Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Twitter vs FriendFeed: Conversation vs Convenience?

Twitter has been suffering growing pains in recent days and weeks. Outages aplenty.

I noticed they are trying to control things by switching off some functionality from time to time. And what they choose to switch off indicates what they see of least value.

When times are hard, it is the archive, of previous posts, and direct messaging which get booted out.

Turning off the archive shows that they recognise the primary importance of synchronous communication. You might be interested in what someone said in the past, or what they were asking about in the past, but you can respond less effectively now than you could at the time the request or share was made. Twitter gets that; being prepared to drop anything to assist with a community of purpose is high on the list of useful value creating stuff.
Dropping IM's indicates they also understand that closed communications have less value than open.

This thinking pervades twitter and drips from its architecture.
They are all about the current, right now conversation and connecting people.

Blogs were described by Doc Searls as the best example of the sovereign self. Twitter (distributed microblogging), imho is the best example of our communal selves.

, surely makes that conversation even more communal, with its aggregation and friend-of-a-friend/fuzzy-edged groups form of sharing and distribution?

No wonder some tout it as the next-gen twitter. But I wonder if it is more about convenience than conversation?

Some have described FriendFeed (and I'll add links when I have more time - sorry) as distributed conversation.
I'm not clear that's delivered. At least it isn't delivered in the right-now and in one place synchronous way that twitter values so highly.

What FriendFeed does deliver is the convenience of compiling and redistributing huge amounts of an individual's metadata.

Not only do you get to see what I'm 'doing' on twitter, you also see the feeds I'm reading on googlereader, or videos I post on youtube, or images on flickr etc etc.

So now there's even more reasons for conversations to start.
More metadata on show to each other means more opportunities for us to find we share a right-now purpose and act on it. (Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the 21s century).

All good. But there's a risk in distributing the conversation. Where ever you follow the flag to, that's where the conversation risks being taken - and silo'd.

Twitter's value is in keeping the conversation open, visible, synchronous and consistent.

Friendfeed is a useful broadcast of our metadata - and potentially a step towards us becoming the url. The key will be connecting the conversations in a coherent human-focused way.

Right now the conversation is at risk of being disrupted more than distributed.

So I'll happily broadcast my metadata through FriendFeed, and have others broadcast their metadata at me, but when the conversation flags are raised where will the conversation be hosted which creates most value for all parties.

For this post, I'm hoping it'll be right here. If FriendFeed were to offer me that control...

More questions than answers I'm afraid.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?