The Lifestreaming Backlash

Backlash is probably too harsh a word, but as the buzz around lifestreaming continues to build, some people are starting to question where it fits into their daily lives. Last week, we wondered whether sites like FriendFeed solved the problem of information overload, or merely brought attention to it. Keeping track of all that activity is starting to feel like watching code in The Matrix, and this week, others are starting to feel the same way.

Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman asks how the feed concept will scale. “I love the concept of the News Feed. I think it is an early implementation of the Implict Web, helping to break down the data silos. However, I’m now receiving hundreds of feed updates a day. And with the combination of (1) more users activating feeds and (2) more web sites offering them, I think that feed volume is poised to increase exponentially. And I can sense that … the volume will increase to a level that will require 24 hour vigilence to remain informed,” he writes.

Fellow venture capitalist Brad Feld voices similar concerns, in a post entitled, “I Need A News Feed For My News Feeds.” The solution for each of them lies in the creation of some sort of universal feed dashboard that manages your social activity feeds and determines which items require action and which are of interest.

For consultant Jevon MacDonald, who thinks that lifestream aggregators are starting to become “noise aggregators,” the solution to the problem lies in the development of filters that learn what you want to read. “If I give someone’s del.icio.us bookmarks a thumbs down every time I see it, then you should stop showing it to me. If I give a thumbs down on ever single del.icio.us bookmark I see, then make sure you never show me one again,” he writes.

Interestingly enough, it was Facebook that really pushed this whole activity stream idea into the limelight in the first place, and it is Facebook who seems to be taking an early lead in developing tools to filter them. The Facebook News Feed is already filtered algorithmically, and Facebook offers a couple of tools to help users tailor the filters to their interests (including the thumbs up/down method that MacDonald espouses).

According to Marshall Kirkpatrick, the concept of the News Feed has been a more important contribution to the social media space by Facebook than their vaunted platform. It could be that Facebook will also take the lead in tackling how to cope with the information overload that has resulted from the numerous activity streams we’re now tracking on various social services.

To be fair, lifestreaming and lifestream aggregation is in its infancy. The Facebook News Feed only appeared about a year an a half ago, Twitter only gained real attention about a year ago, and FriendFeed and similar services are even newer. However, dealing with information overload is clearly a problem that these services will need to figure out how to address — whichever does it best will likely be a big winner.

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