Robert Scoble
Interesting blog about what's wrong with friendfeed's interface -
Interesting blog about what's wrong with friendfeed's interface
Joshua Porter does an awesome job here of explaining what's wrong with friendfeed's UI. - Robert Scoble from Bookmarklet
I disagree with almost every one of those suggestions. [edit] I'd prefer more, not less on the page. This person doesn't use hide much I guess. Likes allow me to find other people, white space is always appreciated and comments are value added. Again, don't like a title, hide it. It's just not that hard. - AJ Kohn
AJ: why? - Robert Scoble
The interface I never knew I wanted - but I totally do. Some really great points in there. - Shawn Farner
+1 AJ. The first suggestion might be valid but others... no, no and no. - Tapio Kulmala
@Robert: I'd be okay with the ability to select how many items showed up on the page (default to 5 for newbies), but forcing it at 5. No thanks. I prefer scrolling to clicking by page, particularly with the speed in which things change on FF. White space is necessary to ensure you CAN scan the page. And comments is where the gold is. This interface would essentially reduce it to a one line Title interface, right? - AJ Kohn
GreaseMonkey does have a script that allows you to filter by content, so I think that is a great idea to already have it in FF. However, the other three opinions, I don't agree with, like the others. You don't care if someone you don't know liked something? The great thing about "Like" is that people that is subscribed to this person can view your content, so you get more exposure. Why wouldn't you want this? - Shevonne
If they had everything in a single line, the vertical scrolling would be ridiculous. Maybe FF can have an option for people to hide comments, and click a link to show them, if they prefer. Maybe something similar to the WP FriendFeed plugin. - Shevonne
It appears he wants to use FF primarily as a news/info feed from select people with no commentary. I thought part of the allure off FF was the social commentary. And it always annoys me when people are so dismissive about seeing stuff from people other than the ones they've personally selected. Seems rather snooty. - rønin
saeba - snooty? I see it as a headache bypass. There are some people that are a huge pain in the head to read on a regular basis and are out there posting as much as possible. I personally do not want to subject my head to that. Snooty, not at all. - Renee Hendricks
Most of the things he doesn't like are things that make FF good. For example, showing a few comments can generate interest in the entry even if the title is uninteresting. Finding new people partially comes from being able to see the full list of who liked the entry. I have to agree with the weighting problem though, I complained about that the first week. - xero
Interesting observations, although I don't feel there's any major problems with the FriendFeed UI. Although that's just my 2p. - Tyson Key
"Randomness helps us discover. It can create interest. It can lead to intent." - AJ Kohn
@Susanne Isn't that what hide is for? - rønin
saeba - I was just commenting on the "snooty" part. I'm very low on the "read me I'm popular" end of things and yet I find it necessary to hide a lot of Friends of stuff. Does it make me snooty? Hardly. Makes me headache free :D But, yes, that's what hide is for. - Renee Hendricks
This from a guy that seemingly has never commented on any post other than his own and has made no (or few) direct FF posts. I somehow think he is missing something in the credibility department. - Brian Sullivan
site is down. I didn't do it. - Josh Haley
Went to read post and got this message "Error establishing a database connection". Worked when pressing Gray's links below. - B2B Specialist
Every suggestion is bunk -- this is clearly not a serious user. Friend names *should* be the top item (this is, ahem, friend-feed). I do care who likes what -- I get to know people that way. A single line entry would be Google Reader -- thanks, I already have that option. Finally, if a title doesn't intrigue me, very often the comments do. +1 saeba, +1 xero - Christopher Galtenberg
I really like the fact that FF shows you who liked what. If pure scannability is what you are after then just read FF from an RSS reader. - barce
What barce said +1. Scanability is *not* the point of the main page. Social engagement is. - Christopher Galtenberg
OK, link works now, and now I can comment on it. Mr. Porter, FriendFeed is not a feed reader. It allows the import of a bunch of feeds and could be used that way, but as you point out, the interface is not designed with that in mind foremost. The killer app of FriendFeed is that it is a centralized, customizable place to have conversations about almost any content. Trying to make FriendFeed like Google Reader (my assumption based on your post) will change the dynamic of what I believe is this killer app. - Josh Haley
There are two major problems with Implementing his suggestions 1. Cluttered screen. 2. Increased need for mouse clicks to get to content. It should be go through serious testing before knowing which approach will give a better experience. - Amit Morson
While I don't care for his suggestions personally, when I couple his ideas with Louis Gray's "Lite" idea, I think he's really on to something. If you want to go the "Lite" route, keep the initial interface as simple as possible, then let the user discover all of the features of the FriendFeed we know and love. Oh, you can see who liked this item? And you can see comments? And you can see things from friends of friends? Joshua is NOT using FriendFeed incorrectly; he's using it the way he wants to use it. - Ontario Emperor
title here should read: "Uninteresting blog about what's right with friendfeed's interface". Sorry, Robert stop pumping links simply because you were mentioned in it. AJ nailed it in the second comment. Up next for this thread, what the author of this blog should learn to do on FF. HIDE. - Carlos Ayala
This would be a cool little tweak - make links open in a 'new' tab. - Jim Mitchem
I've solved most of the problems Joshua mentions by processing Friendfeed friend, room, list and search feeds through Google Reader. And I can absolutely guaranteee you that, using the GR interface, I can run circles around anyone using the FF interface in terms of grokking all the new FF activity in the areas of greatest interest to me (or any areas). Lightning-fast scanning and filtering. I can easily see all new posts in my favorite feeds as simple lists, and zoom in on items of interest. Generally I focus on the top 10% of items in my subscribed feeds. Locating that top 10% quickly is the trick, and GR provides the solution. - Sean McBride
Carlos, let's say that you put me behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car. Before I can drive the thing, I have to make a number of changes to the car to simplify it - "hide" this control, "hide" that control, etc. For newbie car drivers like me, why not come up with a model that's like a Honda Accord? If people insist that I'm using the NASCAR car incorrectly, then I'm not going to drive it at all - which is why more people use Twitter than FriendFeed. The firehose is not for everyone. - Ontario Emperor
Sean, could you post a screenshot of your FriendFeed/GReader-based scanning solution? - Ontario Emperor
From a user interface standpoint, hiding items strikes me as extremely wrong. Not smart. Not efficient. I want to see the information that is most valuable to me with the least possible effort. - Sean McBride
I wouldn't want a bunch of line items as if I'm reading email. I like seeing the comments and who has liked it. That is what makes me give an item with maybe a boring title another chance. One thing I would like is if my or my friends comments stood out a little better. - Yolanda
Ontario: a single screenshot wouldn't capture my Google Reader view on Friendfeed. Anyone here can try this simple experiment: create a Friendfeed folder in GR, and add a few FF friend, room, list and search feeds. Be sure to include feeds for FriendFeedLinks, FFholic Most Discussed and Best of Day. You'll be able to rip through hundreds of items with the greatest of speed and efficiency, dismissing large collections of old/read/scanned items with a single click on "Mark all as read." I haven't any idea how people are able to use Friendfeed productively from the FF interface. I've tried, and I can't, and I am a speed reader. - Sean McBride
Sean, assuming the interface isn't omniscient, wouldn't the bare-bones case require you to add sources of information? And isn't that something users would be much less likely to do than Hide? I think the hide-based paradigm, while counter-intuitive, is more likely to lead to the success which is having just the right amount of feeds. - Christopher Galtenberg
+1 Barce - yeah if the guy wants an RSS-feed pure list of his friends' content, just pull his feed it into Google Reader via RSS... then he can scan headlines all he wants, and he doesn't have to care about likes or comments... - Nathan Chase
Christopher - you are correct that it takes a bit of effort to add FF feeds to GR, and probably requires more skill with feed management than most net users possess. We need a slick interface to expedite the process. But try this: go to Best of Day and click on the RSS icon in the address bar. If you are already a GR user, you will be served up a subscription screen to add the feed to GR. You will then need to add the feed to your GR Friendfeed folder manually. I especially the appreciate the ability to order my Friendfeed feeds in GR in any priority I choose. GR gives me a bird's-eye view on all the FF activity that interests me, with powerful navigational tools. - Sean McBride
I discovered this post through GR, by the way. - Sean McBride
I also use a Twitter folder in FF to cut through all the noise. From my bird's-eye view, FF and Twitter are just bundles of easily manipulable feeds. - Sean McBride
Sean, that's actually a pretty brilliant idea, cause I always forget to check the "best of the day", so it would make for a good "news feed" to check, since most of the posts are important news/articles, or at the very least, important memes/social conversations among FF users - Nathan Chase
Nathan: in my FF folder in GR I place FriendFeedLinks in the number one slot; FFholic Most Discussed in the second slot; and Best of Day in the third slot. It takes me less than five minutes a day to identify the most important new posts on FF as a whole. If I were unable to create this interface, I wouldn't bother using FF at all -- it would be a serious waste of time. - Sean McBride
Sean: I'm subscribing to you based purely on my respect for your l33t news-reading skillz - Nathan Chase
More: I find the posts of certain FF users to be exceptionally valuable, like Anthony Citrano, Meryn Stoll, Paul Buchheit and Louis Gray. From my GR view, I can quickly see that user X has posted *number new posts. I can then click on a user's feed, scan the headings of all their new posts, and zoom in on the posts that strike me as most interesting. Viewing all their items as a single list/group gives me a much better conceptual understanding of their posts, without wading through torrents of noise. - Sean McBride
More: my FF and Twitter folders in GR are nicely integrated with many other folders, all of which are prioritized by importance. I manage all these feeds under a single interface. My lead folder is Top 10 Feeds, and includes BreakingNewsOn, CNET News, FriendFeedLinks, Lifehacker, NYT - Breaking News, NYT - Technology, Slashdot, Yahoo! News: Mideast Conflict, Yahoo! News: Technology and Yahoo! News: Top Stories. - Sean McBride
Sean - I'll bet your desk is clean too. - Scott Maentz
Nathan - I've been strongly interested in optimizing my news-reading flow for several years now. This current setup that I've described is the best method for news reading I've discovered to date. - Sean McBride
Scott - minimizing to the max, getting rid of clutter, streamlining, more bang for the buck, etc. is almost a religion for me. :) That is why I fell in love with the Google aesthetic from the first week that Google was released to the world. - Sean McBride
Gabe - if I am in the middle of a hot discussion on FF, I simply click on to read and respond to the latest comments in near real time. But 95% of the really valuable posts on FF are captured in GR soon enough. - Sean McBride
Sean - More power to you! I also love Google products and use them as exclusively as possible. - Scott Maentz
I neglected to mention a key point: ALL the items of interest in ALL my feeds (including Friendfeed and Twitter) are easily searchable and retrievable from a single user interface: Google Reader. And if you star items of interest as you scan and read them, the search space is significantly narrowed. And I can forward any of these items as email, and tag them. What's not to like? - Sean McBride
For all people who are noting that Google Reader items do not appear in realtime, it should be noted that most FriendFeed shares don't make it to the FriendFeed UI in realtime either. So it doesn't sound like you're losing much by using Google Reader as your FriendFeed interface. I'll experiment with Sean's system a bit and see what I think about it. - Ontario Emperor
I would hate that interface. I don't agree with any of it. I love FoaF and if I don't want stuff from a certain user, I hide them. If I don't want a service showing up, I hide it. - Mattie Kenny
The basic Friendfeed user interface is like logrolling or birling: I'll wager that most new users lose their balance quickly and fall off the log. I am a speed reader, and can absorb huge flows of text easily, but I can't begin to get a handle on the FF flow from the main page -- it's mostly random chaos. Surely this interface issue will continue to be a major obstacle to achieving mainstream acceptance for Friendfeed. You might say, narrow your subscription list. But the most valuable posts are scattered among many users. - Sean McBride
Gabe - check out the FriendFeedLinks feed Is it really important to see these items in real time? They are valuable to me within 24 hours or a week. The more one is distracted by trivial posts, the less one has time to focus on important posts. - Sean McBride
I know this is a plug for my own code, but (demo at can be seen in the iframe on the right at tries to address such problems. Not exactly the *same* problems [and it shows my discussion stream (comments+likes) and not my "what's new" stream], but the code is there, and it's easy to add features. Feel free to use this with your own user name (e.g. as an iframe. - ĎÚβĨŐÚŚ Dod
Ontario - try this experiment: add the feeds for your five favorite friends to a Google Reader Friendfeed folder. I think you will find that you will be able to track their new posts with much greater speed and ease than from Friendfeed. One is not equally interested in all the posts from one's favorite friends: GR makes it possible to find the most interesting posts with a quick scan down the list. - Sean McBride
Dod: intriguing FF interface. But no features for starring, tagging, sharing, emailing, prioritizing and searching. Yes? No? - Sean McBride
Some interesting comments but I don't agree with all. E.g. it's sometimes interesting to see who has "liked" a post as that might be someone I want to follow. However I do think there should be more options for hiding or compressing content as you choose - Mark Warren
I'm pretty happy with the interface as it is. In fact, I think when you compare it to other social networking/sharing services like twitter,, facebook, linkedin, etc... I think it wins hands down. The issues Joshua highlights seem trivial to me, and his recommendations might make the service less useful as Mattie noted above. - Jim #teamFFrank
I agree with the disagreers here. He obviously just wants a gReader with a Gmail UI and links to a (probably mostly unused) commenting feature (to put it bluntly..). - ɯɥøq sɐɯoɥʇ
@Sean persistent storage of MyFF is friendfeed itself, and the only way to change its content would be via posts, comments and likes. | I *could* keep some external info in a database at the app's server, but this would require user-auth, backups, etc. and spoil the "zero-admin" fun. | Search I can [and should] do, so you'd "tag" by saying [e.g.] tag-widget (like I just did) and then search for it. | An "item to top" cheat is to delete and re-add one of my own comments (only works for discussion feed) - ĎÚβĨŐÚŚ Dod
An interesting list, but I'm sure if those changes were made that new ones would spring up. The 100% perfect interface will never likely come. - Jeremy Campbell from twhirl
Maybe FF could allow people to Hide parts of the interface. - Christopher Galtenberg
I responded on josh's blog. He's a smart guy who actually did the first iteration of Grazr's home page. Unfortunately the problem is not the interface. It's what *is* friendfeed. He starts the argument with a supposition of what it is, and that's *not* what FriendFeed is to me (or I gather a lot of other people). - mikepk
That certainly got the discussion going. What this tells me is that there needs to be several (three would be the best number) different pre-configured default types of FF that are easy to find for new users. Provide an icon in the left sidebar that goes to a page that offers the three options with descriptions on how each benefits users. Then let them easily toggle between them so they can pick what they like best without having to know how to alter defaults or know anything more. - Gail Gardner
@Strategist, that's one way to approach it, but it dillutes your efforts. It also makes the interface more confusing, not less for initial users. It also means you have to figure out what the default is, as a large percentage of people will never explore beyond a default configuration. Everything has a tradeoff. - mikepk
choice is good,..but too much choice is bad. regarding the OP i disagree completely with all of his "ideas". i def want to see who liked what. i often feel interested in ppl that like things based on topics. all this screen estate talk bash is silly too. the way FF is structured right now makes it possible for each topic to look the same no matter how much text it contains aso. what i would like to see improved is comment rating as @DIGG and filtering. its essential to sort out spammers. - Chris Hofmann
The post was obviously satire, since he titled it "modest" suggestions for updating FriendFeed, and because his suggestions are clearly chosen to be shocking and wrong. - Joshua Allen
Dod - there is a great deal of FF material sitting on Google's servers now, and easily accessible through GR's search interface. In fact, material that has been deleted from FF is still available on GR. - Sean McBride
Joshua, I'm assuming that comment was intended to be saitire. :) I've met josh, I think his suggestions where legit, although it may have been to just spark conversation. - mikepk
Another intriguing data point, Josh's blog has 17 comments at the moment. On FriendFeed this share has way more than that and is "liked by over 100 people. So again, what is the *purpose* of FriendFeed, what *is* it. That is the hard question. - mikepk
"So again, what is the *purpose* of FriendFeed, what *is* it. That is the hard question." - Is it? "History" is full of examples of products that were created for one purpose, but were more useful doing something else. FF started as an RSS aggregator - it's evolving based on how we use it. - John Craft
FF is a powerful vortex that is going to suck in all the blog commentary in the world. :) Maybe not too much an exaggeration. The interface as its stands blows away all the blog comment interfaces out there, in my opinion. - Sean McBride
@mikepk: I wouldn't be so sure. I subscribe to Josh's blog as well, but the usage of the word "modest" in a proposal hearkens back to Swift's famous "modest proposal". He left some big red flags in there, like pretending to forget that people have mouse wheels. - Joshua Allen
Yes, all SM is in a major state of flux. And perhaps it will always be that way. Making *it* whatever *you* want *it* to be. - Jim Mitchem
Thanks for the comments on my post, everyone. I should have made it more clear that I'm not suggesting Friendfeed get rid of its social features...that would reduce the service to a mere feed reader. I completely agree that those features help make FF what it is. What I am suggesting is that in the current design I think they could be presented more efficiently, and as a result I find it hard to scan to find good content quickly. - Joshua Porter
Yes, it is a hard question. If its use is evolving, and it's not based on it's initial conception (which, you're right, is the norm rather than the exception) then answering that question in the contest of trying to make interface design decisions *is* excruciatingly difficult. you're left with a) leave it alone and allow the evolution to continue b) try to formulate what it is to give users a better experience of *that*. Scoble and Josh have a different use pattern than I do, and probably you do. - mikepk
"answering that question in the contest of trying to make interface design decisions *is* excruciatingly difficult." - I think the answer is to make the interface more configurable. Create your own style in the same way you create a WordPress theme or a date format - using defined components, and styling them individually. - John Craft
John, but the more configurable you make it, the more confusing it becomes for users. I've been at this for almost three years now. It's counter-intuitive but the more options you give someone to tailor their experience the more likely they are to choose *none of the above*. Simplicity suffers greatly when you can't answer that fundamental question of what you *are*. - mikepk
Again - as with any media, it is what YOU make it. Except of course if you subscribe to cable, in which case you get what they give you and pay for it through the nose. My point is that if the medium is in place, and it's pliable, we each use it to our individual preferences. That's why FF will not ever go away - but continue to morph into a highly user-friendly interface that will continue to attract users because of its concatenation/aggregation features. Duh. ;) - Jim Mitchem
Here's a simple thought experiment, imagine a poll of the people commenting in this tread "what's the one user interface change you would make that would most improve your experience of FriendFeed". If you didn't get 100 different answers I'd be surprised. That's the hard part. - mikepk
imo, the point of Josh's post is that for the casual observer, FF looks intimidating. As frivolous as it sounds, 'Appearance' and how the UI is organized *is the most important touchpoint* for the consumer. As it stands now, many just don't have the time nor the inclination to tackle the steep learning curve FF requires--there are just too many demands on attention online. Another barrier to entry, which Josh didnt raise, are the confusing account settings which could be better described w/bubble help. - Lee Hsieh
"the more configurable you make it, the more confusing it becomes for users." True - but with a "standard" format (like this one), or a few to choose from, it doesn't have to be. Let new users start with something pre-determined, then migrate to their own custom skin if/when they're ready. - John Craft
Having FoAF defaulted does seem to cause confusion - though it helped me, personally. But if a person is too lazy to scroll, that's not FriendFeed's problem. Sometimes the headline is irrelevant, but the convo contains more valuable information. If I wanted to see headlines from pre-selected people, I would go to Twitter. - Mona Nomura
Lee, good point. There are a lot of competing requirements. Further complicating these kinds of discussions are things like the initial user experience. It's like a variant of the old engineering adage, you can have it intuitive and simple, powerful, or efficient but you can only pick two to optimize. :) - mikepk
Here's something 'right' about FF UI, the 'open in mini-window' live stream. Very cool. - Jim Mitchem
For those who caught Sean McBride's comments earlier about using Google Reader to find interesting FriendFeed content, I *did* give it a try and have taken a couple of screen shots. 1 of 2 (with associated discussion) - Ontario Emperor
2 of 2 (again with associated discussion) - Ontario Emperor
And, as Sean noted, such a system is purported to help you locate things easier. So if you're now interested in Yolanda's item (the one at the bottom), it's here. - Ontario Emperor
I don't know why people are interested in making FF a walled garden. FF remains one of the most enjoyable means of content discovery for me. I think it's something less without FOAF. I would make it a toggle feature on account creation, but not remove it. I'm constantly finding relevant new people through the feature. I think the interface is the strong point - FF is not Google Reader or Gmail - as it's conversation oriented, hence long threads (though for people wanting aggregation *only*, I see the point) - Mo Kargas
Ontario - nice work on the screenshots. Do you notice now that you can view comments and likes from GR? And that it usually takes no more clicks to uncompress comments for the original FF page from GR than from FF itself? One click on "*number more comments" in GR will drop you into the middle of the discussion stream on Friendfeed, with all comments uncompressed. - Sean McBride
Hmm... quickly glancing at my GR subscriptions list I see 2 new posts from Patricia, 1 new post from Paul Buchheit, 2 new posts from Veselka, 24 new posts from Dave Winer, etc. A few clicks exposed the lists of new items to view, and I found six items worth clicking through to. All now marked as read, and no need to see again. That was really fast. Knowledge garnered. Desk cleared. - Sean McBride
So he just wants to turn it into filtered feed reader where only the A-list really gets a look in? What utter bollocks. The strength of FriendFeed is in its social interaction and sharing across the service. Note to Paul Buchheit: please don't do any of these. - Duncan Riley
@duncan: sounds like you're saying that he's missing the "friend" part of FriendFeed... - .LAG liked that
This entry had so many comments it would open up in the home feed btw - Tyler (Chacha)
You can't review history... just too much of it has happened. What this type of medium is going to become is a way to take stuff that interests you, and is currently happening, and being fine if you miss some of it - Tyler (Chacha)
I love the fact that Friendfeed will take the 'likes' of people I subscribe to and give them to me, 435 people can't cover/write/create it all. - Tyler (Chacha)
now we can see who's really on FF - Donovan Slennon
+1 Matthew. I like the fire hoseness of FF. The other great function is to zero in on one friend and see what he/she is up to. That was probably the original intention. The social media blast is a cool side benefit. - Seth Gottlieb
@mikepk dilutes how? I agree that most never change the defaults and get confused which is precisely why I suggest that we offer new users a choice of three "views" with suggestions based on how they want to use FF. - Gail Gardner
@Chris Hofmann Yes, too many choices cause indecision. That is why it needs to be two or at most three and there has to be a VERY simple suggestion on which someone should pick. Otherwise some won't do anything. - Gail Gardner
Ok... I'm not trying to be snippy - and I think discussing how to make FF better is great... but for the love of (name your deity) can we stop the friggin' navel gazing. Things evolve... let's give it some time to do that and stop posting on this thread... jeeeezzzzzzz - Brian Roy
I didn't entirely agree - I like the layout and seeing comments/likes from new people, too - Sarah Perez
I think Friendfeed would be better off focusing on the functionality over the UI. 3rd parties can deal with changing the UI, but adding functionality like Track/Block can't be done by anyone but FF - Tyler (Chacha)
I'd like to correct that last statement .. Track/Block can't be done 'well' by anyone by FF. Because 3rd parties can do it, but probably FF could do it better - Tyler (Chacha)
what a great time to be a FriendFeed developer -- recent tips from power users like Scoble, Gray, and other interesting tidbits like this one. They have so much input now, I wonder what direction they'll take next? - Pete D
I wish there were a way I could tell FF to give me only the comments of people in my network when there's a huge number like long as we're making a wish list. - Rae21
This entry has so many comments it won't open up without me navigating to its page. Grrr - Tyler (Chacha)
Yeah, Looks like Robert Scoble is a firehose. :) I'm new here. I don't think I'll be friending him. - Rae21
Rae21: that is pretty smart! But I am looking for great items for you. Just build a new list. Call it "noisy asshole" or something like that. Then add me to that list. - Robert Scoble
-1. The name is "FriendFeed", not "Firehose". The people are just as important as the feed. Don't lose that, or the mechanisms which promote discovery of new ppl. - Nick Lothian
Added as a CON for now on the FF PRO vs CON list (for now): - B2B Specialist
Nick just said it right ^ - Christopher Galtenberg