Lessons Learned from the Google Reader Switchover
May 3, 2013 | 10:00 am
By Joanna Cabot
After several weeks of teasing me for burying my head in the sand and stubbornly refusing to transfer my Google Reader RSS feeds elsewhere, the Beloved quietly confessed last night that he has given up on Feedly and moved himself back to Reader, too, for the time being. Once I was done milking the required apology for his weeks of mocking, I asked him why, and found that he had reached the same conclusion—that in the battle between interactivity and linearity, linearity is sometimes the better way.
Here’s what he didn’t like about Feedly: It was too dynamic for him. Every time he logged in, there were images and suggestions and new stuff Feedly was trying to highlight for him. And all he wanted to know was what had gone up on his favorite blogs since the last time he’d checked them. He worried that Feedly, in its effort to find him new and interesting stuff, was forgetting to show him the older stuff he hadn’t gotten to yet and still wanted to see. He didn’t want to know what they suggested for him. He just wanted to see a list of posts he hadn’t read yet, and he wanted to read them.
It’s the same reason I’ve never gotten the hang of Twitter. In the interests of having a ‘dialogue’ with everyone, I miss the news. I log into Twitter and there are just too many bits and pieces and snippets to follow. I don’t ‘follow’ that many people, but between their tweets and then the retweets and the comments on the tweets, one useful post will be accompanied by half a dozen other ones I don’t care for. It’s too much; unless I check it dozens of times per day, there is no way to keep up. Google Reader offers a more controlled environment for me—I log in, and I can see at a glance exactly how many posts I have to catch up on. And I don’t have to read the comments and replies to any of them unless I want to.
It’s ironic to me that he and I are both reaching this same conclusion, because I think the reason Google decided to shut down Reader was its lack of interactivity. There is no ‘dialogue’ on Google Reader. There is no flashy homescreen with an ever-changing menu of suggestions and recommendations and ‘like’ buttons and flashy pictures. But what I think they forgot was that sometimes, people don’t need that stuff. Sometimes, they just want a quick and dirty way to organize their chosen content and get on with their day. Twitter will not, for me, replace Google Reader. At the moment, I despair that anything ever will, and I have no idea what I am going to do when they finally shut down for good this summer.