Friendfeed lets you aggregate your online profiles and view the aggregate feed of your friends. For somebody who is not a heavy user of social networks it might all seem a bit overwhelming.
While Friendfeed does have many features and options, when you get to a good start and invest a little time to figure everything out you’ll see it’s not so complicated after all. You might even save some time normally spent on Twitter, Facebook or reading blogs because you can do all of that on Friendfeed and replace some other services you are using – and have some fun and meet interesting people while doing it!
Sign up easily on Friendfeed by entering your details or better yet sign in using your Google, Facebook or Twitter account. When you use Twitter it will import your data such as your avatar, description and username and even look to see which of your friends are already on Friendfeed.
If you don’t use any other account to sign up you can choose your first people to subscribe to on the suggested user list.
Click “settings” in the upper right corner below your name and set your display name, username, description and avatar. Take some time to pick a nice photograph of yourself or any avatar that suits you because it will be next to anything you post.
Next you can tell Friendfeed when to notify you of any new messages or comments by e-mail, IM or the Friendfeed notifier. There are also themes but for now you can only choose one of the pre-made themes that only you will see to prevent the users from having a nauseating Myspace experience.
Add your feeds
The most obvious use of Friendfeed is to enter all your feeds to show others and view the feeds of your friends. Even if you only have something like a Twitter and Flickr account this can be useful because it’s an easy way to share your items and receive comments.
To add your service go to settings and click add/edit at services. There are currently 58 services available and you can also add any other service that has an RSS-feed such as your blog.
Find your friends and new people
You can import your friends from other places or send them an invite e-mail. You can add a website or RSS-feed that is not on Friendfeed yet by adding them as an imaginary friend. Click “browse/edit friends” and “find friends” to see some suggested people who your friends are subscribed to.
You will quickly find some other interesting users by reading your Friendfeed and watching people there who aren’t your friend yet. Tip: strangers have a little white balloon next to them instead of your friend’s light-blue one. There are also people who make their own suggested user lists. I can highly recommend Louis Gray’s monthly lists.
Configure pushing items to twitter
You can make some items go to your Twitter followers. It’s very convenient and can replace some services such as Twitpic or Twitterfeed. You do want to set your preferences though because you don’t want to flood your followers. There’s also a check-mark next to any new item you post that lets you choose whether to post to Twitter or not.
Install the bookmarklet
If you install the Friendfeed bookmarklet you can open a little pop-up on any website that you visit to share it with your Friendfeed subscribers. Add images from the page by clicking on them, choose a group on Friendfeed to share it with and whether you want to send it to Twitter.
This makes sharing with people very easy and replaces some other bookmarklets that share to twitter. It works with most browsers since it’s a bookmark and not a plugin. Sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org will also post this to your feed. This is nice for sending pictures from your phone.
Reading your friendfeed
Now that you have some friends in your feed, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the layout. First you’ll notice that there are people in there that you haven’t subscribed to yourself. These are FOAF (friend of a friend) items that your friends have liked or commented on. Below an item you can expand the comment and comment or like an item yourself. Liking makes an item show in the feed of your friends.
Interact as much as you can because this really is one of the best aspects of Friendfeed and makes you appear on other people’s feeds. Sharing an item with people on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit or Del.icio.us can be done by clicking “Share”. Hiding is an important feature because it helps you control the firehose of items. Click “Hide” to remove certain items out of your feed. I have hidden all items from Twitter without any comments or likes. See, that really creates some room in your feed. Clicking “Best of day” in the menu brings up the most discussed an liked items of your friends. So everybody’s “Best of day” is different.
Put your friends into lists
Another great way of controlling the flow is lists. You can add friends to multiple lists. You start out with “Favorites”, “Personal” and “Professional”. Your standard feed is called “Home feed”. I suggest putting everybody in your home feed and adding some people to your “Favorites” whose updates you don’t want to miss. If you subscribe to more people you can add lists for certain subjects, languages or ‘tryout’ favorites with people that can promote to your “favorites”. Every list has it’s own “Best of day” link at the bottom.
Try out the advanced search feature
The search feature is really useful but requires some getting used to. It has also replaced some features that had their own buttons so there really are many things you can do with it. For instance in the top search bar while on a page, type the beginning of a friend’s name to go to their feed.
Advanced search lets you really slice and dice all items on there. Want to find Flickr items with at least 15 likes? Or anything about the iPhone in your favorites list? No problem. Best thing is, you can save searches which then get a button in the sidebar and the results will update in real-time.
Join or create a group
In a group there are people who share an interest. It’s a great way to find some new active people to subscribe to. For instance there is an Apple group, a Friendfeed feedback group or a Movie review group.
You can also create a group about a subject that you’re passionate about. I have recently created the Nokia newsgroup. Another way to use groups is to create a private group with some friends or colleagues to collaborate and share and discuss items from the web. The MakeUseOf group is for reading and discussing all the posts from MakeUseOf.
I hope this has helped people who haven’t joined Friendfeed yet and needed some questions answered first before taking the leap. If you have any other Friendfeed questions not covered here, please leave them in the comments.
Image Credit : adKinn
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