The chat room/forum problem (& an apology to @Technosailor)

I’ve been doing online communities for more than 20 years, starting in 1985 when a friend had a BBS. One thing I’ve noticed over and over again is that chat rooms and forums start out fun and then devolve over time for various reasons.

But in 2000 I discovered that blogs had the opposite effect. They got more interesting over time.

Why is that?

I call it the chat room/forum problem and I think I’ve discovered the cause.

See, in a chat room no one is in control. But usually some small group starts one. They are interesting at the start. I remember when a small group of us joined Microsoft’s NetMeeting forum back in 1996. Those were the days! They were fun. Extremely so. Some of us are even still friends today and we always love to talk about the early days of that group.

Why?

Because all of us had a common interest (a new product) and we were a small group and we were at the same level at the beginning (all of us were newbies).

But it devolved.

How?

First, wave after wave of newbies came in. They all wanted their attention and you couldn’t tell the experienced users (visually) from the new ones. At first the newbie waves were a lot of fun because we were able to teach new people the tricks we had spent months learning (like how to get a certain brand of video card to work, etc).

But after six or so waves the experienced users started getting tired of answering the same damn questions over and over. See the newbies weren’t willing to search for already-answered questions and, because it was a forum, no one was able to take control and segregate things.

Then it got worse. The bad actors arrived. IE, trolls and spammers. Trolls I can handle. After all, I troll once in a while too. Spammers? No way. They destroyed any last joy I had in participating in the group. Some of us left. Others of us hung on (I did) until Microsoft killed the product. But it wasn’t fun at the end.

Here’s something I’m noticing: my Facebook has the forum problem. It’s getting noisier and noisier. Facebook is trying to solve this problem with filtering and with a new feed, which only shows “popular” items. But it has the Forum/Chat Problem and no amount of lipstick will cure that problem.

As long as you only have your really close personal friends in Facebook, this is NOT a problem at all.

But Facebook’s leaders want to change to be more like Twitter. More open, so they can defend against an oncoming Google and Twitter and Microsoft onslaught of social networking technologies.

But the more public they make Facebook the more connections each user will have, and the more noise each of those connections will bring.

At first this looks like a positive thing, right? Over on FriendFeed people are telling me “we have more conversations.” That’s true, but the more conversations I got involved in the less I found I was learning.

This came full circle tonight when I checked in my “best of day” feed on FriendFeed, picture of that experience here.

I didn’t see any geeks. I didn’t see any tech. I didn’t see anything that was teaching me anything. I had stopped getting much value out of FriendFeed.

But over the past week I’ve found that Twitter is gaining in incoming value, the way blogs got more interesting over time (and if they didn’t, I just removed them from my reader).

Why do blogs bring more value over time?

Because bloggers get smarter over time and they have more experiences to pull on.

I noticed this in talk radio, too. Generally a talk radio host will get better over time. Why? As she or he gets more popular he/she will get better guests, be invited to better events, and become better studied on the topics they are talking about.

In other words, they become an expert.

I find I’m craving experts lately. People who build things. People who do things. People who make things happen. Tony Robbins, when he spoke at the Twitter Conference last month said that Twitter is his knowledge machine. He uses it to import great minds.

The thing is in the early days of a community having serendipity, which is what Facebook and FriendFeed’s forum features bring, make things a lot of fun. After all, it makes finding people who are like minded with you easier.

But eventually the experts (ie, people who are teaching you stuff) get drowned out and you are left with an experience that looks more like the magazine rack at a grocery store than a book shelf at Harvard.

So, what happened on Friday?

Twitter got lists.

This let us throw together a list of experts. For instance, I put together a list of people who have started companies. Compare that feed to your average Facebook feed and you’ll see it in stark black and white: your Facebook feed is “fun” but isn’t teaching you much.

It becomes even more stark when you do a list like my tech news brands list. See, this is NOT a forum! It is NOT a chat room!

No one can enter this community without being invited. Now compare to FriendFeed. We could have built a list like this over there, but it would have gotten noiser because of a feature called “Friend of a Friend.” That drags in people the list owner didn’t invite. Also, anyone can comment underneath any items on Facebook or FriendFeed. That brings people into YOUR life that YOU DID NOT INVITE!

Again, at first, this seems very democratic and very nice. After all, it’s great to throw a party for the whole world and let them drink your wine and have conversations with your kids. But, be honest here, would you rather have a private dinner with Steve Jobs, or would you rather have a dinner with Steve Jobs and 5,000 people who you don’t really know?

Which one would be a better place for you to learn something? Have an experience you can brag to your friends about?

See, tonight I had another experience on Twitter. One that ripped this whole thing wide open.

Mike Lee watched a friend die. Mike Lee is an engineer at Apple. His friend was Vinay Venkatesh, one of the top engineers at VMWare (he worked on the Fusion product). This afternoon Vinay had an accident on his motorcycle in the hills above Silicon Valley.

Listen into Mike’s Tweets:

Today
1

News

2

Update

3

No no god no

4

I regret to report

5

I held

6

Tragic, my heart is out to everyone involved.

What do you NOT see?

You don’t see any stupid YouTube-style commenters making light of the situation. You don’t see anyone posting pictures that would be inappropriate.

You don’t see anyone entering a conversation that should be viewed on its own in its own totality.

Twitter does NOT have the chat room/forum problem.

Let’s go back in history and discuss other forums/chat rooms.

I started out with BBSs. They had it. They started out interesting, but then as more and more people figured out how to do BBSs their value both devolved (more noise, and slower lines) and increased (more files to download — files for some reason don’t have the same problem that chat rooms do).

Prodigy? Yes. I was on that back in the 1980s. It started fun and then devolved. Now it’s gone.

CompuServe? Yes. Same thing.

AOL? Yes. In fact it was SO devolved that when AOL joined up with Usenet all the geeks on Usenet gave a collective “oh damn” when their own conversations saw an intrusion of newbies, bad actors, and spammers.

YouTube? Just go to the average video and you’ll see full scale devolution on going.

Digg? Absolutely. Devolved big time.

TechCrunch comments. Yes, but notice that they are now moderating their comments (some posts saw deletions of more than half of the comments), which dramatically improved them. As soon as the moderation stops on comments, they too will devolve and drive out anyone interesting.

My comments? I’m moderating them now too.

But notice that top-level blogs don’t have this problem.

Also notice that Twitter doesn’t have this problem.

If I only want to listen to, say, Louis Gray, there is NO WAY ANYONE ELSE CAN GET ONTO MY SCREEN (on Twitter)!

On FriendFeed? No. Louis Gray’s feed drags in tons of others.

On Facebook? No. Louis Gray’s feed drags in tons of others (even though you need to be “friended” by Louis to see his feed there).

But, Scoble, this makes you an elitist jerk!

Bing! Bing! Bing!

But at least I’m learning something and I’m not being dragged into cat photo land if I don’t want to go there. By the way, if all you care about is cat photos, a forum is a BAD place to be. Someone will post dog photos and ruin it all. Blogs even win here.

Which brings me to why I’m apologizing to Aaron Brazell and Mike Arrington. Earlier this year both of them deleted their FriendFeed accounts for various reasons.

I was bent because I saw the geeks leaving and the utility of the forum changing. At the time I didn’t want to internalize what I already knew, that the forum problem was rearing its head. Arrington left because he didn’t like the mob attitude that reared up over there. Brazell left because he didn’t see the utility in FriendFeed.

I fought with both of them, even blocking Brazell because I just didn’t want to taste the medicine they were dishing out. After all, I’ve posted 31,876 comments to my FriendFeed account. I’ve clicked on 21,981 things to “like” them. I’ve shown FriendFeed to dozens of audiences at conferences and consulting sessions. I’ve talked about it with the press. I’ve pushed it incessantly on Twitter (which, I figure, got me unfollowed there by at least 5,000 people).

In hindsight they were right. Why was I blindsided? Because FriendFeed had some features that made it different than other forums in the past. For one, it was decentralized conversation (in old-school forums the conversation was chosen for you. In FriendFeed you could start a new conversation with each item). For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).

But these newfangled features were not enough to keep the geeks after Facebook bought FriendFeed. After the geeks left (I was one, so this story is influenced by me in part) the tide was too much and now it just isn’t for me anymore.

I will still use it here and there and drop in on a conversation when I see something interesting, but that’s less and less.

Anyway, this is a pattern that I’ve seen. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to counteract it, but this is a dangerous pattern for social software companies to ignore.

And don’t think that Twitter has learned this lesson, either. It is testing a new retweet feature (they used to call it “sharing” internally) that is very controversial.

Why is it controversial? Because it brings people into your view that you didn’t ask to see.

The chat room/forum problem should not be ignored. I’m sorry I ignored it and burned bridges with Aaron (I talked with Mike tonight and he barely even remembers our spat, so we’re cool).

I’ve unblocked Aaron and put him on my lists. Hopefully he’ll forgive me. But will Twitter and Facebook learn from this? Probably not.

Comments

  1. Note that you can disable friend-of-friend in FriendFeed by clicking: “hide” -> “hide other items like this one” -> “Hide all friend of entries”. It’s still a problem that random people can comment on your stuff.

  2. I love FriendFeed, its community, and as sad as I am to say this: I could not agree more.

    The community is the best and worst thing about FriendFeed – VERY tight knit, like family. Especially since the founders / empolyees engage and because the community feels so close to the service, we evangelize.

    That said, because the community feels so close to the service, they are also extremely protective. I couldn't believe how Brazell and Arrington were mobbed, just because they expressed their opinions.

    Oh well. At least the services are increasing customization so we have more filtering options now.

  3. I totally agree with you about the noise on chats and forums but i have to disagree on the BBS part. Trolls? Spammers? Noise? Maybe a few weirdos, maybe a little bit of spam but in these days when i surfed the BBS world with my 300 baud modem, i never really experienced this (oh and i've been on quite some us-machines, too which made my parents freak out, when they got the phone bill. One $500/month bill made them lockup my modem :).
    It was a different scene Robert and it was way smaller. Of course there are always newbies but i think the technical and intellectual level was just higher cause this wasn't a mass-phenomena.

    Today everyone can join a community with a mouseclick. no need to search for numbers of some cool new BBSs, no need to get involved into the scene and to gain some reputation until any freak is sending you the number and password to his personal BBS with lotsa cool info on it.
    We shared information on a different level at that time, now it's everywhere and everyone can join. This is causing the noise and information overflow

  4. FriendFeed is still the best platform online for communication (IMHO). This problem you're just now re-discovering can be dealt with on friendfeed as you explain (but as one of the reasons you were blindsided: “For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).”

    So the feature that can fix the problem kept you from seeing the problem? Isn't that the point of the feature? This problem isn't one that can be cured with a vaccine. And you're right that with sufficient control you can engineer it out of your site, but on a public forum you can't be friendfeed.

    Sounds to me like you want a large private friendfeed room.

  5. FriendFeed is still the best platform online for communication (IMHO). This problem you're just now re-discovering can be dealt with on friendfeed as you explain (but as one of the reasons you were blindsided: “For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).”

    So the feature that can fix the problem kept you from seeing the problem? Isn't that the point of the feature? This problem isn't one that can be cured with a vaccine. And you're right that with sufficient control you can engineer it out of your site, but on a public forum you can't be friendfeed.

    Sounds to me like you want a large private friendfeed room.

  6. Yeah, this was less about BBSs (although some of the early drama was there in our BBS if I remember right) but it clearly was part of AOL and Usenet and other forums/chat rooms that came later (and even YouTube comments and blog comments).

  7. Yeah, this was less about BBSs (although some of the early drama was there in our BBS if I remember right) but it clearly was part of AOL and Usenet and other forums/chat rooms that came later (and even YouTube comments and blog comments).

  8. As a USENET veteran, I sensed FriendFeed might eventually suffer the problems you've described. Any discussion, online or offline, is premised on its utility for the participants. There will always be the newbie problem, and unless a buddy system is in place to allow instant mentoring, forums will naturally devolve over time. I'm on a private mailing list that has existed for years, and we don't have this problem because our moderator keeps things on an even keel.

  9. As a USENET veteran, I sensed FriendFeed might eventually suffer the problems you've described. Any discussion, online or offline, is premised on its utility for the participants. There will always be the newbie problem, and unless a buddy system is in place to allow instant mentoring, forums will naturally devolve over time. I'm on a private mailing list that has existed for years, and we don't have this problem because our moderator keeps things on an even keel.

  10. Chris: I tried to get a private room going, but it was too hard to get separate from the rest of the public forums. People didn't understand it that I invited into it. It's sort of the same problem that Google Wave has. Geeks get it, but others go “WTF?”

  11. The new “retweet” feature on twitter will come in two flavors (from the API perspective). One with no retweet noise and one with it. Apps can pick and choose.

  12. The new “retweet” feature on twitter will come in two flavors (from the API perspective). One with no retweet noise and one with it. Apps can pick and choose.

  13. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  14. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  15. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  16. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  17. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  18. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  19. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  20. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  21. c/p my response from twitter:

    You can't have it both ways. You publicly stated over and over that FriendFeed is dead so people listened to you and left. Now you're complaining about FF having no value because they're gone?

    FWIW, you can turn off all the people others “drag in” on FriendFeed. In fact, I'd demonstrate it with your feed but I already have turned off all the other folks you drag in (short answer: Hide all the entries liked by or commented on by friends of Louis Gray or even by Louis himself).

  22. Absolutely awesome post! It sums up my feelings towards Facebook and Friendfeed and makes me feel better about how I do or don't use them. Kudos for admitting you were blindsided.

  23. sriray: ever from the beginning I wanted a view that did not show comments and that was strict reverse chronilogical view. They resisted because I can see they wanted to avoid becoming even more like Twitter. I think this was a HUGE mistake on their part.

  24. Well, like victor was saying, he's on a private mailing list. They're probably not going to change, but could have a real-time private channel over on friendfeed. I do kind of get what you're saying about the WTF factor, but I would explain it as a backchannel for the backchannel.

  25. I should add that a lot of my frustrations with Twitter lie in their developer API and how I've been treated over the years. There's a lot buried in my Twitter frustrations, as you've seen on my blog and elsewhere over the years. I'm still trying to remain objective, but from a developer perspective, Facebook just provides such a better environment to write in!

  26. oh ok! actually at Arktan, we dont show the comments by default and we were wondering if we should expand them by default to encourage discussion…. but I guess we have the answer now :)

    Also, what do you think of 2-way friend relationship Vs 1-way follow ?

  27. Robert:

    How one views/uses FB, Twitter, BBSs, other social network/media services/tools all depends upon what one is trying to get out of them (e.g., Why are they being used in the first place?).

    As I've watched & read your posts/tweets during the past several years, Robert, it's clear to me that for the most part you're NOT writing for the masses: you're writing for your friends and for yourself — which is totally fine. But no wonder most people don't get what you're writing about (or why).

    After seeing MySpace devolve into a haven for pickup artists (and wannabes), along with skanks & porn stars, I resisted the pull of Facebook until its total user base surpassed 175MM and became too large to ignore. (Well…that plus the fact that major legit corporations we're joining FB and launching Fan Pages.) Now FB is past 300MM users worldwide and on its way to more than half a billion users; but again, this is a mass market, which means it's VERY NOISY and very disjointed.

    In engineering speak, the greater the noise to signal ratio of any marketplace, the less likely very focused (nee specialized) individuals will find such markets of lasting use — UNLESS filtering tools are available to minimize extraneous noise.

    Hence, Twitter is a great tool for you (and for many others). Ditto for your blog (and the blogs of your friends).

    Conversely, FB doesn't work for you; neither does FriendFeed anymore.

    Question: What about Ning, or something like it? Just wondering.

  28. Believe me, I don't like how Twitter has treated the community over the years either. But then Facebook kicked me off too, so neither are blemish free with me.

  29. 2007, I called Twitter the answer to phpBB because it was the threadless communication platform. 2008, I told people – it's an uninterrupted stream of consciousness.

    FriendFeed brought phpBB back to the table with threaded conversations, and honestly – I've looked at it about .1% of anything else I use. The saturation of quality vs. crap is just a tad bit too high; and the more popular the site gets, the worse it will get.

    Sorry to say, most people will agree, but the “general population” isn't profound often enough, but they still enjoy being heard. In fact, if the general pop. was profound, it wouldn't be profound/intelligent then… would it?

    Twitter is a fundamental form of communication with very precise functions. Exploitation is still available to spammers, but blocking is king in that regard, I reckon.

  30. 2007, I called Twitter the answer to phpBB because it was the threadless communication platform. 2008, I told people – it's an uninterrupted stream of consciousness.

    FriendFeed brought phpBB back to the table with threaded conversations, and honestly – I've looked at it about .1% of anything else I use. The saturation of quality vs. crap is just a tad bit too high; and the more popular the site gets, the worse it will get.

    Sorry to say, most people will agree, but the “general population” isn't profound often enough, but they still enjoy being heard. In fact, if the general pop. was profound, it wouldn't be profound/intelligent then… would it?

    Twitter is a fundamental form of communication with very precise functions. Exploitation is still available to spammers, but blocking is king in that regard, I reckon.

  31. I like that on Twitter I can follow smart people without them following me back. But if you are going to introduce a forum I think it needs to be two way.

  32. I like that on Twitter I can follow smart people without them following me back. But if you are going to introduce a forum I think it needs to be two way.

  33. David: yup. I write for myself a lot. But the thing is when you write for yourself others follow. I still remember when everyone gave me shit for pushing Twitter here so hard. Now it seems everyone is getting into Twitter.

    Facebook works for some things for me. My wife is addicted to it. But, she only uses it in very small groups with very close friends. So it all works for her and she doesn't care about the little noise that seeps in from the edges. Me? I want to use it for business networking, which means thousands of contacts. Different use and I'm far more adverse to noise.

  34. I understand you there – Facebook has treated me with utmost respect, both online and in person – they've even reached out to me as a developer a few times, so I have a bias. I can't say the same for Twitter unfortunately so I have to edge in the other direction.

    I think my other frustration is that I don't want to live in a Twitter-centric world. I hate relying on third-party services for my content. I want, as a developer, to find ways to take people off Twitter, bring their social graphs to their own sites, and communicate with their friends, find news, etc. all using the open web and their own hosted communities. The more I focus on Twitter, the more a monopoly that gives them and I just see so much danger in that! Watch for some more WordPress plugins from me, along with other things that bring 3rd-party content all into open technologies (e-mail, rss, blog, etc.).

  35. As to Ning: forums work when a moderator is able to keep things fun for everyone. That's tough work and underappreciated. It also means someone has dictatorial control and that can lead to drama (it usually does in the communities I've been a part of). But most groups are small so drama stays under control and noise doesn't become an issue. Most Ning groups are fairly manageable.

  36. I agree with your analysis. But I think there is one more thing that makes FriendFeed a less-then-optimal conversation platform, and that is the user intent.

    People talk(ed) on FriendFeed. They started meaningful discussions, and participated in meaningful discussions. And that was interesting.

    But FriendFeed is also very much a lifestream platform. Which means that when viewing my FF stream, I could see these bits that people put their mind to ( = posted with the intent of posting them to FF), but also lots of automatic bits, that FF was kind enough to collect from their various other online “places” – Flickr photos, Delicious links, etc.

    These bits were created without an *intent*, and are therefore boring. They are mostly noise.

    As a person who consumes a lot of information during the day, this is useful. I get a quick summary of what's going on without having to go places. But being useful is not the same as being interesting. FF was useful, but it wasn't very interesting.

    Contrast that with Twitter. Most of the tweets are posted with intent. People intend to say something. Hence, the stream is interesting.

    Facebook suffers from the same problem.

    The same problem though is slowly creeping into Twitter, with automatic tweets from authenticated apps like FourSquare, Spymaster and friends. It's great for you that you just unlocked the explorer-whatever at wherever, but obviously, it is not very interesting.

    I wish Twitter would acquire apps to always present the tweets they tweet on behalf of a person to the person, in edit mode, before they get posted. That would make it an intentional act, and IMO would prevent the boring-automatic-noise issue.

    Lifestream is useful for us mass-information-consumers, but it's boring. Plus, most of the people are not multi-service mass-information-consumers, they just want to engage. With other people. In a meaningful way.

  37. Good post. Squelching and filtering non-info is so time consuming. I Love the Lists in Twitter. I deleted my other Twitter accounts which I only used to follow employees of certain companies, like Google and replaced them with Lists, like http://twitter.com/henkvaness/google-employees.

    But I'm afraid that this won't last for very long. Already noticed that spammers put you on a fake list, you check why, and voila you were exposed to their product. The next step, I am afraid, is that spammers will make fake bio's just to get listed in employee lists. They will more tricks that I can't think of right now. All what is good on the web is fragile…

    1. How do spammers do to make one FOLLOW them (not just follow you) so you end up following them without even knowing?!

  38. Is there is a bigger picture to look at here. This is nice conversation, the point the intelligence and lack there of is growing. Armies of people are growing in social networking mediums. This is going to be a force to be reckoned, utilized and implemented in way that will reveal.

    We are rushing through the empowerment of the Individual, collecting powers that are becoming joined forces.

    Look where we are today – years of evolution brought us to the capitalist society governed by government. In the this-mosphere is happening at light speed. Power corrupts corrupts power.

    And, there is the this-mosphere and the world outside of here.

    Where are we heading, what are we creating here …

  39. Not giving you a bad time for writing for yourself, Robert. That's where the passion comes from and all of the best writers do it, whether they admit it or not. ;-)

    Facebook for business is an interesting animal. Within a month of “joining” Facebook I had 4 new business leads, just from Wall-to-Wall posts and connecting with people. However, I'm still not convinced that it's the best B2B social network; personally, I lean more towards LinkedIn (with it's 50MM members today).

    It doesn't appear that you're on LinkedIn. Any reason why not? (Mostly curious, and you can tell me it's none of my business too.)

  40. Chris – although Scott McNealy used to joke “You have no privacy, get over it.” for most people privacy is still worth protecting in many contexts. Our enthusiasm for the relative openness of digital media space must be tempered with the realization that, human nature being what it is, with knowledge comes a real responsibility (if only to decide what to divulge publicly and what to keep private) to curate and steward.

  41. yup, how abt a hybrid solution – where others can follow your stuff to gain knowledge, but they need to be friends with you to actually discuss on your content. Do you think that could solve the problem partially?

  42. Well, I can say one thing after reading this: this explains why, after trying FriendFeed, FaceBook and other online social hangouts, I've never given up my Twitter account. I've used it everyday and I never get bored and I always find what I need when I'm on it …the information I want, in the size I want.

  43. Same here, ursulas. Although I've been using multiple Twitter accounts to focus on different people/interests I want to follow & engage with.

    Now I'm wondering (with the launch of Twitter Lists), if I should/will be abandoning all but one personal Twitter account and then tracking/following ppl through Twitter Lists and participating in the the various conversations in the same way.

    Thoughts?

  44. Facebook has definitely treated me better than Twitter has. I just guess I see this forum problem as being something that's going to make it difficult for me to get more and more value out of it. Twitter is dramatically improving for me every week I put into it. That's not true of Facebook or FriendFeed.

  45. Robert, what about Plurk. Aside from its UI, it's sort of a hybrid concept, with threaded messaging, private messaging to your followers and some other features. I know some find the UI silly, but what about it's functionality. Or…

    What if FF offered a Ning-style private labeling? It would be sort of like moderating a forum, but you'd be moderating the functionality that attracted you into FF in the first place, right? Perhaps the open source community should replicate FF's conversation functionality?

  46. Robert, what about Plurk. Aside from its UI, it's sort of a hybrid concept, with threaded messaging, private messaging to your followers and some other features. I know some find the UI silly, but what about it's functionality. Or…

    What if FF offered a Ning-style private labeling? It would be sort of like moderating a forum, but you'd be moderating the functionality that attracted you into FF in the first place, right? Perhaps the open source community should replicate FF's conversation functionality?

  47. Robert, what about Plurk. Aside from its UI, it's sort of a hybrid concept, with threaded messaging, private messaging to your followers and some other features. I know some find the UI silly, but what about it's functionality. Or…

    What if FF offered a Ning-style private labeling? It would be sort of like moderating a forum, but you'd be moderating the functionality that attracted you into FF in the first place, right? Perhaps the open source community should replicate FF's conversation functionality?

  48. Robert, but you don't spend much time in Facebook. I suggest spending a bit
    of time – use your fan Page like you used FriendFeed. Then post your more
    personal stuff (aka what you had for lunch) on your personal profile. Set
    up some lists in Facebook. Subscribe to some good fan Pages. Adjust your
    privacy settings for your personal profile. Facebook has improved
    magnitudes faster than Twitter has over the years, and they're still
    improving as we speak. Right now I'm finding value out of both, but I see
    *huge* value in what Facebook has to offer – those I'm working with and that
    I have talked to on my fan Page are all saying while numbers may not be as
    high they get much, much more engagement from a fan Page than they do
    Twitter. You've got to try it and seriously spend some time with it before
    you'll know that though.

    BTW, your fan Page posts are permalinked – you can do your “discuss here”
    posts to Twitter from Facebook just like you did FriendFeed.

  49. Hi Robert

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. My quick way of summarizing the problem to people is to say that if in a system the creation of spam (and I mean that in a very general sense – read “stuff you don't want to look at”) also gets the spam in people's faces, then you've got, or will have, real problems. The real problem are a) that you've set the scene for a biological arms race, b) that the system will devolve, and c) that you'll need a police force. OTOH, if you can mange to cut the link between the creation of spam and the getting it in people's faces, then you may stand a chance of not being destroyed by your own success.

    You can look at many offline and online services from this perspective. With physical spam mail, the act of creating it (putting in into the postal service) automatically gets it in front of peoples faces. Problem. On Facebook the act of commenting on something gets it into others' faces. Problem. With Google, the act of making a link gets it into the mix of PageRank and so if you make enough of them (e.g., Church of Scientology), you've got a problem (and Google has a police force to fight that arms race). If there's a popular #hashtag on Twitter or a trending topic, there's a problem – people hitch-hike on it immediately. That's why those particular things on Twitter can only be useful in the small – because they create forums so if they come to wider attention they automatically devolve. Look at an open tagging system where anyone can tag anything – once a tag is popular/useful, it devolves (people tag things incorrectly in order to immediately get their content in front of faces).

    I think to a decent extent Twitter does not suffer from this problem. It's not entirely absent (anyone can @scobleizer you). Anyone can follow you, but they can't make you go look at their page, follow their about link, etc. So in that regard the creation of spam (i.e., adding yourself as an unknown and possibly unwanted follower to someone) is not concomitant with getting yourself in front of the target's face. And of course if someone's bugging you, you can just block them.

    I've thought about all this a lot in the context of FluidDB. Because FluidDB objects don't have owners, anyone can add to them. But what they cannot do is get their additions in front of anyone. So while I could freely add a terry/opinion to the FluidDB object for Scoble, I couldn't make you or anyone else look at it. Of course if you did look at it and found value there, then it's not spam – it has a fitness (in a biological sense) and has a first foothold in the FluidDB ecology. You might even pass on a recommendation that others look at the terry/opinion tags on objects. And because we have identity, it's impossible for anyone else to put terry/opinion tags onto objects (unless I give them permission to).

    A summary of all this thinking is that the link between spam creation & getting it in people's faces is vitally important. You have to find a way to cut that link. And second, if you're going to design a system, that's part of setting it up so that its evolution can follow a useful path. Because it will evolve (perhaps devolve). You want something that allows for the evolution of reputation and trust (of people, of data, of apps). I think those ingredients are very important if you want to build something of lasting value – something whose success doesn't also carry within itself the seeds of its own inevitable devolution.

  50. I think a large number of people came to the same conclusion because the FF founders employed an amateurish PR strategy during the buy out at best, at worst simply didn't level with the community that yes, FF is eventually going by the wayside. (Let's hope they at least keep the servers on for archiving purposes.)

    So that made it pretty hard to keep investing a ton of time into FF. Heck, I had started modifying some Greasemonkey scripts to customize FF, hoping that FF would eventually launch those features natively. Now pretty much all new development on FF has ceased. That's no way to keep people around in earnest.

    And parallel to the “death throes” of FF, everybody after a few weeks of shock has gotten way more emo than is good for everyday consumption.

  51. Actually that is not true. Twitter won because it was simple and because you could control who got access to your face. It also was bite sized and easy to skip over the noise.

  52. Well, you can't share it with others, correct, but you can still create the
    list. The advantage there is you can control who in that list sees – you
    can't do that on Twitter. They both have their advantages. I have use for
    both right now – can't go all Twitter, I can *almost* go all Facebook. I'm
    betting most of those in your list have a Facebook Page (I can confirm I'm a
    fan of quite a few of those on Facebook actually). If they don't, what are
    they thinking?

  53. That's why I added the disclaimer regarding the UI–trying to focus on functionality. Incidentally, they have a list view for mobiles, but it needs work. Not a Plurk fanboy, just throwing it out there.

    Beyond that, what about a private-label FF , as I mentioned in above?

  54. You have managed to generate some *passionate* discussions the past couple of days Robert!

    I do rather wonder where we all go next. I've actually been using Facebook way more than I used to, strictly because Twitter has gotten more broadcast than conversational of late with the influx of people. I've also taken to reading more blogs than I used to because of the desire for finding information that interests me rather than (as you put it) 'cat pictures'.

    I suspect you're not quite as enamored of 'controlled' conversations as you posit here though Robert… as it is the unplanned encounter that changes our viewpoint best. Still – we all have our threshholds. Sometimes you just need to walk away from some places, scale back on others, and ramp up others.

    I think you're finding your balance. :)

  55. See, the trick was you just had to wait till BBSs weren't cool anymore! Then the endless n00b problem solved itself and we've been happily chugging along since the early 90s and I expect we'll still be there 20 years from now.

    For good short or long term discussions with rooms by topic and simple x messages, I'd say the DOC style BBS is _still_ my favorite discussion interface. Twitter is great in that it solves the moderation problem, but it's still .. ephemeral in a way that BBS discussions are not.

    As a side note, my brain keeps trying to map Google Waves as sort of hybrid BBS rooms, but somehow less organized and more chaotic. Not sure, still trying to work that one out.

  56. Facebook is usable if you don’t mind offending people a bit. Everyone who lowers the bandwidth on my news I filter out. Everyone who raises it I put on a special list that I read if I’ve been away a few days. I filter almost all applications out as they arise. I don’t friend or only give limited profile to people I wouldn’t speak my mind in front of, in order to keep my own content high (a lot of FB friends got boring after friending their parents…)

    But you are right — pure-form egalitarianism in social media doesn’t give you increasingly interesting content, or at least not at a very high rate (there is still the Flynn effect). Still, at the same time, I couldn’t have guessed who would generate the most interesting stuff for me on facebook in advance — some of them were on the margins of my social network, but that’s why they bring in such an interesting perspective. They are the small number of people who are smart, use web 2.0 well, and are in different professional or cultural communities than I am.

  57. No one is in control in a chat room? Where are your IRCops? I thought you said you used to go on BBS’, surely you’d know that these all require moderation to be good. The reason you like twitter so much is that you get to moderate it yourself (pretty awesome, I do agree), but don’t drag down the other perfectly fine methods of internet group communication just because you were in a chatroom that you didn’t know how to get under control. It’s not like IRC is one of the oldest communication protocols in the history of computers or anything. Also, did you not ever touch your phpbb forums admin page or what?

    The only reason you don’t like this stuff is because you’re bad at it.

  58. I am mostly a fan Robert but I must disagree with some of your points in this post:

    1. Fortunately for Facebook, the vast majority of its users do use it for fun and are not there to find experts.
    2. I think you Valley types have a peculiar problem in that the majority of your real friends are also techies. I expect that for most people who follow tech but live outside the valley, like me, the distinction between twitter and facebook is quite clear. I post business and geeky stuff to Twitter but use Facebook to share fun and personal photos, videos and thoughts with my real friends and family.
    3. I think the point about your friend's tragic loss of a friend is misplaced here – are you suggesting that Facebook can't be used for that sort of thing? I actually find that Facebook is much better for expressing such sentiment. A friend lost his younger brother recently and I lost an aunt. Facebook enabled far more condolence sharing than had ever been possible before and because most people only connect with real friends there, they are unlikely to get the inappropriate comments etc to which you refer.
    4. I suspect that you got bored of FriendFeed like you did of GoogleReader and that you are not liking Facebook much because, well, it isn't Twitter. That's okay but …
    5. I think it is unfair on these services that you try to use them like your new favourite thing Twitter and then trash them when you get bored. I suppose in the case of Facebook, it is kind of their fault because they keep trying to be like Twitter when they ought to stick to what sets them apart from everyone else – or if they must copy Twitter, they should launch a distinct product or feature-set for it.

  59. And this is why I love Livejournal – it has community, and pseudonymity, and the power to control exactly who can and cannot leave comments, so that I can keep things civil on the odd occasion when I need to.

    1. Likewise. LJ seems to be the only social networking website that has effectively solved the vast majority of these problems.

      I just wish they integrated better with newer Web 2.0 websites.

  60. There are some dubious Twitter tools out there. They ask you to allow access to your Twitter Account. After that you get full access to the tool, but you became a follower too… I wonder how they do this because the Twitter API normally shows you an extra step so you can't follow by accident…

    It's such a stupid trick. Would you buy from a shopkeeper who glues you to his cash register?

  61. This is precisely the reason why I keep Facebook strictly for friends. Gets too hard to follow your own friends if you don't.

    Twitter, yes, lists are amazingly useful for people who follow too many people. Now we can finally segregate them into groups that we can refer to depending on mood/need/whatever.

    And you're right about the noise: Twitter is the carpeted café where you can chat to just the people you want. Facebook is the house party. Friendfeed is like trying to have a work dinner in a huge restaurant with echoing acoustics.

    That said, I don't see why anyone would “quit” Friendfeed. I don't think there's anything wrong with maintaining a presence there even if you're not actively involved in discussion. Just say that in the bio! The fact that your presence is there means that other people can still follow your feed and discuss the points you raise while you're elsewhere online. It's performing a service to those that do use Friendfeed.

  62. Great post. I’d add that to be fully in control of your voice/channel you need to own your domain. You will always control what goes on at scobleizer.com (and because you use open source software to power it, you can always move to another web host and keep publishing). The same can’t be said for twitter.com/scobleizer (or scobleizer.wordpress.com for that matter).

  63. I mentioned over and over to you that only so many of us produce Feeds, so Friendfeed would never catch-on with the general public.

    Anyone who quits a service publicly does so for attention.

    Frendfeed is a great service for pulling all our feeds into one place, we just gotta find a better way to capitalize on this service

  64. Bringing in people you didn’t ask to see (as you put it) seems to be a short term gain for the community.

    After all, it helps people make new connections and hence speeds the growth of the community.

    At least in the short term.

    And in the short term it works – so the companies (not realizing the toxicity of the ‘features’) go on and start drinking the cool aid.

    I can absolutely see how this happens time and again: Try something. measure. It works. Do it more.

    Thanks for pointing out the long term effects. It may save our emerging community :)

  65. Funny that I noticed how many spammers are following me on twitter. They even get in my @pythagras tag… Forcing me to see things I didn’t want to see :(

  66. Totally late to comment here, but this isn't precisely true:

    “On Facebook? No. Louis Gray’s feed drags in tons of others (even though you need to be “friended” by Louis to see his feed there).”

    Yes, you see things other people have posted (and I really wish there was a way to prohibit people from posting certain stuff — like videos or ads, which I never want on my wall), but you can also filter to “Just Louis.”

    With the filters for your news feed and mini-feed (and the you can already create lists of your own friends on Facebook for news feed filtering and privacy purposes), Facebook is no noisier than Twitter.

    They're certainly different cultures… and your points about forums and chat rooms are well taken (and match up mostly with my observations over 15 years of doing the community thing), but I think if your Facebook is getting noisier than your Twitter, that's because you're not filtering and you're not curating (i.e., just like you unsubscribe from blogs or unfollow tweeps, remove or filter out noisy friends).

  67. I don't know. Thanks to compete.com we saw that FriendFeed lost some users and original traffic. But I still consider it the best Social Network. What you are mentioning is noise, spam, trolls, but they exist no matter the Social Network.

    Don't you think?

    In FriendFeed you still have the power to block a user that you don't want to see o comment your stream. But thinking this way I guess you are restricting your Social activity to a bunch of people, because not everybody thinks about a search engine to find information on a Social Network, at least not yet.

    Twitter is etilist as you said, try to think to a “Mr. No-one”, he is new in this “Social thing” an he is trying to emerge. I think it's impossible just with the use of Twitter.

    It's like GMail. They say that you don't have no more spam within your mailbox, but it's just a matter of good filtering, not of avoiding spam. If you check your spam folder is still full indeed.

  68. I used to help run Leo Laporte's IRC chat room. It had these problems and far more. One night we had to block the entire country of Singapore to try to get rid of some of the bad actors who were spamming the chat room. Sorry, IRC sucks. And that was only with 200 people in a chat room. If you get more than 1,000 it's unusable even if every post is signal. Why? Moves too fast.

  69. If you believe in linear learning and don't want to be troubled with people you don't know who might be talking about something you're interested in, well you'll do just fine with lists.

    But it leads to a form of entropy born of a type of social inbreeding. It's what I call the Groups problem. You start a group and it has a bunch of people you like and respect. It's invite only and it starts off swimmingly.

    Then a few begin to dominate the conversation and others fall off. The activity on your list goes down and it becomes a self-reinforcing echo chamber with little new thought or it strays from the topic and chases those remaining few off.

    No, the future is in non-linear learning and constantly getting new, relevant inputs to challenge and shape your thinking and world view.

    The good thing is the tools are available at FriendFeed. FoaF is at the heart of the best discovery engine on the web. But with great power comes great responsibility. FoaF is powerful. It supercharges your network.

    You can't overload it. My main feed in FriendFeed is Dunbar's number compliant and I use other tools such as hide to shape it even further. FoaF is a way to select experts as your filters. I've written a bit about this here: http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/soylent-green-i

    You're a great technology filter. So is Rob Diana. Louis Gray is great for tech and social media. There's also Michael Fruchter and Mahendra and Atul Aurora. These people bring me new and interesting content through FoaF.

    Really and truly. I think this has more to do with an inflexibility to change and adapt. FriendFeed *has* changed. Usage is different. The DATA is different. So – of course – you have to change the filters you have in place to turn that data into information. You just haven't changed your filters (even though all the tools are there) and instead of sought out the purported greener grass.

  70. The problem with Twitter lists is that they don’t solve the “Cereal Problem” (“I just had cereal for breakfast, it was yummy”, the kind of tweet I never want to read). All these experts that you put in your list are not going to be tweeting about the topic of your list 100% of the time, so eventually, they will degenerate just like the others.

    It’s already happening, by the way: someone present on two of your lists will statistically be sending tweets that are off topic at least 50% of the time.

    Hashtag lists would create much more focused content since people who write can specify what list their Tweet should go to.

  71. Robert:

    I feel like you deserve more than a simple acknowledgement of this post. It's only fair.

    I do accept your apology on a professional level. I do believe you're sincere. However, this is more than just about FriendFeed, Facebook or Twitter. It's about a common respect for people and their right to choose.

    When I left FriendFeed, you not only attacked my decision based on platform, you attacked me personally. And you continued to do so on Twitter and the other social networks. You were not content to let me make a decision for myself. You come from a world where people make decisions based on others wishes.

    That's fine. I'm a small l libertarian though. Live and let live. You do your thing and I'll do mine. The only time I'm going to push back on anyone elses decisions is when they go to war with me. If you read my blog, you know I don't attack people. I can count a handful of times in the past 5 years of Technosailor.com where I went to war with someone personally. It's not my style. I'll go to war with ideas. I'll go to war with companies. I won't go to war with people. You chose to go to war with me. Whatever.

    Also, if you read my blog or my Twitter or anywhere else where I have a presence online, you will see a very distinct pattern in my behavior. On the surface it may be erratic. I may be less than your corporate drone mixing personal and professional without thinking of it. Chaos theory. Out of chaos comes order. The pattern that exists and is distinct everywhere is that I am a filter for my audience. I use services, products or engage with people based on actual value to my community – a community that is largely made up of small business owners and, more recently, gov and journalism types.

    I am not a SV boy nor do I cater to SV. I cater to a specific group of people who are looking for a voice to help them navigate the web and help them do business better. I am not just a geek who lives and breathes the Internet.

    That voice that I bring is highly important and valuable to that community and as such, I make decisions like dropping FriendFeed because… it's just not valuable to them. That's my choice, not yours. You went to war with me. I did not go to war with you until you challenged my position and role in this matter.

    I accept your apology, Robert. I'm glad to see that you are making a distinction between old Robert and new Robert though, to be fair, I don't see a difference yet. What is changed? You're moving around on services like a child with ADD. You're evangelizing products. It's all the same. Now, Arrington and I are namedropped to accent yet another move by you. No harm, no foul but… new Robert?

    This is not about FriendFeed. This is about respect and until I see a pattern of that, I don't know if a new Robert exists yet. I accept your apology and you may not care what I have to say here. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this level but it will take a lot more than a post to convince me long term.

    Cheers.

  72. I am a big fan of Friendfeed, but I have to admit I no longer feel the need to keep it open all the time. I still check it occasionally, but many of the people that I followed and wrote comment on their post are gone or post just occasionally. I am still not totally happy with Twitter, it is still hard to follow conversations on it, however with the addition of list that should help. I still think that Friendfeed has value I just think that who it has value for has change.

  73. Aaron. One of the reasons I was a jerk to you is when you left FriendFeed you deleted your account. That deleted utility. For one, it deleted your content so it made the search feature there a little less useful. When you take utility away from me it pisses me off. That I could get over, though, cause, well, it's your content. But, on FriendFeed when you delete an account you ALSO delete every one else's comments that they made on your content. THAT was MAJOR infraction time. We warned you that would happen yet you still did it. Even though I'm probably going to leave FriendFeed soon I'm not going to delete my account because of these two issues.

    You and I also have the same sin. Right now the FriendFeed community is just as pissed with me as I was with you back when you announced you were leaving. When we get tired with something we let everyone know. That makes people feel bad. I'm cool with that, it's part of the cost of being an evangelist. If you're spending your time doing X that defacto means you are NOT doing it on Y. That makes everyone on Y pissed because they see their community is dwindling (and their investment in such looks lame — which is one reason I lashed out at you).

    As for new Robert, well, I see I was wrong to attack you when I am now following a similar path a few months later. That said, I'm still pissed you deleted your account because it deleted my comments too, which I spent a lot of time adding to your content. Even here you said that I was not a valuable member of your community. And I'm supposed to be happy with that? I accept you don't want me in your community and you don't like me. That's the risks of being online. If you are doing interesting stuff you'll piss SOMEONE off.

    Anyway, onward.

    What's funny is that you say you don't attack people personally. But when you say that I'm not part of THAT community (IE, yours) well, you just attacked me personally. It's certainly not an inclusive attitude. But I understand that, because I'm in a similar mood lately. Which is why I'm apologizing to you because I took it too personally and should have listened deeper.

  74. Robert- you're not part of that community. That's not an insult. It's real life. You shouldn't want or need to be a part of every community. You said that in your post. Do you want to be a part of the Midnight Golfers community, or whatever the hell you called it? Of course not…. My community is a very specific community – NOT a general one.

    I hope you get value out of stuff I do and write, but you're not the target nor should you be. You're in a different world than me and have a different set of people you cater to. Your community is very much a tech heavy community that is early adopter-ish. Mine is a very conservative (not-political) group that is trying to get up to speed with the lowest impact to their business. Simple. Not the same community. If you take that as offensive, then that's on you.

  75. Robert- you're not part of that community. That's not an insult. It's real life. You shouldn't want or need to be a part of every community. You said that in your post. Do you want to be a part of the Midnight Golfers community, or whatever the hell you called it? Of course not…. My community is a very specific community – NOT a general one.

    I hope you get value out of stuff I do and write, but you're not the target nor should you be. You're in a different world than me and have a different set of people you cater to. Your community is very much a tech heavy community that is early adopter-ish. Mine is a very conservative (not-political) group that is trying to get up to speed with the lowest impact to their business. Simple. Not the same community. If you take that as offensive, then that's on you.

  76. In the past week I've found 8,000 new people thanks to lists. Are you REALLY going to lecture me that lists bring social inbreeding? OK. But we'll disagree.

    See, Aaron, this is the new Scoble. Sigh.

  77. Sorry, because of my building43 work I +am+ part of a community that is trying to learn how to help businesses deal with the new world of the 2010 web. One nice thing about Twitter is that you can't decide who is in your community and who isn't.

    FriendFeed used to be a good Twitter client for me. That's why I was pissed at you. You took away an opportunity to use the Twitter client I wanted to use.

    Now that is moot because I've seen that FriendFeed isn't the best Twitter client anymore. Anyway, onward.

  78. Incredible quantity Robert, but … that doesn't always translate into quality, does it? (You're also a particular type of edge case.)

    And will you really get value out of those additional people given the tools Twitter provides to translate the data into information?

    I simply don't think adding more and more people is an effective strategy to getting the right content. That's really where we agree to disagree. As an example, I'm very happy to be on one list in particular. Here's a snapshot of that list: http://ff.im/aQouI

    Without looking at my profile, what's the list about?

    Still a fan Robert. And I'll be interested to see your opinion of lists after the halo effect has worn off.

  79. Robert, I think there is another aspect you are missing here, and maybe it will help clear up some of the language barrier you have with Aaron.

    The network you choose to share in at a particular time is a function of what role you play. Are you playing the Innovator? The Connector? The Collector? The Publisher? The Stress-tester?

    To what degree are you influenced by what others are doing?

    To what degree is your success in exploring a space dependent on being “first” to a concept?

    A couple of years ago, Old Robert would have said that he wanted as many inputs from smart people as possible, so he could find the new cool shinies and share them with a wide audience. Old Robert's utility for many was linked to our proximity. If Robert stands to be among the first to know, we stand to be tied for second.

    However, there is only so much Connecting a person can do. Granted, you did it for a VERY long time. But there is a need to create, and develop ideas in their own linear path without all the branching and kibitzing and commenting that goes along with being the Great Nexus.

    Besides… sitting in the middle of that maelstrom dulls the hearing, if not the thinking. I wonder how many decent ideas you had, how many epiphanies you stumbled through at the collision of comments left by others… ideas and epiphanies that left your mind before you could even record them.

    Frustrates the hell out of me when it happens in my head.

    Add in the fact that a lot of the people getting most active with you at FriendFeed were ALSO Connectors. Being a node among nodes is fun, as long as there is still juice flowing through the brain.

    All of that to say this? Why make a public issue out of “walking away?” Why not simply say that you are eager to find a different way to use FriendFeed, and integrate it with your other online presences and services in a manner that reflects a change in your priorities? “I need to be more focused and linear, and not as random and scattered.” A simple declaration.

    Steve Rubel did this without drama – but then I see his role as far different than yours. Steve spends a lot of time tinkering and toying with networks, to see what is possible from an individual's workload standpoint. You (traditionally) have been more of the Stress Test bellwether. So why not try something different?

    I can't tell you what that is… but I can guess that it will involve getting out of the center of the galaxy and out to the fringes of a spiral arm. I hear there is life out there…

  80. So what's next? Google Wave? or more Twitter?

    I think the Blogs are where it's at, and even while I continue to use some Twitter, Friendfeed and some Google Reader social features, the Blog is where quality conversation will remain!

    Now, lets figure out how to grow Blogs, Disqus is a step in the right direction, but not it. I think MovableType has something up their sleeve on real-time conversation around blog posts, and hopefully WordPress will have something also (since that's my platform of choice right now).

  81. So what's next? Google Wave? or more Twitter?

    I think the Blogs are where it's at, and even while I continue to use some Twitter, Friendfeed and some Google Reader social features, the Blog is where quality conversation will remain!

    Now, lets figure out how to grow Blogs, Disqus is a step in the right direction, but not it. I think MovableType has something up their sleeve on real-time conversation around blog posts, and hopefully WordPress will have something also (since that's my platform of choice right now).

  82. Slashdot seems to have (largely) escaped the problem of the mob by leveraging the mob itself. All the crap gets hidden and the moderation system brings the best stuff to the top. With enough moderation and comments, an intelligent and informative conversation emerges. In fact, I rarely read the actual article posted since the comments are often much more informative and accurate.

    Digg attempts to do the same, by default showing comments with higher diggs or whatever, but in doing so completely destroys the threading. The default view now leaves all comments without context and instead of a logical discussion is just a bunch of noise.

    It's a shame that the Slashdot model isn't more common, but it really requires a critical mass of comments and moderators for its emergent properties to work.

  83. I think you tend to make enemies when you tell people what to do and use. It's not very community-like, when participating in other communities anyway, when thats the tone you take. I think you have enough capital to command respect for your opinions, but when that respect is not mutually lent, then you get into sticky situations where you piss people like me or Mike off.

    I left FriendFeed for very legitimate reasons and offered those very legitimate reasons. What happens after that is up to you and other people in the community. Agree or disagree but do so respectfully.

    Like you said, onward.

  84. At least all I do is “TELL” my users what to do. You DELETED MY CONTENT AND YOURS OFF OF FRIENDFEED AND FORCED them to move to follow you. Which is worse?

  85. Your fight is with FriendFeed then. Not me. As you indicated, it is my account and my content. If FriendFeed is built flawed, then that is outside of my control.

  86. YOU deleted your account, FriendFeed didn't. There was no reason you needed to delete it. But, whatever. I'm over it and I apologize for calling you names and blocking you over it.

  87. No, even if you filter to “just louis” you will get likes and comments made by other people. Unless you explicitly block everyone. Which is just too much damn work.

  88. Twitter does NOT have ANY spam on my home feed. None. Nada. And it doesn't have a single person I DID NOT INVITE THERE. Not like other social networks.

    1. Not yet :-)

      Let’s see in six months from now (but I’m betting the smart folks at Twitter will have found a better way to solve this problem).

  89. Google Wave takes the Forum Problem and makes it 10x worse. For me Twitter is it, maybe with some RSS aggregator (but one stripped down so it loads fast, Google Reader can't deal with being a social network — my instance takes more than a minute to startup).

  90. Well, as you wrote on the post if you watch things this way could be elitist, as someone pointed out below you don't have 100% of tweets granted with value. But as you teach me, the best part is in the art of the “Answer the correct Following” :-)

  91. I forgot to mention that the karma system and friend/foe system on Slashdot also help users choose which people they want to read comments by, call it “soft” following/blocking. If you like someone's comments consistently, you can set them as a friend and give them (in your eyes) automatic moderation up so you are more likely to see what they say. Likewise for someone you don't want to see, you can set their starting point lower. Karma does the same thing, but bases the starting point on moderation of past comments.

    Disqus brings some reputation to the system, and does let you follow people's comments, but it doesn't seem to have much impact on the visibility of comments at the source. (I haven't used Disqus as a publisher so I don't know all of its features.) Maybe Disqus, or something like it, is the place for a site-spanning slash moderation system that gives that power of crowds to sites that don't otherwise have the necessary traffic? Just a thought. Visibility could even be based on the average reputation, perhaps excluding outliers so “heavy hitters” don't completely overshadow others. And now I'm rambling…

  92. Very interesting notes, though as a “Normal” person, I often find it rather hard due to a limited social circle to get enough people I know well to fully make use of stuff like FriendFeed and Twitter. I worry that such a issue such as the Chatroom problem may swing too far in the other direction, creating near-impenetrable niches and circles that leave newcomers completely out to dry, and echo chambers increasing dramatically.

    I'm sure I am wrong, though, and that this won't happen. It is hard to see how the flow of communities will go in the future, there's a lot of ways it can go, I just hope that someone leaves the door open for well-meaning newcomers.

  93. Really interesting read actually.

    You'll recall that Facebook already saw the “delete” scenario and attempted to prevent it before the backlash you outline (Feb 2009). Yeah. That went well.

    This highlights two things: 1) perception 2) prevention

    Perception of the meta, the commentary, the extras, the interaction, the flow, the dare I say…. wave. Who owns the flow? If you added a brick to the wall, does it become your wall? Pick any flawed analogy and start taking notes.

    Prevention of the orphaned meta commentary becoming orphaned or all derivatives or resultant items surrounding some corpus of unique content (assuming no edits) or the GUID that pins all things back together…. this is the folly of our software development decisions. Again, playback, and control of the everliving asset with full revision control might be the wave people want but don't know it yet… or might change their minds.

    I've been around on Slashdot and Livejournal enough to see this play out a few times. Here's the thing… you don't see Slashdot and Livejournal come up a lot these days? Why? They are the BBS of their times… there is always going to be another one.

    What we as users/members/etc of any such BBS must always endure? The learning curve of the software developers that are either just starting or have stolen all the best ideas or refined them.

    The nuclear option is to “delete” and it is as old as any angsty teen saying they won't go somewhere or leave their room to interact with others. Would you deny this option?

    The best elements of LiveJournal, Slashdot, Digg, DISQUS, and the publishing ease of FriendFeed and Twitter might collapse into something one day… and it seems that Facebook is about trying to get there. Maybe.

    This is what happens when you force kids to read The Fountainhead and “pick sides”.

  94. I see what you are saying, I agree with what you are saying, but for the majority of the users that follow you, it explains your actions perfectly, but doesn't apply to the majority of US..

    You summed it up with

    “As long as you only have your really close personal friends in Facebook, this is NOT a problem at all.”

    Which for the mear mortal out there, is usually all we have!! even with my extended network from the tech startup scene, I do not create enough noise on any medium!

    This is a Blog entry for the special followers you have/ and information explaining what and why you do things for for the rest of us.!

    Don't get me wrong, keep it up. Its of interest, its informative, and it covers real issues in my scene of interest.

    on a side note! you mentioned the “list of people who have started companies” and still I havn't made it onto the list.. I know my pitch to you in cambridge was short, and while you were on the way to a pub!! but a founder I am!

  95. if i was having dinner with steve jobs and 5,000 of his friends, i would like to think that steve jobs has some very cool friends who are worth knowing, i suppose that is why facebook is so great for marketing and social proof but i do find it annoying when people upload a photo that has nothing to do with me and then tag me in it, they should really set it up so that the person being tagged approves before it is displayed publicly, i know that it's possible to remove a tag afterwards but really, it should be an opt-in not an opt-out

  96. @Scobleizer What do you think about bringing more and more conversation to the blog? Integrate your photos, videos, tweets, bookmarks etc., from other services in your blog and let your readers read and comment? Your blog becomes the hub of your digital activity. The community is that of your readers. You can moderate the comments. Its relatively noise free. If you could organize the external content flexibly in your blog you could do more with this..

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  97. Wow, you really blocked someone for choosing a different Web site? I’m surprised, you don’t come across as so hotheaded. Kudos for apologising at least.

    The only thing we all need to choose is the Web. If it doesn’t work well enough, we’ll have to improve it…

  98. I agree with Aaron, if when deleting an account, friendfeed deletes all the comments that are associated with it, your problem is with friendfeed.

    One could approach the argument differently to say that you should ask friendfeed to provide a second copy of all your comments somewhere so that they still 'exist' for you.


    Scoble, to the larger point you make in your article, it is well put on the noise factor, though I think the flaws/problems on other mediums definitely have an opportunity for smart people to improve the experience.

  99. I brought this up while in wave a few weeks ago. How do we keep the good stuff and skip the not so good stuff?

    First off, any service that lets me choose is great. Let the social pipeline be the sum of all the noise and all the signal. Then let each user artistically craft their own input stream from the flood.

    User curated communities are pretty common now (HackerNews, reddit, friendfeed). Personalized views of a flood of data, not so much.

    I rarely see anything I don't want to on my super human filters list on friendfeed. It's a group with a dozen or so people and I'm always happy to check it out.

  100. Thank you for encapsulating my experience so well. I remember all the services you mention…even tried my own forum…for high school kids..what was I thinking?

    I think you or spot on rergarding Twitter. Lists have turned my internet activities rightside up again.

  101. I think that “waiting until X isn't cool anymore” is a really valuable strategy. I'm barely logging into Facebook these days because it's so noisy, but my old LiveJournal (yes, yes, I know) has begun a resurgence of relevance for me – the only people left happen to be good friends and so it's calmed down to a gem of highly interesting (to me) content.

    I'm nervous about Twitter – at the moment it's a really great source of new ideas and great connections, but as more and more features get tacked on I wonder if what made it special will dilute it. I mean, they are one or two badly designed features away from accidentally turning Twitter into a forum and importing all of those problems that Robert lists. I mean, trending topics became a useless morass of noise months ago. The new re-tweet feature, if done badly, will be very, very bad.

    Meanwhile, IRC has become a forgotten near-dead communication tool, but those of us still using it, like it just fine.

  102. I wish that Twitter stole the “hide posts like this” feature from FF and Facebook and let me hide all the Fourquare/Mafia Wars or whatever tweets without blocking the person utterly.

    But for now, ruthlessly unfollowing people whose noise to signal ratio has climbed too high has helped me keep Twitter excellent.

  103. For me, Facebook is very much something that is almost entirely for fun. Twitter is where I learn things about technology, my field, helpful tools, some good news stories, new blogs etc. I don’t spend time on Facebook expecting to learn anything outside of what is going on in people’s personal lives.

    But that is also why my Twitter is almost entirely people I don’t know face to face, while on Facebook I pretty much consider everyone I have on my list to be a friend in the face to face.

  104. I agree that it matters what a person's intent is when choosing a system. Twitter is my favorite as well, but I think some people like FF for tracking their own personal learning. Facebook I find is more for close family and friends.

    The NY Times has an article today that is relevant to the conversation. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/business/09li… Geolocation is soon to be added to Twitter and may help filter some messages by context. The article also mentioned the open-source project Ushahidi. The software has text messages mapped by time and location.

  105. Hey! Check out this cool photo tagging software called Fotobounce! It can help you sort your images using face recognition! It can also download & tag your photos from facebook & flickr! You can even use it from your cellphone, get it for free at: http://fotobounce.com/index.php?blog

  106. It's tough. I had a system going that I called 'Zareste's Grid' and it had some popularity during its short run. It was a Flash program with a huge 2d board where anyone can post pictures, and they could group pictures by similarity. (as opposed to choosing categories) It worked very well, giving people a lot of freedom with very little corruption. And the 'comments' were merely a chat box in the corner that could be turned off

    I wonder if this 'sort by space' idea could apply to forums. My next project was going to be a 'message tower' in which people could place new messages near similar ones on a giant list of messages, so we could have all the messages in the world and still be able to find and create them spacially.

  107. Bravo! I sure hope Twitter doe'nt go down the “loss of control over my conversations” road. If I can't craft my experience without intrusion…for the almighty $$…then I'll be gone. GREAT POST! Thanks for sharing.

  108. It's tough. I had a system going that I called 'Zareste's Grid' and it had some popularity during its short run. It was a Flash program with a huge 2d board where anyone can post pictures, and they could group pictures by similarity. (as opposed to choosing categories) It worked very well, giving people a lot of freedom with very little corruption. And the 'comments' were merely a chat box in the corner that could be turned off

    I wonder if this 'sort by space' idea could apply to forums. My next project was going to be a 'message tower' in which people could place new messages near similar ones on a giant list of messages, so we could have all the messages in the world and still be able to find and create them spacially.