Darren Waters

Mapping our lives online

  • Darren Waters
  • 31 Mar 08, 11:18 GMT

Over the weekend blogger and businessman Loic Le Meur started an interesting conversation about social media and the decentralised way in which personal information was being spread.

He drew a handy map to show the different threads of his digital life.

Loic Le Meur's digital map

Loic, who I spoke to a few months ago, is arguing that while all these tools have their place, it's hard currently to locate them centrally in one place. There are tools emerging, such as Friendfeed, which pull together these strands but it is still quite difficult to assemble your digital life in one place.

I know exactly what he means - tools like Flickr, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, BlipTV (the list goes on and on and on) are great ways to start conversations but they remain, more or less, as digital islands.

There are ways to bridge these islands - and using RSS is the obvious candidate. Almost every social media service today generates an RSS feed and tools like Friendfeed can pull them all together.

You can see my FriendFeed here. It's an amalgam of my posts to Twitter, my Flickr photos and posts to the blog. If I wanted I could add YouTube videos I have posted or favourited, my Delicious links, music I've listened to on etc.

And your feed, together with the feeds of your friends, combines into one meta-Friend Feed, which itself is an RSS feed. So I can follow the lives of my friends, through whatever RSS feeds they themselves have aggregated onto Friendfeed, into an RSS Reader. Phew!!

It means the minute by minute lives of others can be monitored minute by minute whenever you are online.

You can do something similar by combining Twitter with a tool called Twitterfeed. It turns almost every RSS feed into a tweet. So every new story on the BBC News Tech section, or posting to this blog, or photo I post to Flickr is turned into a tweet on Twitter.

Social media tools are giving us ever more power to document our lives in ever more granular forms. And there are tools emerging that pull these micro-aspects of our lives together.

Loic bemoans the inability to site this cataloguing of his life in one place - ie his blog. I don't think this will be too much of an issue for too long as the creators of Friendfeed are about to release an API, which should see the tool becoming more flexible.

But I don't think this is the real issue. For me it is about the layers of openness we want our lives to have and how to control who sees our information and where.

RSS is a great tool but it has one declamatory mode. I want to be able to choose who sees different aspects of my digital life in one meta-destination.

For example: I want a tool like Friendfeed to let me control who can see my Twitter feed, who can view my Flickr photos, who can watch my YouTube videos etc.

What's needed is a more sophisticated public/private system for our digital lives. There are plenty of aspects of my life I'm happy to share with the world but some things that should be reserved for friends, family, work colleagues etc.

At the moment I have to resort to one-to-one tools like e-mail or instant messaging to share more private aspects of my life.

But wouldn't it be great if we could use Twitter or Facebook or Friendfeed etc to target different aspects of our lifes to different people?


I use to do exactly this. I use it as a central hub for my online wrongdoings.

Seach for me there my username is guycross ( ). With utters you can mms/email/video and audio post (you can even call a landline number to make an audio post).

I then have various links set up to other blogs networking sites and I can then post any or all of my doings where I want.


  • 2.
  • At 01:47 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • R Fahey wrote:

Netvibes is a great place to gather together RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, Flickr photos, Videos, Slides etc. It has a lot of widgets and allows you to populate your own HTML code aswell.

You Know I would love to see a full blown version of that picture. It seems rather handy to me

  • 4.
  • At 03:00 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • David Saunders wrote:

Having looked at the correspondent's Friendfeed it occurs to me that if that is a true representation of the noteworthy incidents in his life then his life really isn't interesting enough to be worthy of note.

If your correspondent was genuinely interested in the concept he's talking about, and in possession of even an ounce of imagination, then he could set up several Friendfeeds, one for each 'privacy group' he wants and only make those feeds known to each group.

  • 5.
  • At 03:07 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • Jared wrote:

I think this is what Google is trying to accomplish with iGoogle.

  • 6.
  • At 03:42 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • elliot wrote:

It's not just that only your friends should see some parts of your history, it is that some friends should see some parts and other friends other parts. I have several online identities, and I prefer to keep them somewhat separate. My job hunting identity only partially overlaps with the identity that my working peers can access. The structure needs to be that of a ringed pie. My first tier work friends can see the first ring of four slices. Their friends can see the middle ring of those slices, etc. Only I see the whole pie.


  • 8.
  • At 04:06 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Flock is beginning to pull things together in a way that integrates these sites with the browser - and it has certainly enriched my surfing experience.

I think flock has a long way to go, but as the community of users grows, I think that so too will the demand for more and more integrations.

All that needs to happen now, is to take this concept and translate it to an online application environment so that the browser dependency is broken. I have high hopes for Google in building upon iGoogle to provide this (although I think there's a lot of work to do there yet).

Some of the issues you talk about are what sites like are trying to solve. It's called a 'Social Networking Hub', so you can add links to all of your digital islands in one place, and control who can see which links.

  • 10.
  • At 05:59 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • pb wrote:

sounds like Loic was plugging his mate's site, tariq krim's netvibes... looks a bit like the beeb's new homepage. or maybe it's the other way round :-)

  • 11.
  • At 06:06 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • Ollie wrote:

Why indeed? Do you really want/need to know the instant someone has posted some inane pictures to their facebook page, or updated their twitter status? And do people really care if you have done likewise? Seems to me that the people who use this level of social networking technology would probably be better investing their energy into actually doing something noteworthy in the real world, face-to-face, with other people.

  • 12.
  • At 06:16 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • ryan wrote:

Ultimately, even continents are just huge islands. Each country is an island. In the web realm, companies want to as much of an island as they can afford. This is because the purpose of their existance (that is to make money) is usually supported by people actually going to their site.

An generic example: A company wants you to come to their website, stay around, and at least click an advert to support their website or buy something if they sell.

Selling something is no problem to feed to a central location (for most products), but if your website and services survive on advertisement, you have to have people come to your site to have income.

Right now a lot of websites are in experiment mode (like Facebook and Wordpress) that hardly make much money. After a while, bills will be coming in and companies will still need to find a way to make real money (not just investors buying stock, which will eventually leave without getting returns).

People who want to centralise will need to find a way for companies to make money being centralised or else the only coming together that is really lasting is a bunch of software giants (Microsoft, Google anyone).

  • 13.
  • At 06:19 PM on 31 Mar 2008,
  • E Samuel wrote:

Paul Wells asked "Why?" and I agree. When I can't guarantee the security of most sites, why do I want my digital life easily navigated by friends and not so friendly entities (human and otherwise). I am an island - and I like it that way.

  • 14.
  • At 03:38 AM on 01 Apr 2008,
  • Barking_Mad wrote:

I often use mind mapping tools, there are many free and open source programs for this. FreeMind, PersonalBrain, Compendium etc

I recommend FreeMind as its...erm Free... and open source. Its also got a simple interface and some good presentation formats.

You can use these in combination with RSS feeds and webpages, links and blogs to visualise your web.


  • 15.
  • At 09:28 AM on 01 Apr 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Isn't socialthing doing exactly this sort of... ummm... thing?

  • 16.
  • At 10:52 AM on 01 Apr 2008,
  • Belleli Victor wrote:

It is only a perspective of things!

Spreading info thats the net job! even in hard copies you have notes notebooks letters books in the office at home on the fridge in the car and so on... so once you would like to put order in things do as you would have done with your notes..

Lately social networks are going with us every where, like nearConn, the social network that build on the people you meet over the day, more, all social network is developing a cellular access to there sites, like Facebook and others.

  • 18.
  • At 12:33 PM on 01 Apr 2008,
  • Roger Hyam wrote:

I would worry about having some one for a friend who was deluded enough to think that *everything* they do is of significance to me or anyone else.

  • 19.
  • At 01:00 PM on 01 Apr 2008,
  • Peter wrote:

@Omar Ali -

The author Loic has posted a full size version of the picture on Flickr:

I quite agree that it's just unmanagable to operate a number of social sites. My interest has peaked and I think that I'm not the only one. I think the current social sites will reach a plateau soon.

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