Switching to Google Reader

I held out on using a RSS reader for more than two years. I had a little thingy built so Ping-O-Matic would use its own results and Weblogs.com to store the last updated time of every blog it saw, and then I reordered my blogroll based on that. (The original version in WordPress parsed the whole changes.xml from Weblogs.com a few times an hour. Remember when that was feasible?) Then I would go from the top of the list to the last one I remember reading, opening each in tabs, and closing as I finished. Incidentally, this kept my blogroll from withering as many do.

At some point I started begrudgingly using Bloglines in 2004, and fell in love shortly thereafter. Where I used to follow a few dozen blogs, now I could consume hundreds and its UI just made sense to me, and just got better over time. I sang its praises often in interviews, mentioning it as one of the handful of websites I used daily. Any outages or performance problems it had seemed minor to me, only reminding me of how much I appreciated the service when it was up. Bloglines search was and continues to be the cleanest in the space.

I don’t recall exactly when many of my friends started switching to Google Reader. I had tried it at its first release and was pretty unimpressed. I saw the hubabub around Gears and how Reader was the first to embrace that. I watched with envy as friends used their trends feature to see nifty data about how and when they read feeds, and use it to cull out the non-essentials, much like I used to with my blogroll.

A week ago, frustrated to no end by a bug in Bloglines telling me to reread things I already had, I decided to make the switch cold turkey. I packed my OPML file and went along to Google Reader full-time. It hasn’t been painless — the keyboard shortcuts are a little funky on dvorak — but it feels better to be on a platform that whether real or perceived feels like it has momentum. That self-fufilling X-factor in apps is one of the magic elements for me. Also as I’m adapting to the UI I feel a lot more efficient than I used to in going through things.

Finally I’ve started reducing my subscriptions, down to 346 now, and I hope to be under 200 within a month or so. I’m thinking of adopted a fixed-number, say 150, and if I want to add one I need to remove another one first so the total is always the same. (I’ve considered this for social networking sites, too.) However it’s probably focusing on the wrong metrics, unread items is more important than total feeds.

38 thoughts on “Switching to Google Reader

  1. I could have written the same post about three months ago.

    I do feel guilty in my slow decent into total google-subservience however…it’s like I chose the blue pill.

  2. I recently switched from NewsFire (Mac RSS App) to Google Reader and couldn’t be happier. It’s great since it’s web based, all my reads are synced up with my two macs and I can even read feeds on my iPhone!

  3. I nearly switched the same way a few months ago. Discomfort about over-investment in Googleness is one reason I haven’t, yet. Another was finding that I could re-skin Bloglines with a custom stylesheet I picked up a short while ago. Possibly if/when the novelty of having Bloglines actually look good wears off, I’ll move, or maybe try Google Reader out with a bunch of feeds that Bloglines doesn’t handle well. It’s hard to say if those are the fault of the reader, or the feed itself, or my configuration.

  4. I use google reader but I seriously under-use it. I have yet to touch tabs and haven’t even starred a single article. I need to start making use of the features it has and until this article I never even noticed those links on the side. Trends is a whole new idea to me. I may need to start making use of it.

  5. Two months ago I wrote a quite similar blog post – the only difference is, that I started from scratch. I had tried a lot of different feed aggregators before, but none of them caught on. Now I wouldn’t want to do without Google Reader.

  6. I, too, could have written this post, just last week. I’m a Google girl for sure but had stayed away from using Reader full time because it has no, in my opinion, good outputs for displaying your feeds, etc. right now. But I finally just went cold turkey from Bloglines, as well; finally importing links to WordPress and, problem solved.

    My favorite thing is the little “next unread item” link. Added it to my toolbar and just keep clicking through the unread items until I reach “the end of the internet.”

  7. Several of my countrymen and I lost our feeds on Google Reader recently (I think it was a combination of my ISP and Google Reader that caused the data loss).

    I recommend exporting and backing up your OPML regularly 😉

  8. I too made the switch to the Google Reader not too long ago. I haven’t regretted it. I tend to let me subscriptions build up then go on a unsubscribe rampage slashing and burning along the way until I’m down to a manageable number again for a few weeks (days?).

  9. I use Google Reader. No folders or tags. Single river of news. Keyboard shortcuts to read all items (‘G’, ‘A’, ‘U’, ‘J’, ‘J’). I read lots of articles quickly. Very quickly. Occasionally share items (‘S).

    I subscribe to 162 feeds but I had to go and look that number up. I find your proposal of maintaining 150 feeds strange. If you like, enjoy and need 367 feeds, why not subscribe to all of them.

    I suspect your criteria to throw away a feed to ‘make room’ may well be the most inactive feed. That would be foolish IMHO as there could be a fantastic post imminent which you would miss.

    For example, ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ is an example of a brilliant site that posts high quality articles albeit relatively infrequently.

  10. I have one tag that indicates priority “a-list” in my google reader and I read those every day. For everything else, I mark all read once a day. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed with unread items.

  11. I’m thinking of adopted a fixed-number, say 150, and if I want to add one I need to remove another one first so the total is always the same.

    Wow, the implications of such a move are mind-boggling. Assuming you had subscribed to the 150 “best,” and you came across another “best” to which you’d like to subscribe, would you be able to pick the one worst of the “best” to eliminate from your daily reads?

  12. I made the switch to Google Reader a few months ago and I could be happier. I had never been able to choose a feed reader and stick with it. Firefox Live Bookmarks just aren’t mature enough to be a good solution. I just love being able to access my feeds from wherever I am.

  13. I used Netvibes, until the site had downtime of almost a week or two, I think it was, so I looked into other options and found Google Reader. There’s still some things I like better about other readers–sometimes with some feeds there are no paragraph breaks in the posts, and in Netvibes I could see how many comments a post had–but hey, consolidating all to Google-based things IS a lot easier!

  14. I’ve given Google Reader a go, but I just can’t get into it. It’s UI is a little messy and very unattractive. The much praised Trends feature tempted me to give it a go, but I soon realised….I just don’t need it! I’m not in a competition with anyone regards how much I read/what I am subscribed to.

    Right now, I’m viewing this through Netvibes. I can see the entire website, just as it is, or switch back to feed view. I have four tabs – it’s neat, easy on the eye and has become the centre of my world on the web.

    I use internet cafe’s regularly, and I need only log into Netvibes, and every web page I want is there waiting for me.

  15. Which keyboard shortcuts do you find weird on Dvorak? They seem fine to me. The ones I tend to use are mainly J and K, which are next to each other on Dvorak, as in QWERTY. And some of the others (N and P for instance) seem to be scattered to the four winds whatever keyboard layout you are using.

    When I briefly tried Colemak a couple of months ago, that was weird indeed though. It puts the J key (to move down the list) directly above K (to move up). It feels a bit like having your arrow keys the wrong way round…

  16. Matt – I switched not too long ago as well and – as you said “it wasn’t painless”, but overall I’m really, really happy I made the switch.

    I hadn’t thought of the Dvorak implications… too bad Google can’t, somehow, allow for customizable keyboard shortcuts like most Operating Systems would if Google Reader were a desktop application.

  17. I have used the latest Google Reader since it was released. I started out with Bloglines way back when they had first opened up. I can’t even remember how long ago that was, but it was pretty far back.

    They had a great UI and their workflow was perfect for the way I read RSS feeds.

    A few years back, Bloglines was bought by AskJeeves (at the time) and I had a sneaky suspicion that they were going to go down hill after that. I was right. Bugs started showing up that were not getting fixed. I reported several and was pretty much ignored.

    I finally gave up on them and started using a desktop client that I could put on a thumbdrive so that I didn’t read articles more than once. That worked for a while until that winter when the thumbdrive bit the bullet. Probably due to a static discharge.

    I tried every web based RSS reader I could find, a bunch of desktop readers. I was never happy with any of them.

    When Google released the first version of their reader, I just couldn’t believe that the engineers at Google thought that this way was a great way to read RSS feeds. I went back to searching and even looked at some web based readers that I would host on my own webhost.

    Finally Google updated it’s reader to the current version and I was in love! It was perfect. I could “star” articles for later reading. It worked in exactly the way I read RSS feeds.

    Recent updates to Google Reader allow me to send an email to myself for articles I want to look at more closely or remind myself to do. I really couldn’t ask for a better reader. Plus Google Reader works with the iPhone so that I can even read articles from just about anywhere. 😉

    Maybe if someone made their desktop reader use Google Reader to determine if I have read an article or not. I would use a desktop reader in conjunction with Google Reader, but until then I’m a happy RSS reading fool!

    P.S. Bloglines still has the bugs that were bugging me way back two years ago. I doubt if they will ever fix them at this point.

  18. I try to keep to a rule of 5 when it comes to social networking sites.

    I’ll go over if it if I can chain sites using RSS + scripting

    (ie: Facebook status + twitter, Tumblr RSS import, Jaiku RSS import, Twitter RSS import, etc)

    OnlyWire is also useful for multiple sites.

  19. I’ve become more and more uneasy with Google’s strangle hold on my entire elife. I got ultra-paranoid when their office type applications started coming out.

    Nothing is more telling about these dangers than Google’s very own closure of their video service — stranding customers with useless bytes instead of what they paid for. Nice.

    I am, however, very excited to say the FeedsOnFeeds* is updating again and is pretty damn killer. It does pretty much everything that gReader does (formats, listing, starig, tagging, keyboard interface) and you can even submit back simple changes to say “Dvorak Patch Please”.

    * Yes, there is great irony in this post that it’s hosted under google code, but not my choice…

  20. It’s kinda funny to read this now because I have been a Bloglines user for a long time and been steadily getting more agitated with it and not reading my feeds as often as I’d like. I’ve been thinking of switching to Google Reader for a while now, and slowly trying it out a bit. I remember watching a Viddler video of Scoble using it and noticing that it flagged posts separately as ‘read’ versus flagging the entire feed as ‘read’ when you click on it like Bloglines does. That was probably the biggest ‘feature’ aside from just having everything in one place with all my other Google stuff.

    (BTW – took a look at that fav.or.it link above. While I -hate- the trend in those dot names since I can never remember where the dot goes, I’m a sucker for an attractive interface and it looks like they’ve got something nice there. Will have to remember to check it out later.)

  21. I too was slightly unimpressed with Google Reader when I first tried it. However, Gears was the deal-breaker. Always being online is sometimes difficult down here in Borneo.

  22. I used google reader for a long while. It was the first RSS reader I read more than a dozen feeds in. The main appeal, like all web-based applications, was being platform and machine independent. I could switch from my OSX laptop to Sun Blade at school to XP box at work. However, I found that I couldn’t stand the UI.

    So I switched to using Vienna. http://www.opencommunity.co.uk/vienna2.php

  23. the implications of such a move are mind-boggling. Assuming you had subscribed to the 150 “best,” and you came across another “best” to which you’d like to subscribe, would you be able to pick the one worst of the “best” to eliminate from your daily?