// Internet Duct Tape

Lifestreaming 101 – Don’t Cross the Streams

Posted in Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on April 22, 2008

Social Software and You

History has a tendency to repeat itself, mostly because the inventors weren’t old enough to have been around the first time. Having a blog is the same as having a BBS twenty years earlier; using Twitter is the same as using IRC. Of course there are differences [1], but progress is built on the shoulders of giants.

Like how 2007 was the year of microblogging, 2008 is the year of lifestreaming. People are becoming more comfortable with the idea after learning to swim in Facebook’s pond [2], and they’re ready to start swimming into the raging rivers of the public Internet. But before these neophyte tadpoles start eating flies, there’s one thing they need to learn:

Don’t cross the streams.

What Is Lifestreaming?

As we use the Internet, we’re generating all kinds of information:

  • Writing blog posts
  • Listening to music
  • Talking to friends
  • Playing video games
  • Watching/reviewing movies
  • Reading/reviewing books

Lifestreaming is taking all that information from different sources, and sticking it in one place so that people who find it interesting can see what I’m up to. It’s less stalking, and more “this person has similar tastes to me so I’m interested in what they’re interested in.”

Producers and Consumers

The easiest way to think about lifestreaming is that you have a bunch of websites that act as producers of information. Last.fm is producing what I’m listening to. Twitter is producing who I’m talking to. Delicious is producing what I think is interesting. GoodReads is producing what I’m reading. My blog is producing what I’m writing about.

Then you have the lifestreaming software that consumes these sources and builds a lifestream. Sources/sinks. Sources/destinations.Generators/monitors. Inputs/outputs. You get the idea, no matter what the terminology is.

You use some websites to generate original information, and you use other websites to take that information and combine it into something new.

Friend Feed Information Polution

Don’t Cross the Streams

But here’s the thing: if you want other people to pay attention to your lifestream then don’t cross the streams. The internet is an attention economy [3] and anything you can do to make it easier for people to pay attention to you, the way they want to, the better it will be for your personal brand.

  • If you share items on Google Reader but also save those items to Delicious then pick one source for your lifestream, not both.
  • If you StumbleUpon the sites your saving in Delicious then pick one source for your lifestream, not both.
  • If you use Twitter to talk, and then set up a repeater for Jaiku and Pownce then pick one source for your lifestream, not both.
  • If you’re using multiple lifestreaming services then don’t feed them back into one another.

The #1 reason why I unsubscribe from someone’s lifestream is because they’re repeating themselves too often. This happens most often when they lifestream with Tumblr and then include that Tumblr lifestream into Friend Feed. They’re creating a feedback loop in their lifestream, and that creates noise. [4]

I might not have the most evolved taste in music, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to noise. [5]

A quick rule of thumb is to get your producers and consumers straight. Am I using this site to produce original information or is it a copy of information I’m producing somewhere else? Don’t merge the copies back into each other. That creates information pollution.

So take a look at your profile page to see how it looks on the outside. Is there a lot of duplication going on? Don’t cross the streams. [6] Do your followers a favor and turn off the noise. Make it easier for them to follow you.


  1. Twitter is a kind of mesh IRC where instead of /ignoring the people you don’t like, you /follow to the people you do like.
  2. It’s a big pond.
  3. More information about the attention economy at Wikipedia, First Monday and ReadWriteWeb.
  4. The #2 reason is because they produce so much information that I can’t keep track of anyone else. #3 is because we don’t have that much in common.
  5. I saw one guy import his tumblr into friendfeed, his friendfeed into tumblr, and then twitter into both of them. Infinite loops.
  6. Unless you have to kill Gozer the Traveller.

30 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Webomatica said, on April 22, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    A specific situation I see increasingly often is when a blogger toots their blog posts in Twitter, delicious, Stumbleupon, Google Reader, etc. and I see links to the exact same article from each service in FriendFeed. Meanwhile, I am subscribed to that blogger’s RSS feed, so I wonder why I even bother subscribing to the other services they share?

  2. Chris K said, on April 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I ran a BBS back in the 90s. Now I blog. Hmm… you’re on to something.

    I tend to compare Twitter to the CB scene of the 70’s and 80’s, but the IRC comparison works as well.

    Usenet is somewhere in between those…

    Good article. You inspired me to at least stop pushing tweets to Facebook :-)

  3. elroy said, on April 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    So is it ok to promote blog posts in Twitter?
    I appreciate it, personally.
    I have been really lax in reading my feeds. So, although I subscribe to people’s blogs and twitter streams, I am much more likely to stay current if the posts show up in Twhirl.
    Otherwise, I am scrambling to read stuff before Google Reader auto deletes it after 30 days.
    In fact, I’m pretty sure I clicked on this link due to twitter….

  4. Flora said, on April 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Really great point, actually. I’ve been meaning to trim down on this myself, having been feeding my tumblr into my friendfeed, and still streaming everything on both, regardless.
    This has inspired me to trim the fat, so many thanks!

  5. engtech said, on April 22, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    discussion on Friend Feed:

  6. engtech said, on April 22, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    @ Chris K:

    I push my Tweets to Facebook as status updates, but not as their own RSS feed.

    You can do that with the Twitter app for Facebook.

  7. engtech said, on April 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    @ elroy:

    What I’ve been doing with twitter is using twitter.com/engtech for original content, and twitter.com/et for autogenerated content.

  8. engtech said, on April 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    @ Webomatica:

    I’m hoping Friend Feed itself starts compressing the “that person is sharing the same link 15 different times!” updates.

  9. phil.gs said, on April 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Within the last 24 hours, I dropped delicious from my FriendFeed for exactly the reasons you mentioned here—namely that I’m reposting stuff from Reader and StumbleUpon.

    I think promoting your blog in Twitter is fine as long as that’s not the only thing you’re doing in Twitter. You need to add value, a la Wil Wheaton. Don’t just regurgitate your RSS feed, a la Blog Herald (although (1) I still follow Blog Herald in Twitter; (2) their RSS feed is broken at the moment (as reported by my reader) so it’s nice to get some idea of what’s being posted).

  10. Olivier D. alias ze said, on April 22, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    LiFE2Front is lonely lifestream/friendstream platform which allow its users to cross their streams… I took long time to build process which detect duplicated bookmarks, blog posts, microblog updates, and listen songs ;o) .oO(so hard coding but heavy armored Web-weapon)

  11. […] Engtech at Internet Duct Tape writes about the a new issue with “lifestreaming” that he … It asks people to figure out which of their sites contain their primary lifestream and not “cross” them with other streams: The #1 reason why I unsubscribe from someone’s lifestream is because they’re repeating themselves too often. This happens most often when they lifestream with Tumblr and then include that Tumblr lifestream into Friend Feed. They’re creating a feedback loop in their lifestream, and that creates noise. [4] […]

  12. Steve Ellwood said, on April 22, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Bingo, I knew got it right at my post How to use Social media – I am so tired of Facebook status saying “x is twittering y”

  13. Ross said, on April 22, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    OK you’re the scripting genius, here’s my request. I’d like to continue to tweet my blog posts, because I have a lot of friends on Twitter that don’t use FriendFeed (and I’m one of those annoying x is twittering y people, fuckit my Facebook friends can deal with it). BUT, I’d like to NOT annoy my friends on FriendFeed by having my blogs RSS feed imported, followed a few minutes later by a tweet of the same thing. Soooo – can you come up w/ a way so that my normal ‘tweets’ show up in FriendFeed, but NOT my blog post tweets?

    Also, the paragraph I just wrote would have puzzled the shit out of mankind 5 years ago.

  14. engtech said, on April 22, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    @ Ross:

    I was about to explain why you can’t do that, but it would be possible.

    You’d just need a script searched your Friend Feed for items matching X, and then deleted them.

    You’d want to set it up as a scheduled task to run every X hours, and then you’d say the service you’d want to nuke and something to identify the item to remove.

    Pretty hacky, but doable.

  15. Sam Jones said, on April 23, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    What are your thoughts on using FriendFeed as your lifestream and submitting multiple / duplicate content to it provided it had good filtering built into it to basically solve this problem?

    I feel like a lot of people understand the danger of submitting similar content to multiple services, but if all combined feeds are duplicate free then what’s the problem?

  16. engtech said, on April 23, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    @ Sam Jones:

    Complete agreement that it’s not an issue with good filtering on the backend of the lifestreaming service. Unfortunately it’s not there yet.

    I get the feeling from looking at their APIs and the javascript code on the web app that they’ve been heading down a path that makes filtering hard.

    I think they’re going to get bogged down with scaling issues vs adding new features like improved filtering. I’m hoping they take the twitter approach of having a robust API to enable 3rd party developers to add the features for free.

  17. Andy Davies said, on April 24, 2008 at 3:34 am

    I understand where you’re coming from- http://friendfeed.com/e/de8358ec-b82f-42bd-b555-9a7479c38dba

    I think what’s needed is better merging of duplicate items on FriendFeed etc.

    Someone might share a link using Google Reader but not save it to delicious, similarly they might save something in delicious that didn’t come from Google Reader

    It’s an interesting problem…

  18. syahidali said, on April 24, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Well written man. I have removed Tumblr from my friend feed. :D

  19. […] of Internet Duct Tape blogged about this. And a really good discussion about the clutter occurred here…on FriendFeed. A couple […]

  20. Scott Goldie said, on April 25, 2008 at 3:49 am

    http://www.friendfeedmachine.com goes some way towards alleviating this problem, with some more features due in a few days, especially around aggregation.

  21. Sue Baskerville (SuezanneCB) said, on April 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I just looked at my tumblr site and I see six copies of posts.

    How can I tell where they are coming from?

    The only place I remember incuding tumblr is at hellotxt.

    I suppose I can start by removing Tumblr from the hellotxt list.

  22. Sue said, on April 29, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I’m seeing duplicated posts of mine at twitter and elsewhere.

    I don’t mind have a post appear at facebook and twitter and jaiku etc. but I only need one copy of a post at twitter, one copy of it at facebook, one copy at friendfeed, etc.

    I don’t want six copies of the same post at twitter, six copies of it at facebook, six copies at friendfeed, etc.

    There’s no way to find out where a post on twitter came from, is there?

    Is there a way to track the route of these messages?

    Other than “go to each site, make it stop sending or receiving messages to or from remote sites” is there anyway to stop this?

  23. engtech said, on April 29, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    @ Sue:

    Change your password on Twitter and you’ll block out any automatically generate links that are being posted to it.

  24. […] Lifestreaming 101 – Don’t Cross the Streams « // Internet Duct Tape Social media, lifestreams and the introduction to broadcasting yourself 23-7 (there’s always server downtime to factor). Morrissey once wrote “Sing your life”, and now, you don’t even need the singing lessons […]

  25. Best of Tech Blogs: April 2008 said, on May 01, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    […] Lifestreaming 101 – Don’t Cross the Streams [IDT by Eric] […]

  26. Amanda said, on May 15, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    What about keeping a private lifestream? Logdit is a great example: http://www.logdit.com It just launched in public beta this week.

  27. […] leads me to my first wish for Friendfeed. This was first wished for by Internet Duct Tape – don’t cross the streams! In other words, there has to be a way to stop the duplication of links. I often send the same link […]

  28. Rob said, on July 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I use a similar theory, known as “Don’t barf on your customer”. It’s an old sales term, and it basically means don’t confuse your customers by offering everything you got. Pick and choose only the essential items they need, and only offer something when they ask for it. In this case, it’s not really “don’t cross the streams”, it’s “don’t turn on the other guns”.

  29. […] a lot of talk now, about the evolution in blogging: the shift in conversation, the ways we share and (re)distribute, how we find our […]

  30. […] a single link which people can use to keep up with what you are doing. One thing to avoid is having multiple posts of the same content to your lifestream – that can happen if you include one aggregator inside […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: