August 17, 2009

Experimenting with My Stream

I’ve finally been able to slow down my external (non-ALA) work enough to circle back around to working on my own stuff again. I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging, but I readily acknowledge that I’m still not likely to blog at my 2002-2003 levels ever again.

Watching Steve Rubel change his focus from his blog to his lifestream made me realize that the tools are finally available for me to do something similar. Other long-time bloggers such as Robert Scoble and Jason Griffey have been re-examining their online presences, and it’s exciting to follow the experiments everyone is trying.

While I admire what these folks are doing and appreciate the fact that they’re openly thinking out loud, I knew I wanted to try a different approach. Because as much as I love the cloud, I’m getting a little tired of being bitten by the companies running it. Don’t get me wrong – I love most of those companies, I’m very appreciative of the fact that they offer these services for free (usually at a monetary loss), and I still plan to participate in them, but I’ve also decided that I want to own my lifestream and have an archive of it.

So as I started looking at my options, based on my understanding of each tool, I ruled out possibilities such as displaying my FriendFeed stream as my home page or using a third-party site such as Posterous. Those solutions work well for others and are super cool at what they do, but they don’t let me backup or own my cloud. I’m also not interested in sending the same update to every service because I use them all differently.

Lifestream for WordPress logo The solution I’ve come up with is to use the Lifestream plugin for WordPress, which kind of lets me run a stripped-down version of my own personal FriendFeed (but without the comments on individual items). It totally rocks, so a big thank you to David Cramer for writing and sharing it.

By default, it lets me set up feeds from my major sites, such as Flickr (pictures), delicious (bookmarks), Twitter (microblogging), Google Reader (shared items I’ve read about that day) , YouTube (videos), and more. It also lets me add the RSS feed for any service that’s not already listed (this is one reason I still think RSS is the greatest thing since sliced bread and is still very important). Most major ones are already there – I just don’t use most of them. Surprisingly, FriendFeed isn’t listed yet, but I was able to easily add a feed for items I’ve liked. Since I don’t post much original content to FF, it shouldn’t get too recursive there.

screenshot of the Lifestream plugin's default feeds

There are two ways you can use this plugin. The first is to create a separate page with your full stream, which updates at set intervals. The alternative, which I’m using, is to do a summary post of all of your activity at a specific time each day. This way, I can aggregate all of my non-blogging activity in one post at the end of the day.

Even better, the Lifestream plugin seems to actually import each item so I have a copy of it. I’m assuming these are in a database I have access to, but I still need to follow up on that. Ideally, this means I have backup copies of all of my text updates on any aggregated service, and I can access it in the future if one of those services ever disappears. In addition, adding the stream to my blog means things like my Google Reader shared items, tweets, and delicious bookmarks get indexed there, so I can search for most of my stuff in one place. It’s not really organized in any way, other than chronological, but I’ll be interested to see if having a searchable version gives me any advantages down the road.

This isn’t ideal, but it’s enough of a first step for me to implement this for a while to see how it works. All lifestream posts from the plugin should appear in the Lifestream category, which I think I’ve now excluded from email updates for my site. I’ve also set Twitterfeed to only share links to posts from my site that have the tag #blogpost in order to avoid a recursive stream there. I’m still looking for a way to prevent the lifestream posts from appearing in FriendFeed. I have a feeling I have to add some magic behind the scenes to get an RSS feed for just the “blogpost” tag or category in order to feed just those items into FF.

Another issue is comments, but I haven’t found a good way to aggregate all of the comments on my items back into my site. I’d love to be wrong that this isn’t yet possible, so please let me know if you’ve done this successfully. It’s also unfortunate that I can’t use an RSS feed of just my comments from FriendFeed, because it counts my delicious descriptions as “comments.”

I also have to make a decision about Facebook and my status updates there. It’s the only site I post to that’s even remotely protected, and even though I don’t post anything there I wouldn’t want the world to read, I still like the idea of having one site that really is just my friends and friendsters. I’m torn, though, because it would be nice to archive those status updates along with the rest of my stream. We’ll see if that desire ultimately wins out over having a smaller online circle.

This solution won’t work for everybody, but I’m going to let this solution run for at least a couple of months to see how it works, and I’d be interested in your feedback over time, but I really like the idea of aggregating my own digital identity so that I have more control over it (especially under my domain). I do intend to keep blogging, although I suppose now technically my blog will be the blogpost tag for this site. The blog items won’t always be this long, but hopefully this will get me back into a flow where I can at least post starter thoughts or discussion points for future exploration.

For so long, my online presence was mostly my blog, but it’s become so much more, and this move helps pull it all together. I can also see myself using this process to facilitate that aggregation. For example, I may start posting more descriptive tweets in order to explain something that’s appearing in my stream that I just don’t have the time to blog about that day or maybe using a Flickr picture to augment a delicious bookmark. Regardless of what happens, it will be an interesting experiment.

I’ll try to post updates about how this new flow works for me, but let me know what you think, too.

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15 Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing out that plugin for gathering all of one’s digital bits in one place. It would be good to know if it can also serve as an archiving function. I’m inclined to set up a second WordPress instance just to do that function.

    Comment by Peter Murray — August 17, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  2. Wow…somehow I missed this plugin. It does very nearly what I wanted to do…I may test this as well. In my case, I was interested in the “selective” publishing of certain content, and less about the overall archival, but this does look really good.

    And yes, it has to be putting it into your WP database. That’s the only way WP would be displaying it.

    Comment by Jason Griffey — August 17, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  3. Terrific! I hadn’t seen this plugin either. Looking forward to playing with it.

    Comment by pollyalida — August 17, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  4. I did a similar thing on my wordpress powered website http://gerald.mine.nu by using the wordpress plugin FeedList (http://rawlinson.us/blog/articles/feedlist-plugin/). It imports two different friendfeeds for me, my main feed and a group feed, setup for a specific topic. I like it, just post something somewhere, FF aggregates it for me and FeedList shows on my website.

    Comment by Gerald Hildebrandt — August 17, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  5. […] of last year to this new cleaner lifestream powered by the WP-Lifestream plugin that I discovered via Jenny (aka The Shifted Librarian). Now I just have to figure out how to convert the MySQL dump of the Sweetcron version to a […]

    Pingback by Sample the Web is now hosted on Media Temple — Sample the Web — August 18, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  6. Cool! An interesting experiment. And that WP plugin looks to be working well.

    Oddly, I’ve just embarked on a somewhat tangentially similar idea, of using Facebook as my main platform of “exposure” to the world, with feeds from my blog and tumblog and Delicious, Twitter app and now the NetworkedBlogs app to aggregate all my reads. Mainly, this is because I’m already a regular user of FB, and if I can get everything exposed/expressed on the one platform, my life will be simpler. The sun will shine, flowers will bloom, and birds will .. tweet. Maybe. :)

    But I get that you are trying to preserve your “lifestream”, and this is an area that FB does not facilitate. Stuff gets old quickly on FB (but not as quickly as Twitter), so it’s in no wise a preservation tool.

    Comment by Steve Thomas — August 18, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  7. The Shifted Librarian Using WordPress Lifestream Plugin…

    Jenny Levine of the Shifted Librarian library blog started to use WordPress’ Lifestream plugin which allows her to post feeds from her major sites such as Flickr, delicious, Twitter, Google Reader, and Youtube onto her blog. It also allows her t…

    Trackback by j's scratchpad — August 22, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  8. […] just wanted to note that I’ve tied up some of the loose ends of converting the TSL home page to display my lifestream. If you’re not interested in my lifestream, I won’t be offended, and you can just skip […]

    Pingback by The Shifted Librarian » The Blog and Just the Blog, Ma’am — August 23, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  9. […] Lifestream plugin for WordPress. I have seen this with some of my regular blog reads, particularly The Shifted Librarian and Etc. The librarian in me loves the idea of cataloging all of my feeds from social networking […]

    Pingback by Lifestream | Blatherskite — August 28, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  10. […] into a single place, I will recommend Lifestream. I learned about it via Jenny Levine’s blog, The Shifted Librarian, and immediately thought it looked interesting – despite the fact that I have a FriendFeed […]

    Pingback by A Passion For ‘Puters » Blog Archive » Lifestreaming without FriendFeed — September 1, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  11. […] Experimenting with My Stream | The Shifted Librarian […]

    Pingback by Link Roundup: September 6-12, 2009 | meLISsa BLOG | Melissa Fortson — September 12, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  12. Are you still happy with this? I’m finding your information difficult to follow from my Google Reader. I wondered if you are still happy with this because the information seems so fragmented to me and I can’t figure out which feeds are the ones that would be of most interest to me.

    Comment by Floyd Pentlin — September 16, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  13. Hi, Floyd. The lifestream is still working for me, but I recognize that may not be true for readers. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to arrange the stream by topic. If you want to receive TSL that looks like it used to, you can view just the blog posts by going to http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/category/blog. If you’re reading via RSS, you can subscribe to just the blog posts using http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/category/blog/feed. You can also subscribe to just the blog posts via email.

    If you’re interested in specific pieces of my lifestream, I’d recommend looking at FriendFeed stream and viewing the individual sites listed there (Google Reader, Delicious, Flickr, Twitter, etc.). From that, you might be able to tell which ones are most interesting to you, and then you could just follow or subscribe to those separately.

    Does that help? Thanks for reading TSL :)

    Jenny

    Comment by jenny — September 16, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  14. FAIL. I could see setting up something like this for your own, personal archive, but making every detail of your entire online life available just seems a bit much. Jumbled overkill, in my opinion. Believe it or not, not everyone participates in every single social network on the planet. Also, a lot of corporate firewalls prohibit most social network content, so rabid fans may be frustrated by constant reminders of content they can’t access.
    Meh.

    Comment by Grenadine — January 27, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  15. Thanks for the feedback, Grenadine. Sorry it’s not your cup of tea but after all, it is my site. You’re welcome to go straight to just the blog posts (http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/category/blog), receive just them via email (http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/subscribe-via-email/), or subscribe to just them via RSS (http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/category/blog/feed).

    I fully recognize that not everyone participates in every single social network, which for me is yet another reason to aggregate all of my content across the sites here. It makes it easier to see what I’m highlighting elsewhere without requiring you to have a presence on each of those sites.

    In addition, if many corporate firewalls prohibit social network content but users behind those firewalls can see my site, then I’m providing a service by aggregating that content here so that they can get to it, should they want to see it. And of course, they can get just the blog posts if they don’t want to see those other pieces.

    So if you want to use “fail” like language, I still offering both options as a “win-win” situation. Take your pick for which one you prefer, but don’t knock the one you’re not interested in. One person’s “fail” is another person’s “FTW.” There’s room here for both sides, which is one of the things I like best about this approach.

    Comment by jenny — January 27, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

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