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Social media aggregators are web sites which amass what you do on social networks or websites and centralize it all in one location.

These aggregators enable lifestreaming, which is a simply the publication and sharing of your daily activities in continuous sessions. These social lifestreams allow you to keep track of what your friends or other people are doing online.

In other words, they are tools you can use to observe the activity of others on various social sites or allow others to follow what you’re doing all around the web.

One of the most popular social aggregators is called Friendfeed and it appears to be the most widely used service amongst many other lifestreaming services.

The goal of FriendFeed is to make content on the Web more relevant and useful for you by using your existing social network as a tool for discovering interesting information.

By using an automated, crawl-based approach to finding the content you find interesting, our hope is that your FriendFeed experience will be completely “maintenance free” — you can help your friends and family discover what you’re sharing without changing the way you already use your favorite web-based products.

Friendfeed is an additional way for you to connect with other people online through their interactions on various social websites. You can check out the videos they favorited on Youtube, read the stories they submitted to Digg or learn about what they recently added to their bookmarks in…. all in one webpage.

I’ve been wanting to write about Friendfeed for a while but didn’t because I wanted to let it develop a little more. Right now, there’s a good mixture of applications and commentary on Friendfeed so it’s a good time to talk about it on Dosh Dosh.

What are the Benefits in Using Lifestreaming Services Like Friendfeed?

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There’s been quite a lot of people blogging about Friendfeed and other lifestreaming services but some of them only talk about features and not really benefits i.e. what you stand to gain. I’m always interested in exploring new social media tools but the first thing I think about is how they’ll help me.

Translating lifestreaming and social aggregation into benefits is something I want to do. I don’t care if the service looks terrific or ugly. It doesn’t matter if they have a million features that nobody has. All I want to know is how it’ll benefit me, how it’ll improve myself, my web properties or my relationships with others.

Having played around it for a while, here are the three main benefits I see from using Friendfeed (and other social aggregators), apart from fun/pleasure:

  1. Networking With Others. Social aggregators offer many entry points for people looking to connect with another person. There’s no lack of conversation fodder. You can talk to other Friendfeed users about the items they’ve shared by commenting on the site itself or the originating social site.

    Watching what the other party does gives you a better understanding of what he or she is like and allows you to acquire better knowledge on how to interact with another person. It’s basically a communication platform, a place where you can use to comment on shared links or topics.

    Lifestreaming services are also useful for relationship maintenance. If you like to keep up with close friends or people you know, Friendfeed is a good way to make sense of what’s going on in their online lives.

  2. More Information Sources. This is in my opinion, the best feature of Friendfeed. Everyone is constantly performing social actions that are aggregated into their lifestream. This can be a useful source of information or news, especially if you use site filters or follow users that are particularly active. By filtering your friend stream according to individual social media websites, you can easily get very specific recommendations.

    For instance, monitoring the LastFM or Netflix stream gives me a list of new songs/movies to check out. If a particular user is a maven or industry leader, just subscribing to his/her stream alone will give you an inside look at important news, sometimes as soon as they break.

  3. Expand Your Reach. Social aggregators like Friendfeed compile all your social activities in one place. When you give someone the URL to your Friendfeed profile, you’re granting them viewer ship of what you do online. This convenience for others allows them to give you their attention, thereby increasing your social media equity.

    Someone monitoring your lifestream might share or spread what you like or discover to others as well. When actively promoted, Friendfeed can be a useful way to sustain the attention of your audience away from your main channel, which might be a blog or online business.

Can you have all these benefits independent of Friendfeed? Definitely. There are many ways to interact with others online and you can certainly acquire enough information sources to re-use or consume. So why even consider using Friendfeed? This is a hard case to make, especially if you’re already experiencing information overload when working online. Do you need this additional distraction?

The value of Friendfeed (and social lifestreaming) is that it associates information online with your friends or people you know. Instead of subscribing to a blog with a fixed niche topic, yousubscribe to an individual mind. To a person whose qualities or knowledge you trust, thereby letting that person show you around the web.

When you add someone on Friendfeed, you’re entrusting your time to a tour guide.

For example, if you trust me after reading the information here on dosh dosh and think that I’m interesting, you might want to know what I read, consume or do online. Subscribing to my friendfeed is the closest way to experience what I experience when I’m cruising the social web.

The benefits you get from social lifestreaming services like Friendfeed are mainly achieved when you subscribe to people you find genuinely interesting or people you know in order to obtain information or communicate.

Using Friendfeed: Some Recommended Applications and Tools

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I’m a big believer in actively using a social media service in order to truly ‘get’ it. After all, I didn’t understand the value of Twitter until I started using it regularly. Participation is the gateway towards value extraction.

And so, let me share some of the Friendfeed tools which I’ve found useful:

  • MySocial 24 x 7: A Firefox sidebar extension which opens up Friendfeed in the sidebar so you can browse the web while keeping an eye on your friends. It allows you to comment on items that your friends post right in the sidebar and it also comes with filters to sort updates according to social media service or friend. This is pretty much my favorite Friendfeed application right now and I highly recommend using it if you run Firefox.
  • Alert Thingy: A desktop application much like twhirl, a Twitter client. It automatically updates with desktop notifications and sound when new items from your friends are posted. It’s not so useful because you can’t filter your stream according to user or web service. But try it if you can: it might be just what you need.
  • Greasemonkey Scripts: If you’re using Firefox/Flock, some greasemonkey scripts will really enhance your experience of the web interface. This script to filter friends by service is quite essential because Friendfeed doesn’t yet allow you to filter your friend streams according to the specific web service (for e.g. to view only Youtube activity)

So how do I use Friendfeed? Since I practically live inside my RSS feed reader, I initially subscribed to the entire stream of updates from my friends via RSS. I checked it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon for content. This is the most non-interruptive way of using Friendfeed.

The other alternative is to visit the Friendfeed website and to check on what the people I follow are doing. This second method encourages you to participate a bit more because reading the RSS feeds is a lot more passive: you might feel lazy to click over and comment.

However, I eventually moved on from that and started using the MySocial Firefox extension. Since I’m using a widescreen monitor, this was perfect for me. I get to keep up to date with what’s happening and it’s not too distracting at all. One-click sends the sidebar away and I can occasionally zero in on a few users to see what they’ve been up to for the past 24 hours.

Posted by ABDUL SABOOR Thursday, October 8, 2009


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