RSS and Google Reader. Uh. Yeah. Useful.

technology-makes-it-easier-to-shareSo, Google Reader. It’s been interesting and great to see the response. Whether or not Google has messed up here (of course they have), we’ve seen some great conversations about the value of RSS and how important the consumption, sharing and resulting conversations that happen because of RSS are to many communities.

I’ve also seen a surprising number of already existing alternatives to RSS readers out there and the possibility that new start up projects will kick off between now and July to create even more.

I’ve also seen some interesting assumptions from programmers, and here’s where any of these new and existing projects need to pause. Dave Winer (commonly known as father of RSS) claims that he doesn’t want an RSS reader that looks like an email inbox, he doesn’t want to see unread items, he likes his news in a river flowing.

Yeah, but I don’t (OK, he says, go build what you want if you don’t like it, and, he can. Me? I can’t. So, you know, not helpful, dude.). I do enjoy how my feed looks simply like email and how I can quickly move through it with keyboard shortcuts, etc.

The utter simplicity of the Google Reader interface is what makes it so valuable to me. Unread counts? Exceptionally useful for me when I need to see how many new items there are in the 5 key workflow-related folders I track. Lets me know immediately if I need to go in there to see if what’s new is relevant to my work, my network, etc. I can, and do, click “mark all read” every now and then. It’s easy and not bothersome. Just the opposite, I get useful information from that unread count.

The point I’m making is do the thing that we all say we should do when we design, talk to your frackin users (repeat after me: you are not your users)!


I activated Feedly and am checking out some others (such as Flipboard, pulse, etc.). You know, I don’t care about the images. If I do, I’ll subscribe to design and other image heavy feeds in one of those. What I want is the text, the sense that I need to read this now, save it to Pocket to read later, share it immediately with one of my networks. I consume on a reader to get the text, the long read, the insight. I want your brain, your wisdom, your knowledge, your perspective. It’s why I follow you there. I can, with a click, see what you’ve written/published for a long time. I have all my Google Alerts there (for the love of gawd, don’t let Alerts be next on the chopping block!!).

I have 792 subscriptions in Google Reader, a tonne of those are Alerts.

A simple, quick interface is essential to move quickly through all of this. Google Reader does that perfectly.

I guess my task is to find someone who’s building that. Maybe Google will open source their Reader code, or just let someone else take it over. I don’t know. I just know that RSS and feed readers are the backbone of how I do my work. And I’m not a techie. I’m (I think) an information professional, a small curator and a small hub for some people on some particular topics. I already have what I need to do my work. Give me something just like it (update: just saw this from Digg, very promising).

And, yes, I’m willing to pay for it.

Thanks for listening.

(There are a lot of great people already writing about how this is all ridiculous and what the alternatives are out there. Check them out.)

(image from Dave Duarte)

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Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

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