I see an all-in-one social network like Facebook as an RSS Reader plus a whole lot more , adding friends is like adding subscriptions to your RSS Reader.
These social networks also have publishing, whenever your friend writes a note, posts an item, it will appear in your newsfeed (similar to an RSS Reader). Infact whenever they do anything (eg. updates status, add a photo) it appears in your newsfeed.
So when you subscribe to a friend you are subscribing to their lifestream (in saying, lifestream, I mean all the stuff they collect and publish within Facebook).
RSS Readers are more about reading, not publishing, but you can still achieve the same thing…instead of just subscribing to someone’s blog, you subscribe to their lifestream (if they have a lifestream RSS feed promoted on their blog).
Plaxo Pulse is similar to Facebook, but equally about the lifestreaming stuff that happens outside of Plaxo Pulse. It will stream all the outside stuff you do, and also all the inhouse stuff you do like; status, messages (notes), links, video, etc…
But wait social network newsfeeds have more…
So far I call this the friendstream portion of the newsfeed, but what your friends (subscriptions) publish and collect isn’t the only stuff that appears in the Facebook newsfeed (and to an extent the Plaxo Pulse newsfeed).
It also documents stuff your friends do to others, eg. Abby and Michelle are now friends, Shay commented on Neil’s post, Neil tagged Abby in a photo, etc…
In my post Centralising distributed social networks I call this “on to others” stream.
Then there’s stuff others do to you, called the “on to me” stream.
You can’t get this activity type stuff in an RSS Reader like Google Reader as it’s not a social network.
Newsfeeds could be RSS Readers
A social network newsfeed or a lifestream like friendfeed, ziki and others are not exactly an RSS Reader, they are more just a river of news stream, but if you could have your friends listed in a subscription pane and mark/unmark read items, then you have more of an RSS Reader on your hands.
NOTE: this is not to be confused with Spokeo which is an RSS Reader that specialises in the fetch/subscribe process. It finds your friends profiles and allows you to quite easily create a RSS Reader friendstream without having to be in a social network.
NOTE: Micro-blogging like Twitter is a social network, and the Twitter stream is like an RSS Reader river of news, only it doesn’t have typical reading functionality eg. subscription panel, mark read, etc…
Whether it’s an RSS Reader or a social network lifestream or a social network newsfeed, we can be in touch with what’s going on in the world via our social filter.
The added advantage of a social network is that we can direct content to sets of friends or individuals, and this doesn’t have to be published content, this can be “hey take a look at this link”. Since we are adding friends rather than subscriptions, we can send private or public messages to our friends.
The only interaction with an RSS Reader is to be able to leave a comment on a blog post, but in a social network we can do this and more, we interact directly with the author.
RSS Readers let you track blog content published to the masses, whereas a social network can also be this, but the masses are your friends, and you can also direct stuff to select friends.
I guess RSS Readers are uni-directional and social networks are bi-directional…and content can be just for a selection of people.
The point of this post is that social networks have more intimate benefits and could incorporate RSS Reader functionality.
And, in contrast, similar RSS Readers like FEO, are taking on a social network approach.
A distributed approach
I can’t wait to see what happens with the DISO project, I posted not long ago on blogs as a distributed social network…mind you it doesn’t have to be blogs, it can be any website that is able to accept a plug-in.
At the moment I can :
- blog in my standalone blog (need an RSS Reader for updates)
- blog in a social network (usually has an inbuilt watchlist or newsfeed, or you can use an RSS Reader) eg. Vox, Twitter, Facebook
- if my blog is not my only content source I can aggregate my content into a lifestream social network eg. Ziki (usually has an inbuilt watchlist or newsfeed or friendstream, or you can use an RSS Reader)
How can I blog or lifestream, but not have to be confined or limited to the friends within that blog or lifestream social network?
What if I could still blog like I do now, outside of a social network, but still be able to add friends.
We could do this if each blogger plugged in a file to their blog, this way it doesn’t matter what software you use, you can still be connected.
When I plug in the file to my blog I get a few network widgets that appear in my sidebar:
- add John as a friend
- leave a public message
- leave a private message
To request a friendship ie. make a connection, you can use OpenID. Then I can go to the requesters OpenID page and check out who they are (their content sources, credentials, etc…), if all is OK, I accept the request.
Who knows, maybe OpenID can be the plug-in product! Maybe it’s not a file, but some code.
When someone visits my blog they have to login, then these widgets will display their content, then you will be able to leave a message.
If someone leaves a private message, I could read it in my blog admin page, I could also get an email notification. I would also get notifications in my blog admin page if someone left me a public message, or requested a friendship.
My blog admin page would also show a list of all my friends, this could also be seen by other registered users on my blog homepage.
If I want to see the latest content from all my friends, again my blog admin page has a newsfeed or similar type of RSS Reader.
If I want to message (private/public) a friend I do it from my blog admin page…this also keeps an archive of all sent and receive messages.
If I want to visit a friend, I click on their avatar from my friend list, and it takes me to their blog homepage.
I’m not sure if this is what DISO is about, but this would transform a blogosphere into a social network (and an RSS Reader), but the difference is that this social network doesn’t live anywhere, the only interfaces are blog homepages and blog admin pages. Something like this is the only way we can connect with each other and still use different products/services.
This plugin doesn’t just have to work with blog, perhaps your FriendFeed lifestream is your homepage…this way I can be a Wordpress blog user and add a FriendFeed user as a friend, or a Twitter user as a friend.
This social network doesn’t have a homepage, it’s just a plugin to whatever you use as your homepage (eg. your blog), you are not a member of anything.
This means that people who just read content cannot join, as where would they read the content if you have no website, it’s all integrated into your blog admin page.
What would this mean for RSS Readers and social networks like MyBlogLog?
Firstly if everyone I subscribe to in my RSS Reader had the plug in, then I could drop my RSS Reader.
My blog becomes my RSS Reader and also newsfeed reader (”on to others” and “on to me”), and my blog also becomes my social network, which allows me to communicate and connect with others, therefore having no need for MyBlogLog.
Not sure if this can be done, and it still requires everyone to have the plugin, just like how social networks require everyone to join.
But at least with the distributed approach the content you publish, your friends list, and your friend communications is all your data…you own it, it’s not at someone’s website, it lives at your homepage.