I’ve just had a run with FriendFeed and it’s quite good at pulling all these web services (Flickr, Twitter, Blogs etc) together into a single page, a little like the Facebook “home” page without, well, the Facebook. I really couldn’t bring myself to invite all my contacts though, which is the point at which I could see this service becoming interesting, because adding my stuff does little more than any common or garden RSS reader. If friends and contacts add their stuff, then they are effectively helping me keep up with their stuff for me. There is real value there because with the best will in the world, I can’t keep up with the umpteen sites and services other people are trying… it’s not just blogs n flickr anymore kids!
On the train last week, I started work on what I think is a cool tool, that is a bit like FriendFeed but takes a very different approach. It assumes you/we can’t keep up with stuff. This for me is the only tenable starting point for creating web software nowadays. For example, how well-kept is your RSS reader? How many great information sources do you find yourself back at realising you haven’t subscribed yet? How often do you feel that you won’t bother subscribing to something because “you’ve got enough” feeds to last you till Thursday afternoon?
So I put it to you, that a site/service that you need to explicitly maintain is doomed to failure (in terms of subscriptions). It will simply not work, or become too much work… take your pick.
And the tool is aiming to do this… Work out what the components of identity are, such as…
- A blog
- A Flickr account
- A Twitter account
- A Facebook account
- A Delicious account
- A YouTube account
- An Upcoming account
- A LastFM account
- An email address
…and many more. Now the interesting thing is, is that everyone is different. Wouldn’t it be great if you could assume a blog was someone’s identity and from there crawl to find what their Flickr username was etc… but many people don’t blog, but do Twitter or both Delicious and StumbleUpon.
And isn’t it funny that Twitter and LastFM let you have profile pictures which would should/might we use when trying to piece together a Frankenstein’s version of someone’s online identity.
One thing is for sure, when someone lists their online identities we can get a very good picture of who they are online. Take a look at Andy’s blog ( OFFMESSAGE ), you can see what he’s reading (Delicious) and hear what he’s listening to (LastFM) and even to some degree, see what he’s seeing (Flickr).
You find yourself making snap judgements about someone’s online appearance based on what services they use. For example, the fact that there’s no Dopplr link says something (to me). Dopplr users all seem a bit crass and flashy to me, saying, “Oh look at how important I am because I’m in a foreign city”. That of course is thinly veiled jealously and I’ll be signing up for Dopplr as soon as I can afford air tickets to anywhere.
So, here’s the plan and premise…
- Peoples’ identities are made up of content created on an ever-expanding collection of sites and services. Expect this list to be at over 100 within the year for geeks like us. There will be attempts to consolidate systems (like Facebook did) but new facets and tools will keep emerging. Having a “Add service A/B/C” feature is not the way to go, because people will have created their own service “X/Y/Z” by tea-time.
- The people/information I would like to track is not a constant, it changes depending on context. So subscribing per se is a complete nonsense. I’m not suggesting that one can “discover” how certain peoples’ sites are connected, that way lies madness, but I would like to be able to both broaden and narrow my feed-space based on connections and usage.
I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that all of this is simpler than I just made it sound. Read between the lines.