Terrance Heath

Owned By Google, Again

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 13, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Gmail, Google Reader, Google+, RSS feeds, RSS reader, shared feeds, web services

Warning: Geek venting about to ensue.

Can I just say how much I hate — really, truly hate — Google latest update to its Reader?

No, I don’t mean the new look.

I mean the decision to do away with shared items and force everyone into using Google+. Yes, I and countless others have been “owned” by Google, again.

Integrating with Google+ also helps us streamline Reader overall. So starting today we’ll be turning off friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality.

We hope you’ll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader’s sharing features wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google.

OK. Don’t get me wrong. Google has every right to do what they want with their product or service. And I, as a consumer, have every right to take my toys and go play somewhere else, if their product or service — which was always and remains free to use — no longer meets my needs. That said, I can’t say that the change has resulted in “an even better experience across all of Google.” If anything, it’s made Google Reader less useful to me. I can also join other Google Reader users in protesting outside Google’s Washington, DC, offices. (Organized on Facebook, of course.)

See, I use Google Reader every day in the course of my work. Part of my job is coming through hundreds of blog and news feeds, and flagging stories and articles for other myself and others to use in various ways. Google Readers shared items made that easy, once upon a time. I could fly through my feeds and starring and sharing items with just a couple of key strokes. My co-workers subscribed to my shared items feed, or followed my shared items and grabbed whatever they could use.

I also used it to collect items for my own use, and I’m not the only one.

3. Bring Back Shared Feeds

This is essential. There were several feeds that I subscribed to from individuals that were an absolutely vital part of my informational flow. Now, I no longer have access to those feeds. Instead, Google hopes that I’ll watch those same people in Google+ to see what they share publicly. Only these were private feeds meant pretty much only for me. In the 36 hours or so that I’ve been using the new Reader, I’ve been unable to access these feeds or find alternatives that are as easy to use.

Not cool, Google. You’ve killed how I collect information from critical sources. Bring this feature back, immediately.

The bottom line here is that Google has messed up the performance and behavior of a business tool I use day in and day out to get my job done. The changes have had a drastic effect on my productivity.

That’s just not acceptable.

It was so easy that it all took place without any of us having to think about it much, let alone talk about it.

Then came Monday, when I discovered the changes. (I would have known about them earlier, if I’d read the Google Reader Blog.) Suddenly, things were not so easy. First, spent about ten minutes trying to figure out what had happened to shared items. Then, I had to go through the process of setting up a Google+ account — loathe though I was to join yet another social network. (I guess Google is expecting a boost in the number of Google+ users now, having goosed Reader users into signing up.) Then I had to figure out how Google+ worked, find my co-workers on Google+ and add them to my “circles.” Meanwhile, I emailed back and forth with the co-worker who was the primary user of my shared items, to discuss if and/or how we would make this new change work.

This took twenty minutes. Normally, I’d have gotten twenty minutes worth of work done. But, I figured it out, and finally set to work. I thought I’d move along at my usual steady clip.

I was wrong.

Normally, I would fly through my feeds using Google Reader’s keyboard shortcuts. In fact, this method allowed me to work so fast that I sometimes had to consciously slow down to make sure I was sharing the stuff I’d intended to share.

Google Plus logoWell, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Google Reader now slows me down plenty. What used to take a few keystrokes (‘s’ to star an item, ‘shift + s’ to share an item) now takes a keystroke and about three clicks. Mouse clicks. Mouse clicks? Before the forced march to Google+, I never touched my mouse while using Google reader. Now I star an item, stop, reach for the mouse, click ‘+1′, click “Share on Goolg+,” pick the circle I want to share with, and then click the green ‘Share’ button.

I’m not the only one who has problems with this. Even a former Google Reader Project Manager can’t fathom this.

But the new sharing flow around the +1 button has actually made it harder to share. Where you used to be able to click one button, or hit shift-s to one-click share to your audience, you now need to:

  1. Click +1 (no keyboard shortcuts for you)
  2. Click the text box that appears that says “Share to G+”
  3. Then choose your circle you want to share to (or let it default to public)
  4. Then click Share

Keep in mind that on top of requiring 3-4 times as many clicks, you also now must +1 a post publicly to share it, even if it’s shared to a private circle. That bears repeating. The next time you want to share some sexy halloween costumes with your private set of friends, you first must publicly +1 the post, which means it shows up on your profile, plus wherever the hell G+ decides to use +1 data. So much for building a network around privacy controls.

Oh, and apparently my ‘+1s’ are shared to the entire world. I know my old shared items page wasn’t exactly private, but the only people who read it before were the people I gave the RSS feed URL to. I’m not sure I want to share everything with everybody. Maybe if there’s a way to

I’m not the only one with this problem either.

So what? Well, context is lost. When you +1 an article to share it with a Circle of close friends, you can add your thoughts like “This person is out of his mind. I totally disagree with his views.” But later on down the road, if someone is perusing the list of things you’ve +1ed on your Google Profile, they’ll lose that context and just see that you +1ed the post in question, which implies that you improve of what the person wrote. Maybe you’ve stumbled on an essay detailing the positive effects of pedophilia, and you want to share it and your sense of outrage with some friends. Is this a web page you want in your “+1″ list? Probably not. This is kind of a big deal. I’d really like to share posts without having to then go into my Google Profile, click on my +1′s list, and delete that entry.

There’s got to be an easier way. Maybe Google will add new features, if it doesn’t exist. Maybe I’ll find it, if it does exist. After all, Google+ is easy to understand.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll use Google Readers “Send To,” feature to send the what used to be my “shared items” to another service.

Hey! Now that’s a new Google Reader feature I can use. At least until Google decides to get rid of that one, too.

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I COMPLETELY agree!!! The general response on the inter-webs is that we're bitching about the new layout. But, it's the removal of the sharing features that makes me so angry. Now, I have to manually share everything. Before, it was a single click. Now it's about 10... I'm desperately looking for a replacement.

If you're not paying for a service, you're not the customer; you're the product.

Worth mentioning is that you can hack together whatever sharing method you want for Reader using either greasemonkey or stylish (in firefox) - much like the facebook sharer or twitter sharer extensions.