Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader Wasn't that Great Anyway

If you follow this blog, you likely already know two things before I write this post. First, my ongoing belief in the value of RSS technology for monitoring online publishing; and second, the coming demise of Google Reader.

None of us have had much time to consider things yet, and I'm sure we'll be doing more of that in the weeks to come. One early decision for me, however, is that I won't be signing any online petitions, or be begging Google to reconsider their decision. I'm in backlash mode already. :)

As much as Google did an admirable job bringing down feeds fast and reliably, I was never enamored with the reader product. I switched from Bloglines to Reader because Bloglines became slow and unreliable, not because Reader had superior features.

In fact, I became so frustrated with Reader's web interface that within six months I decided to put FeedDemon in front of it. Google Reader's killer feature was its speed, and never the UI; so using Feeddemon as my application software gave me a great UI while I was at home; but still allowed me to travel for business and sync my reading history.  It was the best of both worlds.

Things have changed since I setup that situation, though, and will now have to change again. But hopefully for the better!

I now have Flipboard in the mix, which is a big help for social media sharing; and pulling recommended reading out of my friends and colleagues. That's important, because these kinds of personal recommendations didn't exist five years ago. Or more accurately, took place blog-to-blog rather than the larger social networks that dominate today.

Social media is the elephant in the room, of course. Most savvy users filter topical discussions via "groups"; which is a fine method to pull your respected peers (and their reading recommendations) together. But social media isn't everything! Right?  There will always be:
  • those publications that are required reading, or that you respect; 
  • topics that interest few others, but are important to you; 
  • or niche topics that are rarely written about online. Within a blog post, for example. 

People are important recommendation agents, but relying on your network alone is a mistake. Having great filters up, that aggregate key materials, is an important part of using the Internet. The Internet may be a wonder of the modern world, but to be effective in its use, information discovery  must meet your personal needs and interests. And for that reason, I don't see the death of RSS-consumption coming anytime soon.

Yes, I'll admit it: RSS isn't for everyone. If you use an RSS reader today, consider yourself a power user. You are an "information junkie"; a journalist, a blogger... a librarian. Someone who relies on being in the know. 

The web is made up of much more than power users. We know this. We are the minority here, and not all that profitable to the corporate interests of Google. However, don't think for a minute that those needs that were being served via RSS are going away. Social media networks and serendipity aren't going to fill those needs.

Here's a better way to look at all this: Google is releasing its hold on RSS. The monopoly is done. (It's always a monopoly when Google is involved. Who wants to compete?)  Now, some of Google Reader's features may get wound into G+, but die-hard Google Reader fans? They aren't going to be happy. And that re-opens the market again. To innovation, and to competition.

Personally, I don't have to change my habits all that much. I could use a cloud provider to sync together all my RSS services, but weaving Google out of my routines? No worries there. I'll manage just fine.


Blogger Bronwyn said...

In the course of researching alternatives for a group of lawyers (a current awareness initiative), I found Feedly & The Old Reader to be particularly good.

I am especially impressed with Feedly's ability to customize your view for each feed you subscribe to. Use the little cog/gear symbol in the upper right corner while viewing the feed and you can select a different view. For example, I found the "Titles" and "Magazine" view to be appropriate for blogs like The Stream and VALL, however the "Full Articles" and "Tiles" view works better for image heavy blogs like The Sartorialist or How to be a Retronaught.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Doug Cornelius said...

I'm sad to see Reader go. It was not a great interface, but it was the interface I became used to.

The beast feature of Reader was the ability to place feeds into multiple categories, allowing me to give a feed both a priority for review and a substantive area.

I've migrated to Feedly. It has a good combination of organization, presentation and mobile access.

Like you, I'm hoping to see some innovation in this area and not a retreat to social media distribution.

10:59 AM  

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