wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: google reader

Replacing Reader

Assuming no change of heart on the part of Google (not likely), one month from today Reader will disappear, taking with it the capabilities of many RSS aggregators on all platforms. As I ranted about soon after the announcement in March, this particular hole in the cloud will wipe out a key component in the information management process of many people, some of whom I think don’t even know they’re using Reader and will be very surprised on July 1.

Google reader icon scalable by lopagof

Of course, RSS as a technology will not vanish with the shut down of Reader and sites will not stop publishing feeds of their content, so it’s just a matter of time, and a lot of work, until robust replacement services become available. But that’s not likely to happen in the next month.

So, what are the options in the meantime?  For my personal needs, I’ll be using Feedly.

They have the advantage of already offering good plugins for the major browsers combined with solid apps for iPhone and iPad (plus Android and Kindle). In a blog post following the Google announcement, the developers claimed that transitioning to their service would be simple as long as users linked to their Reader accounts before the shut down.

The big downside, which will keep me searching for something better, is that Feedly is free to the end user. I’ve become very wary of free software and services that have no apparent plan for supporting the company. Eventually, they either disappear (or get bought and disappear) or start throwing ads at me, in which case the advertisers become their customers, not me.

Other negatives are that this is a proprietary service, meaning that other apps probably won’t be able to use the syncing capabilities with a different, maybe improved interface, and it does not yet support linking to some of the other services in my information flow.

For the long run, I’ll be watching the potential Reader replacement being built by the company behind the social news service Digg. In May they also bought Instapaper, another service I depend on and which has some interesting possibility for an intersection with an RSS syncing service.

I’ll also be taking a closer look at Feed Wrangler and Feedbin, neither of which are free (the under $20 annual fee is reasonable if the value is there). Both also allow developers to connect applications to their services, including some I already use.

If you need more alternatives to explore, there’s Newsblur, another paid service ($24 a year) with a free version limited to 64 feeds (about 1/3 of what I have), although a rather ugly interface. Or The Old Reader, which bills itself as “the ultimate social RSS reader” but has no mobile apps yet. Or for the very geeky, Fever, RSS syncing software you install on your own server.

I’m sure there are more alternatives in the works, likely with a few interesting innovations. But whatever you decide to do for your RSS aggregation needs, one thing that all Reader users should do right now is export their data from Google while you still can. They make it very easy, starting on this page.

Only Annoying

I know, a big chunk of my life is spent in a strange little bubble.

Last Wednesday afternoon, my Twitter feed exploded with surprise/anger/sadness over Google’s announcement of the impending death of Reader. In the normal world, most people were coping with the usual end-of-week issues and thinking about the weekend.

Ok, so Google’s corporate decision to shut down a service that wasn’t making any money for them isn’t a big tragedy, even to most in my decidedly geek twitter feed.

But at least for me it’s a big annoyance, for two reasons.

The first comes from having to find a replacement for Reader. RSS is one of the cornerstones of my information flow and almost every app I use in that category is tied to it. Going without RSS management tools is just not an option.  

Fortunately, there are already alternatives (Feedly and NewsBlur are two I’m playing with at the moment) with lots of smart people working on others (digg for one). I’m also hopeful that Marco Armant, creator of Instapaper, another cornerstone for me, is right when he speculates that because of Google’s decision we are “finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition” in this space for the first time in a decade.

Index card

The second annoyance, and the difficult part, is finding an RSS aggregator that will be easy to explain to all the not-so-geeky people I work with on a regular basis. Teachers, librarians, school administrators, and others who need systems for managing their ever increasing information flow that are better than bookmarks, email, and other 20th century tools.

Over the past five years or so, I’ve probably done twenty presentations and workshops around the concept of managing information in an age of data overflow and being viewed on multiple devices (one example). In every one of them Google Reader, and apps that use the service as the back end, was featured front and center. I’m doing another in a couple of weeks so some fast editing is in order.

But that’s my problem, and I doubt anyone at Google is at all concerned.

Which brings us to another lesson from all this that I need to include in my sessions: never assume that even the best companies have your interests as their first priority, unless you’re related to the CEO.

The graphic is my lame attempt to imitate the work of Jessica Nagy at the wonderful This is Indexed. Sorry.

Conference Time

I’m just about finished with my not-quite-at-the-last-minute prep for my trip to our annual state edtech conference, sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.


The program starts on Monday but I’ll be headed to beautiful downtown Roanoke just before noon tomorrow, mainly so I don’t have to leave at 3am. :-)

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon I’ll be doing a concurrent session titled You Don’t Have Too Much Information. You’re Using The Wrong Tools.

It’s a variation on the same presentation about why you should be using Google Reader, Delicious and Evernote I’ve been doing in 90 minute to three hour time frames for a while.

However, this is the first time I’ve tried to squeeze the essence into an hour so we’ll see how that goes.

Bright and early Wednesday morning (7:30?!), I’ll be doing a Bring Your Own Laptop workshop on Building Tours in Google Earth.

Around my sessions I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues from other parts of the state in an analog, face-to-face way that’s still not possible with Twitter.

Even if you’re not staying to hear my ravings, stop in and say hi.

Start at the Beginning

At EduCon this past weekend, we had lots of conversations about social networking and personal learning networks, and especially about how to bring our students, colleagues, bosses and others into the mix.

However, I’m not sure wikis, Twitter, live blogging, Ning, Skype, and the other tools we were using are the right ones to introduce newbies to the concept.

I’ve been thinking about all this as I finish tomorrow’s presentation for some of our librarians here in the overly-large school district.

The session is advertised to be about managing information overload using Google Reader and Delicious (feel free to rummage through at my resource page).

But these tools are more than data containers. Their sharing capabilities make them entry-level social networking tools based on concepts (subscriptions and bookmarks) that, hopefully, are easier for beginners to grasp.

Anyway, that’s the latest angle I’m trying. We’ll see how well it works.

I wonder what the next stage in the process of succumbing to network addiction should be?

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