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Google Reader cutting internal social features, integrating into Google+ (googlereader.blogspot.com)
140 points by heydenberk on Oct 20, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

This is horrifyingly frustrating. It's like when they started adding people from my email contacts to my Google Talk friends list or when they thought my gtalk friends list needed to be all up in my Google Reader friends list. Google don't seem to understand the natural partitioning of social spaces that occurs in the real world.

(I do concur that Circles allow this partitioning to be modeled much more accurately than most other social networking systems, but the partitioning before was entirely organic and natural, not constructed. I will wait and see how well they implement the integration before conclusively declaring Reader to have jumped the shark, but honestly the social features ("just enough social to get by", which is about as much social as I can put up with) were the only things keeping me on Reader up until this point.

I have the exact opposite experience. I find it horribly frustrating to have all these contacts in different services surfaced to me in weird inconsistent ways.

GTalk are for me a subset of email contacts.

I'm ecstatic that G+ sharing is being integrated with GReader, because I share a lot on GReader, but not everything I share is pertinent to all of my GReader friends.

Ideally, they'll add a "public circles" feature or something like it, that allows people to subscribe to specific subjects that I define and share to specifically, which would be public, but not pushed into everyone's main timelines.

[Edit: To expand a bit, I hope we'll be able to view those public circles in Reader, since that's the ideal interface for it, and not just in Plus.]

[Edit 2: Thinking a bit more about it, I think I'd prefer to consume all Plus content (except maybe photos, I really like the gallery layout) in the Reader UI. I simply find it to be more efficient.

Here's the problem: when I share something on Reader, I know that it will only be seen on Reader by my other friends who have specifically opted-in to say "I want to see stuff Nathan has shared". It is very reasonable to add a feature allowing me to comment on these shared items, since that's a pretty big value add.

When I share something to Plus, now it shows up to people who are on Plus. They are not in "let's read my RSS feeds" mode, they're in "let's see what my friends are up to" mode. My shared article, instead of being just another item to read and potentially comment on, has intruded on their social activity. If they wanted to read about quantum tunneling, they would have gone to Reader, not to Plus. Plus is where you go to read about your cousin's new haircut.

Sure, I agree. But the problem is, what about the people who are on Reader to read about souffles? They don't want to read about quantum tunneling. But you sometimes post about both.

You're describing a distinction that exists on a service level now, that's basically arbitrary and inconsistent. With everything pushed to Plus and pulled back out of Plus, you can define not only social contexts like 'friends,' 'co-workers,' and 'family,' but also subject matter like 'souffles' and 'quantum tunneling.' This is a good thing.

N.B. I think this will only be truly useful if they add public circles as I describe earlier.

Based on the arguments presented here, I agree that using the contexts that users set up in G+ makes sense. Having said that, I think the part that isn't clear to everyone (well, myself anyway) is whether things will be "pulled back out of Plus". I really hope they will, but...

I wonder about it, too, but this gives me hope:


I don't think Google will copy buzz's aggregate all mode into our + feeds, but then again I'm not sure what they'll do with Reader shares.

I guess I'll share certain articles to specific circles, if I share them from reader at all.

I also kind of want public groups, but the way it works is you have to search for topics.

Google don't seem to understand the natural partitioning of social spaces that occurs in the real world.

I think they understand it just fine, hence Circles (as you say). This makes my life a lot easier: I use Reader a great deal but have not made much use of the social features as the contact management was poor. I don't want multiple contact lists, it's duplicative and inefficient to have several where one will do.

I don't expect any of the core features of google reader to change. Why would they?

Sure, sharing and friends will be replaced by Google+ variants, but to me that sounds like a good thing. Instead of copying articles and pasting them into Google+, I'll be able to just hit share.

You are coming from the position that you would like to share articles on Google plus. Is it so inconceivable to you that any other position exists? I have no desire to share articles on G+, and in fact many of the people I share with do not have G+ accounts, nor do they want them.

I meant to say that I never used Google Reader's sharing mechanisms.

Those features of Google Reader (friends, sharing) were useless dupes of other features present elsewhere on other websites (Facebook, Google+, Twitter). I already have enough friend lists to maintain as is.

I used Google Reader for reading, and that is it. I don't care that they integrate it with Google+, although to me it makes sense. I just care that they remove the useless separate list and ecosystem.

Then don't share articles. Read them and be happy, like many do.

nathanb said that he doesn't want to share on G+, but is fine sharing _within_ Reader. It's the idea that they're combining the two together.

I'm in nathanb's boat - I share articles with people within Reader, but I don't want those to be pushed to G+. Similarly, I don't want to be forced to read other people's links through G+.

So use the 'Send To' feature, which lets you share with some 10 or 15 other social services out of the box, and even lets you manually add your own. You can ignore Google+ completely if you don't want to use it, it's just going to be the default option. I can't see how you'll be forced to read anyone else's links through G+. One of the reasons I like the service is that it's easy to keep in touch with people but also easy to filter out stuff that I'm not interested in.

can't you just put those people you share with on reader into a circle on google plus and then just share it with that circle?

And they said they said they are integrating the two better, so I'm assuming its possible for them can make the sharing between the two fairly fluid.

Yeah, that's what they're pushing everyone towards: "you can sign up for Google+ right now to start prepping Reader-specific circles".

My bigger concern is the disconnect in sharing. Are they turning Reader into a one-way service, in that you share items to G+? It would seem incongruous to share things through Reader, but then have to go into G+ to see what other people shared.

It would be nice to have a panel inside Google Reader which would display only the G+ material shared from Google Reader - although I doubt they will do it that way. Anyhow, they surely will find a way to screw things up :P

This is getting into "architecture astronaut" territory, but Reader could have a "Google+" folder that aggregates "friend feeds" (of G+ status updates and shared articles). Does Google+ already publish RSS feeds for user content?

This. Times one thousand.

Google has a lot of redundant social features in other products. This makes sense. I hope they remove the "like" buttons from Youtube, too, and replace them with +1.

Where's dislike going to go?

I hope they take the Like button on youtube and make it Press +1 rather than getting rid of like and dislike.

I don't think the "dislike" button is good for the web. If you agree with something vote it, if not don't. You don't have a dislike vote in electoral campaigns.

Strongly disagree. Sure, when there is a dislike button a few people use it in an abusive way, but it's obvious that this is statistical noise. But when a majority of votes on a YouTube video consists of 'dislikes' there's usually an excellent reason. The result of having only positive voting is SEO, blogspam, and content farming. Hell yes I want the option to downvote things.

giving users a dislike option encourages crowdsourced censorship - people don't just downvote content they don't like, they downvote content they disagree with. look at reddit for a prime example of how allowing everybody to downvote encourages groupthink. additionally, a publicly available dislike button discourages content creation: people who might otherwise post original content start to get nervous about how it will be received if there is a capacity to express dislike.

a button to flag for review is one thing, but hiding content purely based on public user input is generally not so great. imho, HN has a great system of only allowing high-karma accounts to access the power of the downvote. it's a similar idea to selecting community moderators to go over any content flagged for review, but just a little more automated.

I disagree. Reddit is extremely diverse in opinion because anyone can set up their own sub-boards, and every content creator I know fears apathy more than controversy - not least because many creative folk are poor self-promoters. Overwhelmingly negative publicity can still lead to commercial success, viz. Rebecca Black.

It will always be possible to search without preference filters, because there's an economic incentive to providing all-inclusive indexing decoupled from the ratings system. However, being able to express only approval inevitably leads to a crowding-out problem; witness the ever-expanding ration of ad to content and the plethora of competing buttons to like/+1/tweet/digg/zzzz.

Lately I find myself filtering more and more; after blocking disqus, for example, I can't see comments on most news stories any more and this has been a signal improvement. I was a big booster for the democratization of the communication commons back in the 1990s, demanding that every media outlet put public comment facilities on its websites so that everyone could have their say on news stories and so forth. Boy, did I get that one wrong.

Thumbs down or dislikes are useful as a community based filter. Instead of looking at something with 0 upvotes and wondering "is this just new or terrible", I can just look at the downvotes and realize that it's probably the latter.

I don't think the 1 star rating is good for product reviews. If you like something, give it 5 stars, if not don't. You don't have a 1 star in electoral campaigns.

I think it was Richard Pryor who attempted just that with a "vote 'none of the above'" campaign.

-1 ?

As long as we get the possibility to view the count of +1s/-1s separately, I'm all for this.

Then a slider for decimal values [-1, +1]?

Each time a prompt for an alternative news reader appears, this one seems to get some attention: http://www.newsblur.com/

I personally just use the newsreader built into Opera now. Just good enough for my needs.

NewsBlur gets attention here because it's built by an active HNer, me. And it's entirely open-source: http://github.com/samuelclay. Follow me on GitHub to watch how quickly NewsBlur grows everyday.

In fact, the NewsBlur iPhone app is also open-source: https://github.com/samuelclay/NewsBlur/tree/master/media/iph.... This might be very helpful to somebody learning how to write an iPhone app on their own. I plan to blog about all the techniques and tricks I learned, from the perspective of a Python/JavaScript developer.

I love that the NewsBlur home page (for unregistered users) jumps right into the action! As a Google Reader user, I was able to see right away (without having to poke around or register) how NewsBlur works.

Just created an account and imported my Google Reader feeds. I like what I've tried so far, but it doesn't look like there's an option to sort feeds by oldest first. (Maybe no one else sorts this way, but it's the way that makes sense for how I read feeds.)

By oldest first, you mean oldest stories first? This is a prioritized feature: http://getsatisfaction.com/newsblur/topics/reading_from_old_.... I've been sitting on it since very few users have asked for it, but I have intentions of building it one day soon.

Yes, exactly that. And personally, I'd make it a global option, but a per-feed option -- either in addition or instead of the global option -- would be fine with me as well.

I couldn't tell from the website: does NewsBlur have social features -- can you share items with friends (or even just publicly would also be enough), can you follow others' shared items, and post comments on them?

Very nice, but why so slow?

My understanding is that it gets a bit faster and you get a few extra perks if you purchasea (pretty cheap) subscription. Not a bad deal for an awesome newsreader.

Feedly is really good too.

"Absolute Reads: Daring Fireball"


Clear and powerful voice, highly influential, and an eye for good design. And it makes for a great demo of NewsBlur's Original view.

Also, folders are alphabetical and I wanted to put it above the Blogs folder.

Honestly, I've always been extremely confused by the Google Reader sharing mechanism. I use Reader all the time, but I've never been clear on who exactly the shares go to. This is much better, IMO.

Do many people use these features? Most of the people that I know who use Google Reader, myself included, just use it as an RSS reader. Sending it to other social networks is the one thing that I do use, and they won't be changing that.

I have about 30 followers on Reader and I follow a similar number of people. We subscribe to feeds from a bunch of scientific journals and different sections of the arXiv. When we see a paper of interest (or a comically bad paper), we share it. The discussions (private within our approved group) are sometimes quite long and detailed (e.g. 10 pages worth of content in 40 comments). A fair number of collaborations and new papers were born on Reader. I probably see about 100 items per day in my Reader feeds, share a couple, and write a page or two worth of comments. At present, G+ does not keep track of which items I have seen so the interface is not in any way competitive.

I would prefer an integration of G+ circles with sharing preferences on Reader, but I don't want to give up the Reader interface for the much less utilitarian G+ interface. I'll wait and see what this change brings.

>Do many people use these features?

I am a heavy user of the information on how many users are subscribed to a particular feed, which could be considered a social feature. (The information is behind the "show details" link in the "view onto" a feed.)

also, I am subscribed to one other user's "shared link blog" (a view assembled by Reader of that user's "shared items"), which the OP says is definitely going away, and three users are subscribed to my shared link blog.

The "shared link blog" that I am subscribed to is at http://www.google.com/reader/shared/patrissimo although admittedly it is no longer active as the writer (actually, "editor" or "sharer" is more accurate) has moved to using Twitter for sharing links (which I do not like as much).

Sorry, I'm a bit lost. Is there an intrinsic difference between just following someone in Reader and "shared link blogs", or am I just getting tripped up on naming?

There is a big difference, which is likely to become apparent just by inspecting an example of a shared link blog. Let me repeat the URL of the one I am subscribed to:


The difference between an ordinary blog and a shared link blog is that in a shared link blog, the posts (I want to call them "items" but know of no one else who calls them that, so "posts" it is) are written by people other than the owner (i.e., "patrissimo") of the shared link blog. All "patrissimo" did to put the post in the shared link blog was to check the box labelled "Share" or the box labelled "Share with note" at the bottom of every post in Reader (where the box labelled "Mark as read" is also to be found).

Well, more precisely, if he checked "Share with note", he also had to type in text of the note to be attached to the post. And there is a bookmarklet that he could have used instead of checking one of the two aforementioned boxes.

Right, I get that. So when they say they're going to retire "friending, following and shared link blogs", presumably that means that the link above will no longer exist.

My question, then, was whether or not we'll still be able to share within Reader and see items shared by other people. Based on what I've read on this post and elsewhere, it seems that the answer to my question is no - instead that functionality is being moved to G+. Which seems to me to be a rather strange interaction.

Well, even if we'll still be able to share within Reader, what I like a lot about way it currently works is that the information about who shared what is available to services other than Google without any hacky screen scraping. I am not going to take the trouble to "curate" (or vote on or whatever you want to call it) web pages or blog posts if the fruits of my curation (or voting) are going to be restricted to one company's walled garden.

Note that making the information public might not be the current default behavior of shared link blogs, but if it is not the current default behavior, then for those users like me and "patrissimo" who have opted to make the information public, the information is (as far as I know -- I guess it could be disallowed by Google Reader's terms of service) available to all services on a non-discriminatory basis.

I assume that following them on G+ will give you other extranious things, unless they have a seperate circle for reader followers. This was the advantage to following people on delicious as well, I didn't care about their other thoughts, but often they had good links.

I guess it depends on your workflow. I've been using "Add Star" as a bookmarking service and "Share" as a way quickly Tweet things out. I then mapped "Send To" to Instapaper so I can send longer articles there (2 clicks for Send To vs. Single click for the other two). I've been thinking about a "Send To HN" one, which would be a great addition.

If you read a lot of feeds (According to Google, I have 347 of them), it makes it that much easier.

I use feedly for my news, and from their website I usually share content with my circles.

I really don't care about any social features in Google Reader. The only thing that matters to me is I can continue easily subscribe and read RSS feeds. And with a "brand new design that we hope you love", I sincerely hope they don't fuck that up.

> The only thing that matters to me is I can continue easily subscribe and read RSS feeds.

Yep. I don't really care about Reader's own UI since I started using Reeder though.

I can't wait for those huge margins to waste my screen space.

Stylish themes are often out of date and/or completely change the layout of the site when all I really want is a small tweak here or there.

I actually like these news. I've been using Reader since it came out (what's it? 6 years?) but never get to use to their social features.

Also: star, like, share, tag. Those are too many options. Give me a +1 and a "Share" button and I'm set.

I thought this discussion needed a thread that wasn't all "I hate change".

No, they're not too many options. (Well, possibly Star, since it's basically a Tag).

Tagging is very different from sharing or liking. It's a feature for organizing specific items (aka posts) for yourself, not for others.

I concur with you completely.

Though there are sharing options in Reader, it's largely been useless for me, and the same few people who followed me (or I followed) are on G+ now.

I worry that, in an effort to compete with Facebook, Google is going to ruin everything I liked about their products.

I'm sure Google considered this but I hope that by default, my feed subscriptions are shared with nobody in my Google+ circles and that I have to opt those people in. Doing otherwise would be the equivalent of dumping the contents of your browser bookmarks for all your friends to see. There may be some things people subscribe to that they'd prefer others didn't know about.

sharing is already opt in on Google Reader. So you would have to click "share" and then (most likely) select a circle, there will probably be a default circle but it won't just start spamming G+ whenever you read an article

I realize that. The problem is that they block things by URL in whatever web proxy they use, and if content for Google Reader is coming from a blocked url, it's not going to work for me anymore.

It works both ways; I can actually send mail from my Gmail account via Google Reader, even though they block Gmail. I can't read it, of course, but it's a bit of a hole in their security plan.

Who is they? are you worried about not being able to access reader anymore because access to G+ may be blocked? That is interesting. Do you have trouble with the new share box on google search because it is a G+ product? Where are you from?

Interesting that all the replies here are negative. Am I really the only one who welcomes these changes? Of the people I want to share with, only a few also use Reader. There are much more of them on Google+. This also allows for more fine-grained sharing, so I won't have to share programming-related posts with people who are not interested in that kind of article.

I'm mostly upset that Google Reader will now be blocked at work, because the IT dept blocks all social network sites.

Google Reader had social features before.

Github has social features, too; perhaps they should try to block that and see how well that goes over. :)

Without some sort of "public circles" option on Google+, people won't be able to subscribe to my "techstuff" feed--I'd need to manually "subscribe" them. Pretty icky.

Do shared circles count as "public circles"?


Awaits the "Best alternatives to Reader" post appearing on HN

Really confused as to why "read the original site" is a feature. Getting mainly text, without the original site's design, is one of the best features of RSS to me.

> Really confused as to why "read the original site" is a feature.

Because the reader does not display images or resizes them, because it's an interesting blog post which probably has interesting comments, because the blog tends to be very well formatted, because there's a video or a slides deck embedded which simply does not appear in the reader, ...

I quite often make use of this feature in Reeder.

It's nice that newsblur is maintained by a HNer, but the aesthetics of it are a real turn off for me.

It's pretty minimal. Notice you don't even see a logo when you're reading sites. The dashboard is a bit dense, but the browsing experience can be customized.

This isn't exactly the best first impression ever: http://i.imgur.com/r2vwo.png

Thank you!

You have a skinny window. Resize by 200 pixels and it'll grow.

The first thing I do when I log into Google Reader is mark all "shared items" as read, without reading any of them. I don't want my RSS reader to be social. I don't want my unread count to reflect sources that I didn't opt into. The sooner I can disable all social aspects of Google Reader, the sooner I stop looking for an alternative.

May I ask why you decided to subscribe to other people's shared items if you don't like reading them?

I followed these people on Buzz. If you unfollow them on Reader you also unfollow them on Buzz, or at least that's the way it used to work. If that's changed please let me know how to unfollow people on Reader without affecting Buzz or Plus.

One vote against. I love Google Reader. I have intelligent friends that share actively on it. I don't use Google Plus. I don't know if those friends use Google Plus. Now, I won't read the articles that my friends are sharing. I also expect sharing will go down as Google forcibly alters user behavior and manages an adoption problem.

In effect, Google is now impeding my access to great information. That's counter to their mission, isn't it? And it's risky to do this to a very loyal user group. Google Reader users are passionate about this product.

I find it ironic that the blog post does not have a "Share to google+", or the "+1 Button"

It does have a +1 button. Maybe you have it adblocked.

Great. I knew this day would come.

Guess I need to speed up my work on a Google Reader replacement.

The latter is exactly what I thought!

None of this is frustrating and it shouldn't come to a shock to anyone. Google stated that they were going to deeply integrate Google+ into all its products. This is them just following through.

Forgive me for what might be huge ignorance and stupidity on my part but does this mean that I'm now required to have a G+ account to use Reader?

Louis Gray (G+ evangelist, hired by Google) said in a different site[1] the following:

To clarify, Google Reader remains a stand-alone product. What is being announced is threefold: 1) Addition of sharing to Google+. 2) A new modern design. 3) Retiring of the dedicated sharing model.

This statement ( It will be impossible to use Google Reader as a standalone product) is incorrect. You can continue reading your feeds in Reader independent of Google+.

So it seems we (non-G+ users) won't be affected.

[1]: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/101011-6-google-reader-...

And yet the blog post itself is linked to Digg and not G+

Oh Google :(

The interesting thing is how they are cutting some features to "improve" it. I suspect that when it's done, it will be impossible to send items to Twitter or Facebook from it (you'll have to send things to Google+ instead).

It's also a big question as to what you can do to save your starred items moving forward. Anyone wants to build a starred items to delicious exporter?

It's also a big question as to what you can do to save your starred items moving forward.

Any tag/folder in GReader can be exported as an RSS feed. Go to "Reader Settings" > "Folders and Tags" and click on the RSS icon to make it public, then click "View public page" and on that page there's a link to its Atom feed.

Then you can import it to any other reader.

They are already adding it to the export function - hooray, because I was sorely missing this in the split of my regular Google account from my GA account. The third paragraph reads:

   We think the end result is better than what's available today, 
   and you can sign up for Google+ right now to start prepping 
   Reader-specific circles. We recognize, however, that some of you 
   may feel like the product is no longer for you. That's why we 
   will also be extending Reader's subscription export feature to 
   include the following items. Your data belongs to you, after all, 
   and we want to make sure you can take it with you.

   * Your subscriptions
   * Your shared items
   * Your friends
   * Your likes
   * Your starred items

The article says "in addition to Google+, you'll still be able to share to almost any service using Send To". Also, I'm not sure what you mean about starred items, they're not going anywhere.

Today, I can have a service that looks at my link blog (generated by clicking share) and its RSS feed. By doing so, it can then route new items to Twitter or other services. Reading what the blog entry says, it looks like "Send To" will be the way to route things to other services instead of using Share.

Today, by just clicking "share" I can send the information to Twitter. What the new experience will be, I suspect, is that I will have to click "send to" then choose the service I want to share to. 2 steps instead of one.

It's a small product difference but one that will reduce friction for Google Plus while increasing it for "other" services.

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