Google Reader Plus

Nov. 1, 2011

Hi Google,

I don’t have access to your data so I have no idea how many active Reader users you have, but you just blew it for all of us. I want to lay out what I saw as the advantages of Reader over Google Plus or Facebook and what we’ve now lost. I know you don’t plan to continue Reader support in the future, but perhaps I can give you some ideas on how to re-create the experience in Plus.

Reader was focused on content first. It also had a narrow focus on the kind of content you could consume with it: anything with an RSS feed. While this narrowness might seem to be a limitation, in reality it was a relief. Sometimes I just want to read news, opinion articles, blog posts or funny photos without also having to consider how my mom’s day at work went or what my old classmates’ kids are wearing for Halloween. That is, sometimes I’m in the mood for news and discussion only and Reader filled this desire perfectly. Perhaps this is just a sign that I’m an introvert, but I’m not the only one.

Facebook and Plus are both focused on people first. People saying things, people sharing things, people playing games or listening to music. That’s fine and sometimes I want to catch up on what people I know are doing, but a lot of times I just want to read and I only want to hear from my friends when they stay on topic. That’s what Reader gave us.

When I discovered Reader was going away, I started trying to use Plus for the same purpose. I created a circle on Plus filled with my Reader friends. I started copying the links to articles I shared on Reader and posting them in Plus as well. Now, Reader is gone and I’m already finding the new integration to be horribly inadequate.

First, there’s no replacement for the “Note in Reader” bookmark. At least 25% of the time I’d want to share an article I came across that I wasn’t subscribed to. Now I have to copy the link, strip out any extra data in the URL, change to the plus tab, find the link share button, paste the link in and click submit. It easily takes about five times as long as the previous “Note in Reader” button and now I most don’t bother about 2 steps in.

Second, there’s no way to filter Plus for only articles. Like I said before, sometimes I’m in the mood for news and discussion only. I don’t want to be distracted by other things. Again, it is like we were having a serious discussion on health care policy and someone came into the room saying “You guys just have to see what my cat just did!” It is annoying.

Third, I can’t know how many things my friends have shared. Some of my friends are much more prolific sharers than others. Under the current Plus layout, I will miss the articles that my less frequent friends share. Those who share infrequently are often the ones I want to hear from the most.

I know we don’t pay for Reader. Reader doesn’t even have ads! However, I also know you want more users and especially more active users in Plus. I was excited about Plus when it was first released, but the lack of integration with Reader was disappointing. There wasn’t even a “Send to-> Plus” option! Now you’ve only made it worse. If you want to keep us around, here are some things you can do with Plus that will entice me to use it as actively and frequently as I used Reader. Without these I’m going to search for an alternative.

1) Filter my stream not only by circle but also by content type. This will let me see shared links and articles only for when I’m in the mood for news.

2) Add a list of friends with unread status updates when I click on a circle. If you have to, limit it to circles of certain size. This will let me know when a friend has posted a new article and I haven’t seen it yet.

3) A replacement for the “Note in Reader” bookmarklet.

I’m not asking for a new Google Reader. I just want to preserve the small discussion community we’ve formed. Please give me the tools to do it or I’ll find someone else who will.

Matt Belcher

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Kim: 2011-11-02 07:52:58