December 12, 2008

Spare Me the Gordian Knot - My Brain Hurts

Earlier this week Robert Scoble posted a tongue-in-cheek post, 10 Reasons Why Twitter is for You and Friendfeed is Not in which he suggested that Friendfeed required a bit more of its users because there are a variety of ways to use it, the character limit is much longer, and the search engine is more sophisticated, among other things.

In the comments on the blog post several people proclaimed that they preferred Twitter over Friendfeed because Friendfeed was "like trying to drink from a firehose," "distracting and crammed-packed," "too much info." Sorry, but all those things could be said about Twitter also. Plus, Twitter pretty much requires third party apps to make it more usable whereas Friendfeed has all the features built in to fine tune it to your needs.

The more thoughtful comments on Scoble's blog, and in a related thread on Friendfeed, argued that the two services meet different needs and shouldn't really be compared.

Twitter may be simpler to use as far as simply setting up an account and "tweeting" but it is quite counterintuitive to n00bs as far as participating in conversations. As Peter Elfland commented in the Friendfeed thread, "the tech aspect of Friendfeed might be more tricky, but I think the social aspect is easier to get for newbies" (by tech aspect I believe he means bringing in all your feeds from other services).

One thing that disturbs me, though, is that the option to send information two ways (from Twitter to Friendfeed and/or from Friendfeed to Twitter) makes the whole arena even more confusing for n00bs. Although I understand why Friendfeed felt the need to make this option available (more choice is better, and this would actually allow Friendfeed loyalists to use it as their main microblogging platform) it really does add to the chaos. The landscape could be much simpler if everyone would play nice and services would take a stand on their identity. Are they an aggregation service, a broadcasting/microblogging service, or a water cooler (place for conversation) service? Clearly Friendfeed has the aggregation and the conversation down, but adding broadcasting to the mix scares me. The widgets they offer are a cool way to push out the conversation - let's leave it at that. If social media services would stake their claim in one or two of the arenas (aggregation, microblogging, conversation) they would be able to hone the capacity of their features, fulfill a clear mission, and not tie their users' brains into Gordian knots.

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