Getting rid of unwelcome attention in FriendFeed

One of the reasons why FriendFeed has captured so many imaginations, certainly in the tech community, is the way in which it has rapidly developed as a place where conversations happen.

Originally started in October 2007 as an aggregator for the content of your friends’ social networks (my description, not the official word), it’s now becoming more widely used as a primary means of interacting with those you’ve connected with.

And some users in the online PR community are making predictions about the impact of FriendFeed: Steve Rubel, for instance, who predicts FriendFeed could be an agent of radical change for PR, marketing and advertising.

I started using FriendFeed earlier this year. But it’s only over the past month or so that I’ve begun to use it fairly intensively, especially engaging with others through commenting, and taking advantage of new features.

Among those new features rolled out in the past month is FriendFeed Rooms, public and private spaces where you can connect with like-minded people around a specific topic, theme or whatever interest in common you have.

For instance, I set up an FIR Room last month, a place where listeners and others with an interest in the podcast Shel and I host can share topics of interest, suggest content for the show and discuss whatever’s on their minds.

But along with all these new and exciting ways of connecting people comes a dark side, one that can happen in any community whether virtual or real.

I’m talking about the unwelcome guest, the person who insists on gaining access to your place and proceeding to leave comments in a way that is confrontational, provocative, sometimes insulting and usually downright rude.

Unlike Twitter, which has long offered users the ability to block obnoxious people, there’s little you could do in FriendFeed if you’re unfortunate enough to attract the unwelcome attention of trolls and sockpuppets.

It’s a pity to say but I’ve experienced such an individual during the past week or so. The person has also been trolling the FIR Room.

What you end up doing is removing the individual from the list of people who subscribe to you and, if you have a Room, from the list of members. You can also delete the person’s content from your space.

Unfortunately, that individual can simply re-subscribe again and you’re back to square one. My experience last week was a bit surreal, like a constant game of whack-a-mole!

As a last resort, you can make your profile private and connecting with you subject to your prior approval, and make your Room a private one. But that’s just giving up and accepting that the troll has got the better of you.

Luckily, this situation just changed.

I’d emailed FriendFeed a few days ago about my experience with a troll, and I noticed yesterday morning that a new link with the word ‘Block’ appears alongside every FriendFeed user’s name. If you click on the link, you’re able to block that individual.

When you click, you get this popup dialogue:


And sure enough, you no longer see their posts or comments. Any posts or comments they already made disappear from your view as well.

If you change your mind and want to unblock an individual, you visit their FriendFeed profile where you’ll see an ‘Unblock’ link next to their user name.

Clicking that link produces this dialogue:


The only point I have on which I’d like to be more sure about is what actually happens when you do block someone.

The dialogue wording says you won’t see any of their posts or comments and vice versa. That seems a bit ambiguous to me.

Does it mean you won’t see what they write in your space but they can still write there? Or does it mean that they can’t write there in the first place?

There’s no announcement yet from FriendFeed about this blocking feature so I’ve asked them what actually happens when you block someone.

Still, this new feature is a welcome addition to FriendFeed.

[Update 16/6/08] I’ve made the FIR Room on FriendFeed a private room as it seems clear that the blocking feature doesn’t apply to rooms.

This means that if you’re not already a member of the FIR community on FriendFeed and you’d like to join, you’ll need to request an invitation.

Sorry about the approval layer which Shel and I hope is only a temporary measure.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.