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.

Be Socia­ble, Share!

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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