Aaron Sumner


SXSW Interactive 2009 Day Two Takeaways: Feed Me: Bite-size Info for a Hungry Internet

An interesting panel of rivals: Feed Me: Bite-size Info for a Hungry Internet featured employees of Microsoft, FriendFeed (and the creator of Gmail), Yammer, and Microsoft. The crux: Social networks have evolved from centering around profiles and are now about activity feeds–the status messages, photo uploads, and so on–that tell the story about those profiles. Just a few takeaways to share on this one:

  1. It was interesting to hear Microsoft's take on the issue, considering they're coming into social media late in the game. Further, they're introducing activity feeds to people who otherwise likely have no exposure to social media; namely, Hotmail and MSN Messenger users. Later in the talk, though, the panelist (Dare Obsanjo) reminded me why Microsoft is playing catchup in the first place: When asked by an audience member why these services don't just make it easier to use established standards like RSS to follow friends' online activities, Obsanjo vehemently came back with, essentially, the market has spoken. RSS may work for you, but you aren't the market. Is Microsoft targeting an increasingly smaller audience in its tools?
  2. "RSS as a concept is sound, but the interface has failed." That was my understanding of one thing the panel suggested. So, rather than fix the interface, we just build something entirely different? Hmmm.
  3. Facebook is to 2009 what Microsoft was to 1999. The other panelists'–and audience's–general distaste for what Facebook has become was palatable. Sour grapes? Perhaps, but Facebook's representatives had better begin girding themselves for even more retaliation than they've seen so far.
  4. Twitter was notably absent, but a hot topic. They do two things right, according to one panelist: First, they make it clear from whom you're receiving content when you choose to follow someone. It's opt-in. Second, it's not a mutual agreement–you can follow me, but I don't have to follow you in return. Much discussion about privacy and Facebook's mutual handshake approach came from this, with no real solution I could tell.
  5. Finally, I think they're right about the general importance of feeds. The Stratepedia apps need to allow people to follow activities and not just settle on browsing/searching content.
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