Googles Lost Social Network is a terrific walk down memory lane for Google Reader. While I consume content from lots of sources today, Reader still remains central to my process. I miss all of the features that have been cut like everyone else … Seems there’s actually still both time and a real platform on which things could evolve. Getting Google to re-focus energy is unlikely sadly.
Russell Beattie just posted a great overview of an after-hours project he’s been working on to build a better reader. I’ve been quite loyal to Google Reader as I suppose many info-junkies and given the number of things I’m tracking in there it would be hard to move.
While Google Reader is far from beautiful (though admittedly much nicer with Readable installed) it’s been the hardest working tool I’ve come across in my many years of absorbing it all. I’ve long since really given up on trying to tag feeds too diligently or manage the subscriptions is useful folders. My flow is just that … a flow. I view all and crank through as much as I can per session. I don’t get bogged down with unread vs read items – it’s impossible to do anyway.
Social represents another opportunity for inputs, and that’s a nice way to discover some other things, though I generally find the most within the first pinned tab … which is where Reader lives for me. It’s essential.
Mobile is huge as well and while Reader remains completely un-sexy in presentation, I’ve yet to find an app that beats direct access for efficiency. Loading and downloading stories to read is time, I’d rather spend reading even if the presentation might be a touch nicer … when it comes to information, it’s all about the general consumption, rather than the taste.
There’s been a lot of talk about Google’s forced integration of Search+Social and it certainly is a big deal. Personally, I have not found it to be invasive, nor have I found it to be tainting my results in a negative way. I like seeing that there are signals from my social connections around search as they offer pivot points or likely results in a more obvious way.
Outside of search the social methods including those around the core property are really pretty passively being applied. The +1 button is the lamest offender in this approach. Before Google Reader dropped Share in favor of +1, I used to be able to easy share my read items anywhere I wanted thanks to the feed of my shares being made available. These shares would post to Twitter automatically and drove a fairly decent amount of engagement for me over the years. Since moving to the +1, I have two options and they aren’t the same across mobile and desktop web experiences. On the desktop, I can share from Reader using the same keyboard shortcut (Shift+S) or choose to +1 something which prompts for a share onto G+ and via a circle of my choice. On mobile, where I do a fairly intense amount of consumption thanks to an extended commute I can only +1 something and this is where things really, well suck. The +1 via mobile serves solely as a limited bookmark and saves content links onto my Google+ profile on the +1 tab. This mobile +1 limitation applies to any item on Reader or on a publisher site. There simply is no real way to share into Google+ directly from a mobile experience. On Android, you can use intents to open the share prompt and drop things into Google+, but the limitations again are quickly revealed. Unlike many other services, the Google+ mobile application (on iphone or Android) is incapable of traversing the link to provide any sense of context to what’s being shared. This means your post is just a lame mess. I can’t imagine the goal here is to have us save things in lists via +1. When was the last time anyone visited this tab for a contact let alone themselves? It’s an island of content — the least social you can be. There is no feed available for these items and no way to share them through any additional channels which frankly ends up being pretty de-motivating.
Another red headed step child of the Google social experience is Latitude. This has also remained something of a disconnected island within the ecosystem and I question why we should choose to use it. Google recently added the notion of points and a leader-board to check-ins as well as a proactive prompt to remind us to use it (on Android), but it’s hard to see why you would. The leader-board is for your latitude friends only (a sadly small group of early adopters in my case) and there’s no sense of what the points are used for – at all. There are no badges, no connection to merchant locations for offers. The prompts are even a bit aggressive. It’s also interesting to see that while I can share a check-in quite easily into a Google+ circle, a location appended to a post on G+ does not link back through Latitude. One way?
Right now, Google+ allows neither the syndication of my activity stream (ala Path) nor the ability to aggregate activities from the broader web (or even the Google system) like Facebook. As much as I want to use Google+ and enjoy the general engagement there, I find there’s an incredible amount of friction to use it. Social should not be hard.
PS – sharing this post into G+ also takes a few steps … sigh.
I was playing with Yahoo Pipes tonight to get Netbooknews translated from German when it occurred to me that there might be an easier wayâ€¦. And there is! Google Reader offers a translation option right in the feed settings. Just choose Translate into my language and you are ready to go. A nice bonus is that any click-through links are also translated on the site.