Reaction To Google Reader
Whew! I was afraid that I was going to get bashed when I didn't like the Google Reader, that there had to be something wrong with me that I didn't like it.
Turns out, I'm not the only one. Obviously, its not a huge cross section, but the comments on my post feature only one person who liked it (sorry, Nicholas).
So, I think it is time to examine what could possibly be wrong with the Google Reader.
First off, it isn't Bloglines. Its biggest failing could be that it performs like no other RSS reader I've ever used. Newcomers to RSS may fall in love with it, but the early adopters don't appear to be big fans.
Dave Winer says "appears not to have been touched by human beings before it was introduced to the world" and that it "is a huge step backward from what was available in 1999″. I'm inclined to agree.
Google Reader doesn't follow the very popular River-Of-News style, where article after article can be read in a scrolling list, allowing you to fly quickly through massive amounts of news.
Google Reader doesn't follow the Outlook-style view of email that many are used to, where your news comes in and you can view an overview at a glance, then choose what to read now.
Google Reader doesn't follow the MyYahoo style, in which your news is presented in a static view with all of your feeds presented with a limited amount of content.
Google Reader blazes its own path, which might not be the best idea. Brad Hill says "Overall, then, this launch bookmarks an interface style while hinting at intriguing future directions. It cannot be taken seriously as a usable tool right now, but that could change quickly".
I think I'm finally getting that hang of this thing, but it shouldn't be so difficult. In normal use, you have your articles (not your feeds) listed on the left, and you scroll up and down with the "j" and "k" keys on your keyboard to read. The interface is so cumbersome, no other method works. Had Google not gone all AJAX-overboard, we would have had a convenient scroll bar, but no luck here.
Results are ranked by relevance or date. It remains to be seen if either is useful, but for the moment, I don't want a list of articles that I have to slowly pause through to read. Its bad enough that I have well over a hundred feeds in Bloglines, and if I had to click on each one I'd go crazy. Now, if I had to click on each article? Bring on the Zoloft!
In Bloglines, I can read all my articles at once. Or, I can read all the articles in a folder. Or I can read all the articles in a feed. Or I can search my feeds for information on a topic. In Google, I can read all the articles, one by one. Or I can click on a feed to read all of its articles, one by one. Or I can click on a "label" (which is another name for tags, lets be honest) and read the articles in that, one by one.
I can't picture myself ever using this full time. Maybe new users will use it, but only becuase they won't be as dissapointed as I am. I don't want this to take off, lest it become the dominant form factor.
Now, its time to go quote-heavy:
The big issue is finding relevant and intelligent blog posts on a specific topic, that are based on authority. The authority is not an arbitrary decision of a human community, but a "collective effort." Google tries to do this in its new Reader by restricting "google search" to RSS feeds. But that's not the answer.
Its actually an awful search, if you look at it. The feed search alone should have stopped Google from shipping this.
Google Reader is "the most comprehensive feed finder available," said Jason Shellen, the Google product manager who spearheaded the development of the program. Comprehensive, yes, but Reader also adheres to Google's trademark simple, easy-to-use design philosophy. "We're trying to find an easier find and subscribe model for feeds," said Shellen.
I was surprised to hear that Shellen was behind the Reader, especially since, despite never speaking to the man, I've always been a fan of his (probably due to reading his blog). I can say this: Clearly, a lot of technical expertise went into the Reader. No one can deny that. They didn't copy any other readers, that's for certain. I just don't like it from a usability perspective. I think the Reader could have benefited from some old-fashioned focus grouping.
Chris also says:
Google just announced the Reader at the Web 2.0 conference, so I haven't had a chance to play around with it yet. I did get a demo of the program last August when I visited Google, and was impressed with what I saw at the time-particularly with the auto-discovery feature that recommended feed content based on what you read. Findory offers a similar service for feeds.
Another issue: Who got to see this ahead of time? Next time you are going to release a product so complex, you might want to make sure there are bloggers out there who have been shown how the product works, and given enough embargo time to explain to their readers what to do. I know I wouldn't have been quite as negative on the Reader if it didn't take me over a day to get it to work.
Google embargoes product releases all the time. I would assume someone got this under embargo, but if they did, they certainly didn't help the rest of the blogosphere understand the product. You'd have a better reaction if Search Engine Watch had a "Guide to Using the Google Reader", and if at least some number of bloggers weren't overwhelmed by the learning curve. I'm still overwhelmed (and thus, underwhelmed).
Randy Charles Morin:
I then tried to import a small OPML file. It hung reporting "Your subscriptions are being imported…" After awhile, I got bored as it was completely non-functional. I exited the browser, got back in and upload the big OPML file. Same results. I can't seem to get past first base. Definately BETA.
OPML import takes so long. How about a progress meter?
Like many, I've become so used to the perpetual Google Beta that i've started to forgive them a few rough edges when they launch something new. This new rss reader they just launched though, is totally taking the piss. I can't do ANYTHING on it, not a damn thing. All the links seem to go to the same page, nothing works except the tour and it's just wasted 10mins of my TIME.
Holy fucking shit bollocks and poo.
I mean, sure, release something that has a couple of wrinkles to iron out, but at least make sure it has basic functionality!
Adam Lasnik does a good job of running down a lot of the problems.
Gary Price has some good impressions and questions:
Given that Google is a "search company?", I'm surprised that you're not able to only search content from your selected feeds. Bloglines does offer this feature.
Since it's all about sharing, what about being able to easily share individual posts with non-Gmail users?
Let's see, I can have feeds in my Google Sidebar, on my Google Personalized home page, and now in my Google Reader. How about a way to unify my subscriptions and also what I've seen/read with all three tools.
How about spell check when searching for new content. A typo for "search engine rondtable" offers no suggested spellings/corrections.
More documentation via the FAQ. (Thanks to those who helped me access it. Some did say it was difficult to find.)
Postscript: Very cool, I must say. You can listen to podcasts/MP3 material directly from the Google Reader.
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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.
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