Introducing Friendstat.us

I’ve got a lot more of the wow.ly projects and business details to share, but I thought I’d take a quick break from that tonight and instead dig into explaining a few features of the latest wow.ly project to roll into production friendstat.us.

Friendstat.us is intended to help you keep up with ALL your friend’s content.

To be a little more specific, friendstat.us compiles your various social network streams into one simple person-based view. It then gives you a handful of tools to consume, analyze, and interact with all that content.

Right now it’s really just dealing with your Twitter stream, but all of the same features and details will pretty much apply to any new streams/services we add to friendstat.us.

Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about the core features and ideas that make up friendstat.us

People-based view

A person-based view groups content generated by each person into a single stream associated to that person and then presents you with one larger stream that is a collection of those individual streams.

If you think about it, in systems like Twitter and Facebook you follow people you find interesting, but the content they generate is actually presented to you based on time. That is the newest content, regardless of who generates it, is always pushing the older content out of view. This approach awards the ‘noisy’ people you follow and makes it easy for you to miss out on, quite possibly high-quality, content from those you follow that publish less often.

To solve this problem Friendstat.us uses a person-based view. This makes it easy for you to see which of the people you follow have recently published content to your stream, how much they have published, and what as-a-whole they are talking about.

In-line replies

Sometimes a status update compels you to respond or ask a question. Directly within Twitter, when you click the 'reply’ button, you are bounced back to the top of the page where the Tweet form is with the @username filled in…but this can sometimes be confusing, and often you’ll forget the specific wording of the tweet you are responding to. Friendstat.us fixes this problem by putting the form to reply to a tweet directly below each tweet.

Directly below each tweet is a 'reply to this tweet’ link. Clicking that link reveals a form in that spot, with the @username information already filled in. Just fill out what you want to say to @username and click the 'submit’ button.

Old-school re-tweets

Since Twitter rolled it out, there’s been an on-going debate about how re-tweeting should work. The advantage to old-school re-tweets is that it gives you an opportunity to add your own thoughts to the tweet.

Friendstat.us thinks this is the better of the two options, and so that is what we’ve implemented. And to make things even better, we’ve also included the re-tweet feature in-line. When you click the 'retweet this tweet’ link below a given tweet a new form will appear in that spot with the text of the origional tweet already entered. You just make any edits you want and then click the 'submit’ button. Nice.

Tweet Tagging

Sometimes a status update will contain a nugget of truth or a link that you really want to keep track of. Tagging the tweet within friendstat.us adds meta data to the tweet and saves the tweet within our system. This makes it easy for you to both search and view these 'special’ tweets at any time in the future.

Once you’ve tagged a tweet, you’ll be able to see all your tags via the 'Tags’ tab. Clicking on any 'tag’ word will present a full view (just like the standard person-based view) of all the tweets you’ve tagged with that term over any period of time.

Blog Posts

One of the things a lot of my Twitter friends tell me is that, more and more, they use Twitter as their RSS reader - that is, they find most of the blog posts they actually read via Twitter. The problem is, it’s easy to miss out on links passing through your stream (I’ll talk about that next), and not everyone you follow always tweets a link to their latest and greatest blog posts.

Friendstat.us fixes this problem by adding a 'blog posts’ tab to every user in your stream. If friendstat.us knows about their RSS feed, we’ll show you the five latest posts by that user. If we don’t know where their RSS feed is yet, there’s a form there for you to tell us about it so we can get it added asap!

Note: Associating an RSS feed to a Twitter user within the friendstat.us system is a slightly technical process and so for now is done manually by me. Sooner rather than later, I’ll automate this process a bit more.

Links broken out

An almost endless supply of really interesting links is one of my favorite things about Twitter. But keeping up with all the links, even just the ones shared by the limited number of people I follow is almost impossible. It’s even worse when they hidden deep inside the endless flow of status updates.

Friendstat.us fixes this problem by breaking all the links for your current view out into their own tab. This makes it quick and easy to see how many (and which) links there are to review. And if you choose to have your links expanded (via the settings page), we’ll attempt to gather and display some additional information like page title and description for each link within this tab!

Private notes on people

When you start seeing things in a people-based view you can really start to see trends, interests, and passions that drive a person. And while tags are a great way to keep track of a specific message or thought, sometimes you want to jot down some quick notes or thoughts as it relates to the whole person.

The friendstat.us notes feature helps you do just that. For each person in your stream, there is a Notes tab. Clicking that tab will reveal any previous notes you’ve saved for this person as well as a form for adding more. It will also show you how the person describes themselves within Twitter itself.

Currently notes are private to the person who writes the note. So no matter what your write or associate to a person, you’re the only one that has the ability to see it via the notes tab.

Soon you’ll also be able to search your notes and tags for quicker and easier reference.

Tools

Another interesting side effect to a person-based view is that it becomes very easy to identify the noisy people who are cluttering up your Twitter experience. Once you’ve discovered one of these people, there’s a really good chance you’ll want to get them out of your stream, so we’ve added an 'un-follow’ tool to make this a quick and easy process for you.

In the near future we’ll be adding some additional tools to help you communicate and manage your relationship with a specific user to this area.

Statistics

Interestingly enough, friendstat.us originally developed out of the idea of providing some basic statistics about each of the people you are following. At first I just wanted to have a quick overview of who were there noisiest people in my stream, and so some of the statistics you’ll find here help to answer those sorts of questions (as it relates to your current view).

As you can see, friendstat.us has evolved quite a bit from this original idea, and the stats tab is really nothing more than an occasionally interesting F.Y.I. part of the experience. Over time, I may add in more interesting statistics and ways to analyze and visualize your relationship with a given person to this area.

Mentions

One of the things that I learned with Conversationlist is that people are fascinated with who’s talking to whom and who’s talking about whom. But once again, it’s easy to miss this sort of information in a traditional Twitter view.

The mentions tab helps make it easy to see just who’s being mentioned by the people in your current stream. Mentions are sorted by the frequency that a person is mentioned and we show you just which accounts dropped the mentions, so it’s dead simple to see who’s being mentioned by whom.

Mentions are also a great way to discover interesting people since these are the people, the people you are interested in are talking to/about.

Lists

Twitter lists have been all the rage since they rolled out last year. And while I also think they are a great way to pay attention to a sub-set or a group of interesting people, they suffer from many of the same problems that I’ve mentioned above (especially in a traditional time-based view).

Friendstat.us fixes this by giving you the ability to view any public list, set up by any user, in the same person-based view as you do your own timeline. Best of all, all the other features mentioned throughout this post also apply when you’re viewing list status!

Note: While the current system supports viewing lists, there is no user interface for actually picking a list to view yet. Rest assured, this feature will be rolling out in the next few days.

Other settings

The default settings for friendstat.us will pull up to 1,000 tweets from your public timeline that have been logged in the last hour and show them to you in a person-based view. The order the people are displayed in your navigation is sorted by the most recent person posting to the person who posted the longest time ago.

Currently friendstat.us also defaults to not expanding links for you (because currently expanding links requires a bit more time/processing and therefore slows down the overall user experience).

All of these things can be changed vai the settings area of friendstat.us. Any change you make to your settings will automatically be saved with your account, so any future visits to friendstat.us will adhere to those settings!

In the Queue

As you can see there’s already a ton of features and options built into friendstat.us, but there’s always more that can be done! In the near future, I plan to work on a few of the following things to improve your friendstat.us experience:

1. Implement list viewing features - this means making it easy for people to find and view lists associated with each person in their stream as well as the lists that the user has set up and the lists that the user has been added to.

2. Direct Message support - currently there is no direct feature for reading/reviewing direct messages that have been sent to you or that you have sent out. There is also no direct tool for sending out an direct message (you have to use the command line version which is the form ’d falicon blah blah blah’ in the tweet form to accomplish sending a direct message right now).

3. Tighter integration with other wow.ly tools - this means implementing some interesting tidbits from things like conversationlist, hivemind, pu.ly, and others.

4. An API - So others can build their own friendstat.us clients (like maybe an Adobe AIR version) or just extend upon our feature set in some new and interesting ways!

Suggestions or ideas?

So that’s the current state of the union for friendstat.us…hopefully it’s got some nuggets that interest you enough to start using it yourself, and maybe even tell a friend or two about it.

If nothing else, I do hope that you’ll check it out for a few minutes and leave some feedback here on the blog, send me an email at info at falicon.com, or ping me on Twitter @falicon.

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).