Google Reader: Putting Scoble in Time Out


I like Robert Scoble.  I really do.  But, like my 8-year old, if I don’t watch him like a hawk he gets distracted and starts doing all kinds of crazy shit.  Like pooping all over Google Reader, which is really a stand-in for RSS readers in general.  I know he doesn’t really mean it.  It’s like the time my 8-year old announced that she was giving up Skittles.  It was a radical thought.  There was logic to it.  Shoot, it made me proud.

But it wasn’t real.

Two days later she was back in the grip of her Skittles addiction, insisting that no right-thinking person would choose a granola bar when those colorful, chewy, irresistible sugar pills were just sitting there on the shelf.  Our battle over her junk food habit rages on, but I know in my heart that all the wishful thinking in the world won’t make a granola bar taste like a Skittle.

So let’s put Robert in virtual time out and see if we can get him to behave.  One step at a time.

He says Google Reader is slow.  I think that’s more of a problem with the front end platform that pushes the RSS feeds (e.g., FeedBurner), but I see his point.  But as I have said over and over, Skittles are bad for you.  Uh, I mean, faster is not always better.  I simply don’t need to read about some dude’s latest Farm Game achievement or Mafia Wars battle in real time.  And the flexibility of Google Reader (folders, the ability to rename feeds, archive feeds, search feeds, etc.) outweighs any marginal speed benefit you might get from the other sources (more on those below).

Of course, there’s a bigger flaw in that argument.  Most Twitter posts are links to other content that got served by. . . RSS feeds or some other platform.  The live on the scene Twitterer is the vast exception and not the rule.  So even if Twitter is instantaneous, most of the information put on Twitter is not.

And while I’m debunking the speed canard, let’s be honest.  When we thought that kid was in the balloon flying all over Colorado, we turned on CNN, not Google Reader and certainly not Twitter.  For live important news, the internet just ain’t the place, and the difference between 5 minutes later and 15 minutes later just isn’t that big of a deal.

image He says Google Reader’s UI is confusing.  I agree that all that sharing stuff is unnecessary screen clutter.  All we need to get our data out of Google Reader are the newish “Send to” buttons.  But Google has gotten caught up in the sharing hysteria like everybody else.  When all this sharing nonsense blows over, the internet will be a much more useful and fun place.  But come on man, all you have to do is ignore all that crap, just like I do.  And if you think Google Reader is confusing, then you must think Facebook is a big, non-intuitive mountain of Rubik’s Cubes.

He doesn’t like seeing all those unread items.  I have a folder of traditional news feeds (CNN, USA Today, etc.) that fills up faster than a cheetah can run.  You simply mark the entire folder as “read,” with one click.  It’s not hard.  Now trying to actually follow news topics on Twitter, that’s hard (more on that below).

Speaking of Twitter, does anyone really go to Twitter to consume content?  Be honest.  All I see are over there are people pushing unilateral content, like a flea market-cum-mailing list.  And social?  There’s more interaction on top of Mount Everest than there is on Twitter.  Seriously, I get the sense that the Twitter hysteria among the general public is fading.  If I owned Twitter, I’d sell it.  Now, while there are still a lot of greater fools thrashing around with someone else’s money to spend.

He says the social network features suck.  I would completely agree with this if it was an absolute statement, and not limited to Google Reader.  They probably do suck in Google Reader, which is one of it’s strongest points.  I don’t follow (or whatever the right word is) anyone via Google Reader.  I just find my content there, and push it from there to my blog, Facebook page, etc.  Let’s be honest, the social networks aren’t all that social, so why does a feed reader have to be social?

About this interaction business.  If you want to interact online with real people, the fact is that there is only one place to do it- Facebook.  The infrastructure is there.  The developers are there.  And most importantly, the non-nerds are there.  The battle for the mind of the so-called social networker is over, and everyone but Facebook lost.  Hell, I did everything I could to stay off of Facebook and I failed.  Lots of my real world friends are there, and none of them are on any of these lesser services.

He says he sees most news faster on Twitter than in Google Reader.  Uh, OK.  That’s like saying I got to California faster on a horse than when I walked.  The greatest myth in the history of the internet is that Twitter is the place to get news.  First of all, you have to separate those who actually know the news and have the desire and ability to accurately describe it from the spammers and nut-jobs.  Then you have to wade through the chaos and scrolling pages to find it.  At least on the CNN and Google News pages, there is some semblance of an organizational structure that the nut-jobs must adhere to.

He says headline scanning is easier on Twitter.  This is simply wrong.  Robert, I challenge you to walk me through this and show me how it is easier on Twitter.  If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my pocket protector.  Hell, I’ll go one step further- it’s impossible to scan headlines on Twitter.  Because there are none.

He says the iPhone apps are better for Twitter.  I agree with that.  Of course they are better, because Twitter has enjoyed a lot of momentum.  Like Hanson did at one point, and the Jonas Brothers do now.  Pretty soon all the kids will gravitate to the next big thing and Twitter will be relegated to the opening act.  Like Isaac, Taylor and Zac.

The only question is who will get rich before that happens.

What do use to get your online content?  And why?

9 thoughts on “Google Reader: Putting Scoble in Time Out

  1. Twitter is not a replacement for Google Reader. Neither is Facebook. Google Reader has no parallel and it will continue to be my foundation for absorbing and distributing the news for a long time, I bet. I like Scoble a lot myself, but he is suffering from PTFFSS (Post-Traumatic FriendFeed Sale Syndrome).

  2. He said if I bugged him so much with his every second FriendFeed tweets that I needed more friends. A load of crap he is, don't pay attention to his marketing drivel.

  3. I don't know anything about that exchange, but Robert is a good guy in general, and particularly for someone with such a high profile in the blogosphere. He is, however, completely wrong about Google Reader.

  4. When I say Google Reader is slow, I'm not talking about the speed that items take to get to it. I'll do a video over the weekend. It literally takes a minute for my account to start up. It's ridiculous.

  5. There is no more inhumane way to discover, sort, and analyze information than Twitter — unless, of course, all you are interested in is what's new, hot, and of dubious quality.And that's coming from someone who likes Twitter (though I admit it's tested me in the past). If you don't want to see those unread item counts (and I couldn't agree more with Robert on this issue), get a script and suppress them. Or try a low-clutter, low-noise RSS client such as Fever. Either case will be easier than assembling a Byzantine array of lists and *still* having to mentally filter all the lunch menus, non sequiturs, and Mafia Wars nonsense. Gimme search and the more humane layout found in virtually all RSS readers. Better yet, bring on intelligent agents to learn what I like and start doing this stuff for me.

  6. I haven't generated content in the form of a blog post for a long time so my opinion is only a reader's point of view (or without the publisher bias :)I used Google Reader as my primary reader from late 2005 to early 2008, it was the best way to feel informed but it needed some maintenance to keep it manageable. When the shared items feature gained adoption I noticed “link blogs” were providing similar value than the feeds I subscribed so I started looking for human filters to maximize the amount of time I have to read news, and start following their Twitter handles too. The uh-huh moment came when I noticed that I was getting more satisfaction by following only ~100 Twitter users than keeping up with 500+ subscribed feeds. And things just got better with Twitter clients and FriendFeed (likes rock!) so there was literally no time to get back to Google Reader.With PTFFSS, I went back to check out Reader but my reading habits have already changed. I don't want to read all Mashable or TechCrunch posts, only the ones the people I am following think are worth sharing. To read that content, I don't need to “make the decision” to open a Google Reader tab, it is just a couple of clicks away (or available in my smartphone) and if I feel I haven't received enough content I check @lgshareditems @scoblefaves or some Twitter Times to feel I am not way behind. Having said that, I plan to give Google Reader one more try, as a Twitter client for “selected” accounts.

  7. Aren't we all. It's such a great newsy/info/sharing service. Although I prefer threaded conversations on Disqus/blogs more. Posterous' comment stream is obnoxious (like. 300 comment ff post)

  8. That's unacceptably slow. What is going on in there? Your ff was never that slow right? Gwave is terribly slow as well (great group creating/testing it but if it doesn't speed up it's in trouble).

  9. Intelligent search agents that learn from our usage, and semantically identify new info that we'd like is on it's way. If I don't build it, Google, Facebook, Lazyfeed, or My6sense will implement it.We simply want to be aware of all the possible goodies that could interest us by not only time (real time is still important), but matching criteria (tags/weights that help quantify what I enjoy).Crowd sourcing helps with filtering, we all link something we like (google the first social crowd fiterer).

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