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Monday, September 15, 2008

Aggregate Your Online Social Life with a Lifestream!



I know a lot of people who refuse to join any more social web sites until there is an easier way to manage it all - and I completely understand. It's a hassle to go back and forth between web sites to check in with friends, but sometimes you don't have much of a choice. Some of your friends use Facebook. Some use MySpace. Some never left Friendster. Unfortunately, as more and more social web sites emerge, keeping up is just going to get more difficult. Luckily there's a solution. Enter the lifestream.

Basically, a lifestream is a service that diplays all of your online activity chronologically in realtime and in one location. That means you can share your status updates, blog posts, photos, videos, favorite websites, upcoming events, and friend comments in one spot. If you're concerned about sharing certain information, don't fret. You have total control over what gets published. You can even remove particular items from your feed.

There are a bunch of lifestream services available, each with it's own advantages. Here is a list of the forerunners:
  • Lifestream.fm, which opened to the public from private beta last week, aggregates information from over 50 services. However, if you want to want to access your friends' lifestreams, they also need to set up a Lifestream.fm account.
  • SocialThing which remains in private beta (hit me up in the comments if you want an invite code), aggregates your online activity AND your friends' activity without the need for them to create a SocialThing account.
  • FriendFeed is my current personal favorite as it not only aggregates all of your online activity, but allows you to publish it on your Facebook profile or on your own web site. However, like Lifestream.fm, you need to invite your friends to use FriendFeed if you want to follow their online activity. You can take a look at my FriendFeed lifestream on the far right side of this blog or on my personal web site.

Prepare to be amazed at how effortless everything seems once your lifestream is set up. Just last week, I was listening to music on my iPod Touch using the Last.FM application and I came across a song I liked - so I tapped on the heart icon to mark it as a favorite. Later that day, I noticed in my FriendFeed, "Joe loved a song on Last.fm, Katy Perry – Hot N Cold". How cool is that?! My friends got to know a little tidbit about me that I would have overlooked and probably never mentioned.

So does this mean you won't ever have to go back and forth between social sites ever again? Well, no. Since the information in your lifestream is public, you'll still need to log into your various social networking accounts to check private messages and stuff like that. However, for the day to day casual stuff, a lifestream should suit you just fine.

Joe Says: While the idea of creating a lifestream is exciting, keep in mind that your feed is public. Take the time to set up your account and set the appropriate restrictions. You don't want [you know who] knowing [you know what]!

This is Joe, signing off.

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