interviewed Kevin Marks (Developer Advocate, Google Open Social) on Read/WriteTalk . One of the areas we spent considerable time discussing was Open Social's Activity Streams. Since that interview, I have found myself reflecting a lot about the increasing number of social networks that create 'feeds' around user activity within the site. As someone who has been an avid user of RSS for the past few years and created a product to intelligently filter sets of RSS feeds, it probably isn't surprising this is a trend I'm quite bullish about. I'm certainly not the only one who is finds this development promising.In mid-december, I
Fred Wilson, for example, commented:
Mark Zuckerberg's decision to make a wall street style news feed the central feature of the home page and the profile page at Facebook has been a huge reason for its recent success (and might also be the source of its growing pains)... And its been imitated all over the place these days.
Here at Read/WriteWeb, Marshall's year in review post on RSS included:
Facebook Introduced Millions of People to Syndication - No single event probably came close to the impact of Facebook's explosion in popularity in terms of popularizing the concept of syndication and feeds..."
In this post, I'll highlight why I find this so significant.
Significant Feeds in Marketplace
Facebook did lead the social networks with their News Feed. Initially, this was met by some resistance from the community (see these three Facebook Blog posts). However, eventually Facebook users did seem to calm down about this and the News Feed became one of the site's most oft-copied features. Followers include:
- Google Open Social Attention Streams (already included in Plaxo Pulse)
- MySpace Friends Updates
- Netvibes Activities (part of Ginger Release - see video below)
- LinkedIn Network Updates
Why is this significant?
In the introduction, I stated how bullish I was on the trend toward more and more applications using this feed style around users' activity. I'd like to highlight three of the reasons I believe this is such a good trend:
- Improves Efficiency Using the Social Network
- Increases Engagement with Site
- Increases Awareness of Attention Silos
Improves Efficiency Using the Social Network
If you've used RSS to read content, you're certainly aware how efficient it can make you when consuming a lot of information. The paradigm lends itself to scanning a lot of information quickly and focusing on the most important content. I believe these feeds actually allow social network users to see the same benefit.
Increases Engagement with Site
Research has shown RSS are more engaged then other website visitors. It certainly would be interesting to repeat the research with feeds from social sites, but intuitively I believe these feeds have also increased engagement with these social networks. This theory is also validated by the importance thought leaders are placing on news feed optimization, such as Justin Smith and Dave McClure.
Increases Awareness of Attention Silos
The attention economy has been a big issue on the web for some time, but currently the data is still locked up in attention silos. (See an overview here by Alex Iskold.) Interestingly, the feeds these applications create do a great job educating users on the information being stored about them. All you have to do is look at the initial reaction the Facebook community had to the news feed introduction. It will be interesting to see if users ask to take their personal mini-feeds (attention) with them.
There certainly are features I'd like to see each of these feeds adopt. However, I believe the paradigm is a good one and the trend toward more social networks applying it is positive. Let me know if the comments below if you are equally optimistic.