Followup: Still insufficiently paranoid

A few days ago, on this increasingly infrequently-updated blog, I posted a little musing about FaceBook’s acquisition of FriendFeed (FF).
Since then, I’ve seen one or two other FF users offer similar comments on FF itself–and a whole bunch of milling around looking for alternatives after the apparently inevitable and soon-to-come shutdown of FF. Christina even wrote a response of sorts. (Hmm. Her response never showed up as a trackback on my post–is there some special rule for inter-SB trackbacks? No problem, really: The previous incarnation of this blog didn’t allow trackbacks at all.)

Expanding on my peculiar calmness

Lots of people, most of them presumably more web-savvy and, as researchers, possibly more intelligent than I am, are dead-on convinced that FB will kill off FF at the first opportunity. I’ve tried to follow the reasoning. Here’s the logic, as far as I can figure it out:
Given that: Google buys lots of services and always shuts them down.

Well, that’s certainly true. That’s why Blogger disappeared in 2004, Picasa disappeared in 2005 and, most important, YouTube was shut down in early 2007.
What’s that you say? You thought Blogger, Picasa and YouTube were still available? And, for that matter, that Postini is still operating? Or that any number of other acquisitions have been renamed or merged into other Google services in a reasonably respectful manner?
You must be mistaken. Or, just maybe, the rule for Google isn’t universally true…

And given that: What’s true for Google is true for every acquiring company.

Use Flicker lately? Of course not; Yahoo! bought it–and must have shut it down, right?

Therefore, FaceBook will shut down FriendFeed.

Based on the absolute truth of the two premises, this conclusion must be sound.

Never mind that one of FF’s founders has said it’s not likely to happen. Never mind that FB might do better on a revenue basis by adding ads to FF and leaving it as a separate service than by attempting a clumsy merger or simply shutting FF down.

Missing the point

Indeed, maybe I am missing the point. I think of FriendFeed as a tool–a good tool, for the most part, but a tool.
But I’m a “library person”–and as others have noted, library people are all over new social media like ants over honey. I’m far less social than most of the library people on FF, I believe; otherwise, I’d be back with one bunch of them on Meebo, another bunch of them on Ning, another bunch of them in (sigh) Second Life, and more…and, to be sure, big overlaps among all those bunches.

There are a lot of library folks on FaceBook as well. My brother, who’s an active FaceBook user, remarked on my 185 “friends”–far more than his count. The difference, I told him, is that I’ll generally accept any “friend” invite from a library person, and that probably accounts for three-quarters of that count. He has a lot fewer people, mostly family and actual friends, possibly a sounder approach to actually using FaceBook rather than dabbling in it as I do.

FriendFeed is, in a number of ways, a fine tool. In some other ways, it’s aggravating, but that’s true of every social medium of which I’m aware. (Yes, I use Stylish to control some of the aggravation and broadly-applied hiding to control most of the rest.) Of course, social media aren’t ideally suited to relative asocial/shy people like me anyway.
But for a fair number of people, apparently, FriendFeed is more than a tool. And if FriendFeed (or the rooms set up within FriendFeed) has become something significantly more powerful than a tool, you get a lot more upset when you think it might go away. (Or, given the number of people with no apparent insider knowledge I’m aware of who have said this flat-out, “when it absolutely is going away.”)
I can’t tell those people Don’t Panic. I certainly can’t, and wouldn’t, suggest that they’re wasting time by looking for alternatives.
I can suggest this: If you’re looking for an alternative, look for the business model.
Having a business model doesn’t assure that you won’t be purchased or otherwise go out of business.
Not having a business model substantially increase the chances that you will go out of business, one way or another.
In other words: If you love the fact that FriendFeed doesn’t have ads and doesn’t charge fees…well, think about who or what was paying the bills. (And if you come up with one pundit’s approach to digital repositories, “just plop a server down and connect it to the internet, there’s no real expense,” you deserve the results you’ll get.)


As already noted, I’m a shy guy (the first letter of my Myers-Briggs never varies from “I”), and not terribly social.
My hierarchy of writing/communicating preferences is also a little odd, actually nearly unique within the library field. Setting aside the writing I do as a part-time job, here’s the hierarchy:

  1. Cites & Insights, my odd not-so-little ejournal, now in its ninth year (120th more-or-less monthly issue, 2.225 million words, 2,788 pages).
  2. The bimonthly columns I write for EContent and ONLINE print magazines.
  3. Blog posts–here and, once in a while, on what’s left of Walt, Even Randomer
  4. Notes and comments on FriendFeed, and occasional status updates on FaceBook.

If FF was closer to the top of that hierarchy, would I be more concerned? Possibly.
If I was part of a close-knit community that only communicates on FriendFeed, would I be more concerned? Possibly.
So, just to be clear, I’m not telling you (my readers, apparently still only 5% of what they used to be on the other platform) not to be concerned or take action. I’m just expanding on why I’m still calm. As always, YMMV.

Oh, and if you are outraged that I’m not outraged, here’s something to soothe your soul:

I’m old. I’m nearly 64–less than a month to go. I’m part of the Silent Generation–you know, the ones who brought you the Free Speech Movement and other non-protests (yes, I was at UC Berkeley throughout those times). I’m obviously too much of an old fart, luddite and general nincompoop to understand any of this shiny stuff.

There. Better now?

9 Responses to “Followup: Still insufficiently paranoid”

  1. Actually, when you see a “ping” comment left on someone’s post.. that’s a manual trackback bcs the overlords turned off the trackback feature for the same reason you did on your other blog. I usually assume that people have ego searches and can find if I talk about them if I link to them, but maybe that’s not a good assumption.

  2. Ah, so trackbacks are turned off overall–which, frankly, is fine with me.
    I actually don’t have a bunch of egosearch routines set up. Not for lack of ego; maybe for lack of skill. (Doing regular egosearches on major search engines is a little futile, since I’ve been doing “this stuff” for so long that it takes a lot of filtering to get any new stuff…before hitting the 3-digit result-viewing limit in the web search engines. Mostly, I don’t bother. I was aware of your post both because you’re in my Bloglines subscriptions and because I follow you on…well, on Friendfeed.)

  3. says:

    The font at this website displays very small. To read it I have to put on glasses or play with the “view” which means it is less frequently visited since this need not be done with other sites.
    Your other site was fine w/o assistive strategies.

  4. Kathleen: I tried to change that, but seem to have screwed up my main page in the process (and not fixed it for archival/individual post pages). I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead–I simply don’t understand the templates MovableType uses. You should be able to change the type size easily in the browser itself…

  5. Peter Murray says:

    Walt, I think your Google analogy is off. Those technologies were sufficiently outside Google’s existing suite as to be additive, not duplicative. The combination of the duplicative nature of FriendFeed with Facebook’s Wall function, plus the widely acnowleged reports that Facebook bought talent, not subscribers/services, does have a number of people concerned about the immediate future of the service. It also has somecalling for a similar service with a subscription fee to cover the business model concerns.

  6. Peter: Any analogy is approximate–but it wouldn’t take too long to come up with cases where buyers have retained multiple services with some perceived overlap for years. (And in other news, I have no idea at this point what’s happening with type size, etc. When I came to this single-post view from the home page, the type was small. Now, coming to it from Gmail, it’s larger…could be a caching issue, I suppose. I’m beginning to believe that everything in personal computing “could be a caching issue.”)

  7. Followup to comments 3 & 4: Thanks to the help of ScienceBlogs’ Tim Murtaugh, the blog has been unclobbered–and the increase type size I was looking for now seems to be present on all posts and comments. Hope that helps.

  8. laura says:

    I don’t know that I’m paranoid about Facebook acquiring FriendFeed, but it’s true that Facebook has blown people’s trust over and over again by making changes in the services offered, by making changes in the terms of service, by burying some privacy settings, etc., etc., and that does give one pause.
    And as for an analogy, one might consider OCLC’s acquisition of RLG. Some good has come out of that, I think, but a lot has also been lost.

  9. Steve Lawson says:

    I haven’t fretted too much publicly about the Facebook purchase of FriendFeed, but I am worried about it.
    I know you can’t trust the cloud and all that. I know if it doesn’t have a business model it is–as Jason Scott says–a party, not a service, and that parties all end.
    But this has been a particularly interesting and stimulating party on FriendFeed, bringing me closer to people I already know, helping me find more similar people–i.e., librarians–to communicate with, and opening up whole new communities that I have looser ties with.
    So I am a bit afraid, and it’s an emotional reaction, not a logical one. I like FF. For me, it is the best online community that I’m part of or aware of. And the thought that Facebook might strip out the best personnel and software and throw away the product as a competitor to its flagship worries me.