Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was this nifty widget on the left sidebar of this blog. This widget let me share interesting stuff from my Google Reader RSS feed with readers of this blog, five items at a time. (That’s what it looked like, over there on the left.)
This widget held value for me because it gave me an easy way to present shareworthy news items with readers, without going to the trouble of blogging about those specific topics. If I found something I thought might be interesting to readers, I could simply click “share” on my Google Reader interface and, like magic, it would appear in the widget. This was a great way to share additional content here on this blog that I found interesting but not necessarily blogworthy.
Just as I shared that content here on the blog, it also was shared in the Google Reader environment itself with dozens of other higher ed folks and other connections in marketing, PR, music and related interests. I could share stuff from my RSS feed with my Google Reader connections, as well as read what they were sharing. It was an enriching experience.
Then on Halloween, Google pulled the plug on the Google Reader sharing function as we had become accustomed to, and re-routed it to the world of Google Plus.
So now, if I want to share items from my RSS feed, I can only do so via Google Plus. Not on this blog or in the native Google Reader environment.
I think this sucks. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Many Google Reader devotees have voiced their unhappiness with this switch. They’re saying stuff like:
Keep the social functions! Yes yes yes. Don’t ruin all the functionality of Reader by removing the social stuff, that’s how I get all my news – it’s lovely to have my friends pick and choose what I read, but not have it lumped in with all the Facebook/Google+ style crapola.
The beauty of Google Reader for me is the fact that my friends and I can have discussions about the interesting things we’re reading, in the same place that I’m reading all my RSS feeds. Go ahead and update the user interface if you have to, but don’t take away functionality!
Please keep Google Reader social. I love that my friends and I can have discussions about CONTENT on google reader, unlike other social networks concerned with update status and other nonsense.
And so on. But perhaps the strongest critique comes from former Google Reader Product Manager Brian Shih, who nailed it with his Halloween post (hat tip to TechCrunch). Acknowledging the value of visual consistency as a design aesthetic, Shih rightly points out that “whoever made the update did so without ever actually using the product to, you know, read something.”
The fact of the matter, as Shih points out, is that the purpose of Google Reader is not at all the same as that of Google Plus.
Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.
A pretty scathing critique, but also pretty accurate. This change has left a bad taste in the mouth of this longtime Google Reader user. I haven’t exactly cottoned up to G+. (Like Alaina Weins, I’ve more or less given up on G+ altogether.) So shoehorning the sociability of Google Reader, a product that I love(d), into the G+ atmosphere isn’t going to convert me into a G+ fan any time soon.
Plus, I miss my Google Reader sharing widget. And isn’t sharing what social media is all about?