Thursday, January 1, 2009

Freeranging: Tools for dealing with the flow

One of the most common things people ask me about social networking is, "How do you keep up with it all? I can barely handle my email..." They then go on to explain how they just don't have the time. To which I say, "If you're a knowledge worker you don't have any choice. You're either in the flow or you're irrelevant."

Basically, what you are seeking are tools to aggregate and intelligently filter your various syndication feeds, your personal flow. This idea of flow is one coined by Stowe Boyd: Overload, Shmoverload

Flow Strategies:

1. Time is a shared space -- your time is truly not your own
2. Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity
3. Everything important will find its way to you many, many times: don’t worry if you miss it
4. Remain in the flow: be wrapped up in the thing that has captured your attention

That said, there are several options to help you stay on top of the so-called onslaught of information. We have some new tools that are not only easy to use but very powerful. I've actually got this down so well that I'm wanting more stuff: feeds, conversations, workstreams... I'm constantly on the hunt for new people, new thinking, new sources of data, new ideas... bring it on!

Wired recently highlighted these Lifestreaming tools: 6 New Web Technologies of 2008 You Need to Use Now

Sites like FriendFeed, Plaxo Pulse and Digsby serve as social-network-activity aggregators. They're like virtual funnels. Dump in all the notifications, feeds and updates from your various networks, and the services will bring it all into one master stream, relieving you of the responsibility of visiting a dozen or more sites to learn what your friends are up to, what they're listening to, who they're snogging and so on. Controls let you dial back the flow by sorting and filtering the flow, pruning it down to only what matters most.

Many such services have emerged, but FriendFeed, an elegant and simple site designed by a crew of ex-Googlers, is our favorite.

I use three flow tools. FriendFeed is the most important. It serves as my intelligent aggregator. Besides being a place to have meaningful conversations, it allows me to create virtual workgroups. I still use Yahoo Pipes to aggregate and filter a few feeds, but most can be more easily handled in FriendFeed using lists. The two other tools I use are Google Reader and Feedly. Feedly is a social front-end to Google Reader so you might actually say I'm just using one tool: Google Reader becomes the data repository, and Feedly provides the interface-- done right. It's really quite simple.

There are new tools for aggregation and filtering coming every day. This is an area still in its infancy. I know of no two people who do it the same way. These are things you must experiment with, and tailor a solution that works for you. These tools do not require any great technical skill to use. It's basically a case of picking something and choosing to "be the ball."


I think that's a wrap on my freerange enterprise posts. Did I miss anything?


Vince Verbeke said...


For more general topics I'll use Twitter search,, to find a sukect that I find interesting, example: "Penn State"

This I will use the "Feed for this query" link to generate an RSS feed. I can then add this topic to my RSS Feed Reader.

I can then see what folks are saying on Twitter about a topic without having to find and follow them.

Thus I saw all the USC fans and their tweets about the Rose Bowl last week.

Kevin Gamble said...

In my next post (perhaps) I'm going to show how I use FriendFeed to do almost exactly what you describe. I might even talk about why I think FF works better for this. :)