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How Bloggers Can Use FriendFeed Effectively

How Bloggers Can Use FriendFeed Effectively

How Content Producers and Bloggers Can Use FriendFeed Effectively

    FriendFeed is becoming more and more popular, and if you’re not on it yet, you’re in the minority. While some people stop what they’re doing to complain about the ever-changing landscape of social networking – don’t get me wrong, a totally valid peeve – get a headstart on them by becoming an effective FriendFeed user.

    First Stop: Managing the Signal-to-Noise Ratio

    Services like FriendFeed are known for generating a lot of noise. It’s not FriendFeed’s fault, though. It’s part and parcel of the service they offer, since it’s designed to collect all known sources of your content in one place.

    Think about it this way: the average blogger will post an article on their site, then go add it to Digg, StumbleUpon, and all the other bookmarking sites, declare its existence on Facebook, Twitter, Plurk and Tumblr, and then sit back and hope for some comments.

    What I’ve just outlined is actually a pretty light promotional routine, and we’re still up to seven notifications for the one post. That’s a terrible signal-to-noise ratio!

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    To become a respected member of the community the onus is on you to keep your signal high and noise low. Not on your friends, not on FriendFeed – just you. It’s a process of pruning, in some cases. When I first signed up for my own account, I plugged in all the services that it offered compatibility with. Then, over the next few days, I found myself tweeting at an abnormally high volume – effectively creating a bunch of noise and blocking out all the content on my FriendFeed page that I wanted people to see.

    In the end, the best thing for me to do was cut Twitter loose from FriendFeed to prune back the noise. Likewise, I use Tumblr to announce my work around the web in one place, because it can be so easily displayed in the sidebar of my own website. That makes my Tumblr account totally redundant as far as FriendFeed is concerned.

    Managing your own signal-to-noise is essential, but what about everyone else? The key is in being discriminatory and not subscribing to those who flood you with rubbish. On services like Twitter, you’re likely to follow others for the good conversation. With FriendFeed, it’s best to subscribe to people you actually know, are involved with in some kind of online venture, or are providing real, practical value to you through their feed.

    After you’ve followed a few high-signal friends, rooms are the best option for staying in touch with a community of people.

    Make the Signal Count: Offer Value to the Community

    It’s one thing to let FriendFeed collect your data from around the web and not pay much attention to how your feed looks. You might have trimmed it back by excluding Twitter and any other repetitive feeds, but your job is not yet done. If you want to make it worthwhile for others to subscribe to your feed, you have to provide them with value. They have to gain information they find either insanely useful or incredibly interesting from your feed.

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    The best way to do this is with the bookmarklet which allows you to post a link to any page you’re visiting with a description quickly and easily. Again, be discriminating. People do want gatekeepers, and despite the fact you’re not creating that content, just linking to it, that’s a valuable service to provide – so long as your subscribers like the way you filter information.

    Also remember to send resources to the rooms you’re involved with, using the bookmarklet. Always choose to submit content relevant to that room’s topic. This is a great way to find subscribers who wouldn’t have found your feed any other way.

    On a somewhat related aside, understanding and using the principles of gatekeeping theory can help you become a relevant content provider on the web.

    FriendFeed Rooms: Building Your Community

    A number of high-profile sites have started FriendFeed rooms that are encouraging the growth of active communities, such as our own Lifehack room and the ProBlogger room.

    You need to have either the time and energy to build a community from scratch or the brand recognition to create a room that is self-sustaining off the bat, but FriendFeed rooms are not just a great way to gain more subscribers for your own FriendFeed. You can start your own rooms to build a community for your site, or for a topic of interest.

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    If you don’t have a successful website or blog that enables you to open the room, announce it and leave it to grow on its own, you need to put in even more work getting it off the ground. Scour the web for great resources and link to them, use pictures to make it attractive and eye-catching, and make insightful and thought-provoking comments that get people thinking and replying with their own ideas. Reply to them. Partake in the community experience, and with some hard work you’ll have a room that’s worth subscribing to.

    Bloggers, and businesses, will recognize the value of having an active community.

    Microblogging Productively – Oxymoron or What?

    While this article is about FriendFeed, this next section can apply to Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, and all the rest of ’em too.

    Asking how to use these services while having a productive work day is like asking your goldfish to bark. And if it can bark, it may be a candidate for a speedy flushing, or submission to a freakshow. It’s impossible to use these services and be productive, when it comes down to it. However, there are some measures you can take to regain some of your productivity and at least make it look like you have a work ethic.

    1. Turn off notifications in any app – such as Growl – that have the ability to alert you to new feed items and tweets.

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    2. Don’t use the web while working – if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that already! Exceptions apply to bloggers and other ‘web-workers’ who can’t get their job done without having a browser open.

    3. Use self-discipline. Self-discipline is like a muscle, and what better way to exercise it and make it stronger than by keeping the heck away from distractions like Twitter or FriendFeed when you’re doing work that involves high levels of concentration? I bet even the founders of those services abide by this rule.

    Seriously, using self-discipline is the only way to remain productive at anything, anytime. All other productivity tips and systems depend on it; none of them can replace it. But with the motherly part of the article out of the way…

    Get over to FriendFeed and start making it work for you!

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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