November 01, 2011

Some Feelings About Google Reader

When I discovered Google Reader, it was quickly considered a godsend.  Here, in one place, I could see all the things posts on the websites I frequented.  ALL THE POSTS.  IN ONE PLACE!  I would never miss another update.  It was amazing.

And then it quickly became immensely overwhelming.  I would log into Reader, and there would be 2000+ new things to read.  Reader became a chore.  A sad thing.  Something that filled me with anxiety and caused me to "Mark all as Read", completely destroying the very thing that made it awesome for me.

Then I started noticing the social features.  I realized that several of my friends had similar tastes as me, and that they subscribed to the same feeds.  These friends would share the posts they found interesting.  I realized that I didn't have to subscribe to every site I liked, I could just check my friends' shared items for some of them.  Suddenly, my daily reading list was something I could knock out in an hour.  That's quite a thing really.  The idea that in one hour I could ingest the entire contents of 79 different websites, plus those things my friends found worthwhile, is an amazing thing for me.  I felt connected and informed with the world around me in ways I never have before.  And if something on the internet was worth sharing and saving but not the whole site?  Well, there's was the "Note in Reader" button on my browser tool bar.

The best thing about Reader was that all of these things was in one single place.  I didn't have to go anywhere to read anything, because the entire article was there.  I even made new friends by enjoying the comments friends of friends left and realizing that their shared items would also be things I found interesting.  Many of those friends are people that aren't even on any other social networking site, and they are not effectively gone from my life.

Now I must say, I feel like Google Reader is a ghost town.  Can I still read the full contents of those 79 subscriptions?  Yes.  But who will I talk to about them?  Share them with?  The idea that I have to go to another site to see +1 items, which are snippets, and then click those to go to yet another site to read all of those items.. well, that's not going to happen.  I don't have time to do that.  If something that was shared wasn't something I was interested in, I could easily type N and be done with it.  Now I need to scroll through everything all of my friends have done on G+?  I mean, that's a lot of stuff.  I don't really care about most of that stuff.   Every picture they post, every time they're happy there was ice cream in the fridge, every time they go somewhere and check in...  This is not part of my "one hour to know what's happening in the world" routine, and it shouldn't be.  The option to have that data show up in G+ is not the issue.  It's that my Google Reader experience has been neutered into something far less useful in the process.

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