you would like it too”. The first one is non-intentional, the second one is a conscious act of sharing which adds way more value.

Back to Friendfeed. I looked at some statistics about Friendfeed usage. What are the top feeds being shared on Friendfeed, according to Friendfeed stat?

  • Twitter
  • Blogs
  • Google Reader
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube

The actual order can’t be determined right now due to some limitations in the Google App Engine on which Friendfeed stats is build, but Twitter seems to take the lead by more than 50%. Here are a few items that surprisingly aren’t shared very often:

  • Friendfeed ?
  • Picasa web albums
  • Vimeo
  • Disqus
  • Flickr (it’s in the top ten, but still pretty low in my opinion)

I looked up a few Friendfeed “power users”. Robert Scoble manages to produce 96% input from Twitter and 4% from his blog. Louis Gray produces 71% input from Google reader, 14% Twitter and 7% Flickr. Steve Hodson produces 50% from his blog, 33%(!) from Disqus, and 17% from Twitter.

What can we learn from this by no means statistical sound analysis? Friendfeed is mostly an echo chamber of stuff we already have and know elsewhere. The stuff that gets shared most is Twitter, and right after that the blogs people post and share. I can easily find examples of a blog post being shared by 5-10 different people, thus producing the echo I’m talking about.In my previous post some folks noted that they liked being able to comment stuff on Friendfeed. I couldn’t find statistics on that yet (I hope that will get implemented soon). But the reason why people like that is pretty obvious. Social anything is about interaction. It is what makes us all tick. Not the sharing, but the possibility to communicate.

I said earlier that the stuff we all produce in Friendfeed is less valuable because there is no intent or conscious act when things get shared. Looking at the statistics above I now believe that Friendfeed is nothing more than a techie bloggers echo chamber. It could vastly be improved if either Friendfeed or some API builder would produce a page with statistics about what is being shared most right now. Instead of seaing all the duplicate shares I would like to see that the tech community is sharing a specific post N times. The same thing goes for comments. Which shared items get the most comments. That will show us what people are talking about most. With these additions Friendfeed might replace TechMeme as it not only shows the important blog posts, but also allows us to interact on them. It will certainly become a powerful traffic driver for bloggers. These things don’t make Friendfeed less useful (I will be using it sometimes), it just means that the branding of Friendfeed should be changed.

But at the same time I believe that in its current form Friendfeed will not penetrate the consumer (or non-tech) market successfully. People aren’t really interested in the non-conscious, non-intentional sharing of actions. Who cares? Just look at the stuff Facebook produces in its newsfeed. It might have been be called novel when it first arrived, but it sucks. People want to interact. And Friendfeed in its current form produces way too much non-valuable stuff for consumers to be able to interact. That’s probably why Twitter is so popular, even on Friendfeed ;-)

I’m interested in hearing what you think about this. Is Friendfeed just a bloggers wet dream or not? Does it provide you value, even if most of the stuff that gets shared is non-intentional? Let me knwo what you think about all of this.

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10 Responses to Statistics on Friendfeed usage provide interesting insights

  1. logan says:

    Alexander – I agree about both Facebook and Friendfeed. BlogRize seems to be addressing this more intelligently. I think there are multiple elements that will give people relevant content while preserving the water cooler effect: ranking based on explicit and implicit popularity, ranking based on individual preferences, virtual commenting systems like Disqus, etc.

  2. Pingback: FriendFeed Stats Insights | FriendFeed Watch

  3. Wait for DNS to propagate and you won’t be pointing to the Google App Engine version; instead you’ll hit my server which shows 100% accurate information. This sort of app just doesn’t work on Google App Engine.

  4. Pingback: FriendFeed is about intention : The Last Podcast

  5. Pingback: News und Wissenswertes vom 10. April 2008

  6. quirkyalone says:

    First, I would disagree with the claim that the sharing on Friendfeed is unintentional…I think is not, since everyone intentionally add feeds to it’s account to be shared. It’s the very same principle Twitter uses. You may say that the sharing in not personalized, though.

    For me, the value is mostly in the Search capability on FF

  7. @logan, I haven’t seen blogrize yet, but it sounds interesting to try it out.
    @benjamin, just copied your disclaimer over here. I think you did a great job already with your Friendfeed stats site :-)
    @quirkyalone The adding of a feed is intentional. But after you have added 5-10 feeds and are a few weeks further in time. Do you still think about sharing a blog post or photo intentionally with your Friendfeed friends? I doubt that would be the case in every instance. More likely people will tend to forget the stream is continuously feeding Friendfeed. This effect is obviously less likely when you have created content yourself, like writing a blog post. You want that to be noticed among friends. I agree with you that search on FF is an important feature ;-)

  8. n8k99 says:

    good post delineating the echo effect on friendfeed and the dismal news propagated by facebook. i also agree that social implies interaction that is more than just sharing. i think you did clearly explain one of my desires for friendfeed quite well, that the links that get shared not be repeated everytime someone shares it.

    i am using the greasemonkey script that removes any link that i have visited from the feed but if this script could be altered to group all the people in my friendfeed that shared the same link, i’d find that to tons more valuable.

    i do think that people adding services to their friendfeed, means that they intend to share the data from those services, so i do disagree with that portion of your argument.

  9. Tarun Saigal says:

    Alex I tend to agree with quirky – after all you have chosen to add the feed, intentionally, then I , who may value your ramblings, pictures or whatever you do in a multi faceted web, get the ability to have the hook onto it. Further, having done that with a few shale we say “like minded” people, I can then go & search as well if I want a deep dive. I kind of like that – to me its a nice tool to use that enhances the value of the narrow window of time I get from my day job – to find “stuff” I like reading / knowing about, from people whose thoughts I value ….simple.

  10. @Tarun, that is fine of course. FF does provide a good service. Personally, I have added very few feeds of my own, but still noticed after a while I “forgot” that FF shares my Google reader posts for example. Sometimes I intentionally want to share that, but sometimes I log it for myself as a backup.

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