Google Reader Second Impressions

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"You told me again you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception."
Leonard Cohen / Chelsea Hotel #2

Posted on January 11, 2007 1:24 AM in Blogging
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

After taking an initial look at Google Reader back in its infancy over a year ago, I finally cracked and decided to give Google Reader another try. As return readers know, I've been a long-time Bloglines user and fanboy evangelist.

First off, I have to say I'm impressed. Chu Yeow wasn't kidding when he described the 'mark items read as you scroll by' preference as killer functionality. I also feel less overwhelmed by my list of feed subscriptions in Google Reader, since it only shows feeds that contain unread items (I believe I set a preference for this, but still). In Bloglines, you see a tree-view of all of your feed subscriptions, even if certain feeds don't contain any unread items.

I'm intrigued by the potential for the "auto sorting" of feeds in the list of all items, even though I haven't tried it out yet. It makes sense that I would want to see items from less-frequently-updated feeds (like collision detection) before those from frequently-updated feeds (like Digg). It's also kinda nice to have the Google Reader Notifier sitting in my Firefox statusbar, always providing a reminder of how many unread posts are available for me to read.

There are, however, some things I'm already missing after having jumped ship from Bloglines for a couple of weeks. First off, I no longer have a public URI I can share with people that shows off the feeds I am subscribed to. Google Reader seems to handle this at a more granular, per-post level, as far as I can tell. Secondly, I have no indication from the Google Reader UI how many fellow Google Reader users are subscribed to the feeds I'm subscribed to. This is interesting data to have in general, but especially interesting for having an idea of how many people are subscribed to my feeds at any given time.

In addition to the features I'm missing, there are some I just don't like. For instance, it is really annoying that I have to 'sort by oldest' at a per-feed level, and can't just set this as my default sorting method globally (I could in Bloglines). After a couple weeks of using Google Reader, it's gotten to the point where I'm frequently checking the setting in feeds where I've already set it to 'sort by oldest,' simply because I know there are still quite a few in my list that are set to 'sort by newest.'

Another annoyance I've run into over and over again occurs when Google Reader is being smart and fetching more feed entries as I'm making my way through a long list (like those typically found after not having kept up with Digg for a couple days). If I was using my keyboard and just hitting 'j' over and over again to move through the list, I'd probably never notice the glitch, but when I grab on to the rightmost scrollbar in my browser and use that to gradually scroll down the list (keeping the left mouse button held down, mind you), the smart fetching feature actually skips me down farther in the list of items and I have to work my way back up to find my previous spot. This is a definite blemish on an otherwise very slick user experience.

I'm certainly enjoying using Google Reader thus far, but I haven't given up on Bloglines completely just yet. I've still got the Bloglines button on my bookmarks toolbar, just as a friendly reminder that it's there for me should I decide to switch back. In all honesty, I think Bloglines could easily get me back by implementing the 'marked read as you scroll by' feature. It's comforting as a user to know, though, that I have several options and that, thanks to standards (OPML in this case), I can easily switch between the two applications as my heart desires.

Anyone else out there using Google Reader? I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you've got any experience with Bloglines as well.


Ian Clifton on January 11, 2007 at 10:40 AM:

I use Google Reader, but I view the posts via the Google personal homepage gadget. I've adjusted it so that it shows read and unread posts (unread appear grayed/greyed out). You basically click on a post and a "bubble" (like when a comic character is saying something) pops up, with a scrollbar if necessary, showing the post right there. With all the other gadgets I have setup, I like having all the data right there. If you do stick with the actual reader page, there's a whole slew of shortcuts available.


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