The recent Google Reader update brought the new “universal design” we’d all been anticipating, but it also unexpectedly removed all of the internal/inline sharing and commenting functions my friends and I (and I’m sure many others) had used on a daily basis for years. Reader has swept it all out in favor of a generic +1 button, the equivalent of a tweet or Facebook like button on any blog.
To be fair, I like the idea of Google integrating Google+ into Reader. I really dig Google+ as a social network. My issue is the way they’ve gone about it. Whereas previously in Reader I could read my articles, share what I like, see what my friends shared, and comment on it all from within a single unified interface– now I must go to two wholly different sites to do it. And quite frankly Google+ has far too much noise (as do all social networks) to be a fair alternative to what we had in Reader before. Google+ should have been a baked-in augmentation to Reader. When I share something in Reader, share it on Google+ too. When someone comments on it in either location, show it in both places. Google got this right with Buzz. It might have been the only thing they got right with Buzz.
So, with no reason to keep using Reader, I decided to export my OPML and move on to green pastures.
I’ve ended up using the outstanding Fever by Shaun Inman. It’s allowed me to port all of my feed consumption to an internal, locally hosted environment. I really love this for a variety of reasons, privacy being a big one. I combine it with Fluid for dock notifications.
I’m using a Pinboard feed to share stories of interest to my friends, allowing them to still get my bizarre finds in their reader of choice’s stream, right beside their other feeds. In Fever, I assigned a sharing hotkey to ‘P’ to quickly share the stories I’m digging.
For shares that I think are worthy of a highlight, I take the extra effort to share those on Google+, Facebook and Twitter— though depending on the content I may not share them on all 3 at the same time. (I’ve learned that my followers on each of these networks are fairly unique in the types of topics they’ll respond to. I’m not interested in boring anyone.) I’m using Buffer to try and throttle things a bit and not overload anyone.
Inversely, to consume my friends’ shares, I’m using a very clever appspot tool that generates RSS feeds from Google+ activities. Drop in your friend’s G+ ID and boom, instant RSS. So once again I can see their shares alongside my feeds.
As a nice bonus, because Fever’s “Hot” algorithm figures out what the hottest news of the day/week/whatever is based on the links it’s parsing in my feeds, my friend’s shares actually help to personalize my headline news each day for my tastes. That’s pretty brilliant. It’s spot on at finding things I’m interested in. Much better than Reader’s “magic” sorting function.
The obvious issue in this situation is the lack of integrated commenting. I’ve been working on a Chrome extension for injecting a custom Facebook Comments thread into Fever and Google Reader to let my friends and I communicate on a story-by-story basis, but it’s far from an ideal solution. In the meantime, I guess Google has won, as we’re primarily using Google+ to discus things. Which is fine. I just wish I didn’t have to leave my reader to do it.