A year without Google Reader

Mashable reminds us that it’s been a year since Google Reader has been decommissioned.  They are also doing a survey to find out if people use more of RSS feeds now or less, what they’ve substituted it with and which tools people are using now to follow their favorite feeds.

I’ve completed the survey, but without any visible results just yet, I thought I’d talk about my situation here.  In the last year my use of RSS has decreased significantly.   Even though the actual number of the feeds I am subscribed to has increased, I read them less.  I share less.  I bookmark and blog about less.  And it’ nothing but the tool’s fault.  Even though Feedly is an excellent tool – fast, flexible, with mobile support, and aesthetically pleasing, it simply is not Google Reader, which I was practically embed into.  I’ve looked around for Google Reader alternatives, I tried a few.  Feedly is the best of the bunch for my taste, but it’s different.

So, with that in mind, what happened to all that free time that I used to spend in Google Reader?  Sadly, I have to admit that I’m much more on Facebook now.  Quality-wise, that’s a huge drop.  Instead of following my favorite writers, keeping in touch with all kinds of technology advances, and learning new things, I am now participating in flaming comment wars about nothing, and watching videos of cute kittens and bouncing boobs.  Cheap entertainment swallowed me and spat me out.  It’s exactly like never switching a television set was in the last century.  And it’s a pity.

And the saddest part is that I knew it would happen.  And if I knew, Google definitely knew that too.  And they killed Google Reader anyway.  And it’ll be a long time until I let it go…

Goodbye Google Reader

Today, June 30th, is the last day of Google Reader availability.  If you completely ignored all the noise around the matter, run quickly, export and backup your feeds.  Tomorrow Google Reader will be no more.

Google Reader

 

Of course, I’ve been on a quest for the Google Reader alternative.  Of course, I found plenty.  And, of course, none of them are exactly the same.  I’ve decided to stick with Bazqux, and I’ve paid my yearly subscription fee a few month ago.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of work went into many of the alternatives over the last months, as more and more people started looking for the new RSS home.  Some of that work was quite noticeable.  For example, Feedly changed in the last 100 days so much that I had to re-evaluate it completely.  And, also, new services were introduced – such as Digg Reader.

Still, with all that, it’s sad to see Google Reader go.  I’ve used it every single day and relied heavily on it for years.  Paraphrasing the classic quote: so long, and thanks for all the feeds.

Why Google Reader Really Got the Axe

When Google announced its plans to shutter Google Reader in March, the Internet freaked out. Twitter users raised their virtual pitchforks in outrage. Bloggers wept, scrambling to find a suitable replacement by the service’s July 1 death date.

Wired runs a take on why Google Reader is almost no more.  I do agree with most of the points on how the news consumption changed:

But there’s another reason Google decided to put its RSS reader to death. According to Mountain View, most of us simply consume news differently now than when Reader was launched.

“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process,” says Richard Gringras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google. “Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day — replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day.”

Google Reader, and other RSS readers, subscribe to this “old” model. You sit, you pore through the day’s news link by link. Yes, some people are glued to their readers constantly. (Guilty!) And yes, you can use an app like Feedly to get your RSS fix on the go, but it’s a passive news-getting experience. With its updates to Now and Plus, Google wants its readers to take this more active approach to news consumption.

But I don’t like this narrow view of the Google Reader (or other RSS readers).  RSS is not just for news.  Sure, news are an important part of Really Simple Syndication, but it’s not the only one.  There are many others – Wiki updates, mailing lists, commit messages, shopping updates for deals and stock clearances, etc.  Even if Google considers supporting those with Google+, the support is not there yet.  Heck, there isn’t even a publishing API for Google+.  As a blogger, I have built up a small audience of subscribers, but there is currently no way for me to transfer them all to Google+.  Unless I really push them, and then manually publish every post into Google+.  It even sounds ridiculous.

We’ll see how it plays out …

Google Reader alternative quest

After the news of Google Reader demise broke out, I, like many others, started looking for an alternative.  There are many RSS readers out there, both free and commercial, but none of them is quite like Google Reader.   So, I thought, I’d share my adventures in hopes of more suggestions.

First of all, here are the things that I am looking for in an RSS reader:

  • Web based.  This is a requirement for me.  I want to be able to access my subscriptions from any computer connected to the World Wide Web.
  • OPML import and/or Google Reader synchronization.  I have around 300 feeds in the Google Reader currently.  I am not going to resubscribe to each one by one and reorganized them again.  Ideally, I want to have a Google Reader sync, which will mark the read items, etc.  In the worst case scenario, at least the OMPL import, so I can batch add all the feeds.
  • Rich content support.  I want to see embed images and videos in the feed items.  I want the text to have style.
  • Mobile app.  This is not a requirement per se, but a much wanted option.  I read a lot of RSS on the go.
  • Free.  Again, not a requirement, but a much wanted option.

Here is a list of the ones I tried:

  • The Old Reader. It looks like the old Google Reader, but it suffers now from all the spike of new accounts.  I’m trying to import my OPML, but I’m 30,000+ down in the queue.  The number keeps going up and down for the last two days, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually use the service.
  • Tiny Tiny RSS. I’ve installed it on my server and it does work somewhat well.  But the styling is very weak, and the experience is quite different from the Google Reader.  It will take me forever to get used to it, and while doing so, I’ll be constantly thinking of patching it up.  Removed, for now.
  • BazQux Reader.  I have reviewed this service a while ago.  It only got better with time.  In fact, this is the closest experience to Google Reader with a few extra bonuses, like item comments.  The service is not free, but not too pricey – choose between $9, $19, and $29 per year.  As far as the migration from Google Reader goes, this is the fastest service – two clicks, and you are already reading your feeds.  The only downside I see is mobile experience.  I couldn’t find the app for Android, and the website is not suited for smaller screens.
  • Feedly.  The best styling of all I’ve tried.  Nice mobile app.  But requires a browser extension on the desktop.  Also, the experience is a bit different from the Google Reader, so needs some getting used to.

So, as you can see, I am yet to decide.  There are also quite a few alternatives that I haven’t tried yet.  From the ones I’ve tried though, the two most likely candidates are Feedly and BazQux Reader.  Feedly looks beautiful and works well on the mobile.  BazQux Reader provides the best experience on the desktop.

Which ones have you tried and what’s your most likely alternative?  Have you made up your mind yet?

Google Reader is retiring

These are sad, sad news… Google is retiring their awesome Google Reader product.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Yes, I know, it’s not now, and I can get all my subscription data, but it’s still sad.  I guess it’s time to give BazQux Reader a little bit more attention.  Any other worthy alternatives?

P.S.: Slashdot discussion provides some …

Brian Shih on the new Google Reader interface

Brian Shih, an ex-project manager for Google Reader shares his thoughts on the new interface. I agree a lot with him. I also think that Google Reader should be integrated with Google+ and other Google projects, but the current version hurts that goal more than it helps it.

new sharing flow around the +1 button has actually made it harder to share. Where you used to be able to click one button, or hit shift-s to one-click share to your audience, you now need to:

  • Click +1 (no keyboard shortcuts for you)
  • Click the text box that appears that says “Share to G+”
  • Then choose your circle you want to share to (or let it default to public)
  • Then click Share

Keep in mind that on top of requiring 3-4 times as many clicks, you also now must +1 a post publicly to share it, even if it’s shared to a private circle. That bears repeating. The next time you want to share some sexy halloween costumes with your private set of friends, you first must publicly +1 the post, which means it shows up on your profile, plus wherever the hell G+ decides to use +1 data.

While I’m not too much concerned about privacy, I too find the new sharing way more difficult, time-consuming, and confusing.

The end of Bloglines

Via this post to Google Reader blog I’ve learned the Bloglines news.  The service will be closed on October 1st.

Today, Ask.com let our users know that we will shut down Bloglines on October 1. Not an easy decision, especially considering our loyal and supportive (not to mention patient) user base, but, ultimately, the right one given business reasons simply too hard to ignore.

While I myself switched four years ago, I know that some people are still using the service (hi mom!).  Everyone is encouraged to migrate to some other news reader. My recommendation is, of course, Google Reader.  And the migration process should be simple and straight forward: export subscriptions as a single OPML file from Bloglines and import them into Google Reader.

While Google Reader is a superior service these days, it came later and from a bigger company than the original Bloglines.  Back, when people were just figuring out how to use RSS en masse, Bloglines offered a simple and very convenient way.  It was so simple in fact, that you didn’t need to know much about RSS at all.  It was so simple, that even my mother, who avoids web services as much as possible, was able to use and enjoy it.

And even though I haven’t used Bloglines at all in the last four years, it’s sad to see it go.  For me it was one of those milestones in the Web history.

More social, less social

I just wanted to let you all know about the latest changes to this site.

Firstly, I removed the Latest Twits widget from the sidebar.  Somehow I am not using Twitter all that much lately.  I still love the service, but I have two problems with it.  Actually, it’s one, but I feel it in two separate ways.  Firstly, I still don’t have a good Twitter client application.   Not on my mobile, and not on my desktop.  I tried a billion of them, and I am yet to find one that suits me.  Without a proper client, I tend to forget to tweet, read other tweets, and respond.  Too bad.   Second problem is that I am annoyed by all the links that are posted in tweets these days.  Sometimes I just want to get the statuses only, to see how my friends are doing and what they are up to.  Instead I get a billion links, which I need to click, check, and follow.  As I said, I wish I could filter them out in my Twitter client, for those times when I have more time and better Internet connection.  The blog will still send the “new blog post” tweets to Twitter though, and I am still trying my best to use the service.  It’s just that judging by all the updates I do, the sidebar space can be used better.

Secondly, I added Google Reader shared items to the sidebar.  Google Reader is the application I use a lot!  And I share quite a bit of stuff.  Too bad it often goes unnoticed.  Sharing those links and articles via sidebar might give an extra bit of attention to those things that I think deserve it.  Just in case you are wondering which plugin I used – it’s Google Reader Widget by James Wilson.

Thirdly, I added some social network buttons in the upper-right corner of the website.  These are links to some of my other online profiles and also and easy way to bookmark, share, and promote either the whole website or a specific page that you liked.  The plugin that I used for this functionality is Fixed Social Buttons by Ioane.

Bits and pieces

Once again I’ve noticed that my blogging is getting behind.  Busy at work, lazy, and going through the mood change for the upcoming Christmas holidays – that all has a role to play.  But that’s not the major issue.

Thinking of what am I doing differently these days, I realized that my blogging activity got spread out all over the web, and therefore became less noticeable on my own blog.  I do more of Twitter, which is now integrated with the blog in the form of daily briefs.  I favourite more videos on Youtube, which now notifies the Twitter, and later still ends up in the daily briefs on the blog.  I do more bookmarks on Delicious, which also end up via Twitter in daily breifs.  And there is something else I do, which doesn’t come back to the blog – shared and commented articles in my Google Reader.

Actually, as far as writing goes, Twitter and Google Reader happen to be the only two places where I write at all now.  Once I realized that, I wanted to find a way to pull the comments and shared items from Google Reader into my blog.  But then I doubt if that’s the right approach.  The alternative being blogging and commenting about things not in the Google Reader, but in the blog itself.

I am still undecided on the matter.  Google Reader provides a really good interface for commenting and interacting with other people who read about similar topics.  On the other hand, my blog has more exposure than my Google Reader shared items list, and has better interface for discussions.  Perhaps, I should try and see how it goes.

What’s your take on comments in Google Reader vs. blog posts?

Google Reader : too user friendly?

I think of Google Reader as a very user friendly application. It clean and simple and only shows you things which you need to see.  Or does it any more?  Here are the options that I see for each RSS item:

Google Reader item options

Let’s see:

  • Add comment.  I can add comments to blogs posts and news and my friends can read those comments and reply and so on and so forth.
  • Add star.  Star is like a bookmark.  I can quickly find the starred articles with a single click.  And I can also share my starred articles by selecting so in the Settings.
  • Like.  I can “like” the article.  Other people can see that I liked it.
  • Share.  Share it with other people.
  • Share with note.  That’s like share and add comment in one.
  • Email.  This one is easy.
  • Keep unread.  So that I can easily find it and read later.
  • Add tags.  So that I can find it easily later and/or share it via Settings.

I am all for making sharing easy, but isn’t it too much?  I see it as a huge overlap in functionality.  Such huge that it gets confusing now.  What’s the difference between the “star” and “like”?  Do I “like” everything I “share”?  Do I “like” everything I comment?  Is it shared or “liked” if I just “Add comment”? How do I “star” or “share” everything I “like”? And so on and so forth.

I think this should be simplified in one action per option:  star, share, comment, email, tag.  If you want to bookmark, you “star” it.  If you want to share, you “share”.  If you want to comment, you “comment”.  If you want to star and share, then you actually click “star” and “share”.  If you want to comment and share, then add your comment and click “share”.  With boolean options everything comes back to the sane world – you either did it or not.

What do you think?