Three or four years ago it was easy to track friends, news, topics, blogs, etc. You used an RSS reader. It was simple – you organized your feeds in to folders and you were done.
Then Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook came along and changed the entire concept of how you behave online. No longer did you just get a feed of content to follow, but now there were tweets and comments and photos and “likes” to follow.
In fact, many people I used to follow via RSS stopped blogging (me included, but that’s changing). Over the last few years the structure I once had around tracking online activity and content fell completely apart: I stopped using an RSS reader entirely. I’ve relied on a mix of Twitter and FriendFeed and iGoogle to get by for a while, but never really invested in organizing any of them.
Today I began to take the advice put forward in the Balsamiq Blog (great read for small software startups). I streamlined Google Reader, shuffled iGoogle around, and cleaned up my FriendFeed account.
The first thing I did was delete all RSS feeds that were for personal blogs from Google Reader.
I decided that from this day on, personal blogs will be handled entirely in FriendFeed. My reader would be used for market research, following online “magazines” (TechCrunch, political blogs, etc), and data-focussed RSS feeds (search feeds, Woot.com sales, etc).
But even then I felt (and still feel) a bit conflicted: what about iGoogle? Should I follow some blogs and newspapers there? What about the NY Times and the DrudgeReport? I can get RSS feeds, but those didn’t feel right in an RSS reader.
I’ve decided that the RSS reader should be for things I don’t want to miss and want to use real read-tracking for. For all other stuff (NYT, Drudge, some blogs) I can have a panel in iGoogle, along with my weather, stocks, and a FriendFeed widget.
Making the Most out of FriendFeed
I took all the personal blogs I was following and found that of them, only nine were not already FriendFeed members. For those nine I created “Imaginary Friends” in FriendFeed. While only I can see imaginary friends, it’s still a great way to track those people until they sign up for FriendFeed.
Then I created some new “lists”. I decided that everyone will stay in the Home feed until I get annoyed with them, after wish I will hide the annoying parts (ie: Tweets or some blog), take them off of Home and only in Other, or unsubscribe entirely.
To get started, I created several lists that mapped to my interests. These interests were a mix of groups, companies, and places. I expect this list to evolve, but the main thing I decided is that it’s “OK” for it to be semi-unstructured.
BrowserMob is for people who I think relate or otherwise overlap with what I’m doing. This includes all my Selenium friends, as well as other folks who are in the QA and cloud computing space. This allows me to get simple market research done and see what individuals are up to.
Developers is for all my open source friends, as well as fellow Java developers and QA gurus. I know I can click here and get a full stream of techno-babble, or musings from tech-heads.
Friends is for people I consider personal friends. This list is likely to only contain people that I know I can respond to with very personal comments.
Interesting People is basically where I put folks like Louis Gray, Robert Scoble, the FriendFeed founders, etc. These are folks I don’t know that well or at all, but I like reading what they are up to and what they recommend.
Jive is where I can track all things Jive-related. Since I used to work at Jive, I know a lot of folks who work there or have worked there. This list is also where I put Jive-related folks (customers, clients, contractors, etc). I like to track Jive separately because I’m very interested in the space (collaboration software) and because some very good friends work there.
Other is my bucket for when I can’t classify someone. I rarely expect to click this, but people in here are ones I find are interesting but don’t fit in to a specific interest in my life. They might eventually get unsubscribed entirely, or they might be moved in to a different bucket as I learn more about them.
Portland is for friends, acquaintances, and bloggers who physically live in the Portland, OR area. I try to stay plugged in to the tech scene here, so this is where I’d go to follow it.
Silicon Valley is the same as the Portland list, but for my other home: the San Francisco bay area. This list includes more VC types and entrepreneurs than the Portland list.
Coming Soon: Part 2
For my part 2 I’ll discuss how I organized Google Reader and iGoogle. They are much less complicated, though I’m experimenting with Yahoo Pipes, so there might be some tips to share. Perhaps a few weeks after that I’ll also post a part 3 that reports how successful it’s been.
For additional tips on how to maximize your use of FriendFeed, check out a recent post on Louis Gray’s blog.