Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: On following and the demise of Google Reader

I was just a bit panicked over the last few days when the news broke that Google Reader will be shut down as at 1 July this year.  And coming just a few days after I was forced into changing from the Tweetdeck app to the web version, and not really liking it, it hasn't been a great week for me technologically.

Many years ago now, I discovered how much easier blog hopping is once you start using a RSS Feed to follow your blogs. This is especially true as you accumulate more and more blogs. For each blog I remove from the list (usually because they haven't posted for more than 6 months or so) I am sure I add at least three or four more! I am sure I am not the only one who does this!

On Twitter the other day the question was asked why people use a feed reader anyway, so I thought I would talk about my experiences with feed readers, the positives and negatives, why I don't choose to follow via other methods and maybe talk about the options going forward.

My number one reason for using a feed reader is that it is a time saver. When I first started, I maintained a blog roll and each day I would faithfully click on each link and see if there was a new post or not. It was all very well if there was but if there wasn't, there was a pointless visit. With a feedreader, you can see exactly who has posted since the last time you visited and how many times (yes, those people who post 5 times a day or more I am looking at you!)

Another reason I like using a feed reader is the ability to categorise blogs into groups. It means that if I am time poor for whatever reason, I can make sure that I have read at least one group. I have mine sorted into groups like Aussie bloggers, Historical Fiction bloggers, Must Read Romance, Must Read Book bloggers, Book Blogs, Others, Challenge Blogs and New Feeds. The last one is a label that I use when I meet a new blogger who I think I might like to follow, but I want to take a look at a few more posts before I decide for sure. Once I have decided I will move them into a different category.

One thing that I do find easier in a feed reader is finding a post that I know I have seen but can't remember where. By using the search feature, I can usually narrow down the list of blogs which talked about a specific book or perhaps a specific recipe. You can also "star" posts so that you can come back to them later.

There are downsides. That feeling of being "behind" is so much easier to succumb to when you open your feed reader and it tells you that not only are there posts to read but in fact there are more than 1000 of them! Some days that causes me to go "Mark all as read" and start again, but often I sit here and go through each category and read the posts, stopping to comment on the ones that interest me. And then I give myself a mental pat on the back for getting through them all and promise never to get in that situation again. Obviously I need to work on that second part because it keeps on happening.

The other thing is that sometimes it is easy to just read through your feeds and not actually click through to the blogs to make comments. There are some times that I am really good at that, but other times when I am not so good. One of the things I might do is to say I am going to make sure that I am going to comment on 10 posts in each group, or in an hour or something like that so that I can ensure that I am not  just reading but also connecting with other bloggers.

So what about the other ways of connecting to bloggers, using methods like Google Friend Connect or subscribing to blogs via email?

I choose to be able to follow all of the blogs that I follow in one place, regardless of whether they are Blogger blogs or Wordpress or Typepad or whatever different variation they are. I don't want to have to look in one place for some and another for others etc. There are also some times when I think that the GFC thing is more about numbers than the connection that builds between bloggers.  Let's not talk about the fact that my follower count in Blogger broke once I went to my own domain name. Apparently I haven't had a new follower in the last 3 years. In theory that could be true, but I would like to think that it isn't!

How about receiving posts via email? Like many other people, I get more than enough email without also getting a new email every time there is a new post from multiple blogs. Whenever there is the option I choose to follow any new comments that come on a post I have commented on previously so that I can possibly continue the interaction which is more than enough mail coming into the inbox.

I do get a bit cross when I see contests and the like that are specifically only for GFC followers or email subscribers. I do get that people can do what they like with their own blogs, but the fact that I choose to follow via RSS does not make me any less of a follower than someone who chooses to receive the emails or use GFC. Anyway... moving on.

So, I guess for people like me who choose to use Google Reader currently, the big question is where to from here? I could go back to Bloglines which was actually the first RSS feed reader that I used. The only reason I moved from there was that it was supposed to be closing down. I moved all of my feeds and then came the news that Bloglines was being taken over by a new company but given that I had already moved I never went back.

Whilst I have signed one of the #saveGoogleReader petitions that sprung up, the fact of the matter is that it is totally in Google's hands and even if it is saved this time, there is no guarantee that it won't be under threat again at some point in the future.

I get the impression that part of the reason for this closure is to try and get more people using Google+. I have to say that I have had a Google+ account for ages now, and I don't think I have actually worked out the best way to use it. I do participate in a closed group there which mostly works effectively but in terms of being a blogger I haven't yet worked out why I should expend my time and energy there or how I should go about it.

Maybe this is a good time to be having a look at what other services are out there in terms of RSS readers.

The kind of things I will be looking for in a new feed reader will be the ability to import my existing feeds from Google Reader, web based (I don't need yet another reading distraction on my phone - Twitter and Instagram take up enough of my time as it is), ability to organise into categories, easy to subscribe to new blogs and to manage existing blog, functional search facilities, preferably free or at the very least minimal cost.

Possible alternatives that I have seen mentioned include The Old Reader, Newsblur, Feedly, Feedreader, Google Currents (which I have never even heard of until today - who knows if that will close in due course as well), Taptu and Zite.

Tania from Girlxoxo.com has done a comparison post of four services: Netvibes, Bloglines, Bloglovin and Feedly which you may find interesting and I am sure that there will be other posts along those lines in due course.

At this stage I am leaning towards Feedly, but it is early days yet. Do you know what you are going to switch to with the demise of Google Reader?

Currently Reading

Not actually reading anything at the moment. I am still listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

Up Next

I am in the strange position of not having any library books due until early April and no review books due for 10 days or so so I can pick whatever I like! No idea what that will be yet though!


52 comments:

  1. Hi Marg
    I just use RSS with MS Outlook which keeps my feeds in a separate folder and then I have folders inside that for each different blog. It works for all blogs (Blogger, WordPress, TypePad etc).
    Google Circles is a complete mystery to me, and like you, I can't be bothered spending my time to learn it when I've already got Facebook and Twitter. I don't really want Google knowing any more about me anyway...

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    1. I don't use Outlook unfortunately! My work email system does do RSS feeds but I suspect they wouldn't be happy if I changed all my feeds over to there.

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  2. I am trailing feedly. Is not bad but doesn't have an online presence is only application, which is no biggie for me. There is a glitch that stops me from commenting on blogger blogs - the geckos are aware of the problem but are concentrating on a smooth separation when google reader closes.

    Haven't seen any petitions will go google for it - lol google to find an anti google decision petition, ironic!

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  3. I meant techs not geckos and it will let me comment if I use my gmail details but not as my Wordpress account.

    Hmmmm. Well at least the Sally 906 bit is the same!

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    1. I kind of liked the ideas that the geckos were aware of it!

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  4. Your summary says everything I've been thinking about why I can't live without an RSS aggregator of some sort. I'm trying feedly at the moment. (I think it's a bit too pretty, but I guess that isn't really a valid criticism of its functionality!)

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    1. Only ugly feed readers allowed Vicki?

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  5. I've switched to Feedly. I tried out a few of the alternatives and really liked the way Feedly was set up because it works well with my own reading habits. It makes me faster than when I was in Google Reader. My reasons for using a reader is that 1)Categorization, 2)All in one place, 3)Mark-as-read function (My strategy is follow a LOT of blogs, and only read the posts that interest me. I scan through the little post blurbs on Feedly and save the ones I want to peruse and comment on.) Those are pretty close to your reasons. :)

    My Sunday Salon

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    1. They are very close to my reasons! I will be interested to see whether you stick with Feedly or not.

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  6. It was very annoying to hear about the demise of Google Reader! I have accounts set up with Feedly and Bloglovin and am leaning towards Feedly, but I need to go through the tutorials to get the most out of it. I haven't figured out how to have feeds translated into English, for example.

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    1. I haven't set up any accounts yet. Might do it over the Easter break.

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  7. I subscribe by email to most of the blogs I follow. It's not the best situation and it does clog up my email box ;) Thanks for sharing Tania's link, I'm going to check that out for sure!

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    1. I would definitely recommend a feed reader vs email, but I have no idea which one.

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  8. You have highlighted all the reasons why I love using RSS subscriptions. Not to mention the fact that who can keep up with all their fave blogs via social media? Not I.

    I use Google + pretty much for the Book Blogging Community I started there because I feel their communities are a little easier to manage than FB's groups. I think GR is better than Google + for reading blog posts, especially since in Google + you have to click on each link to read it. While excellent for bloggers' page view tallies, it is a huge waste of time if you don't want to actually comment on every single post. But maybe that is a good thing to get us all commenting more since that's been an issue lately on blogs, I don't know.

    This is my Sunday Salon post in which I pretty much rant about how all of this signals change: http://imlostinbooks.blogspot.com/2013/03/tss-interwebs-they-are-changin.html

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    1. I certainly didn't even consider social media as my sole option for keeping up!

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  9. Today is my first day trying Feedly! It is a bit annoying to me to have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a post to actually have the opportunity to visit the site and comment, and if you click on it directly, it just overtakes any other active tab you have open (rather than creating a new tab). It's annoying, but I think I'll get used to it.

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    1. Yes, I guess which ever system you go with I am sure there will be new quirks to get used to!

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  10. I'm still trying to decide what to switch to. I didn't realize Bloglines was still active - I was another person who switched when they were supposed to be shutting down. I'll have to check it out and see if I want to go back. I have looked at feedly, but find the layout kind of intimidating. I want something that is EXTREMELY easy to use, and as similar to Google Reader as possible.

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    1. Me too! I don't want to spend hours looking for an easy to use alternative! I just want to set it up and go!

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  11. I'm completely in agreement with you on all the ways I need an RSS reader. Keeping up in any other way honestly just seems like either I need to do a lot more work, or I need to keep more active on social media, and I don't see either of those things happening.

    I'm trying out Netvibes at the moment. It seems to work just fine so far (in fact, I came here through there!).

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    1. I think Netvibes is the same as Bloglines or they are closely connected at least.

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  12. I have no specific plans yet for where to go when GR finally shuts its doors. But we'll see ... I figure there's plenty of time to see how things play out and whether any of the other RSS reader companies will improve their services before then in order to pick up the market share.

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    1. There is plenty of time. At least they gave us advance warning.

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  13. So far I like Feedly but will try out a few more before July. I would suggest not to completely trust Feedly's "seamless transition" on 1st July and keep a back-up of your Google Reader export just in case, if you do decide to stick with them.

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    1. Good advice! Which reminds me, I haven't backed up my blog for a while either!

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  14. Very good post on the whole Google Reader thing. I wanted to write one, but now you've set the bar very high with your great explanation of why you like RSS feeds and why I do too.

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    1. Thanks Bryan! I am sure there are other great reasons to use one, but those were mine!

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  15. I have the same reasons for using an RSS reader over emails or other forms of following - it's the only way I can even attempt to keep on top of all the sources I am interested in

    I'm trialling NetVibes - migrated all my feeds in from GR on the weekend (very easy) and am liking it so far - it's not quite the same as GR (a bit fancier) but I'll use it for 3-4 weeks and make sure I like it enough. I might try Feedly too just as a point of comparison. At least we have several months to get ourselves sorted before GR disappears.

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    1. I will be interested to hear your thoughts if you do get a chance to do a comparison.

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  16. I am so sad to be losing GR; I have started using Bloglovin, Feedly, and Netvibes with Netvibes being my favorite by far. It feels very similar to GR and I can't wait to explore it more.

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    1. I am impressed with people who are starting with multiple platforms to do the comparison. That would completely overwhelm me I think.

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  17. I found it difficult keeping Google Reader under control, more often than not I'd have 1000+ posts, feel overwhelmed, click "mark all as read" and start again lol. Not sure what I'm going to try, leaning towards NetVibes but in the mean time I'll keep checking on my blogroll. Thanks for the link from Tania ... off to check it out :)

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    1. I tend to just worry about certain groups when I am trying to "keep up".

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  18. Great post. I totally agree that this is Google's way of trying to get more people to use Plus, but as I saw someone post on Twitter, a social network is not the same as an RSS feed reader!

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    1. It most certainly is not the same!

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  19. I've decided to stick with a feed reader and have exported my google reader feed to Bloglines. It pretty much works the same but I really like the read later option (but think I might not ever get around to reading later).

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    1. Ah yes! I always starred the stuff I wanted to come back to later in Google Reader but often that was as far as I got!

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  20. Great post Marg. I'm finding my email inbox is swarming each afternoon at about 5pm when all my email subscriptions update. To be honest I haven't really thought about using RSS because I don't really know how to use it.

    While we are on the topic... i used to subscribe to your blog via email but then i received an email that the host you were using was shutting down and I haven't seen any other option on your blog to be able to subscribe via email? Perhaps I will have to look into RSS after all!For now I link to your blog via my blogroll

    I do find as a Wordpress user that subscribing to Wordpress blogs is quite simple and can be managed on my own home page for frequency etc, this is handy but obviously doesn't capture any of the blogger blogs I follow.

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    1. I haven't done anything about finding a new email host. Should probably get onto that!

      That is the issue with using either Wordpress or Blogger as your only way to follow but that doesn't work for the other platforms!

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  21. I couldn't agree more with everything you said about readers. I know it's bad to read through GR and not click through to comment, but when time is at a premium, at least I feel I know what's going on with my blogging friends. I may be old-fashioned, but I'm sticking with a reader.

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    1. I'll be sticking with a reader too. It's just a question of which one.

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  22. Well said! I can't imagine keeping up with all the blogs I follow without RSS! I'm trying out NetVibes and really like it. It's clean and easy to use. And it has the option of switching between a reader and widget view, which I'm actually using a lot. I installed Feedly on my ipad, but I can't install anything on my work computer so I need a cloud-based reader.

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    1. OH, the ability to switch between a reader and a widget might be an attractive option!

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  23. The thing I don't like about Feedly is that it isn't cloud based, which totally doesn't work for work.

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    1. Hmm.. so many things to take into consideratin.

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  24. I've been playing with both Feedly and Bloglovin, and both seem to be working fine, so it depends on what your needs may be. I enthusiastically signed up for Google+ a year ago and was active at first on it and then haven't posted on there since May of 2012. I can't for the life of me figure out the appeal of it, so I've not pursued anything with it since then.

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    1. I am surprised that Google has stuck with Google+ as long as they have. Google Wave or whatever the one before was called didn't last a terribly long time.

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  25. I could have written this post! You capture very well why I use Google Reader. I've used Feedly in the past and am not a fan, so am hoping one of the other feed readers will work better for me.

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    1. Lucky we still have time to try a few different options.

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  26. I'm using Feedler on the iPad, which is good to read, but poor for commenting. I'm not into GFC. I have it, but rarely use it. At the moment, I'm just using RSS feed through my browser, but will probably just export the remainder of the blogs I read onto the iPad.

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    1. I don't even know what options there are specifically for Ipad. Of course, I would have to confiscate the boy's Ipad to be able to try it out so I don't like my chances with that.

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  27. I'm a bit bereft about all of this too. I'm quite used to google reader now, and sad to see it go. I don't want to go back to not using a reader they do help so much for exactly the reasons you outline. I will have to look at something soon. I'll be overseas when it all changes so will have to have something in place by then, I'm still in the denial stage though.

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