Thursday, July 2, 2009

OK, FriendFeed real-time search is cool, but what are the benefits?

The word is rolling across the tubes. FriendFeed, which has had constantly-updating real-time feeds for some time, has now added this capability to searches. Both Jesse Stay and Louis Gray have written about this capability, and have embedded it also - Stay on the right sidebar of his blog, Gray in the post itself.

But is this useful? Whenver I think of FriendFeed real-time, I think of Steven Hodson. Back when the constantly-updated real-time feed was the default flavor for the FriendFeed beta, Steven Hodson became physically ill:

Have you ever felt like you’ve just gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali and come out the worse for it?

Well that is pretty similar to the last twenty minutes I’ve sat here watching the real-time web go scrolling by at breakneck speed on the new Friendfeed beta site. Besides being in bad need of some Gravol (anti-nausea drugs for you non-Canadians) I am really wondering if this fascination with slapping us in the face with all the world’s inanity is really what people like Tim Berners-Lee thought of when the whole idea of the real-time web came about.

And just yesterday, Rob Diana wrote a post which asked the question "Is The Real Time Web A Solution In Search Of A Problem?" Now he did identify a couple of cases - emergencies, major breaking news - but that was pretty much it. Even Louis Gray doesn't want to spend all day at a computer searching for up-to-the-minute mentions of his name.

So anyways, I've been thinking about ways in which this technology can be applied in my life, and here's the best that I've found so far. As you know, I work in the biometric industry, and one of my FriendFeed saved searches relates to various biometric technologies. This is represented by the search term (It was longer, but I started to have problems with longer search strings.) The results of this searh look like this.

Now I'll usually check the search once every day or two. But would it benefit me to have a window constantly open with this search, so that I would know immediately when one of these biometric technologies was mentioned?

In my case, no.

But there are some people who would benefit - people who monitor their corporate brands. Now "Jesse Stay" is in a way a corporate brand (as are we all), but he'd probably be more interested in monitoring mentions of SocialToo.

And Daniel Ha certainly has something he'd like to monitor.

And, come to think of it, I could always monitor mentions of this blog.

But as to whether any of these searches require a real-time feed, it depends upon two factors: the traffic, and the importance. For example, Daniel Ha is running a service that people such as I depend upon, and it is imperative that he know about mentions (positive or negative) as soon as possible. In my case, if someone were to say "Empoprise-BI is the stupidest blog that I have ever read," the world would not end if I wasn't immediately made aware of the statement.

And I haven't even gotten to the big corporations. You can bet that Motrin is monitoring corporate mentions after the whole Motrin Moms thingie. And what about Chrysler?

Now the drawback, as Gray noted, is that the best FriendFeed search can only search FriendFeed. This is what I said:

So if you enter a blog post title, all that FriendFeed knows about is the title. But if you then append portions of the post (or the entire post) as one or more comments, then FriendFeed can search that also (provided you're not using an "intitle" search or something like that). One ramification is that if you really want people to see your blog post content, and it's not critical that they go back to the original source to do so, then you should append your entire blog post as a comment - and coincidentally, FriendFeed recently expanded its commenting capabilities to allow long comments.

Now this post will automatically show up in FriendFeed, but only the title will show up. So people searching for the word "cool" in FriendFeed will find this, but people searching for "the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965" will not...unless, as I mentioned above, I choose to paste the entire post into FriendFeed as a comment.

For Aaron Copland's sake, I won't do that.
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