Google Reader #

About a year ago I switched from NetNewsWire to Bloglines. I was on an extended trip and had only brought my PC laptop with me, and Bloglines seemed like the least hassle to set up. Surprisingly enough, when I got back from the trip I never switched back. While the Bloglines UI wasn't quite as slick as NetNewsWire's, the sheer convenience of being able to access my subscriptions anywhere outweighed all other cons. This of course is not news to anyone that has switched from a desktop mail application to Gmail, from a traditional photo software to Flickr, and so on.

That being said, the Bloglines UI is not as good as it could be, even given the constraints of web applications. I initially attempted to remedy this with some Greasemonkey scripts, but that didn't seem quite satisfying enough. I therefore jumped at the chance to work on what would eventually become Google Reader. Ben, Chris, Jason, Laurence and I played around with many prototypes, did usability studies and in general tried to come up with a product that all of us (and all of you) would use.

Google Reader launched this past Friday at Web 2.0. I'm very glad it's out there since we can now begin to iterate and react to user feedback. I think the ideal feed reader user interface still hasn't been discovered*, but I hope that we can explore some more avenues with our work with our experimentation. There are some elements of a River of News reader, while at the same time we still wanted to allow users to control their reading via labels and ranking options.

On the launch day I found that the best way to gather feedback was to be subscribed to a [google reader] search on Google Blog Search and Ice Rocket. This allowed us to find out quickly what the top issues were (speed, OPML import, new subscription notifications) and quickly fix them without having to wait for a full support mail/filtering/prioritization cycle. I'm still subscribed to those feeds, so blogging about the product is the easiest way to make sure that at least one engineer sees feedback.

* Then again, considering that applications like Zoë and Gmail continue to push the bounds of mail client UI design 30+ years after the creation of email, I wouldn't be so sure of settling on a design any time soon.


I would love to be able to scroll through posts using the scrollwheel on my mouse. I was going to try to create a Greasemonkey script to enable it, but I haven't figured out how to access the queue-up and queue-down functions. I tried calling m.down() but it needs a reference to the current object.
I have been saying for most of a year now that as soon as Google comes out with a Blog Reader I would drop Bloglines in a second. Alas, I'm sad to say, I'm still using Bloglines with no intention on switching to Reader unless some major changes are made....

I'm sure you've seen the litany of complaints/suggestions here at the InsideGoogle blog -

I would say my biggest problem right now is having to view each post one at a time. In bloglines, I get a nice overview of how many unread posts per blog, and a summation of unread posts per category/folder. I can click on the folder or blog name and see all unread posts. This is infinately valuable for scanning a weekend's worth of news if I'm out of town for a couple days or something. And by my nature, I simply cannot leave a message unread - i.e. I basically have to end each day with my bloglines list showing no unread messages.

Along the same lines, introducing a reader at this point in the game when most people who want to use RSS already have a reader, you need to have a "mark all as read" functionality. I was about to go insane when I imported about 100 bloglines subscriptions and they showed thousands of unread messages (all of which had been read in bloglines, of course) and I couldn't simply "mark all as read" to wipe the slate clean.

Of course, I expected full integration with Gmail too, but maybe that will come.

oh yeah, as long as I'm venting, I would like to see some kind of response about the dismal state of the "Google Account". Please see this post on another message board for my full complaint:

But in short - the encompasing "Google Account" is quickly turning into a large mess of unjointed and un-integrated services: Gmail, Personalized Home, Video, Froogle, Reader, Talk, etc. When I sign into the main Google Account page, I'm met with a dismal little welcome page, which gives me no easy access to any of the services that I supposedly just signed into. I thought the point of having a Google Account was so we would get synergies of having multiple services all under one wrapper, where we could seamlessly move and share data between them.
Jason is right. I miss scrolling through posts, instead of using the 'page up' and 'page down' links.

Bloglines, for instance, lets you browse the entire contents of your folder (labels, in GoogleReader) by showing an HTML page with the updated posts.

In addition, GoogleReader updates posts slower (1 hour indeed) than Bloglines.
Google Reader looks really really sweet... but as far as functionality goes, it's awful... Bloglines is an awful reader and it kicks GReader's ass

I really think Google can do a lot lot better in terms of functionality
Google Reader lacks the ability to categorize feeds. Initially I thought that the tags had that purpose but (as I write) they aren't really used in the UI.

I would like to have "virtual folders" like in GMail. In Bloglines I organize feeds according to multiple criteria: theme, importance, function. For example, there are feeds that I read ASAP and others that can stay unread during weeks.

I would like to have this "control" in Google Reader.

Thanks for listening.
Sergio - Reader does have labels. You can add feeds to a label and view all feeds in a particular label.
Joe - I've noticed that, but they are only used in the "admin section". I would like to see the tags integrated with the main viewing screen.
Suggestion: following GMail standard, it should be useful to have the number of unread items in the browser's title bar.
Bug? I'm having problems with this feed's permanent links -

Each item's link is pointing to an url within Google Reader.
Tim's feed uses xml:base in a way which we didn't anticipate (on entry elements instead of content nodes). It will be fixed soon.
oh yeah, one more thing. After using and enjoying the Conversation View in Gmail so much, I was almost certain we'd see something similar in Reader. Instead of the current list down the left side that you have to click on and view only one story a time, I would like to see some kind of collapsable "conversation style" list of feeds where it shows the title of the post (like an email subject) and a short 1 or 2 line teaser. Then you can choose to expand all posts and read down the whole list, or pick and choose which post to expand and read. This would be even better than bloglines current viewing options because you could view dozens of posts in the same page, and select according to title which ones to read. This would also make it seamless to integrate into Gmail in the future, with a "Webclips" or "RSS" label over on the left side.
Bug?: Almost in all feeds, the feed's title doesn't link to the Blog's URL. They all seem to link to

See for example the Official Google Blog.
Thanks for the feedback.
After importing my feeds from Bloglines, I never get past the "loading" screen, even if I leave the damn thing open all day.

Now, from the descriptions of Google Reader I don't think I will like it's interface over Bloglines, but I would at least like to try it.

I have probably over a hundred feeds, and I am sure some of them are probably broken, but it should still work. If anyone from google wants to contact me ( I'd gladly give up the export.xml that I am tried to import that rendered the service unusable to me.

That link is an internal Google Reader link that takes you to a view of just that feed's items. However, we still try to give such links valid URLs so that you can open them in a new tab, etc. We simply overlooked this one, and will be fixing it soon.
Was able to get Reader working in Internet Explorer, so here are my thoughts.

While Google Reader is not as bad as many of the complaints online made me fear, I see where a lot of them are coming from. I wouldn't call it bad, just different. I definitely like labels over folders as Gmail has gotten me used to how superior they are, but the difference with Reader (VS something like Bloglines) comes down to the "click to see each item" system that Reader uses. It's not a big deal for a feed that has a few long items, but for something like a delicious subscription or fark feed, where its lots of small items, a click to view each one quickly becomes tedious.

And with over one hundred feeds, averaging probably 300 new items daily easily, the click to view each item thing is inefficient.

It all ads up to the fact that as slick as the reader interface is, I am still more efficient in Bloglines.

So for now, I am sticking to Bloglines, but I will keep an eye on Reader to see how it evolves! Maybe some sort of alternate, more traditional interface? I don't know.

Some quick thoughts:

Item X of more than Y. Just tell me what Y really is please.

No Mark All as read is ultra lame when importing a large number of feeds. I gave up around the 1500th click on an item I had already read in Bloglines trying to get Reader caught up.

In the your subscriptions view, unread totals next to each label and feed would be nice.
Hi again. As I said in a previous comment. In GReader there seems to be lacking something in the browsers title bar. For example, in GMail we get the number of unread messages or the subject of the currently opened one.
I feel that something in this line would improve the user experience in GReader.

I love it so far. A few suggestions:

Searching read feeds

easier access to filtering by subscription/label

more advanced settings page
--num of items to preload

priority settings (manual way to configure how "relevant" something is)

grouping similar items (like google news)
At least you can raed a discusion about google reader in every blog...
Hi again.
Is there a Google Reader blog? I would like to be aware of the current developments and to be able to contribute with suggestions.
Yes, there's a Google Reader blog at
Where the heck is the "mark all read" feature?! Other than that, I love it.
I've been trying to find a decent Web-based aggregator, but to no avail. I like My Yahoo's format, but it doesn't update the majority of the feeds (in other words, it's utterly useless). The format of Bloglines is terrible---I really hate the frames---but it does at least work. Google Reader is by far the worst of the bunch. Unusable junk. I'd advise Google to completely ditch it and start from scratch (and fire the team that came up with this abortion).

Post a Comment