One of the projects I've been working on instead of updating this blog has been a set of modules for Drupal that allow FriendFeed users do all sorts of interesting things. While I'm not ready to release the details of those projects, one of the biggest mind-benders I've experienced in my work has been OAuth, a technology FriendFeed uses as its preferred authentication mechanism in the latest version of its API.
Recently, Facebook released a feature in its newsfeed that allows people to "like" newsfeed items. As it's described by Facebook's program manager Leah Pearlman, the feature allows you to tell your friends you approve of what they posted:
This is similar to how you might rate a restaurant on a reviews site. If you go to the restaurant and have a great time, you may want to rate it 5 stars. But if you had a particularly delicious dish there and want to rave about it, you can write a review detailing what you liked about the restaurant. We think of the new "Like" feature to be the stars, and the comments to be the review.
This feature prima face copies FriendFeed's "like" functionality, right down to the interaction and the verbage. Not surprisingly, FriendFeed's supporters were outraged and appalled at Facebook's Machievellian drive to copy FriendFeed. But I think it's important to take a step back and talk about the value of a "like".
One of the things that's been missing from FriendFeed has been a native iPhone client. Sure, there's the iPhone version of the website, and there's FFToGo, but they both miss a lot of administrative features of FriendFeed and don't provide the lustery UI of a native app. Recently, a third-party FriendFeed iPhone app came out called BuddyFeed.
This weekend, Twitter was the target of an extensive phishing campaign and a shady 3rd-party app that sold all its user data. Thousands of people were affected, and even the celebrities and news organizations were not spared. On FriendFeed, a 3rd-party application was introduced last night that produced unintended results: this week should serve as an indicator that we, as early adopters, need to take off our blinders and realize we need to add some thought before we try things out.
Although the title should make for some excellent Google bait, there were a couple topics today that seem to fit into what I've been discussing for the past couple of days. This morning, there was a lot of discussion on FriendFeed started Robert Scoble about Gabe Rivera's comments on FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit's post on FriendFeed (hope you're still with me). From the post, Rivera said:
Nobody should count out FF. The obvious technical excellence of the team and the very impressive pace of innovation you guys have already demonstrated make that clear. But I think people are alarmed that so many people have tried the site and then abandoned it (or at least that's how it appears). I personally think the way commenting and liking works has created incentives for the wrong kind of behavior, and you might be stuck in a kind of local maximum as far as uptake until you really shake things up. But what do I know? Anyway, good luck, I'll use FF regardless (though I don't comment any more...).
This sparked some interest from Scoble, who asked Rivera to elaborate: Rivera complied, adding "leaving dumb comments will increase the attention you get. Not so on Twitter, where dumb tweets hurt your follower count." Rivera's comments mimic a good portion of things I've heard about FriendFeed (and Twitter, too, but that's not important). What was more interesting to me was the level of vitriol on FriendFeed towards comments like his. Chief among the responses to his comments were attacks against Rivera's service, Techmeme, implying and directly stating its inferiority to FriendFeed. Other responses included explanations of FrendFeed as levity to otherwise (ostensibly?) miserable online existences, or how Rivera doesn't participate therefore he'll never get it.
This was a lot of exposition: it's a very cabal-like discussion and in many ways the exposition should serve to illuminate how little importance the topic has, but I think it's an interesting case study in what not to do when arguing with someone, and here's why.
This is all part of a phenomenon that occurs in the blogosphere on an almost daily basis, and something I call armchair entrepeneuring. Offering feedback is one thing: but the sheer hubris of tech bloggers that they know how to run a company better than the ones actually running it is entirely different. It's never merely "I've used this product, and this is what's good about it, and this is what stinks about it;" it's always "you poor fools, you clearly dropped the ball, and let me show you exactly why." Nevermind that very few of the people have actually been in a startup, executive, entrepenuerial, or product management position: if they don't get it, you're clearly doing it wrong.
But my issue isn't on the credentials of those who lay these charges against entrepenuers, but on how formulaic, and ultimately myopic, they are.