If you're a librarian or into open access or scholarly communication, at some point you've probably heard of FriendFeed. The service closed today after seven years and it was kind of like the final episode of Cheers or MASH. It had been acquired by Facebook a while ago and development had stopped. Reliability was down. The number of active users was down and had never been anywhere near Facebook even in its prime. There was no way for it to make money - no ads, no premium features, no subscriptions.
With that said, there are a lot of people who are really torn up about them shutting it down. We built a community there - a stay at home mum from Australia, an engineer from Detroit, a software developer from Alberta, several ministers, lots of other neat people, and the LSW. The Library Society of the World is sort of an anti-association. Read Walt's discussion of that in his May 2015 Cites and Insights (pdf)
So why did it work? When I started with it, there were lots of social software things all over - blogs, Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us... and there were more and more as time went on. Many of these act like they will be your one and only place. But that's obviously not true. They have different functions, different communities, different affordances... Used to be you could share things from your Google Reader account but that wasn't the same.
What FriendFeed did is to bring all of these feeds in to one place, with a little snippet or picture, and let you comment and reshare and like. You could share something right there, but you didn't have to. It would try to group things if you had your blog posting directly and your Twitter stream duplicated that. You could see what your friends liked and find new and interesting people that way. For the first few years I was on there I was only going to follow library people, well, and of course Heather, and Cameron, and Neil, and Egon, and ... but I was glad I did get to enjoy and eventually follow some really neat people.
If someone posted something you didn't want to see, you could hide just that post, or you could hide things they shared via a particular feed. You could block someone completely so you wouldn't have to see their comments.
I've played with a lot of other tools, but FriendFeed just worked for me. It was a great source of recipes, if nothing else!
There was a team of savvy folks archiving as much as they could. So far, the best way to see what it was like is to see Micah Wittman's FriendFeedmemorial.com . That's really pretty cool.
So where is LSW now? We're trying Discourse at thelsw.org (doesn't allow you to bring feeds in but you can get a cod badge). We're also trying http://www.frenf.it which is really, really cool... but we don't know how sustainable. And we followed each other on Twitter... but it's not the same.
I miss it already!