September 16, 2008

Strands Upgrades to Highlight Friends' Updates, Content Sharing

Last month, I took a look at an early version of Strands, a social services aggregator and lifestreaming service, and said it was high on potential, but needed to make a number of changes, to better highlight its users' shared content, and encourage community, to bring it more in line with more established players, like Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed. Today, the site rolled out a number of enhancements aimed to help bridge that gap.

First of all, over the last three weeks, the user base for Strands has grown significantly. For example, Drew Olanoff, the site's community manager, has seen the number of people he follows rise from 78 on August 23rd, to 193 today, an increase of almost 150%, following increased visibility. And the site's default "Strands" account shows 267 followers today, making it the most-followed account, though it's not clear what percentage of total users continue to follow it upon signing up. While that's not the tens of thousands said to use Twitter and FriendFeed, for example, it's a start, and the growth rate is good.

Also in August, I said Strands needed to better highlight the "Home" feed, which shows updates from those you follow. Today, they made this "strand", the center column, have a much higher level of visibility, making it the core of the site, as they should.

Additionally, in line with my suggestions, Strands cleaned up its interface by removing lightbox elements, and added a new "share something" box, to let you post content directly to the site.

Unlike the aforementioned Pulse and FriendFeed, Strands is much more music-centric than the other networks, thanks to its origins, which you can see on MyStrands. The result is that, at least for me, the flood of music updates from those I follow tends to drown out much of the other content there, much like Twitter did on FriendFeed prior to the introduction of the "Hide" function. This is especially true as user updates seem to come in chunks, for instance, saying that a friend may have listened to eight different tracks "less than a minute ago".

In contrast to FriendFeed's hide by service functionality, which works across the site, Strands handles the hiding of music updates on a user by user basis. You can click on any user's ID and uncheck the box that says "Include Just Played music posts." This is good, but means the task is repetitive if you've invested in following a good number of users. With this said, the service does offer the ability to browse a reduced feed, by a subset of who you follow, reduced categories, or by showing liked and commented items. Personally, I'd like the ability to click on "Events" and hide all Events or Books, for instance, so there is a little more work to be done.

While it hasn't yet gotten the buzz of some other social aggregators and lifestreaming projects, Strands is quietly going about making a product on par with the market leaders, letting the community find new content and people, and enabling micro-conversations. If you're interested in getting into Strands, and seeing their latest updates, you can find me here: If you're lacking an invite, send me an e-mail to, or leave your e-mail address in the comments so I can set you up.
DISCLOSURE: Drew Olanoff, the Community Manager at Strands, is also the CTO of ReadBurner, where I am an advisor, and hold a small equity position.