Google Reader Initial Impressions

Reading Scoble talking about Google Reader made me want to check it out. I’ve been through a number of differernt RSS readers, online and off, over the years. I had a FeedOnFeeds set up on my hosted box for a while, I used Shrook with the webpage synchronization and I currently use NetNewsWire (without any Newsgator integration because it poops out when I try it and I don’t care enough to pursue it.) I like it well enough at this stage of the game. It seems to get out of sync fairly regularly, requiring me to hit the refresh in either the list pane or the item pane reasonably often. I do like the automarking of items as read as you scroll down. I don’t like how it does the dates, apparently marking it as to when Google found the item and not respecting the post time from the RSS or Atom. I really don’t like that and am assuming that it will get straightened out at some point. I’m playing around with the sharing and starring. If you want to see my shared items the web page is here and the feed is here. Check them out or even subscribe. If I continue forward wtih this tool I might get serious about using that as a link blog. I’m wondering what happens when you use Google Reader to subscribe to other people’s shared Google Reader feeds.

I’m watching Scoble interview the Google Reader guys right now. They just mentioned the possibility of a Google Reader API where you could use your desktop aggregator to interact with your online feed store. They used the example of NetNewsWire reading via the API but isn’t that what it already does with NewsGator? I wonder if they’d do this integration. If the API exists, doesn’t that mean that every single offline reader could then be a combination online/offline/network synchronized reader for nearly free? They also mentioned the blog for the project just now, which you can’t avoid if you go to the “home” view of your reader account.

I have to say that I’m not quite sure what the whole “river of news” business is about. Scoble uses that as his topic sentence in the post, but I’m not sure if this really is a distinct thing. Isn’t that what we all do anyway when you do the “show me all unread items” in any newsreader that shuffles together irrespective of what feed is the source of it. Is there some philosophical thing about it that I’m missing? Here’s what Dave Winer says to describe it, but every single aggregator I’ve ever used worked like that when you view unread.

Update: I don’t know if it was a luck of timing, but this post showed up in my Reader account in like 10 seconds. I’m wondering if Google monitors and other ping recipients.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.

3 thoughts on “Google Reader Initial Impressions”

  1. I don’t prefer the River of News interface, and further, I don’t mean to put words in Dave Winer’s mouth, but I think he prefers not to have separate folders for feeds.

    He wants no folders.

    When he opens up his aggregator, he just wants to see the current news, not everything that has been on all the feeds for weeks.

    When he compares the river of news to newspapers, he’s being serious. Very few of us read the paper front to back, and when we are gone for a week, we don’t go through all the papers we missed. We just assume that if there was something important that happened that week, it will be in the paper again soon enough, or you will hear about it some other way.

    Same with the sushi conveyer belt analogy; you wouldn’t want any stale sushi after missing a week.

    I can see doing this for “entertainment” type information or if you follow lots of sources on a given topic, where missing any one thing won’t be a big deal. On the other hand, there is some information that I get via the RSS mechanism that I don’t want to miss. I want to make sure I read each item of the feed. This is why the river of news interface doesn’t work for me.

    That said, when you use an email style interface, you have to be displined enough not to become a slave to your queue.

  2. I’ve been using Google Reader for about 3 weeks and have now migrated to it exclusively. I do not use the “River of News” view of my feeds, just not my style. When I imported my OPML of feeds from Bloglines, the reader maintained my folder structure so I just move into each folder, which represents categories of RSS feeds that make sense to me (e.g. Humor, Tech, Podcasts, News, .NET), and work my way through each subscription. Again, just what works for me. I really like the “link blog” page created out of shared items. I have about 5 or 6 friends that I used to email links almost daily to funny videos or news stories or whatever. Now I’ve put the control back with them. I sent them the URL to my shared items and explained that the feed now represents all the stuff that I used to think was so important that I had to spam them with links in email. Now, at their convenience, they can view (or not) the items I want them to see. Very nice. Last thing I’d add, I love the keyboard shortcuts. I can move down every folder and all the feeds therein, opening and reading interesting items in a new tab, sharing if appropriate, closing the tab and then returning to the next item in the feed without lifting my hands off the keyboard. Very cool. I use Firefox of course.

  3. a little late in my feedback, but i tried google reader when it first came out but didn’t rely on it at first because it just didn’t seem ready – so stayed w/ bloglines (which constantly frustrates me)…

    but i kept checking back on the greader from time to time and finally switched over to it completely a couple of months ago mainly because my time to scan feeds in search of posts i want to actually read is very limited and it just seemed more efficient at this use case than bloglines or any other i’d used in the past…

    now i don’t feel like i’m missing anything but i also don’t feel like trolling through my aggregation is a cumbersome either…

    when i’m stuck some where or in a boring meeting, which i never am – just saying 😉 – i also use the mobile version of greader via my blackberry – it helps fill in the voids nicely…

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