Tag Archives: friendfeed

Designing Notification Emails: What you can learn from Friendfeed and others

Email notifications for various actions(like new friend request, new follower) play an important role in getting a user back to the site and making them perform an action (accept/deny or follow back). Also, given the huge size of various social networks and thinking of these emails as a customer touch point it’s helpful to have a nicely designed notification email template. I’ve written a couple of posts on the same earlier too.

In this post I’ll try to compare the notification email by various popular platforms for the basic action of getting a new friend,follower, subscriber etc and see whose doing what and what could they do to make things better.

1) Twitter:


Format: HTML; Display Pic: Included; Call to Action: Visit profile; Direct Action: Block

This template is mostly good enough to decide if a user wants to follow back another user of not but by having a direct follow button would have helped.

2) Slideshare


Format: HTML; Display Pic: Not Included; Call to Action: Visit profileDirect Action: None

This template is plain and simple but it doesn’t have a display pic for new follower and it doesn’t have a direct button for an action. Also, it has two links which point to the same page, which isn’t the best thing .

3) LinkedIn

Format: HTML; Display Pic: Not Included; Call to Action: View InvitationDirect Action: Accept Invitation.

While Linkedin has a direct action button they don’t have any detail about the user in question. Here again a picture or some more description will be helpful.

4) FriendFeed:

Format: HTML; Display Pic: Included; Call to Action: NoneDirect Action: Subscribe back

Friendfeed has by far the best designed email notification template in which they have the display pic, last few updates and just one link to get direct action(subscribe back) from the user

5) Facebook:


Format: HTML; Display Pic: Included; Call to Action: Visit request Direct Action: Accept Request.

Facebook has changed it’s notification from the older one (active till 14th september 09). While they have definitely gone the Friendfeed way, the name  of direct action button is Login which doesn’t kinda look right.

Format: Text; Display Pic: Not Included; Call to Action: View RequestDirect Action: None

6) Orkut:


Format: HTML; Display Pic: Included; Call to Action: Visit profile and Visit friends pageDirect Action: None

Orkut too like slideshare has two links to the user’s profile and a third link which reads ‘visit friends page’ but it takes you to a separate ‘add friends’ page ala facebook.  Also there is no direct call to action here too.

While there could be reasons for not having a direct action button for Facebook and  Orkut(because they need to group friends into categories for example) some sites like Slideshare and Twitter can easily pick this.{Tip 1}

Having two links to the same profile page is definitely not wise and needs to be taken care off {Tip 2}. Other tips like having some profile info and a display picture can help {Tip 3} in a direct call to action(button etc) {Tip 4} if there is.

As you might have noticed eventually every notification email has moved to HTML format as it has more options like better looks and including a direct action call. {Tip 5}

What do you think about these email notifications?

FriendFeed:To Mainstream or Not is the Question

Despite being a cool service with a solid team behind it, I’ve always looked with skeptism at any talk about FriendFeed going mainstream. Before talking about FriendFeed or any other service going mainstream it’s imporant to be clear about what going mainstream really means.
Crossing million mark for number of users ? Regular mention of the service in mainstream media ? Presence of brands and celebrities on the service ?

To each according to it’s own, for some a service is mainstream if all their colleagues have accounts on it while for some a service is mainstream if national daily/magazines talk about  it regularly but, for me the parameter that can help to decide if a serivce is mainstream or not would be by seeing what % of people who go online regularly( excluding the likes of those who check their emails  only when someone informs them over phone about a new mail) are using it. While fixing an exact % would be a bit hard, lets say roughly that a service that manages to get 1/5th of the regular web users is mainstream.

Coming back to FriendFeed, a service started by Paul Buchheit(creator of Gmail and the guy who gave Google it’s Don’t be evil motto) . No matter what it means to people, for me FriendFeed is an aggregator for various social services, a mighty good one at that. For the uninitiated , it’s a service that lets you store and share your activites across various social platform. Be it bookmarking on delicious, uploading a picture on flickr or posting an update on twitter, FF captures it all and more.

Whether FriendFeed will go mainstream or not is just one part of the problem, if FF does go mainstream when will it happen being the other. If this post by TechCrunch and this traffic comparison with twitter are anything to go by,
FriendFeed vs Twitter
the chances of FF making it big(at least in immediate future) are kinda bleak, here’s why

1)  Friendfeed is catering to a need that isn’t really there yet:
For most people who are still learning their ways around blogs, nings, and ims, an aggregator like FF is not really a need yet.  Don’t believe me ? Ask around. There are lots of reasons for this including the fact that most people aren’t on that many services that they need an aggregator, and not so interestingly using a service like FF increases the time needed instead of decreasing it. By opening another channel for my content I need to pay attention twice as much, which isn’t cool for many.

2) FriendFeed isn’t simple or intuitive:
Call me what you want but I honestly feel that the idea or the implementation(if it’s possible for such an app) isn’t for the simple minded. Getting people who can’t seem to get enough of poking or taking “what fruit are you quizzes” to start using FF is a mammoth task. Did I hear someone say, FF isn’t meant for them ?, that’s mainstream baby.

3) FriendFeed isn’t strongly positioned:
How a service is positioned in a segment/sub-segment is extremely crucial in determining if it will be BIG or not. The fact that it’s first in the game or that it doesn’t have to worry about other services stealing their thunder(traffic) is quite important in determing the course of action for its future. What features to add/remove, how to design/not design, what should be the core offering or target audience etc could be some of the difficult decisions if you have to look around before deciding anything. While FF might not agree but quite a lot of people think FF is trying to go Twitter way(at least in terms of looks) and in this pursuit might have hurt itself. The fact that after doing an upgrade users aren’t sure if the changes are useful or not tells a lot.

4) Information Overload:
Filtering might be the next cool thing but not for mainstream noobs. Look around, do you seriously think the guy sitting next to you or on the other side of Facebook/Myspace/Orkut would need to see what you are doing just on delicious and what your other friend is doing just on flickr, maybe that too with just a particular tag ? No, I don’t think so.
Most people (including me) stand a good enough chance to be overwhelmed by the amount of information that starts flowing on your home page. Now that you’ve invited the problem yourself, you are expected to fix it but either reducing number of people you want to subscribe or doing selective/service based subscription.

These are a few basic reasons why I think FriendFeed won’t be going mainstream in the immediate future.

What do you think ?

Social Media: It’s not just about tools

You know what the problem with Social Media is ? Everyone thinks they know it…

Sad but true, this is the case when it comes to social media. Almost everyone who has accounts on two or more services(especially Twitter & FriendFeed) think they all know Social Media like the back of their hand and it’s evident by the  confidence with which they tell you how they think Social Media is the coolest thing ever and that it can do wonders to your company/product without thinking twice . These are the people who will tell you your company needs a blog more than anything, ask them what’s the easiest way to get 10k followers on some microblogging site and they’ll quip “following 20k users”.

While tools are a critical ingredient of the whole Social Media cocktail they are not all that there is to it. What needs to be realized across the board is that tools are just a means to an end(relationships) and knowing how to operate a tool or two doesn’t imply anything. It’s not uncommon to assume that if blogs work for a particular product they should work for any other product too, nor is it uncommon to assume if one needs to spread word on Twitter/Kwippy they need to follow every user they can get my hands on(and put info about their product in the profile background).

Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do – Edgar Degas

Anyone can use colors to paint but it take an artist to come up with something that people really admire, same is the case with Social Media, anyone can read a few blogs daily or use some tools regularly but to get what Social Media means and what to do with it, needs an extra social sense(mostly common).  A quick test to know if someone gets Social Media would be ask them about how to leverage Social Media without touching any of the commonly available tools or simply by seeing how they score on this checklist(a score of 20 should be a minimum).

Social Media >>  Twitter + Kwippy + Plurk + FriendFeed + Facebook + Myspace + (other such sites)

The best part about using Social Media  is that there’s no straight formula which one can use for various brands/products. What might work for Pepsi might not work for Coke and it shouldn’t work too for both are different products(though in same category) by different companies and have more dissimilarities than similarity. Also, another thing that I’ve realized is irrespective of the number of hours these people who apparently get social media have spent on the tools, their understanding of the tools as standalone products and their relevance in the bigger picture is pedestrian. I’d like to end this post by saying if you are thinking Social Media, think beyond tools because there’s a lot more to it then tools.

Re-Tweeting and Echo Chamber

I’ve been an avid Twitter user for more than a year and a half now and love it for various reasons. One of the coolest things or phenomenon that Twitter has ever seen is “Re-Tweeting”. What this essentially means is to re-post someone else’s update with prefixing “RT/Retweet”  and the name of the original poster, for example this: First Order Re-Tweet

Difference between posting someone’s content from your Twitter stream as it is and re-tweeting that content is akin to the difference between posting someone’s quote and posting someone’s quote with a  mention of it’s author. People re-tweet to share nice updates/links with their followers. Someone whom you follow posted something nice/useful, you like it and you think your followers will also like it, so you re-tweet it. The content of a re-tweet could pretty much be anything. From a piece of news, a url, a quote, a question to a call for help or anything else.

The core idea behind a “re-tweet” is to share something that someone else posted, with your followers, i.e to add value. There’s a bit more to it then just that, it’s the underlying assumption that people(or a majority of them) would not be getting the original content in their Twitter stream in the first place. However this isn’t always the case and thus starts the trouble. The trouble of getting the same content again and again. If there’s a huge intersection in the list of people we follow, chances are each re-tweet we do would be a repeat-tweet, which would be plain redundant. More and more instances of such repeat-tweets lead to

Echo Chamber: An echo chamber essentially means that you get to hear the echoes of voices(read content) again and again. If I keep getting more and more re-tweets/copies of something that I got directly from the source, it will spoil my experience. This problem gets really annoying for closely integrated circles. Imagine Robert Scoble tweets something say “You are defined by the people you follow” and slowly people who are following him start re-tweeting this. Even if a mere 0.1 % of his followers(which would be 76) re-tweet this and say Robert himself is following half of them(which would be 38 and is a fair possibility), he will have his time line flooded with 38 instances of something he just said. Now that’s something serious, isn’t it ?

Now consider say Chris Brogan, too likes what Robert just said and re-tweets it, andddd. The same thing happens
(a) Chris’s twitter stream will have multiple copies of what he just said(plus the original copy by Robert)
(b) Some of Robert and Chris’s common followers who missed that tweet in the first round, might pick and re-tweet it. God bless Robert’s twitter stream.

This is just the first order or re-tweet, one can imagine will the inter connectedness what a second order re-tweet wave like this can do


Data duplication is a serious problem for some people and networks. The intensity of the problem is reflected in the way Friendfeed introduced hiding/grouping duplicate content.

Duplicate shares were always the most annoying aspect of FriendFeed. Whenever a story breaks, a large number of your friends are likely to share it through various services, which creates a lot of noise in your main feed. Now, FriendFeed will group these entries together. Your main feed will only show the first share, and then give you the option to click through to see who else shared the same item as well. Hopefully, this will also mean that discussions will now become less fragmented, as users will most likely gravitate towards those items that were shared first.
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/friendfeed_dupe_detection.php

While friendfeed could come up with a fix to make things better by cutting down noise clearly anything of that sort is not going to happen with Twitter. Leave alone it happening I doubt if many Twitter users realize this as a problem in first place. What do you think ?

Please ReTweet it you like it :)

Find ‘em and Engage ‘em

The first step in engaging customers online is to know where to find them. Unless you know where to find whom, your social media strategy cannot be effective. I’ve tried to collate a list of various site/services that can be used to engage customers or spread the buzz.

Social Networks:
Facebook, Myspace, Orkut, Hi5, Friendster are one of the biggest hangout places on the planet and if your customers access the web, the chances of finding them in one of these networks are pretty high. If you are looking for young mainstream audience these are the places you can find them.

Microblogging Networks:
Microblogging platforms offer a good mix of community size and ability to hold conversations. They are probably the most effective and quickest way to connect with an existing or potential customer. Twitter, Plurk, Kwippy, Identica, Rejaw et all are some of the microblogging networks worth having your presence on. From my observation majority of the users of these networks are older than 25, are working and are there to explore and learn more(other than having fun). The audience is far from mainstream by most standards.

Social Aggregators:
Social aggregators are currently underdogs when it comes for brands to engage with customers. Despite the fact that aggregators can ease out the effort spent in tracking the buzz and conversing with customers their usage for these purposes is yet to pick steam.  Friendfeed, Social Thing, Profilactic, Flock, Strands and Plaxo Pulse are some of the popular tools. An even more niche audience, the  majority users of aggregators are again older than 25, working and more active on the web.

Since there are lots & lots of popular sharing sites I have split them according to the content/social object shared.

Video Sharing Sites: Youtube is by far the most popular video sharing site and offers a great platform to share promotional content & build relationships with your customers. The demographics here are quite widespread with a lot of young/teenage users. Lots of families &  artists use youtube to store and share their videos with families and fans. Checkout this for more.

Photo Sharing Sites: Flickr, picasaweb, photobucket and smugmug are some of the more popular sites which can be used to engage customer or just spreading the word. Majority Flickr users are above age 35 and have finished high school.

Presentation Sharing Sites: Another underdog when it comes to online marketing and creating a buzz presentation sharing sites can prove to be a nice hunting ground to engage with a niche and a bit more savvy netizens. Slideshare appears to be the only site which offers presentation sharing capabilities and has a good user community. Given the fact that most people don’t have a rendezvous with presentations until a certain age  the majority users here would also be beyond their teenage years and would have finished education upto a certain level.

LinkedIn is another potential tool to connect and form relationships with people. I strongly think it should  be an important part of one’s social media strategy.

I am sure I must have missed some sites/services, if you know of any please drop a note and I’ll include them

How to use social media for tracking buzz

Whether you are own a company or love a product. Tracking what’s being said about your company, that product or even yourself on the web is quintessential. Quintessential because listening is the first step when it comes to  using social media. Listening to what people(both users and nonusers) are saying about you amongst themselves is one of the most important ways to get feedback for improvement and this feedback is mostly genuine and frank and thus critical.

Here’s a list of tools/services that I use to track the buzz for kwippy

1) Google Alerts:
Google alerts offer an easy and simple way to track what’s being said about something. To create an alert
a) Provide your search term.
b) Choose a type. You can choose from web, news, blogs, groups, videos and comprehensive. Comprehensive includes web, news and blogs.
c) Choose how do you want the alerts, via email or feed.
d) Choose how often do you want the alerts, as it happens, once a day or once a week.

Checkout Google alerts help page here

2) Friendfeed Search:
Friendfeed is an aggregator which supports more than 35 services including Flickr, Google Reader, del.icio.us and GetSatisfaction. A search on FriendFeed can tell if someone shared/bookmarked a blog post about your company or product or asked a question on GetSatisfaction and much more. Here’s a sample search query for FriendFeed search.

3) Twitter Search:
Twitter’s search is a great way to checkout what’s being said about your company/product in the twitter world REAL TIME. What’s even good is the fact the they also offer atom feeds for the search results which you can take home and play with. Friendfeed search and Twitter search will give you some repeats as some people integrate their Twitter account with their FriendFeed account. Here’s a sample search query for Twitter search.

4) Kwippy Search:
Using Kwippy’s search you can track the buzz around you company/product on kwippy. Friendfeed search and Kwippy search will give you some repeats as some people integrate their Kwippy account with their FriendFeed account. Here’s a sample search query for Kwippy search.

5) BackType Alerts:
Backtype is a service that helps you organize your comments that are scattered across the web. Using BackType alerts you can track what’s being said about your company/product in the form of comments. Checkout the alerts page here. Thanks louis for sharing this

We’ve covered tools for web, blogs, news, aggregators, twitter, kwippy and comments. These should be enough to keep you busy but if you still get time and want to go deeper you can try searching other platforms like rejaw, lifestream.fm , identi.ca and more.

This is not it, the sweet part is that you can use these tools in a myriad of ways. For example you can
1) Integrate atom feed of your Twitter search results to kwippy and follow them over your gtalk as mentioned here
2) Integrate your Google alert feeds with kwippy and follow them over your gtalk as mentioned here
3) Get your twitter search results emailed by using tweetbeep

If you’ve been using any/all of these tools, would love to know your experiences.

Conversations, who’s doing what?

“Social Media is people having conversations online” – Marta Z Kagan.

This in my opinion is the most simple yet apt definition of social media that can ever be. Once you start connecting the dots you’ll realize that’s indeed what social media is all about. Be it the latest craze aka microblogging sites, conversational tool/services, social-networking sites or any other media sharing site. While the social objects may differ from service to service the end goal for most is to get people talking/commenting around those objects. Since humans are by nature social and love talking/discussing/debating conversations are the ultimate hooks for a site and if done rightly can do wonders to a site’s engagement.

Wait for a second and think what was your last activity on your favorite site ? Mine was commenting on a comment someone made at a friend’s facebook status. Facebook does a great job in providing these hooks to let people have conversations. It started off with a simple wall, then it was user uploaded images/videos and now its status messages. Comment chains on people’s status messages is getting common by the day. According to me any site that needs to grow and be successful needs to handle conversations extremely well and give it all it takes.

Here’s a brief comparison of how some sites that I’ve used/still use handle conversations.

[TABLE=4]

Each of these features/attributes play an important part in the conversation game. People might not realize it consciously but these features/attributes help in forming hooks that keep people engaged to conversations and in effect increase site’s stickiness.

Threaded Conversations make it extremely easy to keep track of comments/replies around an object.

Parallel Conversations is a purely online experience. Unlike real life with the context switching issue you can online have parallel(almost) conversations with someone or a group on different topics. What it means is that its really difficult offline to have conversations with someone on two-three different topics simultaneously/parallely for long but its far easier online(in some services).

No Character Limit lets people express their views/thoughts without any restriction thus enabling proper discussions/debates.

Follow up Notifications lets people stay in touch with conversations they like which in effect means that people are always connected to a conversation and any activity even weeks/months of inactivity can infuse life again. Conversations are now immortal.

Invite People to a conversation lets people invite other people to begin/join a conversation. It helps in the free flow of conversations across the site and making them VIRAL.

Comment Feed lets you own not only the comments on your objects but also on other people’s objects. You can know take your comments and use them the way you want.

We at kwippy have added a new dimension to the equation by introducing the “Invite people to join/begin a conversation feature” to make the conversation mix more engaging.  How have your experiences been with on-site conversations ? What do you think can make conversations more sticky ?