July 19, 2009

Friendfeed as a Nonprofit Technology Water Cooler

Back in April I created a slide presentation for an Ignite session at NTC about the Many Uses of Friendfeed that Beth Kanter picked up on, intrigued with the idea of using it as an internal listening tool. I still don't know of that many nonprofits using Friendfeed, though, whether as an overall tool or for joining the "nptech" community conversation ("nptech" is a tag that Beth Kanter, Marnie Webb, and others have been using to tag nonprofit technology resources on delicious, twitter, etc., for the last five years or so).

Last week I dropped in on the weekly NTEN Water Cooler chat hosted by Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer of SocialFish. A few people in the chat were saying, “I tried Friendfeed. I didn’t get it,” while a few others were committed fans. I really don’t think Friendfeed is any different than Twitter in the sense that it is difficult to see the value until you have the right amount and type of followers and are following the right amount and type of people.

To get the most out of Friendfeed you do have to put more into it than just feeding your stuff in and reading others' stuff. Like the blogosphere, it helps enormously if you actually comment on items.

I have been a huge fan of Friendfeed pretty much from the moment I joined and, as Robert Scoble often writes when posting a thought to Friendfeed, “here’s why”:

  1. A pleasant, intelligent, helpful community
  2. Many community members are avid users of and students of social media – for some it is an integral part of their profession, so this is a great place to learn about social media
  3. An incredible listening tool. If you’ve created a listening strategy, whether it’s a vanity search on yourself or your org, or topics that you monitor, you can bring ALL of your listening into ONE place (see my slideshow for more tips on this).
  4. Extremely easy to build lists to separate out the types of people you follow. This is very useful if you follow more than about 100 people (especially if they are quite active online).
  5. Real time. Every aspect of Friendfeed is realtime, including the powerful search.
  6. Works great for real time chat. As long as everyone participating has an account (and it only takes about 30 seconds to set up an account), Friendfeed is a great place for a lively real time chat. It’s free, ad free, and typically spammer free (unlike Meebo Chat where someone usually wanders in and suggests we check out some hot chicks). Here’s how it works: the moderator starts a post. Users comment (often in relation to what is being said on a livestreaming audio event, or in reply to a question) and the comments show up in realtime, no refresh required, no relying on pesky Twitter search. For convenience, users can click on the timestamp of the post, then click on it again, and a smaller window opens on the side of their browser, with the comment field located at the bottom of the conversation. Another cool thing about this is that the chat remains archived for posterity.
  7. Real time. Did I mention real time? (Just kidding, and these are only seven of about 20 reasons I love Friendfeed).

I know that there are many different venues where great conversations about nonprofits using social media take place. One of those venues is Twitter. Synchronous events there include the monthly #4change conversations. On NetSquared, nonprofit tech folks are invited to blog about one question each month in the Net2 Think Tank, and Amy Sample Ward summarizes these at the end of the month. NTEN holds numerous Office Hour chats, including the Water Cooler one.

There has been an nptech room on Friendfeed for quite some time. It has been through various different experiments and stages of piping feeds in automatically; waiting for people to post natively, and now has settled to a combination. If you post something to Twitter and add these two hashtags, #ff and #nptech, it will show up in the nptech room on Friendfeed. The room is becoming a nice repository of resources.

Beth, Joe Solomon, Jonathan Colman, and myself are all admins in that room. We’ve been pondering how to get more engagement there. We don’t want to take away from other venues, nor, necessarily, add one more thing to your already full “to do” list. But we’d love to have you drop by the water cooler and add to the conversation. Resurrect this older thread and introduce yourself. Or, contribute to the topic of the month below.

Friendfeed nptech room topic of the month: Have you ever considered using, or are you using, Friendfeed as a tool for your nonprofit organization, internally or externally? If yes, how is it going? If not, why not?

May 02, 2009

When E.F. Hutton Talks ...

Jumping into the sea of social media over the last nine months I've made many connections in the library and information science world, the social media enthusiasts world, and the nonprofit technology world. In the back of my mind, increasingly over the last three months, has been the knowledge that I need to up my game as far as having a recognizable professional presence on the web beyond Friendfeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I know it's time to give this blog a facelift, and maybe port the posts from my other blog, Swimming in a Sea of Social Media, over here. Time to consolidate, clean up, and post on a regular schedule.

Now I'm being pushed to accelerate the cleanup timeline, since Louis Gray recommended me as a person to follow on Friendfeed. His post came out on Thursday, April 30th, at 3:20 pm. I got 36 new subscribers that day. The next day I got 40. Today I got eight so far, but it's early, and one of them is Leo Laporte which is, well, huge to me as far as reach.

And isn't reach one aspect of what social media is all about? Although on the one hand, most of us say we are engaged for the conversation, ideas, and resource sharing, and really don't care how many followers we have, it's very difficult to enter the conversation until you have enough followers to extend your reach. Sure, on Friendfeed you can join any conversation of interest that you can find. But when you want to start your own exploration of a topic, you'll be greeted with crickets until you have some reach.

April 30, 2009

I'm not dead yet, just pining

So I haven't blogged here much, it's true. I've been pretty busy Friendfeeding and Twittering and developing presences in social media land for my organization, the Resource Center of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

I did a few posts towards the end of last year on another blog, Swimming in a Sea of Social Media. I thought I should have a separate blog, since I originally conceived of this one as focusing on information architecture, medata, taxonomy, and maybe a little librarianship. But now that I've made more and more connections lately, it's time for me to consolidate my presence.

I'm freeing myself up to blog anything and everything here. I already have some half-written posts lying around on my desktop somewhere. I'll make an effort to get them up here soon. Really. I mean it. I want to connect with all you wonderful people out there, whether I've met you through Friendfeed, Twitter, the volunteer and service world, or at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference. This is going to be my home from now on.