FriendFeed rockets to my toolbar

image FriendFeed just made it on my browser’s link toolbar.  Why is this important?  Because, it delivers on the promise that Facebook seemed to offer to me, but was not able to deliver (like many social networks).  Easy interaction with friends with the ability to simply share relevant information.

I can give you a laundry list of what’s wrong with Facebook from my point of view, but I’ll instead share the big secret of FriendFeed for me.  Feeds.  There’s more – it’s the way you use the feeds.  It’s not another feed aggregator, it’s a tool that lets you bring feeds from your various online profiles and share them with friends.  Yeah, sure, sounds like a “lifestream” right, and yes, you can do that with Plaxo Plus.

However, FriendFeed is different in that, like Twitter, you can view a combined stream of your feeds and your friend’s feeds.  Within this feed, you can comment on anything – it’s fantastic as a conversation starter.  You can see what other people have said about a post, a link, a picture, a news item, etc… whatever someone has happened to share in a feed.

I can’t describe it much better, like Twitter, FriendFeed rocks.  Kudos to Louis Gray for really bringing attention to it.  You can find my FriendFeed here.

Anyway, it’s made it’s way to my toolbar – which means it’s just one click away and not buried in a bookmark menu (like others).  It’s that addicting useful.

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When the “A-List” stops being “The A-List”

Bill Gates with the Bloggers (By jzawodn) So I was sitting at my local coffee shop this morning reading feeds, Twittering and writing. Not an unusual morning, but like other times a person gets inspired, it came from a comment from someone. This time from Jeremiah Owyang via Twitter. While talking about a the new Egos site created by Guy Kawasaki he Tweeted:

My recommendations to you: somewhere in the middle, develop your own feedreader of high value blogs and alerts everyone is unique

What occurred to me is that I didn’t think much about the a-list much any longer. While the semi-annual meme of beating on the a-list being a favorite sport for many bloggers, something any committed blogger will realize after awhile is that they develop their own a-list. This is simply the list of bloggers that they read and are influenced by.

It becomes less about the celebrity status of the blogger and more about the value of their content. I think it was Chris Brogan who started calling his personal list of favorites “Rockstars“, and it’s an apt title for a list of people who continually influence you on a daily basis. Hey I know good ‘ol Diamond Dave did that back in the ’80s for a heck of a lot of people. 😉

I’m sure a number of people are sitting back saying that I’ve missed the point of “The A-List”. They’d point out that this group of high-profile bloggers control the topics on Techmeme, Tailrank, et al. I don’t see that – I see a *lot* of great bloggers moving that conversation all over the place. At any rate, that’s not the point of this post. I’m really just talking about building your own list of blogs and bloggers that influence you.

Here are some opinions I’ve developed (though some are obvious 😉 )

  • There is no one definition of the A-List – everyone’s a list is different
  • “The A-List” everyone talks about are just bloggers – albeit with industry insight
  • The more time you spend reading in the blogosphere, the more important the content and less the celebrity status of the blogger
  • Your A-List will include high-profile bloggers, because of the value they bring to you, just like the lower-profile bloggers you read

I guess I just want to people to keep exploring and finding that content that has value to you. Don’t worry about if they are part of “The A-List”, there really are some great bloggers among them and many of their observations are relevant to the conversation that we’re looking for.

So, the A-List stops being “The A-List” when the reader realizes that each blogger brings value to the conversation and you start looking beyond who they are and more at what they say. What’s your take on this?

Photo credit: jzawodin

Fast Feeds – Getting more from shared feeds

feeds Ok, that title is a pretty poor attempt of comparing shared RSS Feeds to fast food, but it does bare some truth if we follow through a little bit.  Starting with Google Reader’s Share feature, people were able to share content of their choosing with anyone who wanted to visit their Shared Items site.  Here’s mine if your curious what the resulting pre-fabricated link blog looks like.

The really interesting twist to this Google Reader feature, is the RSS feed that goes with it.  A custom feed made up of select posts from possibly dozens or hundreds of sources, aggregated by your favorite person or blogger.  This opened up a huge potential for pre-selected, filtered, quality feeds that mirror the genre of the blogger of your choice.

Now there are a couple of shared feed aggregators, kind of like Techmeme, that allow you to add your shared feed to the list.  My favorite at the moment is ReadBurner, which recently added a stats page.  Another tool is SharedReader, which, unfortunately, looks to be down as of this writing.  Tools like these rank posts from individual shared feeds by popularity.  Now I can compare what is on Techmeme, or Tailrank, or Newsvine with what is being shared by everyday people via Google Reader and choose what’s important to me.  It also allows me to see who is sharing these posts, and be able to gauge how relevant they are to my interests.

I guess the point I’m trying to get around to is the availability of pre-filtered feeds, that a busy person can simply read instead of hunting for.  We don’t have to sort through the duplicate posts from 15 news sources, or non-relevant posts that distract us from the task at hand.  You can find shared feeds from people you trust, and know that they’ve done the sorting for you, so you can save time.

Along with this, however, is the fact that someone else is suggesting your reading list.  Just like fast food, it’s not always 100% of what you want (heck does it even come close to 75% of what you want?) but it fills the void.  Fast food saves time, but doesn’t necessarily taste that great – or is it that good for you.  The same can be said of shared feeds.  Don’t get me wrong, I follow several too.

While I think shared feeds are a great way of saving time, using some aggregation tools that rank these shared feeds into more relevant lists help you find the content that you may be looking for.  Some bloggers are even being very diligent to share only the most interesting, relevant posts that aren’t likely to be found in the “mass media” of technology, political, or social meme aggregators.

Still, there is nothing like keeping track of your favorite bloggers and sorting through your own feed list.  It takes more time, but it’s a better way to connect with your favorite writers, and take more in context from each blog.  At least that’s the way I look at it. 🙂

Tips?  Suggestions?  Other meme aggregators?  Suggested feeds?  Think I’m off base on this?  Share ’em all below in the comments.

Consuming feeds – revising my methods

book stack I’ve been on a crusade of sorts lately, looking for unique voices in the blogosphere, to find more interesting and relevant content.  In the process, I’ve been finding better ways to absorb the information I find.  Many of these methods are a change from how I consumed information in the past and I cover five of them here today.

First, of course, I’ve gone through and gotten rid of all the “dead” or abandoned feeds that added unneeded bulk to my daily Google Reader adventures.

Second, I’ve identified my top 10 all stars, and started visiting their blogs directly to read what they’ve written.  This has been a huge improvement for me in getting their point of view on a more personal level, one of the biggest things that I felt I was missing in a feed reader.  By the way, that original list of 10 has expanded to 18 blogs that I visit every day (but hey, that’s another post).  Yes, it takes much more time than a reader, but these people’s work is important to me and deserves more time than a quick scan in a feed reader.

Third, I’ve started to “speed read” in Google Reader.  The difference has been a boon to my information consumption because I no longer try to build each sentence from it’s component words & letters.  Instead, I have been scanning each paragraph, using a visual recognition technique that constructs the concepts the writer is presenting.  This has allowed me to reduce the time it takes to read the feeds in my reader and continue to add more feeds as I come across new & interesting sites.

This has not been easy, as we’re programmed at an early age to read every word, and then practice this function for decades.  Of course all those years of traditional reading builds up a visual library of words & phrases that are more quickly recognized than mechanically assembling each sentence a word at a time.

Fourth, I’ve used the tagging feature in Google Reader to separate out the news feeds from the rest of the blog feeds.  These news feeds I literally scan for keywords and quickly move on it they aren’t new, informative, or otherwise don’t interest me.  The remaining blog feeds, I’ve also tried to tag specific to different genres like blogging, mobile technology, social media and so on.  This way, I can either read the “river of news” of all my feeds from top to bottom, or just focus on a specific genre if I’m limited on time and need to prioritize my reading.

Fifth, the last thing that has been helping me is to perform a “quick glance” at the post in the feed to see if it is visually appealing before starting to scan the text.  This quick glance impression of the post along with looking for the “meat” of the post in the first sentence or two quickly indicates to me if it’s worth continuing to consuming it.  While this has backfired in some instances, I usually find the post again by another blog pointing to it, and I give it more attention on the second pass because of this.

So these are my latest methods and techniques to consume content faster and give me back a few precious minutes each day to use for writing, working, or relaxing.  I don’t know if any of this is of value to you, but it’s how I currently handle a growing number of feeds.

Oh, and one last thing – three of my latest “top bloggers” jumped from “oh, this is an interesting blog” to my top list in less than a week – and I have my original 10 bloggers to blame thank for linking to more quality bloggers! 😉

Photo credit, austinevan

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