February 14, 2009

FriendFeed as a Productivity Tool

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge (Twitter/FriendFeed)

FriendFeed, a content and conversation aggregation service, remains under fire by many who feel it is too much of one thing and not enough of another. They often draw parallels to the micro-blogging service Twitter, and how "easy to use" that service is as compared with FriendFeed.

As with any service that contains options, the ease of understanding the varied nuances of how to apply a service, like FriendFeed, is often hard to absorb. Even Allen Stern of CenterNetworks feels the service is simply too confusing. However, those who have seen the potential FriendFeed offers have taken to the service like a duck to water.

One complaint you might make would be the service is difficult for beginners, in that they have to grapple with not only how to use the service, but how to be included in the conversation. Even with this being potentially true, those of us with bustling online lives need a way to collect our various life streams from the many disparate services.

FriendFeed accommodates this very well.

But as a productivity tool, can FriendFeed hold water? Many come to the service and liken it to happy hour, with rampant memes, cuddly kittens, and of course babies galore! These uses simply illustrate just how flexible the platform really is.

The Tools:

With tools like search, lists and rooms, FriendFeed has much at its disposal to help you organize what interests you. I make heavy use of lists to help me discover things that interest me. Another great tool are rooms.

Options abound with rooms, as you might expect from a flexible service such as FriendFeed. To get more or less an idea of just what rooms are, think of a large open office space. Rooms would be like the cubicles that your erect to help segment the various departments, personnel, and roles; it's quite easy to peek your head above your divider and see the busy happenings of the FriendFeed participants, and then simply sit back down to focus on where you were.

Rooms have several options starting with the basic settings of name, nickname, description, and permissions. They extend out to being able to manage members and even import sites and services just like you would expect under your main feed. With a few quick clicks you can be ready to roll in minutes.

Many start rooms around a given topic or to serve a specific purpose. Some may be fun and some have a more serious tone. But have you thought about using a room as a productivity tool?

I quickly found that the FriendFeed room platform allowed me to create, link, and import a range of ideas relating to my blog - much like a miniature editorial calendar. I could share and elicit comments from those on my team, and with a tagging schema I could easily search on just about anything:

  • [Link] - for links
  • Post Idea: - for posts
  • Posted: - for posted articles
  • [Discuss] - for discussion threads
This one simple application of FriendFeed rooms helped me maintain some sanity in my busy life and keep my blog ideas separate from the rest of my work life - a necessity in my life at the moment. While this tool won't replace other productivity tools elsewhere in my life, it offers a nice landing strip for ideas for a person that spends a lot of time on FriendFeed already.

Ken Stewart’s blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. To connect with Ken, you may visit him at DandyID.