The start of this post (see the image above) may be a good reason for many people for not to join FriendFeed 🙂 . It shows what happened to number of visitors to this blog after I joined FF – it had dropped by half (actual numbers aren’t relevant, graph shows monthly statistics). The reason is pretty obvious for any long-time blogger – no posts, no visitors. I don’t post as often as before for a good reason – sharing news, interesting links and the whole conversation around these happens on the FriendFeed. While I didn’t set up a dream system I wanted to (see my comment on previous post on the FF), I don’t have any issues with so-called “information overload“. Actually, I don’t believe in any information overload – we are just pretty bad at managing incoming information – but that’s a story for another post.
Rooms are neat feature of FriendFeed – they act a filter and keep the conversation focused. Instead of looking at a stream of titles ranging from linux hacks, through hardcore programming stuff and other bioinformatics-related topics, up to cancer research and science philosophy, I can just go into one of the rooms and see only items related to a particular topic. Yesterday Deepak wrote on the new rooms at FF (for Python, Ruby and R for Bioinformatics) that were created by people from life-science community. There is also a room for Science 2.0 and Open Science, DIYBiology and even a room which collects links to a must-read material – BioGang classics (since I started this post, Ricardo had created OpenWetWare FriendFeed room).
Rooms help in keeping the flow of links under control, but the conversation is the key point of using FriendFeed. Almost every single item posted into The-Life-Scientists room generates comments, sometimes turning into pretty long discussion. Because FF aggregates Twitter updates, majority of “Dear Lazyweb” Twitter requests result in FriendFeed based conversations. And there’s more and more people participating (The Life Scientists room has over 200 members). As usual, there’s a catch – focus and depth are not good sides of FF comments (for example, compare reaction to the recently posted very nice essay by Michael Nielsen on The Future of Science: number of comments on his blog and on the FF are comparable, although discussion/arguing with the essay points happened mostly on the blog). But that’s not a problem – it’s just a result of a speed with which items appear and disappear on the FriendFeed (some of you have seen that tracking real-time stream from concurrent sessions on the recent ISMB conference).
Even such shallow and quick interactions with people on the FriendFeed generate some level of trust, and that I think will lead to couple of interesting things:
- more people will try how does the online collaboration work (for example, in reflection after recent Cameron’s talk Brian Kelly from UKOLN wants to write his article online)
- PI-level scientists will join FF to participate in the discussion (we see that already, although so far there’s only very few of them)
- there will be serious articles why FriendFeed, Twitter and online collaboration are bad for scientists and how these can break their academic career, in similar way as there were for blogs (see recent Pedro’s post)
- we will see (and read, since it’s going to be open-access) first peer-reviewed publication from an idea that originated at FF/Twitter
Is FriendFeed going to be a hub for science? I don’t really think so. At the time, when mainstream science will pick up FriendFeed I think we are going to be already somewhere else, because there will be more interesting and more useful platforms for scientific collaborations (like for example cyn.in – looks promising, although it’s not yet optimized product). But the time spent at FF will give us an advantage: connections, collaborations, wide spectrum of information and advice from smart people.