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?

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