Feedly: More Than a Newsreader, Maybe Your Search Engine of Tomorrow? [en]

A bit over a year ago, I switched from Google Reader to Feedly. I have a troubled history with newsreaders: I tend to not use them, partly because I don’t really read blogs. But I used Google Reader for some time, and then Feedly. I really like Feedly. Really. (Plus, it saved 4 months of posts for CTTS after the dropped database disaster.)

All this to say that for many months, I have not really opened Feedly, and I feel kind of sad/bad about it. Twitter and Tumblr are my main sources of “new information”, and I’d love to find a way to use Feedly in a way that works for me. But it just doesn’t seem to happen.

A couple of weeks back, I saw this tweet from Ewan:

Twitter _ Ewan McIntosh: Over the hols I managed to ...

He says that he has sorted his feeds into “30 must-read-daily RSS feeds, with the other 2000 sitting behind as personal search engine”.

Whee! For some time now, I’ve been convinced that the future lies with allowing search in subsets of the web. There’s too much stuff out there, right? Also, in this era of partial attention (which I don’t consider to be a bad thing, in the “keeping a distracted eye on” sense), you often end up trying to “refind” something you know you’ve seen (but where?) — just like I had to dig out Ewan’s tweet ten days after I’d seen it in passing.

That’s why I like Lijit, for example (I’ve put the search box back here on CTTS, by the way): it allows me or my readers to do a search on “my stuff”, including CTTS, Digital Crumble, Twitter, del.icio.us… Sometimes I know I’ve said something, but I can’t for the life of me remember where (see this? having to search your own words…)

Feedly is pretty good at allowing you to search all the stuff you’ve subscribed to:

feedly | explore facebook

It offers a mix of a little bit of generally popular stuff with “your sources”. I like that. So, I like Ewan’s idea of feed subscription as “add this to my search sources” rather than “oooh, I’m going to read this every day”.

I have to say I’m interested in hearing about how you use Feedly or Google Reader (particularly the social aspects) if you’re not a “religious-daily” newsreader enthusiast. There has to be something between “keeping up with my feeds” and “never opening my feedreader”.

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Lijit Feedback [en]

[fr] Un peu de feedback sur Lijit, un moteur de recherche sympa qui s'organise autour du contenu en ligne d'une personne et de son réseau.

I lost the first version of this post in a Firefox crash while I was writing [my post on structured portable social networks](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/16/we-need-structured-portable-social-networks-spsn/) (that’s what I get for doing too much at the same time). With a bit of luck it will be better 😉

So, as promised, here’s my feedback to Barney about [Lijit](http://lijit.com). First, for those of you new to Lijit, [Stowe Boyd blogged about Lijit](http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2007/08/lijit.html) about a week ago, which is how I discovered it. (Yes, go sign up now, but come back here to read the rest of the post when you’re done. Thanks!)

Signing up must have gone reasonably smoothly, because I don’t have any screenshots of it — which is a good start. (When I bump into any interface problem or bugginess nowadays, I quickly [grab a screenshot](http://www.flickr.com/photos/bunny/tags/screenshot) with [Skitch](http://plasq.com/skitch) and upload it to Flickr with a few notes. Photographs of my online life, if you like.)

I was disappointed that I could only add my del.icio.us and MyBlogLog networks. The latter is a good addition, but how about my Twitter network? Or a blogroll on [my secondary blog](http://steph.wordpress.com)? CTTS doesn’t have a blogroll (pure laziness). I tried importing my network from Facebook, but it was way too creepy, I disabled it as fast as I could. I got the feeling it was going to allow people to search through my friends’ notes and stuff — as well as mine. I do take advantage of the “walled garden” side of Facebook to publish slightly more personal stuff there than “outside”, and I know I’m not alone here.

What would be really neat would be if I were able to export *just the connections* I have to other people from Facebook, and if they are Lijit users, import their blogs and content into my network. Think [portable social networks](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/16/we-need-structured-portable-social-networks-spsn/).

Being able to import the blogs I read (they’re my “network”, aren’t they?) directly from Google Reader (filter with a tag though, so I can keep all those naughty sex blogs I’m keeping track of out of the public eye).

I used Lijit twice to find the old posts I linked back to in the post above. First, on the Lijit website itself:

Holes in my Buckets (Lijit)

Then, using the wijit I installed on my blog:

Lijit Search On Blog

That’s pretty neat. Lijit opens a “fake window” over the current page with the search results, and when I click on a link in the results, it loads in the initial browser window. Sounds obvious, but I like that it works — many ways it could have gone wrong.

I’m moderately happy about the space the wijit takes up on my blog:

Lijit Wijit on CTTS

I know companies are hungry for screen real estate (“make that logo visible!”) — but be less obtrusive and I’ll love you more! Notice that I now have Lijit search, normal Google search, and WordPress search. Way too many search boxes, but for the moment there isn’t one that seems to do the job well enough to be the only one. (Maybe Lijit, but I haven’t had it long enough…)

Stats page is neat, though I’m still totally unable to tell you what the two pie charts on the right do:

Lijit | My Stats

What on earth is Ma.gnolia doing in there?

There, that’s what’s on my mind concerning Lijit for the moment. Watch out for [the screenshots](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/tags/lijit) if I bump into anything else!

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We Need Structured Portable Social Networks (SPSN) [en]

[fr] Nous avons besoin de réseaux sociaux que l'on peut importer/exporter d'un outil/service à l'autre. Nous avons également besoin de pouvoir structurer ces réseaux sociaux qui contiennent souvent un nombre important de personnes. Nous avons besoin de réseaux sociaux portables structurés.

Christophe Ducamp s'est lancé dans une traduction de cet article. Allez donner un coup de main ou bien en profiter, selon vos compétences! Je n'ai pas lu cette traduction, mais je suis certaine qu'elle est utile. Merci Christophe!

Scrolling through my “trash” e-mail address to report spam, I spotted (quite by chance, I have to say) a nice e-mail from Barney, who works at [Lijit](http://www.lijit.com/). Barney asked me if I had any feedback, [which I’ll give in my next post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/16/lijit-feedback/), because I need to digress a bit here.

Lijit is a really fun and smart search tool which allows to [search through a person’s complete online presence](http://www.lijit.com/users/steph “See mine.”), a remedy, in a way, to the increasing [fragmentation of online identity](http://twitter.com/stephtara/statuses/200579442) that’s bothering me so much these days. Actually, it was already bothering me quite a few months ago, when I wrote [Please Make Holes in My Buckets](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/13/please-make-holes-in-my-buckets/):

>So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (”OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. Plaxo is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think coComment and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

One thing the 2.0 world needs urgently is a way to abstract (to some extent) the social network users create for themselves from the particular *service* it is linked to. **We need portable social networks.** More than that, actually, we need **structured portable social networks** (SPSNs). I’ve already written that being able to give one’s “contact list” a structure (through “contact groups” or “buddy groups”) is vital if we want to manage privacy efficiently (in my horrendously long but — from my point of view of course — really important post “[Groups, Groupings, and Taming My Buddy List. And Twitter.](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/05/04/groups-groupings-and-taming-my-buddy-list-and-twitter/)”):

> I personally think that it is also the key to managing many privacy issues intelligently. How do I organise the people in my world? Well, of course, it’s fuzzy, shifting, changing. But if I look at my IM buddy list, I might notice that I have classified the people on it to some point: I might have “close friends”, “co-workers”, “blog friends”, “offline friends”, “IRC friends”, “girlfriends”, “ex-clients”, “boring stalkers”, “other people”, “tech support”… I might not want to make public which groups my buddies belong to, or worse, let them know (especially if I’ve put them in “boring stalkers” or “tech support” and suspect that they might have placed me in “best friends” or “love interests”… yes, human relationships can be complicated…)

> Flickr offers a half-baked version of this. […]

> A more useful way to let a user organise his contacts is simply to let him tag them. Xing does that. Unfortunately, it does not allow one to do much with the contact groups thus defined, besides displaying contacts by tag […].

In fact, we need structured social networks not only to deal with privacy issues, but also (and it’s related, if you think of it) to deal with social network fatigue that seems to be hitting many of us. I actually have been holding off writing a rather detailed post in response to [danah](http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/)’s post explaining that [Facebook is loosing its context for her](http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/08/10/loss_of_context.html) — something that, in my words, I would describe as “Facebook is becoming impossible to manage in a way that makes sense with my life and relationships.” Here’s what she says:

> Le sigh. I lost control over my Facebook tonight. Or rather, the context got destroyed. For months, I’ve been ignoring most friend requests. Tonight, I gave up and accepted most of them. I have been facing the precise dilemma that I write about in my articles: what constitutes a “friend”? Where’s the line? For Facebook, I had been only accepting friend requests from people that I went to school with and folks who have socialized at my house. But what about people that I enjoy talking with at conferences? What about people who so kindly read and comment on this blog? What about people I respect? What about people who appreciate my research but whom I have not yet met? I started feeling guilty as people poked me and emailed me to ask why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. My personal boundaries didn’t matter – my act of ignorance was deemed rude by those that didn’t share my social expectations.

danah boyd, loss of context for me on Facebook

I think that what danah is expressing here is one possible explanation to why people are first really excited about new social networking sites/services/tools/whatevers (YASNs) and then abandon them: at one point, or “contact list” becomes unmanageable. At the beginning, not everybody is on the YASN: just us geeky early adopters — and at the beginning, just a few of us. We have a dozen contacts or so. Then it grows: 30, 50, 60… We’re highly connected people. Like danah, many of us are somewhat public figures. From “friends of our heart”, we start getting requests from **people who are part of our network but don’t fit in *segment* we want to reserve this YASN to**. We start refusing requests, and then give in, and then a lot of the value the YASN could have for us is lost.

Unless YASNs offer us an easy way to structure our social network, this is going to happen over and over and over again. For the moment, [Pownce](http://pownce.com) and [Viddler](http://viddler.com) allow me to structure my social network. A lot of work still needs to be done in the interface department for this kind of feature. (Yes, [Twitter](http://twitter.com), I’m looking at you. You said “soon”.)

So, to summarize, we need **tools and services** which make our **social networks**

– **portable**: so that we can import and export our relationships to other people from one service to another
– **structured**: so that we can manage the huge number of relationships, of varying and very personal degrees of intimacy, that highly connected online people have.

**Update, an hour or so later:** [Kevin Marks](http://epeus.blogspot.com) points me to [social network portability](http://microformats.org/wiki/social-network-portability) on the microformats wiki. Yeah, should have done my homework, but remember, this post started out as a quick reply to an e-mail. Anyway, this is good. There is hope.

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