Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ontario Emperor - occasionally influential, usually a pain (from evangelizing for FriendFeed to loitering at Barnes & Noble)

Despite my megaelectrons of output on Blogger (currently here and here), Twitter, and other places, I am very rarely quoted, so when I am quoted, I take notice. Then I take action to ensure that it doesn't happen all too often.

For my brief shining period of influence, let's start with something that Duncan Riley wrote yesterday (Friday):

I signed up to FriendFeed yesterday to see what the fuss is about. Having used it for a day I don’t get why FriendFeed is that much better than the range of other services that do exactly the same thing. Plaxo Pulse immediately comes to mind, and there’s Spokeo, Second Brain, Social Thing and Iminta as well. Certainly FriendFeed wins (by a small margin) on usability and scope, but it’s still yet another service in a sea of similar startups.

Then there’s the why behind wanting a feed of content from your friends in the first place. As the chart I pulled from FriendFeed demonstrates, nearly half of all entries from my friends come from Twitter. But if I’m a Twitter user and these are Tweets from friends wouldn’t I be reading them in Twitter anyway? Next comes blogs, and while I may not have every friend’s blog in my feed reader, the ones I mostly want to read I’m already subscribed to....

Ah, but you can leave comments on feed entries some will point out and engage in a FriendFeed conversation. If most of the content on a FriendFeed is pulled from Twitter, wouldn’t discussing the points on Twitter be the logical outcome for the majority of people? Blog posts get comments on FriendFeed as well, but how rich an experience is a comment thread based on a headline with a link? As a publisher, wouldn’t you want people to hold these discussions on your blog?...

I may be wrong on FriendFeed; it took me months to get the appeal of Twitter so I may well end up becoming a FriendFeed convert as well. But what I see so far keeps prompting me to ask “what am I missing?”

I didn't see Duncan Riley's comments at the time (in fact, I hadn't seen the original comments until a few minutes ago), but I did see what Louis Gray had to say about them:

[Riley] missed the entire point. TechCrunch is right a lot of the time, but not today. FriendFeed is not the exact same thing as any service out there, and there's no way that Duncan could have given the service its full due in his limited exposure to it.

FriendFeed has been described by different folks as a social Web lifestream, by others a Web services aggregator, or as a conversational platform. But it's not just one of these things - it's all of these things. There are a definitely a wide number of sites out there that let you share all your activity in one place, or to track friends' activity, but FriendFeed is the only one that lets you share items directly to the feed, elevate discussions through comments and show "likes" to highlight individual posts....

Looking at Duncan's stream on FriendFeed (, I can see he imported his service and added friends, but he didn't participate. He didn't comment on other items. He didn't respond to others' comments. He didn't "Like" anything. He took a very passive approach and it's the interactivity of FriendFeed that sets the service apart.

Louis Gray's post received several comments. One comment of note was from rjmoriarty:

I'm shamed to say I still don't *get it* myself. Sure, I can interact with FriendFeed, but the interaction is all on a layer that is removed from the content. Wouldn't it make more sense to comment at the blog, youtube video, or twitterstream in question?

You'll note that this is similar to a point that Riley raised. Although I hadn't read Riley's comment, I had read rjmoriarty's, and I responded to it:

This morning, rjmoriarty asked, "Wouldn't it make more sense to comment at the blog, youtube video, or twitterstream in question?"

FriendFeed offers four advantages to commenting at the original artifact:

First, I may not even know about the original artifact. For example, Louis may subscribe to one or two things that I do, but I'm certain that he doesn't subscribe to all of my output. Perhaps he'll see something in my FriendFeed that he wouldn't see otherwise.

Second, in at least one case FriendFeed offers commenting capabilities that the original artifact can't offer. I am a heavy user of Twitter, and sometimes I'll see tweets that I like, but my response to the tweet may cover more than 140 characters.

Third, sometimes it's not appropriate to comment at the original artifact. For example, one day I tweeted

"@commuter ont i10 eb jammed at euclid. 2 rt lanes clsd @ 4th. vineyard archibald offramps clsd."

Then I subsequently added a metacomment via FriendFeed:

"i was 10 minutes late for maundy thursday rehearsal. my fault."

The metacomment wouldn't have made sense as just another tweet, but it made perfect sense as a metacomment overlaid over the previous artifact.

Fourth, you have the whole community aspect. This has been enhanced by some improvements that FriendFeed has recently made. Should anyone have a bizarre interest in knowing what I like, they can see the entire list. Similarly, they can see all of my comments. This additional layer of likes and comments overlays the original content, adding value to it.

As I was writing about my "metacomment" (more later), I began thinking that there was a better way to make my point. Therefore, I closed my comment as follows:

Just my thoughts. Now I'll go to FriendFeed and say that I like this post... :)

Guess where I went next? Yup, I went to the Friendfeed page that corresponded to Louis Gray's post. Here I summarized my blog comment, saying in part: should be noted that FriendFeed's comment/like features provide an overlay of metadata over the original artifacts that is easily accessible.

Pretty short comment. Perhaps I should have tweeted it.

But, to be fair to Duncan Riley, he did give Friendfeed the old college try. He did tweet a comment on Twitter...but I saw it on FriendFeed:

“Louis Gray says I'm wrong on Friendfeed, yet 62% of TC readers don't get friendfeed either, with 17% undecided. Who's wrong exactly? :-)”

In the same way that you can predict that Nielsen families will tune in to a TV show about Nielsen families, FriendFeed users began posting comments - in FriendFeed - about Duncan Riley's tweet. And I was one of the ones who commented:

The strength is in the overlay of the FriendFeed data, the sharing, and the interaction that this series of comments demonstrates. Perhaps you could revisit the topic in a week or two and revisit your observations. Maybe you'll think FriendFeed is completely worthless by that time; I don't know... :)

Incidentally, I was not 100% convinced that a subsequent revisit by Riley would result in an "I was wrong, FriendFeed made me cry" type of post. It could very well be that Riley could try things out, return, and say "Sorry, but FriendFeed doesn't add any value and is a waste of time. You people are just drinking the Kool-Aid."

So I made my little comment on Friday night, and by Saturday morning I discovered that I was a minor authority. Corvida, in her post FriendFeed in Plain English: It’s About Community, kicked things off as follows:

No one’s really right or wrong about the whole ordeal. Everyone has their opinions and everyone is entitled to them. However, Riley, I think you’re still missing the point and I’d suggest you take Ontario Emperor’s suggestion to your comment and revisit the topic a little later. In fact, how about actively participating in discussions on FriendFeed instead of simply watching from the sidelines, which numerous have reported you’ve done?

Corvida said a number of other things in her post, but I'd like to highlight one of them:

I’ve seen many discussions move from Twitter and on to FriendFeed. As for the experience of commenting on a "link" on FriendFeed, it’s very rich! I’ve seen more comments about some of my stories on FriendFeed more than on SheGeeks itself. Yes, I would like these discussions to be held on my blog. However, there’s a unique twist to answering this question. With FriendFeed, the comments are way more personal and the author’s response to any of these comments is almost guaranteed to be heard by those who have commented on the story or simply lurking in the shadows.

But, since it's all about me, let's move back to me. My ego got another boost when my name was cited yet again, in a Bartlomiej Owczarek post entitled "FriendFeed, Internet garbage dump or a gold mine":

2) Friendfeed, basically an RSS aggregator of person’s online activity with added functionality of comments, becomes the latest Internet hit. Scoble loves it, Duncan Riley at Techcrunch covered it and but didn’t see much point, louisgray replied to him with a blog post titled Duncan Riley Misses the Point of FriendFeed, which gained this comment by Ontario Emperor which i.a. explained why it is so useful to add another layer of commenting possibility to the “artifacts” that we produce:

Owczarek then quoted my "metacomment" thingie (see above) and continued:

3) Ability of events in reality to generate “artifacts” is virtual reality is growing fast. These first artifacts can attract reactions, which themselves gain status of artifacts and are reprocessed (aggregated, commented on) further.

Some interesting ideas, and the whole process made me feel like I was actually contributing something to Human Thought. Now this might not mean much to people who are quoted on a daily basis, but I have to admit that to me it's heady stuff.

Which meant that I had to devalue my influenced by subsequently tweeting every danged thing that I did in the Barnes & Noble tonight. If you missed these earth-shattering tweets, well, you're gonna read 'em now (unless you hurried go to the next item in your feed...whoops, too late).

I started in the CD section, trying to remember the artists that impressed me on If were accessible via mobile phones (hint, hint) this would have been a little easier, but I had to rely on my memory.

at b&n looking at air, moon safari. fine young cannibals, greatest hits. #music

gorillaz, demon days. nouvelle vague, bande a part. #music

self titleds by savage garden and scissor sisters. #music

didn't get cd, partially because b&n hassled my wife about a return. also not sure what i want. #music

Incidentally, the CD that made the strongest impression on my was the one from Air. Yes, I like "Kelly Watch the Stars," but I hate to buy a CD based on one song alone. (I learned my lesson with "Boys Don't Cry.") However, when I previewed the other songs on "Moon Safari" in store, I was only able to preview the first three - no preview was available for the rest of the album.

So I wandered into the techie section, and suddenly thought of a book that I should at least peek at.

asked if they had naked conversations (i've never seen it). not in stock at this or any local b&n.

I didn't buy anything that night, but I did end up thinking about marketing a lot.

not buying anything, but admiring the titles. seducing the boys club, nina disesa. all marketers are liars, seth godin.

I didn't crack the Godin book open, but the cover material seemed to indicate that the book was about gaining trust of your potential audience when they are not inclined to trust you. [16 MARCH: MORE ON THIS TOPIC IN A SUBSEQUENT POST.]

negotiating your salary: how to make $1000 a minute, jack chapman. 200 best jobs for introverts, various authors.

I enjoyed the double meaning of Chapman's title, even though it's obvious that Chapman was referring to negotiating minutes, not working minutes. No one makes $1000 a minute - unless you only count the minutes on the field/pitch or court, and don't count the hours upon hours of practice and drill.

I wandered a while, saw a figure skating book, and went to see which of my favorite Finnish figure skaters were mentioned:

steve milton's figure skating today did not include laura lepisto, but it had kiira korpi and susanna poykio

To be fair, the book was probably a little old. Books are like that. Meanwhile, I continued to wander:

ken jennings (the jeopardy guy) has a trivia almanac. he oughta know.

they have over a dozen dungeons & dragons books. in the late 1970s i only remember 1. and it wasn't fancy. and we only had 3 networks...

huh? islam and lds books are filed under "eastern religions," near taoism and deepak chopra.

And, before I left, I found more title fun:

another catchy title: unveiling islam, caner & caner. god wears lipstick, kabbalist karen berg.

I hope you enjoyed reading some of the most boring tweets in history, and now you see how reactive I can be. One of my favorite blogs, Franklin Avenue, has the tagline "mike and maria eat, drink, shop and live in los angeles." If I were to steal that tagline for this series of tweets, it would read "ontario emperor wanders around a barnes & noble and talks about nothing in particular."

And now I've compounded the damage by blogging about the whole danged thing.

Perhaps I should have just made comments on FriendFeed.

P.S. Seriously, I'm thinking more about titles these days. Perhaps my titles will become less esoteric and less inside jokes as time goes on. Or perhaps not; I did like to sing Suit Suit, Suit Suit Suit....


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