rss reader – Stay N Alive

Google Reader is Behind the Times – Here is What They Can Do to Fix That

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m a huge Google Reader user and fan.  Despite users like Robert Scoble and others declaring RSS Readers dead, I still find utility from being able to finely adapt my reading experience by selecting what I want to subscribe to on the web.  As a blogger, it’s one of my greatest weapons – in fact, sites don’t even have to have an RSS feed for me to track their changes.  For instance, let’s say I want to track job announcements at a certain website to know when new features are coming based on the new jobs they’re hiring for. All I have to do is enter the jobs page into Google Reader and it will automatically tell me when it notices new changes on that Page. No coding necessary.

However, while I disagree that RSS is dead, I am worried that News Readers like Google Reader have neglected to stay up with modern news gathering trends.  Perhaps they think remaining simple will win, but frankly, using just RSS and friends suggestions from RSS to find the news just doesn’t cut it any more.  This is why you see Readers like FlipBoard and FLUD and Pulse making a big inroads on devices like the iPad.  They’re ignoring Google Reader and going straight to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, where the news is likely to come from your close friends and family.  I’m concerned Google Reader is taking so long to adapt towards this trend – here are some tips that I think would make it a much better, and more modern service:

Embrace the Dark Side

With the exception of Youtube, Google seems to have a real issue with this.  They seem afraid to embrace their competitors, the sites that currently have the edge, and the sites that their users are most likely using.  Let’s face it – currently the majority of web users are getting their news from their friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  They’re not going from site to site, plugging in an RSS feed to Google Reader, and reading it that way.  I’ve tried to show both my wife and my 10 year old daughter how to do this and they just don’t get it.  Even more experienced users who used to be power users of Google Reader like Robert Scoble are moving in this direction.

There’s a minefield of explosive links out there in public on Twitter and Facebook.  Slap a social graph on top of that and you now have extremely relevant links you could be harvesting, indexing, and extracting content for your users to read in full inside Google Reader.  Google has an opportunity here to pull these users over to their interface and make it even easier for them to read the content their friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites are sharing.  While RSS is certainly not dead, the Social Graph most definitely reigns supreme – embrace it.  Use Facebook Graph API.  Use Twitter’s API.  Otherwise Google is going to get left in the dust by competitors that do.  Users want this.

The Desktop is Not the Future

While Google Reader has built an amazing desktop and web experience, it’s time they move forward.  We have gone beyond the typical, dynamic desktop browser being the interface to the web and have moved towards an app era that leverages the web to build custom experiences tailored for static screen sizes on various platforms.  There’s the iPhone.  There’s the iPad.  There are various flavors of Android and Windows for Mobile Phones.  Every other web developer building a company right now is building for these platforms.  Google seems to be stuck in the web browser, something I argue is a mistake.

True, Google has a custom web experience for the iPad and iPhone, but quite frankly – that experience stinks.  Look at the Reeder app for iPad and iPhone to contrast.  It has a “move to the next unread item” button, for instance, that lets you easily surf through your unread news and skim it as you please.  It has a simple interface for sharing, leaving notes, and even allows you to share to other social networks if you choose.  They’ve built an amazing interface that focuses on mobile and tablets that wraps around the stale Google Reader web interface.

Now look at the non-RSS centric experiences like FlipBoard.  Swipe your fingers and it flips pages similar to a magazine or book.  The experience is magically formatted in a natural way that makes reading the news easy!  Mobile devices were built for reading the news.  They are the magazines and newspapers of the future.  Google Reader should be the ones in control on this front or they’re going to get out-taken by their competitors.

Share! Share! Share!

Google Reader does a little of this.  You can share to Twitter and Facebook and other sources, but quite honestly, the experience is lacking.  This should be at the forefront of their experience – easy to see and obvious to the reader that this is what they want them to do.  Right now to share to Facebook, for instance, I have to click on the “send to” link (or press shift-t), and for any site I want to share to Google makes me leave the site and go to each individual site to share.  This experience should be much more integrated into the UI, controlled by keyboard gestures, without having to leave the site.  Facebook Graph API and Social Plugins should be used.  Twitter’s API or @anywhere should be used.  The links should be in more prominent positions, easy for the reader to see.  The “Send To” should be consolidated with the “share” link and terminology should all be centered around “sharing”.

The entire experience should be much more social.

Streamline the UI

Google Reader used to be top of the line when it came to great user experiences.  They enabled keyboard shortcuts and a very simple UI that was easy to manage.  Since then, they have added all sorts of bloat to the interface, slowing it down and making it harder to manage.  To hide someone or add them to another group, for instance, it takes at least a minute for me to do anything surrounding that.  Refreshing the page takes too long.

Google needs to start fresh and build the UI from the ground up, with these new focuses in mind, and focus on speed, simplicity, and cleanliness.  The entire UI needs to be re-done and targeted towards the new features I’ve suggested here.  It needs to be faster.  No site should take longer than 4 seconds to load.  It needs to have entirely different versions for mobile devices, and most of all it needs to be easier to use.

Be Sure Not to Neglect Your Strengths

In all this I am not suggesting Google Reader become FlipBoard.  Google Reader needs to stick to its strengths – it needs to continue a strong focus on RSS, while bringing in all the other elements I mentioned.  It needs to remain top in its game of strong UIs and easy to organize content reading.  It needs to keep the focus on leaving notes and sharing with other Google Reader users.

I’m afraid Google has stopped innovating in this space.  We’re seeing so with evidence of other strong readers emerging in the areas I have mentioned.  Google has such strong potential to own this space if they chose.  I really hope they take this advice constructively and try to adapt these things.  If not, users, including myself, are going to be forced to bigger and better ways of consuming our news in a way that is more modern and convenient to the user.

In the meantime, you can follow all my Google Reader shares on my link blog at

Did Google Reader Just Turn on the Firehose?

Google’s big push recently has been on enabling open, real-time technologies to publish, read, and interact with its new service Buzz.  Reader, its RSS subscription and website reading service, is one of the biggest tools to integrate with the service.  So much that my Reader contacts are now my Buzz contacts.  Until now, Google Reader, while when it would share your posts, it would send updates to subscribing services via Pubsub Hubbub (PSHB), it did not support the reading end of it for supported blogs that publish via PSHB.

Just after my last post on Google ironically, I noticed immediately after publishing people were sharing my post, something very unusual for the service, which usually takes up to an hour for my posts to show up on the site.  Going into Reader, I noticed it had immediately recognized my post.  I quickly queried a friend of mine at Google, who stated, “They can neither confirm nor deny my suspicion” (that it was launched), but I was “observant”.  Sounds like they just launched Pubsub Hubbub support.

WordPress-enabled Blogs that want to be seen immediately after publishing in Google Reader just need to install Josh Fraser’s Pubsub Hubbub plugin for WordPress.  After hitting publish, your post should appear immediately afterwards in PSHB-supported clients, which, if I am correct, now includes Google Reader’s massive user base.

If this is true, you should see this post immediately after I hit publish in Google Reader.  Assuming I’m right (which it seems so), Robert Scoble’s concern of it taking too long to get news (#5) just went out the door today – he can now get this just as fast, if not faster than any service such as Twitter, FriendFeed, or Buzz, and this way, he gets to read the full content of the article.  When I hit publish on this post you will see it immediately.  You are subscribed to my feeds, right?

UPDATE: Just after hitting publish it appeared immediately in Google Reader on this post as well.  I’m 99.9% sure now that PSHB was launched on Google Reader today.

Image courtesy

Is Google Reader Still an RSS Reader?

I’ve been following the Buzz about Buzz today (click on the link – get it?), and, wanting to try it (since I’m not of the privileged few bloggers given access at launch), I started browsing on my iPhone where I heard it was available.  Immediately I was presented with a list of people following me that I was not following back, so I went in and clicked follow on about 300 or so people that it said I was not following yet.  Big Mistake.

Later in the day I went to check Google Reader, which until today was my RSS Reader of choice, and lo and behold I had over 400 items from just the last hour sitting in my unread items box.  It turns out when you follow someone on Buzz, it also follows them on Reader, and who knows what else on the various Google properties.  Now, the only way to bring my volume of repeat RSS shares from friends down on Google Reader is to go into each and every one, mark hide, and manually move each into their own separate folders.  All this on an already slow Google Reader interface.  I’m not looking forward to that.

I have been critical ever since the Reader team introduced social features into Google Reader.  Now, rather than being a place where I can just go to ensure I’m getting the latest news from the blogs I want to subscribe to, as a traditional RSS Reader should be, I’m now stuck in a world with hundreds to thousands of shared items from friends, many of those repeat items, getting fed to me over and over again, even when I don’t want them!  Add to that all the likes, comments, ability to post “status updates”, and more, it occurred to me today that Google Reader is no longer an RSS Reader – it is now a Social Network!

I wish Google Reader would just stick to what it’s good at – being an RSS Reader.  I now need a place I can go just to get the news I want and don’t want to miss.  Some say those days are gone, but it’s still a need for me.  Today with the introduction of Buzz, Google Reader became useless to me.  If I want to skim the news I can go to Buzz and get all the features of a social network.  I don’t need Google Reader to do that for me.  But when I just want to read the news I want, Google Reader has lost its use for me.  Maybe some of this is the reason Google Reader’s former team lead just switched to the Youtube team?

I’m first to admit RSS is far from dead, though I think it’s time to find another RSS Reader.  Should I just switch to  Where can one go to get the news these days?

Goodbye RSS. Welcome Real-Time Web!

RSSA few weeks back I mentioned here that I was giving myself a whole week without a single check of my Google Reader feeds in order to see how reliant I had become on RSS, and where I could shift my priorities in order to become more productive. It’s a technique I tried last year with Twitter, and I think proves effective with anything you want to gain a new perspective on. I mentioned I was going to report after my hiatus, and I admit I have been slacking, considering it’s now almost a month later. The time has been good on me though, as I’ve been able to learn how to adapt after my hiatus, and have found several things that have worked for me.

What I Learned

Going without RSS was insightful.  I learned what was really important to me, what I may be able to do without, and what I would miss without RSS.  First of all, the things I learned that were most important:

  • Blogs I write on – it’s important for me to know what my co-authors were writing so I can stay up to date, as well as promote the content of the blogs I write for.
  • Family – I follow several of my family members who blog. Knowing what they, and close friends write about is important to me, and saves me the need for the dreaded family newsletter we used to have to pass around.
  • Guilty Pleasures – okay, perhaps these could go within the “do without” column, but let’s face it – we all have a few blogs we read that are just enjoyable to read.  They keep us sane, and give us balance to our days.

Believe it or not, that’s about it.  To help explain why, let’s go with what I can do without:

  • Most tech blogs – lets face it, I can now pull most of my favorite blogs from sites like FriendFeed and Twitter.  Better yet, FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter work better for “media snacking” because I can filter results by number of people talking about each topic.  I can also hold a conversation with a large group of people on each topic, and help promote the blog I’m reading much more than I can in a Reader.  Believe it or not (and I learned this from my friend, Jeremiah Owyang), I can get most major news by just checking FriendFeed or Facebook or Twitter.  I have yet to miss anything I regretted losing.
  • SharingGoogle Reader (my preferred RSS Reader), and most RSS reader tools out there are very outdated in the way they let you share the feeds you read.  I would much rather share something on FriendFeed, where I can re-post out to Twitter, post an image with the feed, or encourage much more conversation, real-time, with a very large audience.  I can’t do that effectively with Google Reader.
  • Mundane news – I noticed after my week was over that I was subscribed to a lot of just dumb news that really was unimportant to me.  It was cool for that “one special article” the authors would some times write, but I found many of those were also sharing on FriendFeed or Facebook, and I could get my news there instead.  In addition, there were many news sources that would just repeat news from other sources, making many of my feeds redundant.
  • Shares from many of my friends – A lot of the shares I was getting on Google Reader I was also getting on Twitter and FriendFeed, and I was also already subscribed to the blog they were sharing.  I hid most of those sharers from view, and instead added them to my “Favorites” filter list on FriendFeed.  Now I still get all their shares, and can freely discuss, real-time with them and others rather than fracturing the conversation.  If you want to share stuff with me, make sure I see it on FriendFeed.

Of course, there were several things I found I couldn’t ever leave.  RSS is not, nor will it ever be completely unnecessary, although I can very easily see myself being proven wrong in the “never” category there as well.  I found several things I just missed, and still can’t think of a perfect way to solve.  Those include the following:

  • Blog mentions of my company, name, or brand – the infamous “ego search”, as it’s called, is very important to brands and learning what others are saying about you.  It’s how you can get eavesdrop, know where you stand, and perhaps step in where necessary.  Notice I said “blog” though.  Through FriendFeed, now in the Beta you can set up your own “ego filters” and save them in the right-hand sidebar.  Any mention of your name in the comments and posts will appear in your filters.  On Twitter, you can always use, or a separate column in TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr, or as I’m currently doing, set up a custom search in CoTweet for your brand name and track it that way.  No RSS needed.
  • Comment tracking – on any post I do for, there is no way via Disqus for me to track just the comments from the posts that I wrote.  Therefore, I subscribe to each post’s RSS comments that I write, and any new comments come into my feed reader.  I do this with many blogs that don’t provide a way other than RSS for me to track all the comments.
  • Wiki, forum, and other site tracking – one strategy I use to get the latest data is to track the “recent changes” on MediaWiki installs.  This is available via RSS, and any change will be sent to your RSS reader.  In addition, forums do the same thing.  For forums, being replaced more and more by microblogs, it will be interesting to see how necessary this becomes, but it’s necessary for the moment.  Now, I’m curious who creates the first real-time Wiki (send your royalties my way).

RSS is not dead.  It’s just losing its value.  As the web gets more and more real-time, we are less and less having the need to have data pushed to us via RSS – we can go get what we want, when we want it, from any point in time.  We can now, through filters and real-time data, retrieve much of the data we want to get, in an environment amongst peers.  Google Reader itself is old – it’s slow to adapt, and I just can’t see it keeping up with sites such as FriendFeed, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you want me to read your stuff, I still subscribe to some RSS feeds, but if you want to guarantee I see your stuff, subscribe to me via FriendFeed and get my attention there. Your site, in order to continue in the future will need to be part of the real-time web and those that don’t keep up will be left in the past.  You can follow me on FriendFeed at (check out for a true realtime experience!), or on Facebook at  I can’t wait to read your stuff there!  You can read all the content I write across all the blogs I write for, real-time, in the custom FriendFeed room I created at – either subscribe to the room in FriendFeed, or you can add it to your RSS Reader! 😉  Of course, as always, for the old-fashioned out there you can always subscribe to this blog at

Are there any other things you can see a need to use RSS for?  What other techniques have you begun using to adapt to the real-time web?