May 16, 2008

FriendFeed Friday Tips #1: Five Ways To Use the Hide Function

By popular demand, I've been asked by other FriendFeed users to highlight how I use the popular social lifestreaming site. The first, and most requested topic, is how to best use the "Hide" function. With any luck, you can expect a new "FriendFeed Friday" post for a few weeks, until the point of diminishing returns is reached.

FriendFeed lets its thousands of users stream live updates from more than 30 services, including Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Flickr and many others, aggregating them all into a single, busy, feed.

Making sense of those updates, and separating the signal from the noise is critical for a positive FriendFeed experience. Luckily, the FriendFeed team has built a number of ways for you to cope, all hidden behind a simple option: "Hide".

An example of a FriendFeed entry, with 4 options.

Today, each item contains four options, including "Comment", "Like", "Hide" and "More". But "Hide" has many options, as outlined below:

1. Use Hide to Hide Individual Entries

Sometimes, a popular item can get a lot of comments. Each time a new comment is added, the item gets "bumped" to the top of your FriendFeed, so you can see a single item again and again, with the new comments.

A recent popular FriendFeed entry.

But if you get tired of this, click "Hide", and the entry will go away. If you choose, you can "Undo" this action, or go to the bottom of the page to "Show hidden items" and reveal it again.

Click "Hide" and the entry will disappear.

2. Use Hide to Hide A Specific Service

Depending on your preference, you might feel one service has more value than another. For example, you might like seeing Blog updates, but you don't want to show Twitter updates. To hide these, again, you click "Hide" below an entry from the offending service.

When you click on "Hide", text displays, saying "See options for hiding other items like this". (See above)

It's this easy to block all Flickr entries.

Click "See options for hiding other items like this", and the "Hide Entries" dialog will pop up. To block the service, click the button that says "Hide everyone's Twitter entries" or "Hide everyone's Flickr entries", etc., depending on the service. To fully block all updates from this service, make sure you keep the "even if they have comments or likes" box checked, or you'll still see these items if another FriendFeed user takes an action to that item.

3. Use Hide to Hide a Specific User's Service

You might not want to block all of a service's updates, but you might want to block one person's in particular. (Example: "Hide all Louis Gray's entries.")

Follow the same method seen in #2. When you click on "Hide", click the text, "See options for hiding other items like this".

It's this easy to block Paul Buchheit's Flickr entries.

This time, keep the first button selected, that says, in this example, "Hide all Paul Buchheit's Flickr entries" and keep "even if they have comments or likes" checked.

4. Use Hide to Hide "Friends of a Friend" Updates

FriendFeed, by default, shows you items that friends of your friends posted, if your friends took action on an item, either by clicking "Like" or making a comment. Over time, with the more friends you add, and the more active they are, this can get "noisy." Again, the "Hide" item comes to the rescue.

This Twitter entry was from a Friend of A Friend.

In this case, click "Hide" and click the text, "See options for hiding other items like this".

Now, in the new dialog, you have an array of options, from hiding the service from that person, to hiding all services from that person, to hiding items from a specific friend's friends, or hiding all items from all friends of friends. It sounds complicated, but it's not too much, once you start using it.

Hiding all friends of a friend via Susan Beebe.

Hiding all friends of a friend from all friends.

In the above example:
  • The first option would block all Twitter entries from Jianjun Zhang.
  • The second entry would hide all entries from Jianjun Zhang.
  • The third entry would hide all items are shown to me because Susan Beebe liked or commented on her friends' items.
  • The fourth entry would hide all items shown to me from any friends' friends.
  • The last entry would again offer what we solved in #2, blocking Twitter altogether.
5. Use Hide to Only Show Activity With Likes or Comments

The FriendFeed firehose can be lessened by filtering out the items that haven't yet been acted on by other users. You can do this by aggressively hiding all services or all updates from specific individuals "unless they have comments or likes". If you take this step for all available services, you're essentially hoping the wisdom of crowds is a good filter (which it can be), and none of the items will hit your FriendFeed without somebody else having taken an action first.

In this case, click "Hide" on any entry and click the text, "See options for hiding other items like this".

This hides all Tweets from Yuvi, unless they have likes or comments.

This hides all Tweets from everyone, unless they have likes or comments.

When the dialog presents itself, click the second button "Hide everyone's Twitter entries" but be sure the accompanying box "even if they have comments or likes" is unchecked. This means you won't see any Twitter updates unless someone in the FriendFeed community has taken action.

Of course, the best way to reduce noise on FriendFeed is to only sign up to your friends and peers. Randomly following industry name brands is the best way to increase activity on the site, thanks to the high number of people they follow and their rate of activity, as well as their own friends. But with aggressive use of the "Hide" function, it's pretty easy to follow hundreds of individual FriendFeed users, and to participate. But if you don't use the "Hide" key well, it can get pretty overwhelming. It's also worth noting that FriendFeedMachine honors the "Hide" choices you've made, so if you use that service, you wouldn't be subjected to seeing updates you thought you had blocked.

Do you use FriendFeed? Is there something you'd like to see featured in round two of "FriendFeed Friday" tips? Let me know.