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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!

    More by this author

    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 September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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