September 06, 2008

With FriendFeed Lists, I Start to Organize the Noise

When FriendFeed rolled out their new proposed interface in beta, I didn't rapidly adapt to using their most-visible new feature, lists. The list feature lets you essentially group friends you're following into smaller groups, with common examples being "Favorites", "Family", "Business", etc. The lists feature also allows you to remove people from your home feed, or all feeds, reducing their impact on your browsing experience, and should you be of the nefarious kind, letting you "fake follow" someone, so their feelings are satiated, even though you have no interest in seeing their data.

Since I started using the service almost a year ago, I've been one of the more visible proponents of absorbing the noise, and giving every other user equal footing. But as I took on more people I found interesting, I was losing touch with the original users I followed, missing key conversations, and a lot of the most-active subject matter was trending away from what I typically like to discuss.

This week, I realized I needed to do something about it, and lists is a great tool to start. Using lists correctly will let me follow even more people, and not lose track of those users or conversation where I want to be engaged. So, over the last two days, I've been spending as much time organizing people into lists as I have enjoying the content that's been flowing through FriendFeed. (See the example on the left for how I could organize Drew Olanoff's content in multiple lists.)

A list made just for the FriendFeed employees

At work and at home, I file all my e-mail. For example, I have top level folders for "Personal", "Family", "Commerce", and "Blog", and thinking of people on FriendFeed the same way isn't that much of a stretch.

So the game plan, essentially, was to:
    1) Take every single person out of my home feed. Everybody.
    (Think of this as the equivalent of "In Box Zero")
    2) Put popular, brand-name users into a list called "A-List"
    3) Put those of us on the next rung into a list called "B-List"
    4) Make separate, specific lists for the FriendFeed team, and Guest Bloggers on this site.
    5) Make a list of "Real World Friends".
    6) Make a list of "Techies" who I engage with, whose work I respect, or whose tools I review here.
    7) Put every other person not in 2-6 on something that for now, I'm calling the "Back Page".

Taking the A-List out of the main feed may let others breathe

The idea is that once I put 95% of those I follow on the "Back Page", I can selectively walk through that list, which has replaced my home feed, and pull people to a new list called "Front Page", which will include must-follow people I've met on the service over the last year.

With this in place, I now need to go the "A-List" feed to read everything from Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang, Thomas Hawk, Steve Rubel, Michael Arrington and others, whose feeds are often very active, and don't have them interspersed with folks who have less awareness, and usually, less interaction, essentially separating the lions from the lambs.

It also sets me up with multiple smaller feeds that are easier to consume. I also expect to set up more-specific lists, such as one for ReadBurner, for the team there, as I did for the FriendFeed employees. As I continue to update these lists, and move people from the "Back Page" to the "Front Page", I won't just have one massive FriendFeed, but many smaller ones with specific flavors and interests. And most importantly, now, with lists, I can be sure not to miss anything from Mona. Seriously, go check her feed out.

This move may be controversial, especially if people don't like the idea of being on the "Back Page", or start to see the "Back Page" list in their referral logs, but it will help me to feel like I can start adding people again, where before I was slowing down, and it might soon be as second nature as filing my e-mail as it comes in. One thing I won't be doing is hiding people entirely and doing a "fake follow".

I'm not the only one turning to FriendFeed's beta lists for help. See Mark Hopkins' approach here: Beta FriendFeed to the Rescue? If you're using the new FriendFeed, how are you using lists?