Thoughts on Systems

Emil Sit

Porting Social Networks Into FriendFeed

The other day, I complained on Twitter that it was impossible to check-in occasionally to see what people I know had been up to, and separate all that activity out from the prolific people that I’ve followed just because they occasionally say interesting things. And just to prove that fact, I totally missed the two replies to that tweet for several days. One commented that FriendFeed was the solution because of its friend lists. I quickly discovered two things:

  1. It is not trivial to find the FriendFeed usernames of people you are following on Twitter. The best solution seems to be from Internet Duct Tape but it is Windows only, not open source, and also doesn’t create imaginary friends for people without FriendFeed. Not useful.
  2. You can’t import your friends with private Twitter feeds that require authorization.

Arguably this is just an example of the problem of re-creating the same social networks over and over again. A huge problem of APIs, data formats, trust, … FriendFeed in this case could make it easier by at least recognizing people by their other service profile URLs and hey, even offering Twitter (and FaceBook) import instead of just a few e-mail services.

Somewhat tangentially, I’ve been playing with Yammer at work and they make it very hard to miss a message: compared to Twitter, your home screen auto-updates via AJAX and you can get an daily summary of activity e-mailed to you. Not bad.

Update (22 Jan 2009): Importing your Twitter followings is now a solved problem. Yay! I am definitely pleased with how fast FF is able to improve, as opposed to how slowly core Twitter does (e.g., Twitter search still doesn’t appear on the main web UI page.)

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