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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 January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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