Friday, May 9, 2008

"Personalized Newspapers for Organizations": From Facebook to FriendFeed to the future.

Imagine if your organization had a continuously-updated collection of "10-10,000 personal newspapers" about all your people.

What would be the management & communication possibilities?

DATE: Fri 7:26 AM PT

Facebook randomly picks actions/activities of your friends and creates daily NewsFeeds for others. It's a curiosity, but the randomness is not useful working on real-life projects. I found Facebook's NewsFeed more helpful when I had 10 friends, but with 200+ friends, aggh!

Facebook's Mini-Feed is a newspaper of all your actions (ones you choose to make public). More useful.

I can view someone's Facebook Mini-Feed and see what they've been doing for the past day or week. I can drill-down in a specific area (e.g. "Status stories", "Relationship stories", "Photo stories", etc...)

NOTE: For security, some of us "older types" on Facebook don't post anything to Mini-Feed. :-)

Paul Buchheit, Bret Taylor, Sanjeev Singh, Jim Norris, and their team of 7 people at FriendFeed have taken the Facebook NewsFeed/Mini-Feed to the next generation.

(Photo by Noah Berger from New York Times 10/1/07 article)

FriendFeed doesn't support all the working-group, political/control, and privacy features that a real-world organization might need for managing communication and projects, but it's an amazing step in the right direction.

Here are the possible "personalized newspapers" you can choose from in FriendFeed. I'll use my FriendFeed account as an example.
(1) My newspaper - My shared items (with comments & ratings from others)
(2) My discussion newspaper - Other people's items which I liked or commented on.
(3) Friends newspaper - Items from me and my friends (with comments & ratings) Note: I can't show this to people without a FriendFeed account.
(4) Public newspaper - Everyone's items (with comments & ratings)

But I can also see other people's newspapers.
Robert Scoble and Louis Gray are two insightful on-line technology journalists who write and

They seem to have their "ears to the ground" and their "fingers on the pulse" of social media technology.
(5) Robert Scoble's newspaper - Robert Scoble's shared items
(6) Robert Scoble's discussion newspaper - Other people's shared items which Robert Scoble liked or commented on.
(7) Louis Gray's newspaper - Louis Gray's shared items
(8) Louis Gray's discussion newspaper - Other people's shared items which Louis Gray liked or commented on.

Unlike the slowly-changing Facebook NewsFeed, all of these "personalized newspapers" continuously update anytime someone posts new items, adds new comments, or decides to "like" shared items.

*** Exciting management possibilities for communicating in small working groups, and across large organizations. ***
People have been trying to design collaboration technology or 20 years, and had marginal success. I think the "personalized newspaper" concept will become a key component of business communication in the next 5-10 years. Certain high-level executives already have employees who painstakingly create "personalized newspapers" for them each day. But it's been out of reach for small organizations and ordinary people.

It's a new look at the "information push-pull" debate.

When you are a manager, when do you
(A) "pull" information from a direct report (e.g. Go into their office, look around, and ask questions)

And when do you ask your direct report to
(B) "push" information to you (e.g. Deliver a status report to you every Friday 10 am)

Everyone has different management preferences, but the "personalized newspaper" allows much more flexibility than simply push-pull.
There's some possibilities to
(1) Declutter the E-mail Inbox (those pesky "cc:s" needed to keep everyone "in the loop")
(2) Waste less time generating status reports for weekly meetings
(3) Spend less time traveling to people's offices for "management reasons"

Imagine if we were to create a FriendFeed-like system which handled the complexity of people working on multiple projects with various groups, power and politics relationships, and real-world selective-information sharing.

If you like to manage very closely, you could subscribe to lots of people, all of their projects, and even people in other company divisions, etc.. You could read your "personal newspapers" and drill-down very often to see details.

If you have a more "hands-off" management style, you could subscribe to fewer people and only a few of the items in each project. You could drill-down very judiciously, and just observe until intervention feels warranted.

"Light-weight Communication" was a term I heard used by Professor BJ Fogg, who teaches Psychology of Facebook at Stanford.

Can we use communcations that are not as heavy-weight as e-mails, phone calls, weekly paper status reports? Hmmm....
I'm excited to see what happens next!

Here are two videos of Robert Scoble talking with the amazing FriendFeed team.

QIK Video from FriendFeed party (Thu 5/9/08 5:42 min)

Robert Scoble interviews Louis Gray, as he introduces the FriendFeed (Oct 2007) team of 7 people. Tudor Boseman (#7) joined last week. Sanjeev Singh, Jim Norris, Ana Yang, Kevin Fox.

Posting of this video at

QIK Video on FriendFeed: Conversation with Kevin Fox - Chief Designer (Thu 5/9/08, 10:29 min)

Robert Scoble interviews Kevin Fox (as Louis Gray describes 'designer extraordinaire and all-around nice guy')

Mini-Transcript of Robert Scoble's questions and Kevin Fox's answers at

And here's the FriendFeed discussion of this article. Mike Reynolds mentions "FriendFeed for the Enterprise" and the "fluidity" of FriendFeed. Hutch Carpenter talks about "activity streams" emerging as the real benefit of social networks.

- Mitchell Tsai (Harvard '86) - CEO, Spiritual Business Companions : FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook


rosepena said...

Brilliant article! Thanks for following on twitter. I'm following on friendfeed too.

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