My Thoughts on Posterous as a Lifestreaming Platform

I have noticed a recent surge in users starting to use and adopt Posterous. One of the biggest reasons for this was the proclamation by Steve Rubel that he was killing his blog in favor of Lifestreaming and choosing to use Posterous as his new platform. As a result Steve has become the poster boy for Posterous (pun intended) attracting many people to try the service. His move caused a huge reaction on the web, some of which wasn’t positive. In a recent interview with Posteruous founder Sachin Argawal, he also acknowledged Steve’s use of Lifestreaming as a term that best describes his service.  I recently met Steve and told him that while I was happy he had brought huge attention to Lifestreaming, I believe that many people are confused by the term. My hope is to try and clarify some of that confusion here.

First off,  I’m not the Lifestram Nazi dictating what method you should use to create and populate your Lifestream. However, the concept that I cover is primarily as a way to aggregate the content we create or like on a multitude of services into a central location. To that point I wanted to show how Posterous is positioned with that method of Lifestreaming. Below I have provided what should hopefully be a clear diagram showing the differences between Posterous and the Lifestreeaming method I described.

Lifestream_vs_Posterous

Using the Lifestreaming method you post to various web services and then aggregate the content generated at each of them on your Lifestream. Your Lifestream can be located at a service like FriendFeed, Storytlr or many others, or it can be self hosted using WordPress, SweetCron or many other options as well.

Posterous uses a different methodology in which you post all your content to their service first via email, bookmarklet, or a custom form and then optionally autopost that content to external services such as Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, and Youtube. The options for posting by email are flexible and powerful. You can specify which of the external services you want to autopost to on a per email basis by using  specific settings.

One of the biggest differences gleaned from these 2 methods is that a Lifestream allows the ability to publish from a limitless number of external sources that provide either an RSS feed or access via API whereas Posterous is limited by whatever can be published using their tools. For example, if I decide to “love” a track on Last.fm or add a book I’m reading at Goodreads, those actions can be automatically setup to publish to my Lifestream. In those examples I can use the native tools on the respective site to publish content to my Lifestream without having to do anything special. It would require me to take an extra step to do the same on Posterous. So basically Posterous is limited to the content you publish using their tools because they don’t offer the ability to import content from external sources. Until they offer this, I don’t consider them as a true Lifestreaming service. By the way, I see this as one of the key differentiators between Posterous and Tumblr which it is often compared to.

Now that just explains the differences in methodologies. It’s not to say that one couldn’t effectively use Posterous as a Lifestream or even find ways to incorporate generating content at external sites in a meaningful way on Posterous. In fact, many people are doing just that. I just wanted to bring some clarity to the differeces as I see them.  I have been enjoying using Posterous and find its posting and workflow options to be very powerful. There is a lot more to the service as well than just what I’ve covered here. Also,  I have discovered some great content that is being generated on the service and have started to follow some very interesting users on there and see a great community forming. I will definitely continue to play with and watch the service evolve.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. I completely agree. As much as I admire the product that the Postereous team has put together, I am totally baffled by the concept that it could act as a suitable replacement to FriendFeed.

  2. Oh, I dunno. Postereous could easily replace Friendfeed as it is currently used by most of the people I follow. That's as a discussion board — not an aggregator.

    FF moved from emphasizing lifestreaming to “conversation” as soon as it went with realtime. Most links I see in my stream are shared directly or are topics original to FF. Postereous can certainly handle that, particularly if it improves the robustness of its comment system or allows users to move to Echo or DISQUS.

  3. I'm pretty sure this is a fault in (or personal take on) terminology. When Rubel says Lifestreaming, he means the quick and painless method Posterous uses to post, Email, which can be accessed from just about anywhere. This leads to much more sharing. I don't think he ever meant “Lifestream” as an aggregation solution.

  4. As far as I'm concerned FriendFeed has always been about sharing content (either posted natively or imported from a service) and the conversations that are generated around that content. I think that there are many great conversations that are generated around content imported by 3rd party services, most notably Twitter, that just couldn't happen on Posterous as the service stands right now. I don't think considering Posterous as a replacement to FriendFeed is really valid as I see them as different beasts.

  5. Tal, while I agree with your assertion on what Steve intended, the perception from what I've read on the web with regards to people's interpretation is far different. My goal was to somehow shed a little light and clarify things with this post.

  6. Haha, love your comment “I have all my services connected six ways from sunday”. Yea, I'm not too sure if aggregation of services should be incorporated into Posterous. If it is, perhaps they can segregate those items separately from Posterous posts if that makes sense.

  7. I use my self-hosted WP blog for my project info and long-form expressions; short to medium length more light-hearted, but generaly not silly, original content on Posterous; and the ephemeral stuff just goes direct to Friendfeed.

    Also, I joined as a contributor on a group blog, http://allwordyandjunk.blogspot.com (populated by Friendfeed alumni), to which I selectively cross-post from either WP or Posterous.

  8. Good clarity on the differences there, the visual makes things nice and clear. And I agree with what you say, although I am pretty new to the whole lifestreaming thing.

  9. I like the distinction, and the conclusion from the butterfly-shape that we need not a beam-this-up service, neither a show-it-to the world, but some intermediary to tie them all together—an hourglass.

    I'd like this service to be intelligent, able to tell apart my different contexts based on a wide varieties of clues (language, type of document, semantic analysis, etc.) So far, Posterous is the opposite: it merges everything, so no up-loader organises things so well; as few services allow me to filter the news (Tech news from Marc Canter) from the noise (Marc talks about his children) I'm left with a mash. It has been concerning since Facebook opened outside US-colleges (Drunk alumni vs. Co-workers) and it is still unresolved: no twitter client allows you to filter-*out* a hash-tag, the promissed Facebook “Share that link to a group only” never came. . .

    We can be forced to let go, and grant our family access to our tennis club photos — but lack of relevance will get the better of us, soon.

  10. True, i started using Posterous after checking out Steve Rubel numerous times on his Posterous page. Dirt simple and very convenient! Ya know i got to know the crew and niche over at Hacker News, incredible site.. Cheers for the post…

  11. This piece totally nails the trouble I've had in grokking Posterous. I kept hearing “it's great for lifestreaming!” and just couldn't find anything there that looked like lifestreaming to me…because I had the first model in mind.

    I appreciate Posterous' features, but don't like the way it inserts itself in the middle of everything. I'm just more comfortable with the first model.

  12. Thanks for the insight Micah. It's always interesting to hear the way others determine what content to flow to various channels and services.

  13. I was hoping the visual would bring clarity. Glad you liked it.

  14. Your thoughts on the ability to filter on a per service basis bring up issues I've heard others discuss as well. Usually as it pertains to taming the firehose. I think the next phase of Lifestreaming will be the creation of intelligent algorithms that analyze the massive amount of data we are creating and add some features around it. I already could see that an intelligent recommendation engine for products and services could be built around my social graph…and even be geo specific. But one to automatically filter noise based on content determination will be a bit trickier.

  15. Thanks Chuck and glad you liked it. My goal was both to explain to people who understood the original Lifestreaming model of aggregating services to those considering and confused by the role Posterous played, as well as educating people that hadn't heard of Lifestreaming to understand the differences.

  16. Thank you. There is some great content being created on Posterous. I've been enjoying it over there as well.

  17. The end result is the same. What am I missing?

  18. Thanks for clearing the confusion folks might have had with 'Posterous for Lifestreaming'.

  19. I'm not sure what you mean by end result but the first method allows importing from a limitless number of 3rd party services that offer an RSS feed while the second requires you to post everything yourself using 3 defined methods. Hope that helps.

  20. You're welcome, but I'm sure some will still have questions as it can still be a little difficult to grasp.

  21. “don't like the way it inserts itself in the middle of everything” (falzone). This is my major beef with Posterous. My process seeks to share content and conversations seamlessly. Posterous takes links I share from the bookmarklet then hyperlinks them to my Posterous feed instead of the original article. That blows, IMHO. It's a little scammy. Strange how it grabs the image, too. It makes my Facebook people jump through too many hoops to see the content, for example. I realize that a direct link would cut Posterous out of the eyeballs loop, but it doesn't suit my needs for a lot of different content sharing activities.

  22. Nice – I will give this a whirl. Thanks!

  23. One drawback that I can see immediately is that you have to duplicate your efforts to post to both Twitter and Facebook. Is there a way to post to both in the settings?

  24. ah -good stuff. Glad to see they're working on it. Another thing, which I'll post to that thread, too.. is that some of my facebook folks have wondered wy sharein links do not launch a new browser tab. minor point IMO, but relevant to some.

  25. Interesting. Thanks for letting me know!

  26. Simply encourage people to upvote comments and include some collaborative filtering first. From there, you can scale up to learning algos, or use it as a base for semantic fine-tuning.

  27. I would just say one thing to you and that is, “FANTASTIC”!! Keep it up and wish to get more details from your blog.
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  28. Mark, There are so many aspects of this new Web 2.0 that I don't think there is enough hours in the day to keep up with them all. You have done an excellent job of helping me understand Postereous and the concept of lifestreaming. And it is an added bonus for me that you mentioned aspects of Tumblr as well.
    I have a Postereous blog but I am not really sure if I need it, since my primary blog is with WordPress.com. I went to Diigo (a bookmarking service that I absolutely love using to build my Personal Learning Network – PLN) to search for Postereous and found nothing. So I added this article (which I found on Google) and now it is being shared with the rest of the Diigo community.

    Thank you for this very insightful post.

  29. Ileane, thank you for the kind words and sharing the story.

  30. I need the import funcationality. Flickr is a big part of what I do. Posterous doesn't allow me the control I need when posting there. With tools like Lightroom 3 integrating so closely with Flickr that's what I'll be using to post there. As cool as posterous is, if I can't import those photos into it, it's mostly worthless to me. I can't figure out how I'd use it. Maybe they can just pick select services. No rss feeds. And if they import something like Twitter, filter out @ replies and retweets.

    I'd really live it if they could import my Twitter then push the photo back out to a couple other blogs including posterous of course.

  31. Just tracked down this post, which is highly lucid as well as practical. I'm currently using Posterous as a running gloss or set of marginalia on my 'macro' blog on TypePad. I appreciate your input and will track you blog going forward.

  32. Mark,
    Brilliant post. I came across this searching for a way to import an RSS feed into Posterous. I'm new to the terminology, but your concepts hit the nail on the head. I now understand that I've been trying to use Posterous as both a lifestreaming aggregator and a broadcaster! Like you said, it's really only designed to broadcast, but I've been trying to get more out of it — and it's really a pain! You said that there are many other options for lifestreaming. Which services are the best to use in your opinion? What can best capture all my activities across the web automatically, and at the same time be a service to keep me connected across my several social networks by cross-updating?
    Thank you for your thoughts and clearly explaining the problem I didn't know I had!

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