Dane. Designer.

Old Blog

The Google Reader Downgrade

So Google Reader was redesigned and its social features moved to Google+. I’ve been an avid user of Reader since their last redesign years back (also tried the first version, which was in a word: ’poop). I’ve made wide use of the sharing and commenting features every single day, so naturally this hits close to home. Now I’m not adverse to change; except when it’s executed with someone’s head up their own poophole. Let’s count the ways, shall we?

  • All the people I was following I’m no longer following.
  • All the people that were following me are no longer following me.
  • All of my shares, are gone. Poof. Sure, you can export them as JSON… Yay… That’s… so helpful.
  • No keyboard shortcuts for sharing. It used to be shift-S to share, shift-D to share with note. Now you have to click the (diminutive) +1 icon. Why? Because Google is dogfooding itself, and the +1 service doesn’t have an API that would let them write keyboard shortcuts, because… well… it doesn’t have API’s period. See also the platform manifesto.
  • +1’ing an item doesn’t share it to your stream, you have to comment on it to do that.
  • Sharing an item from a feed, in which the item’s link is not to the item itself, will share the item linked, not the feed item. Example: if you +1 one of John Gruber’s linked items, you won’t be sharing his commentary, which in turn means that your own comments won’t make a lick of sense. Nobody thought to test this? Are you kidding me?
  • Instead of a stream of normal feeds and curated feeds (Reader), I now have a stream of feeds (Reader) and a stream of absolutely everything, think games, shares, tweets, check-ins, posts, cats, dogs… (Google+). Which means that the more people use Google+, the more noise will enter my stream. Gone is the clarity and purity of ‘one tool for one job’.
  • Add to that, the Google+ stream is like the Twitter stream; you’re not really meant to digest everything in it. Which is opposite of how I consume my feed list and other people’s feed shares. I absolutely want to consume everything. It’s important to me! I used to have an unread count of unread shares and comments on those shares, in Reader for this exact purpose. No more.

Now I get progressive. I do. I’ll gladly tell people to sit down and shut up if they’re just being reactionary to change. But this isn’t just a matter of things being different, yet the same; it’s a matter of ill considered change for the worse, without thinking about what a tool is used for and what details makes it really good at that job.

An ex product manager of Google Reader doesn’t think the changeover was as smooth as perhaps it should have been.