Kevin Fox’s offer to Google Reader

Google revamped Google Reader, together with many other web apps. Its new interface soon become a controversial topic.

Google Reader is an essential app for people who subscribed to a great deal of news feed. But it’s much more than that. I followed many friends and colleagues. I read their shares on a daily basis. I’ve shared hundreds of items, sometimes with my notes and comments.

Suddenly, they are all gone, completely. There is no native Google Reader share any more. Even the bookmarklet is also killed. Only a “+1” button is left.

I can understand why Google did this. There are some fundamental problems with RSS. Most ordinary users don’t know what is RSS. I have tried to explain to others about what is Google Reader. I found it very difficult (if not impossible). People use Twitter and Facebook to share links nowadays and it’s likely to become even more so in the coming years.

Moreover, with the declaration of death of Buzz, Google is going to consolidate its social features into Google Plus. So the social features of Google Reader (follow and share) have to work together with Google’s new baby.

But from the viewpoint of an old Reader user, Google is not doing it the right way. Because sharing in Google Reader is an act of curating. It generates a content stream that is filtered and annotated by someone. On the other hand, sharing in Google Plus/Twitter/Facebook is mixed up with personal sentiments, jokes and cat photos. The content stream could be part of our social streams, but they are not the same.

For example, when you see a product review on Engadget and you want to know whether it’s a good idea to purchase it now, you share it on your social stream and your friends will give you their opinions. But you don’t want to do that with your digital curation. In most cases, you share an article on Reader because you think the article is valuable, relevant and others should read it too.

Therefore, Google should make this distinction by at least keeping the curated content stream of its users. However, the redesign of Google Reader has effectively stripped this entire level of meaning and combined it with a regular social network. Now we just lost another handy tool to distill some truly inspirational ideas and insightful thoughts from the excessive amount of social streams flooding our screens.

That’s what I miss most about the old Reader.

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