A while ago I decided to abandon loyalty to my trusted Bloglines account and flirt with the increasing popular Google Reader for my feed reading needs. It went like this.
It’s a long-ish, rambling post so I’ll summarise with a spoiler here: I’m converted to Reader. It feels like the Gmail of feed readers. Feeds are fun again.
To start with, I noticed the little things in Reader. It shows unread items in the title. Don’t know why I like this but I do. I was less sure about items staying unread until I clicked on them or zipped down to the bottom with that scroll wheel. It’s an easy habit to get into though.
The major difference is the way these services handle those posts you want to hang on to. For Bloglines, my ‘strategy’ (for want of a better word) has been to tick them ‘unread’ to stop them disappearing until I can get round to doing something with them. The effect of this is to build up a stack of unmanaged items that sap my energy whilst they slowly go stale. It looks like work. Reader uses that magical golden star that says ‘Remember this, I might want to go back to it later.’ It disappears from my list of unread items and leaves me with a clear conscience as my unread items evaporate. There’s something very pleasing about having an empty list. Having this ‘clean plate’ makes me want to tackle all new items as they come in. This has the knock-on effect that I start to look critically at subscriptions that are not really of interest.
It also triggered a change in my folder structure and made me think about why I use folders in the first place. I had too many folders in Bloglines resulting from an arbitrary categorisation. Examples: funny, service feeds, friends, Flickr feeds, etc. Too often, I was creating can-o-worms folders for feeds I thought I ought to read but was put off by the length or frequency of posts. As the posts accumulated, I became less and less inclined to commit myself to reading the lot until it maxed out at 200. I had a lot of feeds with posts that I’d marked ‘keep new’. This meant those feeds niggled in the sidelines, often indefinitely.
In addition to Bloglines’ folders, Reader has tags but it’s a little subtle what these are for. They actually come into their own with sharing. You can use them to bundle up groups of your feeds for public consumption. Sharing (or recycling) posts that you think are worthy of a shout has some minor differences in Bloglines and Reader. Reader obscures the location of this meta-blog (my preferred approach) but Bloglines lets you add your own comments like a proper blog. The Reader ‘share this’ button sends the item to a blog somewhat like the Bloglines clipper but with more ease and therefore more use. I think it’s going to take some of my tumblr action. Reader clippings have already supplanted the Bloglines blogroll on my root page.
I like to keep a diversity in the things I rely on and get suspicious if they all come from the same place. I use Google for my search (doesn’t everyone?), for my mail, my calendar, my maps, my desktop and my homepage. My god; I think it’s only photos and social networks and bookmarks that are holding out!