Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Technology

Today we'll talk about Google Reader. I was very reluctant to use Google Reader as I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket. I feel very uncomfortable whenever a company wants to be my everything. IMO, it's impossible for one company to provide every service I could want to the same level of quality.

Sure, Google is a great search engine. Yes, I use Google Maps over other map services. Yes, I'm using Google's website analytics (but I'm also using two other company's web statistics tools, and from the three of them I feel I get a nice view of what's happening with my website). But, I do not like Google's calendar feature. I have a gmail account, but I don't use it since I have something like six or seven other e-mail accounts (some of which I've had for more than 8 years and I'm reluctant to give them up since there are some people who only use that account to contact me).

So, whenever I read about how Google has word processing, or spreadsheets, or an RSS reader, or what have you, I just don't buy that their product is as good as a company who's spent their life making a word processor. Sure, this may be short-sightedness on my part. I try lots of things that Google puts out there, and I use the ones that I feel are well made, and I discard (like Google calendar) the ones that are awkward to use and implement.

I do not like Google Reader. There are a few things about it that I really dislike. There are some functions that Bloglines provides that Google Reader does not that I wish it had. And yet...

About a month ago, none of my LiveJournal feeds were updating in Bloglines. This is a huge problem as I read scores of author feeds, and a lot of them are on LJ. There is some problem with how Bloglines retrieves information that violates LJ's terms of use. So, I decided to try Google Reader since many people recommended it and Google was updating LJ feeds.

First, what I like about Google Reader.

One of the big things is that I use folders to organize my feeds. In Bloglines, when I click on a folder, everything in it is marked as read. If I get interrupted or I accidently click another folder/feed, I cannot retrieve those messages. Google doesn't do this. I have to actually get to the feed's post before it's marked as read.

Also, I like the keyboard navigation functionality. I like being able to use the space bar to scroll slowly through a long post, and I like using the 'j' and 'k' keys to move back and forth through posts (although this sometimes doesn't work; anyone know why?).

I like the starring function of saving posts better than Bloglines version of saving posts as Bloglines keeps them in the feed list (which can be problematic when you 'save' as many posts as I do for later reading or later posting). Google moves them to their own area that I can access easily.

Hey, look at that. Google keeps track of trends in my feed reading. Cool! And kind of invasive at the same time. Hmmm. It does give me a sense of who's posting the most and what I'm reading a lot of. But it seems to only confirm what I already knew.

Second, things I dislike.

I hate...HATE HATE HATE...that Google caps the feed count at 100+. This is asinine. You know how many posts I have to read. And 101 versus 500 is a huge difference. If I have ten minutes, I might be able to look at 101 posts; but I doubt I can look at 500. This is just bad programming. Lazy. Bad. Awful. Stupid. Fix it.

I also hate that the posts aren't dated. They get timestamps like '10 minutes ago' and crap like that. Again, you know when you accessed the feed and retrieved the post, give me the date. Sometimes, people update an old post, and it shows up as '10 minutes ago.' If I had a date, too, I could see that: yes it was posted 10 minutes ago, but it was originally posted four weeks ago. Sheesh.

Um, blogroll options? Yeah, not there. I use the blogroll function from Bloglines, since I like to have a list of other read-worthy blogs out there, and I'm too lazy to input several hundred feeds by hand. And I don't feel it's worth the effort to select just a few and ignore the rest that I read. I want my blogroll to represent what I'm reading. I can share individual items, which doesn't seem as helpful.

Built-in weather function? Also not there. This is one of the great features of Bloglines. Put in your zip code, and get a nice, constantly updating5-day weather forecast. Simple. Effective. Handy.

Package tracking? Not there either. I cannot tell you how often I've used this. I'll keep my Bloglines account for this alone, even if I drop all my other feeds.

If not for the LJ problem, I would drop Google Reader and never look back. Its strengths don't outweigh its problems. Since I started using Google Reader about three weeks ago, I've read almost 6,000 posts. I've starred only a few dozen items for further reading.

Contrast this to my Bloglines account. In the same amount of time, it says that I have just 3,300 unread posts. That's about only 55% of the posts that I saw through Google Reader. Where did those other 2,500 or so posts go? That's a lot of stuff I would have missed.

Of course, the reality may be that I'm reading too much, right?


librarynation said...

One of my favorite features about Gmail is that I can create aliases for all of my other email accounts. I only sign in to one account, but the mail from every other email account I have (8 or so) gets delivered to this one address. When I want to write from a particular address, I just select that from a drop down box.

I agree that the 100+ and no datestamp is annoying, though. But I've never used bloglines and though it sounds cool, it would be a pain to swap over considering I'm subscribed to about ::counts:: 90 feeds, not counting those I read in livejournal through the "friends page" feature.

John Klima said...

I'm subscribed to more than 270 feeds, and it was easy to switch. You can export your subs into an OPML file and then load that into the new reader.

I use Outlook at home (yes I know) and have it set up to pull all my accounts together. Then I can synchronize it with my Palm device (getting calendar, tasks, contact info all in one place). Not sure if gmail synchs with anything. I'll have to investigate.