I’m not going to explain how RSS readers work, as I think you can solve that part for yourself. The part that makes gReader great is that as you read your feeds, if you come across a post that you find interesting, worthy of discussion, full of kittens, whatever, you can hit “Share.” OR you can even click “Share with note,” if you want to add a little blurb at the top with your feelings or thoughts about the post you’re sharing.
But who is seeing this stuff, right? For me, it’s a small group (I think the largest it’s been is around 40 people) who can view all of my shared items, can view my comments, and can comment on my shared items. All three of those things, btw? Configurable. I have the ability to make groups from my Google contacts and control their rights when accessing my content. Those people also have control over who sees what of their stuff. You can follow people, which means you can see their shares — and if that person is super private, it means they’ll have to give you rights to see their stuff in order for that to work.
What this means is that I have several RSS feeds that, rather than a site’s posts, are items shared by other people. They have their own section, “People you follow.” When I’m in a hurry, I often mark-as-read my “normal” RSS feeds and just read and comment on the shared items of my friends.
The coolest part of gReader, for me, is the Comment View. This also lives in “People you follow,” and it displays any item, either shared by me or someone I follow, that has new comments on it since the last time I clicked on it. Not just stuff I’ve personally commented on, but anything that my friends are discussing. If two of my friends comment back and forth on a shared item, I will keep seeing their discussion, even if I haven’t contributed yet. As new comments appear on items, they get bumped to the top of Comment View, so I don’t miss anything and can jump in if a discussion works its way around to being something I want to participate in.
When I started using gReader, my community was about half the size it currently is. However, there would be people commenting on my friends’ shares, people I didn’t know, who were funny, or who mentioned stuff I liked, or whatever. And so over the first year or so, there was a lot of, “Oh hey, friend from art school who loves modern novels and hipster fashion, you should TOTALLY be friends with this friend-of-a-friend who works in the fashion industry and is awesomely intellectual,” type of stuff happening. It was, and continues to be, the only social network where I interact with people with some semblance of normal real world humanity. (And by that, I mean it’s like we’re all at a mutual friend’s house party.)
We discovered that if you click on “Shared Items”, you could write an original post and share it with the group. (Topics covered in that manner: job interviews, buying houses, getting engaged, moving across the country, pregnancy, child care, cancer scares, deaths in the family, holiday-related family drama, and the occasional “this day is the absolute worst, someone please remind me I’m a valuable human being”.)
We visit each other and go out to dinner together when we’re passing through town. We travel to stay at each other’s homes for a mini-break. About twenty of us rented a house and took a vacation together last summer. This community is the primary way I stay in regular contact with many of my closest friends, it’s the network I tell first about things that happen in my life, and it’s often the only place I vent when I’m upset enough about something that I don’t want to risk mis-speaking in highly public spaces like Twitter. I am a more sensitive person, a more aware person, a more progressive, more feminist, more sympathetic and more open-minded person because of the years spent reading things I’d never have read, seeing things I’d never have seen, and getting to discuss these “new” ideas with people I respect.
This is the community I’m losing.
Oh, and she's not done. Please go read her entire post. Go ahead. I'll wait.
I think Courtney does an excellent job of explaining why forcing users to integrate with Google+ will be bad:
Things I love a lot less:
* This is an entirely different site, so in order to read items shared by my community, I have to leave gReader, go to Plus, and then I guess make a circle for the people whose shares I want to see? And then either read all of their shares en masse, or click through to each of their profiles and scroll through to see what they’ve shared since the last time I checked?
* I have no way of easily keeping up with discussions going on in my community (compared to the way Comment View currently works).
* Posting links to Plus does not display the content of the item you’re sharing. Notice that in order to read the full post, you’d have to click the link and open a new page or tab.
In short, this is not a workflow designed around sharing information and communicating about it. This is a workflow designed to make people click on things.
Taken in hand with the earlier announcement from Google that they’re shutting down Buzz (another quirky social network that didn’t achieve Facebook-level popularity), part of me suspects that someone in Google corporate looked at the Buzz and gReader communities, looked at Plus’s less-than-vertical adoption & use rates, and concluded that by killing Buzz and gReader’s social elements, these communities would migrate over to Plus.
That is, however, a ridiculous idea. Buzz operates in your Gmail inbox and gReader is an RSS feed reader. The majority of employers don’t block email or RSS feed readers. You know what a lot of employers do block? Self-described social networks like Google Plus. In addition, guess what gReader lets you call yourself? You guessed it: anything you damn well please. I have friends who refuse to join Plus because they’re worried that if they get griefed as a ‘nym, they’ll have all their other Google services (like Gmail) frozen. How am I supposed to interact with these people the way I do now?
Also, where is it written that because a large number of people form one internet community, that must be how all online communities are organized? I don’t care if Google wants Plus to get bigger, I care about me and my friends who seek to read and discuss the entire internet every day. Is there really no space for different kinds of people to form different kinds of social spaces in Google products? Are they really that fucking stupid about how communities work?
Or, as I suspect, is it just that Buzz and gReader aren’t nearly as effective as Plus at collecting data about my internet use?
Google's motto is supposed to be "Don't Be Evil".
HA! Good one. Google's "Don't Be Evil" mantra is so far from the truth these days that it's so ridiculously laughable that I don't even find it funny anymore.
Let us count the ways in which they're evil:
1. The above changes? User's have one week notice before they happen. You read that right. One week.
2. Eric Schmidt sat on Apple's Board of Directors from 2006 - 2009. Apple released the iPhone in June 2007. Here's a before and after the iPhone was released of Android phones. Quote from the late Steve Jobs regarding the meeting between Jobs & Schmidt:
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this. I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”
3. Google Wave comes out. It's apparently an email killer. It flops. Google abruptly yanks support, and within 6 short months, it's gone - despite the many developers who spent a lot of time developing for it - and the small subset of users that did use it.
4. Google Buzz comes out. Google says, hey - how do we get people to use this shameless yet poorly executed Twitter clone? Let's cram it down users' throats and integrate it into Gmail! Oops. This happened.
5. Google claims that Android is open, every chance they get, yet they refuse to publish the source code of Android 3.0. Thats why I now refer to Android as being "Open"source.
6. Pretty much every Google product in existence exists to get more users to look at their advertisements. Remember kids, Google is an advertising company. Their products are not Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, etc - their product is you. They sell you to advertisers. Ever have a problem with a Google product? Good luck getting support. There is no customer service department for you to talk to. Wait - whats that? Google employs over 1,000 customer service phone reps to talk to customers? Oh right, they're for their Google AdSense customers - the advertisers that pay Google money. You know, their real customers. Not you, their product.
7. Google has a history of killing things. If it doesn't reach critical mass, then they can't charge enough money for the ads on it to advertisers, so it has to go. Are you a developer who's spent a lot of money on a product that relies on a Google API? Good luck. A year or so from now, it might not be there. Better hope Google can sell ads on it.
8. Google+ profiles are being artificially inflated in Google search rankings, something Google claims they never do with their search listings but lots of evidence makes it plain that they do, in fact, do. Go ahead. Do a search on your name. My + profile is the first thing on the page.
I could go on listing more reasons why I've lost all respect for Google, but I won't. I've come to the conclusion that I do not want to be a Google product anymore. I'm sick of these jerks using me to make money. Over the next 12 months, I plan to find a solution for each of the Google products I currently use, and one by one, move off of them. Gmail, Google Analytics, Google URL shortener, Feedburner, Google Reader, Maps, Google Talk, and Google Voice are the Google tools I regularly use. I plan to deprecate each of these from my life as best I can.
Google, we're through.