Lifestreaming Apps miss the point


I have been playing with most of the new lifestreaming applications. SocialThing, FriendFeed and a few others.

This big deal about these applications is that they take activity information from a slew of social sites, such as Facebook, Flickr, upcoming, etc, and they bring that information all in to one place.

The image on the right is an example of my stream. You can see that it includes updates from Blogs, Twitter. If you could see the whole page, you would see images, bookmarks, messages and more.

I really liked the idea of a combined lifestream at first. The name “lifestream” describes the fact that these apps are all creating a stream of information about our online lives, and there is power in sharing what we are creating, curating and synthesizing.

The problem that is cropping up however is that these apps are probably better called “noise aggregators” or “NoiseStreamr”s than anything else. By the time I had friended a few dozen people on FriendFeed and started trying to keep up with their blog posts, twitters, bookmarks, Jaiku status and more, I start to feel like I am experiencing more of a info-avalanche than I am floating down a lazy river of socially relevant news.

I don’t think that this problem is inherent to information streams, but it is pretty obvious that these tools are in their infancy and a lot of art and science is going to have to go in to improving the information flow.

The most immediate thing they could do would be to provide a way for the user to offer feedback on what feed items are actually interesting to them and which ones are not. ie: If I give someone’s bookmarks a thumbs down every time I see it, then you should stop showing it to me. If I give a thumbs down on ever single bookmark I see, then make sure you never show me one again.

There is a clear trend toward data streams built out of my social network, but the focus has to be on reducing noise, not adding to it.