Do We Really Need One to Rule All?

A couple of years ago, I like many others who were joining new sites that seemed to pop up daily in the web 2.0/social media/social networking sphere thought that the way to handle all of this disparate content was to aggregate it.

It seemed to make sense – one place you could go to track all the different things your friends were writing on their blogs, saying in Twitter, posting on Flickr, etc. etc.

Two main competitors emerged in the aggregator space, and while I much preferred SocialThing’s user interface, the power of Robert Scoble’s network pulled more people into Friendfeed and it appears to have emerged victor. But, somewhere along the way, Friendfeed changed.
The Ring
Image via Creative Commons by Cellach

From Aggregator to Instigator

One of the things I know Robert liked early on about Friendfeed was the way people could comment there on things that others had posted. It offered a much easier to follow a thread of conversation than Twitter and was more immediate interaction than blog comments.

But, after a while, I started noticing people getting bothered if the originator of the post in Friendfeed was not there participating in the commentary. They were beginning to treat Friendfeed as the destination, the networking site, the main conversation, rather than simply as an aggregator of people’s content. It developed a community of its own that could be offended by those who treated is simply as a bedroom community.

I myself rarely visit Friendfeed and mostly do so just to check to see if there’s anything I missed that someone I follow posted. I don’t have time to be there to respond to anyone who responds to something I posted elsewhere that just automatically fed into Friendfeed without any specific intention from me.

I’d been thinking about this a lot lately, but didn’t ever get around to writing about it until today when I noticed that Aaron Brazell aka Technosailor tweeted that he was closing his Friendfeed account. His reasoning was that, like me, he was never there to interact. In the conversation that ensued there on Friendfeed, he also mentioned trolls as a reason, but I got the feeling that the primary reason was the lack of time to interact there (I mean, trolls are everywhere, right?) He’s since posted more about it on his blog.

Cross Posting Crossing the Line

With so many people feeding tweets into their Facebook page, and and blog posts onto Twitter and Flickr photos onto their blog, do we really need aggregators anymore? Have we all overcompensated with the cross posting as SocialThing died and Friendfeed morphed under the spell of the power to hold everyone’s knowledge?

Early on, Scott Karp noted that “Web 2.0 derides the siloed balkanization of traditional media — yet Web 2.0 doesn’t have the wherewithal to figure out that I’ve now seen the same feed item for the fourteenth time in four different platforms.” Simon Salt more recently explained how cross posting is bad for your personal brand.

I’m certainly not going to throw any stones here. I do a lot of cross posting myself. But, I am also aware that some of those different services have different audiences that deserve some tailoring. Early on I quit piping all tweets into Facebook because many of the people I’m connected to there are not on Twitter and may be so due to a conscious choice about how much information they want to receive. My teenage nephews and the mothers of my daughter’s friends probably don’t care about the latest Mashable article I read. So, I update Facebook less frequently and often more personally.

But, imagine when I do tweet about a blog post such as this one and I post a link to it on my Facebook page. Right there, you’re getting the same information twice in Friendfeed. If I happen to bookmark the post in Delicious or give it a thumbs up in StumbleUpon, there are two more. What if I upload the image I use to illustrate it to Flickr? Bam. There it is again in Friendfeed.

And, with Steve Rubel announcing today that he’s moving all his effort over to Posterous, I’ve already gone to revisit my account there that hasn’t been used in almost a year. Posterous also lets you cross post to most other networks, so the potential is there for even more duplication. Will the madness never end?

To Stay or To Go

Aggregation doesn’t seem to be really working like I thought it would, lifestreaming is just more of the same, and too much cross posting can create a negative impact.

But, I don’t think I’ll be closing any of my accounts just yet. Instead I will continue to focus on a few, monitor many and seek to tailor updates to the audience. It’s more work, but hopefully by focusing my conversations and interaction on few (primarily Twitter and Facebook) I can handle it. I’m still not going to be active in the Friendfeed community that has developed, or the ones that exist as well in places like Flikr, but I do still see a use for their services.

What about you? Do you think you will continue to spread across multiple sites or try to aggregate everything in one spot? Or, even better, do share if you’ve found another solution all together!


The Tale of An Early Adopter

My brother-in-law recently visited and said something to the effect, of “you were really on to something with Twitter” in regard to the fact that he had first heard of Twitter from me some time ago, and now it would appear that everyone is talking about it.

I’ve always liked to be the one “in the know” about something before everyone else. The best bands are those that I liked before the rest of the world discovered them. The best restaurant is the one I loved before it gets so popular you need reservations. So, it was with mixed feelings that I ejoyed the props of being an early adopter of Twitter.

Twitter Growth Chart

But picking that “next big thing” is less about picking one as it is many, I believe. Since I moved into an online-focused position at work three years ago, I’ve joined way more online sites/services that you’ve probably never heard of than those that you have. StumbleUpon still stumbles along and may see new life with; but, there’s not an ounce of time spent in Pownce. I don’t lurk in Plurk anymore, although many still do.  And SocialThing, losing the aggregator scene to FriendFeed is retooling as a back-end service for AOL.

Those of us who are early adopters may not always know where our time exploring these new ventures will take us, but it appears that we are needed if the majority of users are ever to learn of them.

Way back in 1983 BI (Before Internet), communications scholar Dr. Everett M. Rogers wrote: “So the role of the early adopter is to decrease uncertainty about a new idea by adopting it, and then conveying a subjective evaluation of the innovation to near-peers by means of interpersonal networks.”

Which might explain why so much of the conversation on Twitter is about social media – all the early adopters are relaying their evaluations of the new tools to their “near-peers.” But, if we’re really going to fulfill our role in the adoption of that new technology we’ve got to get away from the other early adopters and spend more time with the 34 percent of the adopters Rogers identified as the “early majority” and the next 34 percent of the adopters are the “late majority.”

Yes Travis, Virtual Worlds Are Still Relevant

This question from Travis Hines (designer of our This Mommy Gig blog) recently caught my eye in my twitterstream:
Twitter Question
I was too busy to respond at that moment, but retweeted it in the hopes it would spark a discussion. Only Pam Broviak responded directly, but with an excellent point:
Twitter Response
Game consoles such as Xbox360 and Playstation3 are indeed getting more social and creative with their use of immersive environments. In news coverage of the recent E3 conference it was noted that “videogames once designed as solo experiences are increasingly using Internet connections to link players and immerse them together in virtual worlds where multiple players can be allies or enemies.” So, they’re becomming MMOs; but, the debate on whether an MMOG is a virtual world is for another time.
The announcement of Project Natal at E3 had everyone talking, too. Including comments from Raph Koster and Philip Rosedale in the New World Notes blog post about this new technology that promises to let player control game play with their body movements.
An image from the Offworld blog’s post about the Microsoft press conference for Project Natal and other coming enhancements for Xbox360 certainly looks like something you would see in Second Life or OpenSim – a group of friends watching sports or movies together:
xbox image with opensim image
But, if attending the event in a console world’s space, can you walk away from that screen and go hear your friend playing live music or attend a political rally? Or, more importantly, could you be the one playing the music, organizing the rally, or building out the theatre where people gather? I think not. Yet, those are all things that happen today in virtual worlds.
As Ian Hughes/epredator pointed out on the EightBar blog back in 2007 when Sony was talking about creating a virtual world for Playstation3, that would be too much of a challenge to the game makers themselves. Their business is content creation. If they allow the users to not only create, but also own the rights to their creations within those environments, then they hurt their own business.
And that, Travis, is why I believe that independent virtual worlds such as Second Life or OpenSim are still relevant.