February 18, 2008

FriendFeed Discussions Break Through the Walled Garden

Part of FriendFeed's allure is the concept of openly sharing comments and items from various Web services with friends and other like-minded individuals. The service, started by a group of former Googlers, so far has maintained its lofty technophile intellectual bent, largely as former Googlers have linked to friends who are current Googlers, and other technology-loving people have been drawn to the service, like moths to a flame, myself included.

But as the service has grown more popular, and as comments or shared items are typically made visible to the entire world, it's no surprise that the idyllic concept of these conversations forever remaining private is starting to show cracks. Today, we saw the first fissures in that foundation, as a pair of Google-focused or tech-watching blogs keyed in on comments made via FriendFeed, and pulled them outward to the unfiltered blogosphere.

See: Criticism of Unreserved Google Praise and Valleywag: Quotable

As recent FriendFeed hire, Kevin Fox, wrote in response to seeing one of the articles, "ripping the blanket of implicit FriendFeed privacy through obscurity seriously wigged me out, though I of all people should have known better." Another, Jim, simply added... "Uh oh, the party's over."

Only yesterday, a virtual war of words broke out between TechCrunch's Michael Arrington and Fred Wilson of A VC over the responsibility that bloggers attempting journalism should take - including original research. But those in the public eye, including those of us publicly making comments on FriendFeed, should expect those conversations to be at risk of repeating as primary source data, just like you take a risk any time you send an e-mail, make a comment on another blog, or post a note on Facebook. Anything that can be copied and pasted is fair game for a lot of people trying to make news and break news.

While it's with some regret we see FriendFeed moving beyond the initial stage of "a small beta site filled with a small group of friends", as Kevin Fox put it, it's also a wonderful milestone. I hope FriendFeed continues to grow rapidly, and that those using the service, notable quotables or otherwise, don't suddenly clam up due to the increased risk of potential exposure.


  1. > Anything that can be copied
    > and pasted is fair game for
    > a lot of people trying to
    > make news and break news.

    I disagree with that one -- e.g. emails from private persons can usually be considered private (as opposed to, say, emailed company statements or press releases or a CEO talking to someone identifiying themselves as journalist etc.) But that's because they are private, technically speaking, whereas Friendfeed's discussion threads are public and permalinked, at least the one I linked to.

    On the subject of Google, I hope people don't shy away from making truthful comments in public about the company. If praising the company in public is OK but negative criticism in public is somehow not OK, then it creates a very skewed picture -- the same skewed picture some people complained about.

  2. Philipp, I get your comments on e-mail being private. But I've copy/pasted excerpts of e-mails here for blog posts, not as an exposé, per se, but to show the personal side of some of these technologies and services. I do tend to err on the side of favorability when it comes to that, whereas I might be more aggressive when things are public and permalinked.

    My comment was they are "fair game for a lot of people". Your example was just fine in my mind, and I bet there are others (See: Valleywag) who have other standards.

  3. I have NEVER been under the impression that my FriendFeed comments were private.

    In fact, as the comments above regarding email demonstrate, you can't even assume that supposedly private items are private.