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Google Reader: Parting Notes

Google Reader: Parting Notes post image

If you use Google’s feedreader known as Reader or pay any attention to the internet, you may have heard that Google Reader will no longer exist at mid-year. These are some of my comments on its retirement.

1. Read my friend Bob Plankers’s post in its entirety: What Content Creators and Consumers Should Do Now That Google Reader Is Dead. It’s very well-written and thorough.

Now is not a good time to evaluate a new cloud-based news reading product because they’re all performing sub-optimally. [If you want to prepare, do] milk the free trials. It’ll also be telling who makes changes and who doesn’t. The clients that don’t change probably should be looked at as being abandoned by their developers.

… You might use this opportunity to export all your data [via Google Takeout] so you have it backed up on your own terms.

… if you’re using any of the Google products for your blog, like Blogger or Blogspot, you should be looking at your options and setting yourself up to move in the future. If you aren’t using your own domain that should be high on your to-do list, because it means you have more control over what happens to your readers. Use DNS to always present your readers a host name that you control, even if it means paying for a higher tier of service in a blogging platform.

2. My answer to “a free service is a crappy service” is “a crappy service is crappy data.” In other words, “if you’re not paying for a service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product, the real customers are advertisers” is a weak excuse to make a subpar offering. If I were Google or Facebook and wanted to collect accurate information on my users for my real customers, I’d make an even better free product. It keeps the sheep mindless free-loading users happy and coming back for more, and collects real, more valuable data. For example, a share from Reader to Google+ or Twitter usually includes my explanatory note and comments from my friends; this is more nuanced feedback on customer habits and better input to models. Again, a Dislike button on Facebook would be more telling. Who you’re friends with on Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+ is a veritable goldmine of data right there. I could go on. As it stands, the data I have provided to Google and social media outlets have fallen on deaf ears in Ad-Model-Crunching Land because none of this advertising speaks to me, it’s annoying and I haven’t made a single purchase through sidebar ads or suggested posts.

Wait a whole second, are you suggesting that I pay for a better service so that the service provider can get better information on and more targeted ads to me? That’s rich.

3. Aldo Cortesi says, “Reader was undeniably a good product … Google destroyed the RSS feed reader ecosystem with a subsidized product, stifling its competitors and killing innovation.” Why would a subsidized product stop a competitor from innovating? Surely, other better feedreaders could have taken over even in the face of Google’s market share and because of its neglect of Reader. I asked this of Cortesi, along with more information about Google’s competitor stifling, but I guess it’s fashionable not to respond to Twit-plebes or not to have a comments’ section on your blog these days.

4. A good indicator of what Google wants to keep and grow is the bar at the top: Google+, Search, Maps, Play, Watch (YouTube), Drive. Google+ is first. Removing my main posting mechanism, i.e. Share from Reader, to Google+ will make me use it less. +1s are the equivalent of likes; they are forms of passive interaction and not active content upload. Expect Plus to go the way of Buzz, Wave, Fuzz, Zzzz, etc.

5. Note to feedreaders waiting in the wings: Build on the good points of Reader’s user interface:

  • Maximum use of screen real estate with the compact view. I am not a fan of the Feedly magazine look, especially when most blogs don’t post pictures. Yay, small useless rectangular white boxes all over my screen.
  • Give me the option to decide what’s important. Please don’t take random articles from various feed folders and place them at the top as FEATURED!!!1!  A list of Latest to Oldest sorted by All Feeds and Folders is great and sufficient.
  • Please offer a way to subscribe to a blog without a feedreader button (tsk tsk) easily and immediately, like a bookmarklet.
  • Feel free not to be the one-stop shop. It’s okay if my friends’ tweets and Facebook posts from their favorite restaurants are not interspersed with content-filled articles and posts I’d like to cache and read while waiting to get my face drilled or when on a long flight.
  • As a blogger, I love starring and storing posts and notes for future reference. A simple list like Stuff I’ve Starred would be wonderful. A feed for Stuff I’ve Starred would make me hug you.

Feedly is a good-enough replacement for now, although Firefox shuns the add-on from time to time forcing me to re-install it (no, thank you, I will not switch to Chrome). Will report back with Feedly for iPod and iPad after I’ve played with it for a while. Meanwhile, if you find good desktop+tablet+smartphone feedreader options and workarounds, please let me know in the comments below.

7 comments… add one

  • Lockwood March 15, 2013, 3:21 PM

    I just learned Wordpress has an RSS service, too, but I’m definitely in the “We’ve got 3+ months, no hurry to jump ship right now,” mindset. I *do not* like magazine-style formats, and for that reason, won’t be going with Feedly. I’m dreading the idea that Google might dump Blogger as well, though. My blog has become a ponderous thing, and I’d hate to try to move nearly 3000 posts.

    • Maitri March 15, 2013, 4:41 PM

      Lockwood,

      Feedly has a “condensed view” setting but it only does this for latest posts or all posts at this time. Within a subfolder, you’re out of luck, with the feed defaulting to mosaics and magazine styles.

      If you want a remote backup and you should have one with your 3000 posts, you’re welcome to save it to my server (if you don’t have room on your computer). That way, you can have all of your writings in one (remote) place and then switch from Blogger to something more appropriate like Wordpress.com or a space that a bunch of us will be willing to help you out with. Let’s explore options.

      • Lockwood March 15, 2013, 5:28 PM

        I know Blogger has an “archive option,” and I can likely figure that out with minimal effort on my own. Just checked- I have over 150 GB free on my internal hard drive, and I think about 700 GB free on my external, at home. So I can likely store the data myself- though I wouldn’t mind having a remote back-up. So many questions… what kind of pricing are we looking at for an independent domain? How does that even work? I really know next to nothing about how the nuts and bolts of the innertubz work, but at this point, I absolutely don’t trust Google with much of anything. As I Tweeted earlier, “Since April 11, 2012, I have read 300,000+ items in Google Reader. Yeah, *that’ll* be an easy void to fill…”

        BTW, for my RSS needs, this is the one I’m looking at http://theoldreader.com/ , but apparently they’re pretty swamped right now: elementalhome.blogspot.com/2013/03/why-johnny-cant-reader.html

      • Maitri March 16, 2013, 1:49 PM

        Dreamhost charges me $95 a year for more space than I will need in this lifetime. I have two blogs (and associated databases) and three domains there. Best web host, in my opinion.

        Some argue that real ownership of your blog comes from self-hosting on your own server, which is easily done, but who has the time for it, maintaining uptime, dealing with viruses and attacks? Why I pay.

        That’s why I thought out loud on Twitter that a bunch of us could buy server space to host blogs (this means their databases and file space) owned by their authors. The author may have to pay $10 a year to renew their domain but the space would be subsidized. This way you don’t have to rely on Blogger, Posterous or even Wordpress.com for your blogging needs.

  • John March 17, 2013, 8:01 AM

    I’ve been playing with Feedly. With a little poking around you can get a good, efficient view of things instead of an absurd mosaic/magazine kind of view; I love Google Reader’s simple, list-oriented efficiency and it seems like nobody is doing that. I do think Feedly is out ahead in that they’ve already got a project to duplicate the back end of Google Reader going, and they seem to have specifics for it.

    That said, I can’t stand the iOS apps – there seems to be no way to get a nice list-like view, so it’s just kind of irritating to use them.

    I’ve been using Reeder on my phone & tablet for some time and really like it – it currently uses Google Reader to manage everything. They (actually, I think it’s one guy in Switzerland) have issues a lone tweet announcing that it won’t die. So we’ll see. (Feedly says they’re building an API, Reeder to read feeds from Feedly w/ Feedly on the web sounds pretty good to me.)

    Really I just want to be able to keep space-barring rapidly through my feeds to get to the interesting stuff.

  • Kevin March 17, 2013, 11:13 AM

    I have a couple of Google Reader folders I have set up for exclusive use with Flipboard — they have the RSS feeds for image-heavy design blogs, vintage ads, retro photos, etc. Those actually work better in Flipboard than in Reader.

    For straight news and blog items, I want a headline-style feed and I’m hoping someone comes forward with a format offering a Reader-style list of headlines I can skim, read or not, and mark “All Read.”

  • Sam March 20, 2013, 4:56 PM

    @Lockwood: You can back up your blog at Blogger by going to your dashboard. Click Settings/Other/Export blog. As for setting up a domain or switching to another service, it gives me a headache. I don’t want to do that. I know I will be forced sooner or later but right now I’m doing my best Scarlett and thinking about it tomorrow.

    Why? Because iGoogle is going away which means nothing to the real techies out there, but I live with an analog guy in a digital world and iGoogle as a portal was perfect. Easily customizable, everything he wanted right there and once taught I was pretty much off the hook. I used to be far more tech geeky than I am now. I just want stuff to work and be simple. For the analog guy the entire idea of losing iGoogle is a horror. I spent this week checking on the November nightmare and found some alternatives, which I am trying out now to see which will be the easiest to explain and maintain. What I found is that worldwide people are freaking out as iGoogle is far more popular than I’d imagined. There are Save iGoogle petitions, folks lobbying Google. Amazing. I think Google has lost their mind eliminating it for those folks who just want to sign in and have all their stuff right there. Seriously some of the PC magazines have done three and four stories on this and on alternatives to it, although none of the alternatives will properly replace it.

    Meanwhile, yesterday while I was doing all this for Mr. Analog, I was signed in to iGoogle. After about 6 hours, I did a search for something and underneath the search field was a little notification:” 9 personal results THIS IS A LIMITED SEARCH Sign up for Google +” with a link to click to do that. I was pissed. I signed out of iGoogle and did the same search NOT signed in, got a normal 80 bazillion search results. (Oh yeah, and the “limited” also disabled the Images link and the You Tube link.) So I signed back onto iGoogle to see if I could replicate the result and sure enough, same thing happened. I don’t know if the limited switch came on due to a quota on minutes signed in or a number of clicks, but I surely resented their insistence that I get a Google+ account which I have absolutely no interest in.

    Then today Mr. Analog noticed that there is a new button on iGoogle, like maybe they might change their minds (this after everyone all over the place scrambled to find a replacement.) The message boards are screaming over all this.

    Like I said, Google and their machinations, nevermind the heavy handedness, is giving me a headache. Thank goodness I never used Reader or I’d become a day drinker. Oh. Wait.. . . .could still happen.

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