Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Failures of New Google Reader & Google Plus Integration

So, as many of you know, I was a religious sharer on Google Reader. It was my internet hub but they recently rolled out a redesign which eliminated the key feature of sharing. Basically, the whole internet hates it. Google has since responded to the backlash but I feel like they are missing the point of the reader community and content sharing.

Take a look at this video (which I incidentally shared on reader before they destroyed its usefulness). The key take away quote for me comes pretty early in Poole's speech:
It's not the audience. It's your context within that audience. It's not who you share with but who you share as and your context within that group. 
I've spent the last several years sharing a ton of content and creating an identity within the Reader community. I know most of the people I share with personally, but I think they would agree with me that Reader-Erin is just one part of the larger online identity which I maintain. My twitter feed and my facebook profile are both very different in and of themselves and different still from my reader identity. I'll be the first to admit that my Reader shares were probably the closest to exemplifying my offline personality, but I am not just memes, recipes, geekery and Juggalo documentaries. (Though Heather has many a time claimed that I am the internet).

I came to take a lot of pride in who I was within and to my reader community. I often shared new memes or viral videos not because I thought they were so hilarious or topical, but because I felt it my duty to my community. Almost as if I was the person in charge of letting everyone know that this video is going viral (though I totally ignored Nyan cat because I hate it and that shit is HUGE now). I like and enjoy cultivating and parsing all of these internet hate machine blogs/sites/etc for the best of the day not just because I get personal satisfaction, but because it was part of my context within my community. The changes to google reader have eliminated that entirely and moved it awkwardly into Google Plus (G+). Reader-Erin had a particular personality and context within the group that was active there. Now, my G+ profile is being forced into being Reader-Erin in a strange and unsettling way. The ability to create circles of contacts which can view particular pieces of content that I post to G+ seems like a half-ass way of creating community. Poole goes on in his Web 2.0 Summit 2011 speech to say, "We all have multiple identities. It's not something that is abnormal; it's just a part of being human." Segregating who I post content TO is not the point. It is who I am posting content AS. Facebook & Google Plus profiles are asking me to separate my contacts into circles and smart lists in order to satisfy my multiple identities but this really misses the point. I think reader is a particularly good example of how miserably this fails. As I mentioned earlier, I know most of my reader followers personally and speak to many of them daily through other means than reader. However, we have developed a robust community of discussion via comments and shares on reader that often never got spoken about in real or other digital life. Reader-Erin talked to Reader-Courtney/Heather/Matt/TJ/etc etc. The personalities they cultivated on Reader is who I was talking to as the personality I was on Reader. Forcing me to take something like my G+ profile, which is a reflection of my real life educational, professional and geographic history, and make it also be my content sharing identity is an ugly hack that ignores my content sharing community needs. My reader friends fit into many circles and smart lists. Having a space which was dedicated to who we were as content sharers and what we thought as those people is far more valuable than having to define who each of my online contacts is to me and if they are worthy of seeing the articles, pictures and videos I find interesting or relevant to my content sharer personality. My content voice was first in old Google Reader and the community that lived there. Not my IRL personality or extraction thereof that lives on G+. Content was indeed king on old Google Reader. New Google Reader remains a great way to aggregate and consume content but it doesn't have the true community element which made it amazing.

And now for some changes to reader and integration with G+ which make me incredibly angry and leave me searching for a viable alternative:

Content not being content first...
What content looks like in (new) Reader:
What the same content looks like when shared via G+:

What content looks like in (new) Reader:

What the same content looks like when shared via G+:
particularly awful! 

I don't know what the hell they were thinking with this... the beauty of (old) Google Reader as a content aggregator is that you could consume & share multiple RSS feeds from all over the internet in one window/tab/site (and new Google Reader is still a great content aggregator). Now when I share content to G+ I am adding to these mindless feeds of content that my new "reader" circle sees... they can't consume or engage with the content in that feed in a meaningful way. They have to click through which I am sure most everyone will elect not to do except for a couple things here and there. Before, I believe, the likelihood that a reader-friend would read the whole article (provided the RSS feed provided it) or watch the video or SEE THE GIF MOVE was much higher if they didn't have to click through or open new anything. 

No more note in reader bookmarklet. :(

Perhaps there is an alternative that I am not aware of (tell me, if so) but it seems to me that they have eliminated my ability to "share" content on the fly. I really liked this for sharing ridiculous photos I found or longer essays that I found via clicking through about a million links. I understand I can +1 this, but this doesn't get the content into my feed (as I understand it). Also not all sites have integrated the +1 functionality. SO DISAPPOINTING!

What's hot with people I don't give a shit about:
CAN I DISABLE THIS?? I DON'T CARE. I've got 92 different RSS feeds that I monitor and read to tell me what is hot on the internets... and they are all on topics I give a crap about. I'll do my own curating thanks.

Commenting and the Lack of Community Discussion

Email Notification of a Comment on Something I shared
Notification Center on Google Top Bar

I don't want a zillion emails saying that people commented on my items (though I am hesitant to turn this off because monitoring comments isn't easy in G+). I really liked the "comment view" of old Google Reader. It allowed me to see discussions and conversations developing on the items that my reader community was engaging with regardless of if I commented myself... Now it seems like I have to hope that I check older items to see if others commented (because notifications seem to be only on those items that you share, not others in your community).

This isn't community. This is just a mess.

Too Many Clicks to Share & Confusing Logic

Click to +1

Click to Share on G+

Final Click to Share (regardless of if you add note/comment)

Old Google Reader you could just 1-click to share. Or 2 clicks to share with a note. Now it seems like I have to jump through about 1 zillion hoops to share and it requires me to +1 everything even though all I want to do is post to my stream for my new reader circle to see... I am not trying to boost search results for these blog posts or have my name come up when you google shit. I just want to show it to people in a more convenient way than spamming everyone's email... SHEESH. (p.s. how great are my screencaps of that gif [look at it backwards]? Cheers to Courtney for finding it)

Hopefully, this will get better and maybe I will find a new space where I can share and engage with a community. Who knows. But for now, I am just so disappointed.

1 comment:

Tyler Breisacher said...

The "circles" idea (which btw was allegedly borrowed from Diaspora, an open-source social network...) has a lot of potential, but I agree, I had gotten to the point where it felt like Reader was perfect for what it was. The only thing I would add is there *is* another way to share, way up in the upper right, inside that new black bar. But yeah. Still not the same.