Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Did Google break the most important site on the web?

I live in Google Reader. It’s my most important site.

Sure, search is important and I use Google web search a lot - a captcha inducing amount. If Google web search breaks there’s always Bing. If Gmail breaks then I can dust off my old but still paid-for Hotmail account or go play with Yahoo Mail.

Google Reader has no such powerful alternative. They all died trying to compete with old Google Reader. My Google Reader follows me from work to home and everywhere I travel. It syncs with my Google account. It’s the home for my dozens of custom built RSS feeds. My Google Reader is connected to my ifttt.com account.

My Google Reader lives on my Android mobile. As I read posts on my mobile they’re marked as read on my web client.

It’s this portability and interoperability together that have me conclude Google Reader is not replaceable. It is home to hundreds of feeds.

I knew a reskin for Google Reader was coming up. I knew we would lose the social sharing functions and I was prepared for it. It would be a shame to lose the curated findings from gaming and digital thought leaders I followed – but at least I’d still have Google Reader. It would be a shame to lose the ability to share out via RSS – but at least I’d still have Google Reader. It would be a shame to lose the ability to mark items as “liked”, only because I liked following the feeds of interesting discoveries – but at least we’d still have Google Reader.

After all, this new Google Reader was supposed to integrate with Google+ and that could well turn out to be useful. I’m a fan of Google+.

Sadly, we seem to have gotten the worst of two options. For a start the new Google Reader is not integrated with Google+. We may no longer even have a functional Google Reader.

You cannot add authors discovered in Google Reader straight to your Circles. You cannot even click to their Profiles.

There is no social sharing in Google Reader. Yes, there’s the +1 button but that’s a basic integration that was already available by Chrome extensions or Google Reader’s in-built “Share with” option. In fact, the black bar nav has a sharing option too.

I’m prepared to live with the fact that the new Google Reader does not look as nice as the old and that it seems less able to present data in a clear and clean way.

What bugs me the most about the new Reader is that as I scroll down through posts they’re not marked as read. Click the up and down read arrows has equally no effect. Posts remain unread. I’ve turned my Chrome extensions on and off. I’ve re-set and set settings.

I’m just not clear what Google was hoping to achieve with this ‘upgrade’. Wasn’t the sharing data valuable for improving their algorithms? Wasn’t the connection data between users who wanted to share and read discoveries useful for Google+? Did they want to loose the "shared in Google Reader" annotations from their natural search results?

Why is it so hard to mark a post as read in the new Google Reader? Surely this must be some conflict I’ve yet to nail down despite all my testing.

One messed up Google Reader

Update: I've continued my testing and I think it's the OneTrueFan Chrome extension that's stopping the read count from working. OTF was bought by BigDoor a few months back so I'm not expecting them to resolve this issue.

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