Google Reader Fail.Posted: Thu 11.17.2011
As we have alluded to in previous posts, Google Reader has undergone a radical transformation, and KRED and I are currently reassessing our feed reader options. The redesign has us thrown a bit. For the last two years, I have been using Google Reader to keep my many feeds organized, bookmark articles for reading when I had down time, and share interesting finds effortlessly with friends and colleagues. However, with the push to have more users taking advantage of Google Plus (Google’s Facebook-equivalent social networking site), there has been a paring down or incorporation of the tools’ best attributes to enhance Google Plus. While Google Plus is being tweaked, the former standalone tools are being changed in dramatic ways, and Google Reader fell victim in this latest redesign. With that being said, I am not left with a second tool that has shifted so dramatically it is no longer useful to me.
So, what happens now?
In my previous post, I talked about how central blogs were to my ongoing ability to see beyond my program of study and to quickly get a read on what is happening in the world, in my field, and in my community. I do not see dropping a feed reader as a possibility for me, so I need to determine whether or not I can work around Google Reader’s new interface. I am still using the product as a straight reader, but the share function was really the selling point for using that specific reader. KRED and I are also assessing StumbleUpon. While this will not solve the issue of sharing in a unified space to a group or audience, it may give us the “happy accident” find that was always a feature of Google Reader surfing.
What confuses me is that my friends and colleagues have universally been disappointed, and there is no shortage of internet chatter bemoaning the user un-friendly nature of this new product. E.D. Kain over at Forbes does an excellent job summarizing the shortcomings – from aesthetics to the larger questionable changes happening at Google. And I think he is not far off base with some cracks in the “Do no evil” mantra. Fees have been introduced for some tools and there is a sense that this is the calm before the storm. And even for this free service, it is evident that they anticipated people would be unhappy. When you log in for the first time after the redesign, you get an immediate prompt that shows you how to migrate your feeds to another tool. This might then be a moot discussion if Google is planning on making Reader obselete. It would then be a matter of when I migrate rather than if.
But maybe this will force other tools to innovate and collaborate. For too long the focus has been (as a developer) to make a tool so fantastic that Google buys it. Instead, maybe there should be a focus on creating new and powerful tools that establish one’s own mark on the field rather than being subsumed by a bigger machine. Others, like Francis Cleary, are stepping up to meet the call. You can follow this Twitter feed to find out more about the developing tool, HiveMined. CNET has also done a compilation of alternatives to Google Reader for the masses of lost, blog-reading souls.
And finally, the last stab in the heart came when I forgot about the redesign for a brief moment while reading a very interesting article on the New York Times. If you look at the photo above, it shows the error message I received when clicking on my “Note in Reader” bookmarklet. Alas, it sums up the whole story with a simple, “Google Reader no longer supports the ‘Note in Reader’ bookmarklet”.
Thoughts? Feedback? Do you have a favorite feed reader or suggestions on how you manage your information input?