Friendfeed for Lawyers

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...
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I have had a love affair with Friendfeed for more than six months now. Upon joining the aggregator / streaming service, I immediately used its tools to find and follow the people I had already connected with on other services. One of my services, Twitter, utilizes a follow list that is 90% lawyers. So I was pleased to find that a healthy number of these tech-aware lawyers had found Friendfeed before me, opened an account and were feeding already. I followed them all.

I quickly learned that the lawyers I follow on Friendfeed primarily send in their Twitter tweets and, maybe, a blog entry and, if they are really avant-guarde, some Google Reader items. There was no interaction between these lawyers and others on Friendfeed and their material quickly sped through the feed and was soon forgotten. So, I asked myself, why are these lawyers on Friendfeed?

The better question is: why should these lawyers be on Friendfeed? Consider this humble post a primer on Friendfeed, what it is and and the value it represents.

A good place to start is an explanation of what Friendfeed is. At its heart, Friendfeed is indeed an aggregator of one’s on-line content, a place to feed into a single stream all of the material one creates and shares on-line. The list of shareable items is exhaustive – take a look at the screenshot below and remember that Friendfeed is adding services all the time.

Friendfeed services

Needless to say, one can paint a thorough picture of one’s on-line life using Friendfeed as an aggregator.

Why aggregate? You can use Friendfeed as a personal content scrapbook, a one-stop shopping destination for all of your on-line hang-outs. You can find all of your Delicious links, your blog posts, your Stumbles, your Twitter posts in one space. You can find your Amazon likes, your Facebook and Linkedin statuses, your Google reader items and even your Pandora favorites. You can post video likes from YouTube and personal video conversations from Seesmic.

With respect to Twitter posts, a key benefit of Friendfeed that beats Twitter is the ability to easily search or filter your Twitter entries with a simple click of a button and ALL of your tweets will appear. On Twitter, you have to rely on a semi-reliable search function and tweets are only archived for a few days.

Click on your Friendfeed name and you will see your entire stream of on-line activity. And, for most services, your on-line content shows up fairly quickly in the Friendfeed stream. Finally, it bears noting that Google searches like Friendfeed almost as much as they like Twitter: Hutch Carpenter explains his own experiment with the rankings that a Friendfeed entry can obtain in Google on his blog here.

But Friendfeed is far more than just aggregation of your own content. To truly dive into the Friendfeed experience, a Friendfeeder should seek out others to follow and, hopefully, encourage them to follow back. Sound Twitter-familiar? It is and it isn’t. Friendfeed is where the real conversations and information-sharing occur, once you convince others that you are a worthy conversation partner. It takes some time and definitely some effort to connect with other Friendfeeders. The experience, however, is vastly superior to Twitter and worth the effort.

Friendfeed has Twitter beat as a conversation station by virtue of its better organization and interface. Friendfeed on the Web offers the key features that Twitter users can only obtain through third party tools and resource-costly desktop applications. You can group your users and pay attention to certain portions of the feed, filtered by those groups. You also can filter topics through saved searches. Check out this awesome post by Bwana on what saved searches are and how you can use them effectively. You can join existing or form new “rooms” (topic-based Friendfeed accounts) and invite other Friendfeed users to join you in those rooms (either public or private) for targeted conversations about any topic imaginable.

Friendfeed automatically “trees” conversations by allowing you to “like” and “comment” on entries that you view. Those readers who are on Facebook might recognize these features as part of Facebook’s latest overhaul – they were taken directly from Friendfeed’s model. It becomes far easier to enter and track a conversation and return for further discussion. It also becomes easier to forge connections when you can actually engage in a conversation that is so easily tracked.

How do you break into Friendfeed? First, complete your profile and import whatever services you are interested in sharing. Obviously, for a professional presence, some of your content may be less interesting or valuable than other content and your target reader should be kept in mind. Next, import your friends from other services. These include Facebook, Linkedin, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. You also can find popular users and recommended users. Search out public groups that may be of interest to you based on your professional or personal bent and subscribe to them. Then jump into the conversation.

For some more detailed tips on getting the most out of Friendfeed, I heartily recommend this article from KnowtheNetwork.

Friendfeed is at that same place in the popularity arc that Twitter occupied  a few years back – it currently is populated mostly by technology-forward types, the shining lights among tech bloggers, hard-core programmers and coders and individuals who appreciate its initially-challenging but ultimately more rewarding interface.

I am writing this post now because I recently have seen more of my Twitter friends showing up on Friendfeed and subscribing to my feed. This jump seems to have coincided with debut of the new “real-time” interface  and the loud noise the tech press made heralding the change.

Why now? Undoubtedly, those of us who spend some time on-line, particularly in the news sources, hear about the next big thing and are eager to try it, even if we don’t understand it. And that is my sense of the reason for this next wave of Friendfeed users – they want to join in, but simply are not sure what to make of Friendfeed.

A few months back, I sought feedback from my Twitter lawyer friends as to why they were on Friendfeed when they were simply feeding in tweets and not fully exploiting its value. The short answer I received from those kind enough to respond was just that – these people were not sure what it was or how it could be used to their advantage.I just listened to a very recent podcast by two tech luminaries in the legal world discussing Friendfeed. These are people well-respected by other lawyers for their opinions on tech matters. I was only slightly surprised to hear that these individuals were themselves unsure of what Friendfeed was and what it could do for them and whether it really was worth it to spend time on yet another social site. They could sense that Friendfeed had value but could not precisely quantify what that value was.

I will not lie – Friendfeed’s learning curve is a bit steeper and longer than Twitter’s learning curve. Furthermore, with fewer people in the Friendfeed stable, it takes a bit more engagement to connect to others and achieve the level of sharing that makes Friendfeed so unique. I believe that Friendfeed will gain in prominence among professionals and the general population as more people discover and utilize its features. But those intrepid attorneys braving the uncharted waters need to engage to win here. If you only have so much time to spend on-line, don’t rule out Friendfeed – you can still track your Twitter peeps on Friendfeed and even reply to their threads on Twitter via Friendfeed with a simple setting adjustment.

Friendfeed as a marketing and business generating tool? You betcha! I have gotten the same number of leads for professional work from Friendfeed as I have from Twitter. Although the work has differed (undoubtedly due to the different audiences I follow on the two sites), the numbers read the same. Bear in mind that I am currently pushing close to 1,000 Twitter followers and have only just over 300 Friendfeed followers. You do the math. The quantity and quality of responses to my questions on Friendfeed far exceed the return from my Twitter follows. The only conclusion I can reach is that the higher the quality of connection, the better the chances that your networking will yield results. And Friendfeed offers the better connection.

You still want another benefit? Far less spammers than Twitter. Although I am sure even spammers will eventually discover it and figure out a way to break in.

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