The New FriendFeed: Moving the Cheese in Real Time

Lots of people still hoarse from crying about the new Facebook design got another punch in the pocket protector today when everyone’s third favorite place to bleat at lots of other nerdly dudes and a few nerdly women, FriendFeed, unveiled a new design.  Since I didn’t like Facebook even before the new design, I skipped that whole brouhaha.

While I’m not a member of the migrating, new social network site of the day, let’s speak in massive hyperbole so regular people will laugh at us crowd, I have been a regular, and generally happy, FriendFeed user.  I think it provides a nice way to aggregate content in a central place for easy access.  I think it is a huge mistake from a content control and personal branding perspective to use any social network as the springboard for (and thus beneficiary if not owner of) your content, but I do believe it makes sense to push your content to various places where prospective readers may dwell.  So while Newsome.Org will always be the hub of my online life, services like Twitter and FriendFeed have a place in my online toolbox.

Roll Call

First, we’ll see what some folks whose opinion I value have to say about the new FriendFeed.  Then we’ll take a look for ourselves.

Louis Gray (I remember him when he was a pup; now he’s a virtual mastiff of tech blogging) likes the way the developers focus on the interface and listen to user feedback.  He also has some ideas for further improvement.

Robert Scoble has a quick list of what he likes, and follows up with some tips for swimming in the new real time river.  Based on my experience tonight, I agree with this:  “if you’ve followed more than about 400 people, your feed will probably move too fast.”  I only follow 111 people, and at times the real time river looked like end of movie credits in fast forward.

Thomas Hawk (the photographer/blogger, not those birds they mentioned in the best science fiction series ever) has the best and most effusive review I have seen so far.  He likes the new FriendFeed more than Steve Rubel likes Gmail.  Which is more than most people ever like anything.

Mike Arrington risks more spittle by staring at the bandwagon without jumping on.  Let’s get serious for a moment.  No one in the real world has ever heard of FriendFeed.  Everyone at every LARP convention in the world has.  It all depends on which end of the elephant you are talking about.  As much as I hate to do it, I agree with Mike that FriendFeed is not going to slow Twitter’s momentum.  Twitter will do that itself by being slow and crash-prone.

ReadWriteWeb took a break from talking endlessly about the “semantic web” to wonder if the new interface is really the path to mainstream (e.g., people who have never played WOW) acceptance.

Hutch Carpenter says that the new design is taking aim at Facebook.  Hilarious, yes.  But ever since David metaphorically slayed the giant, every little thing has to be the killer of some big thing.

Taking a Look (Updated- see below)

So let’s go see what the hubbub is all about.

Here’s the right screencap, this time.

So far, this looks the same.  But over at the top right hand side of the page is a new option of “Real-Time.”  The new page has a cleaner, more stylish look.  You can’t tell from this screencap, but the entries scroll, supposedly in near real-time, with new entries appearing at the top of the list.  At one point, the new entries were moving so fast I couldn’t read them if I’d wanted to.  Note the pause button to stop things as needed to read or reply.

Image (3) ff321.jpg for post 3662Navigation is at least somewhat more intuitive via the right hand column, which has settings, filters to selectively display data, subscriptions and some additional tools (see screencap below).

The filters allow you to choose what information appears in the main window.  “My discussions” is helpful if you want to see things you have posted, or to follow up on comments you have made.  Best of all, you can create and save custom filters to help you categorize and access particular types of information and/or users.  I created a filter to mine for people discussing alternative country music.  Right away I found some information that I would not have otherwise seen, including a post about an alt. country band from my home state, and one about the talented Neko Case.

imageMy nifty alt. country filter

Initially, I noticed one little problem.  There was a lag of around 20 minutes between the time a tweet was posted on Twitter and the time it showed up in the FriendFeed stream.  Later, it looked like the lag time was shorter.

Delayed twitter post.  Nice photo of Dave, though.

Early Conclusions

I don’t know that the new interface is going to bring FriendFeed to Main Street, USA, but I don’t think FriendFeed is going to get there anyway.  For those of us who already use it, I think the new design is a definite improvement.

Like a new slide rule.


I stupidly grabbed my original screencaps from the current FriendFeed page and not from the beta site which is here.  Thanks to the Commenters for setting me straight.  I replaced the original screencaps, added one of a custom filter I created in the meantime and ate a murder of crows.