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!

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