Posted by: Diabolic Preacher | August 31, 2008

Google Reader still does not win me over…here’s why :)

Web applications like RSS aggregators that I am focussing on, go through a lot of changes without necessarily making version number leaps. I on one hand find it really difficult to be convinced to move away from a service that I’ve been using since a long period. Though somehow in this case, given that the product I was reluctant to try out was a Google one, I just as well thought of comparing the experiences. Would also tell about also some things that I feel maybe my favorite bloglines could do better, but its more than adequate. It has got inbuilt mp3 streamer and flickr photo viewer…still.

Although I’d known of RSS feeds, since there were only desktop aggregators, and I started with the Sage extension, I moved to Bloglines when I saw the example on one of the go_open series on DVD, a South African TV show on open source i guess wholly or majorly funded by Canonical. Bloglines been the predominant choice till around October 7, 2005 when Google Reader came out. The only good thing that happened since then was that Bloglines was made to rethink its lazy attitude towards its monotonous interface with manual refreshes needed and come up with almost a complete rewrite. In the meanwhile they even got bought by Ask Jeeves…or is it just Ask! ? Soon enough Bloglines came out with Bloglines Beta just in time when Google Reader users were rising close to Bloglines, which has been much higher compared to other aggregators as well. Only few stats check if its really Google Reader, because both iGoogle and Google Reader use the same Google Feedfetcher. The good thing that Google Reader caused was to give Bloglines a rude awakening to pull themselves together and totally re-design the aggregator.

Reasons, including both fancy and functional, that I don’t miss Google Reader much are :-

  1. The color scheme is boring
  2. Keyboard shortcuts aren’t as quicker as bloglines’
  3. Bloglines Beta lets you set it to show only updated feeds and so does GReader but GReader needs one more setting to show all items or just updated items per feed. For viewing old read items, Bloglines Beta lets you choose between past 1 day, 1 week, 1month or most recent…if that was before any of the given preset durations
  4. The upper left section showing aggregate collections like all items and starred and trends is useless ripoff from GMail interface. If you pin a message or just keep it unread, that should suffice. Because even as ‘starred’, each item would have their priority based on context/tags. GReader could do this better by showing how many or which feeds have starred items with a display like for e.g. FeedSite (8) (3*) where the asterisk could be the star graphic.
  5. People make folders or tags to not just sort out related feeds but often to just narrow down on high-priority feeds first, so having an all items page is useless, when google search is so reliable. One way all items would’ve been a good feature was if GReader would’ve allowed to sort the feeds in a drag-drop fashion and also sorted the all unread items in a similar way.You can drag and drop the feeds…but the items under all items weren’t coming in the same way.
  6. Adding a feed doesn’t directly let you choose a tag or folder to drop the feed into. There ain’t no feed preview before subscribing like Bloglines Beta. Feed preview helped when I wanted to add only those web-comics feeds that syndicated the comic image within the feed rather than just a link to open in a new tab and to read the strip there.
  7. Ok, So where is the add folder/label link? Compared to that, Bloglines Beta lets you simply add a folder and drag and drop any existing unsorted feeds into the new folder or also from another folder. Labels and tags concept is crap. Try editing tags for an item and adding one more label than what you usually sort it in…it still does not show up in the other label that you added to it…and here’s the thing, its just one item that i’m editing tags for. Now you wanna say that I should treat labels and tags, now that is really confusing.
  8. Both bloglines and Google Reader doesn’t have folder/label hierarchy. folders in folders. not that i’m having too many folders or feeds to need right now…but quite a desirable feature in the long run
  9. Similar to the quick add folder icon missing there is the quick feed delete icon missing from GReader… If you dont have a preview you might as well let me quickly and easily get rid of the feed after I manually add and check it out. or do GReader users have butter fingers?
  10. Shared Items, people’s most favorite feature has some +s as well as -s. its cool coz the shared items has a feed but then again its like the all items page…sorted by time but not by say custom tags or other conditions for example. On the other hand share with a note is what I’d say is similar to what was Bloglines’ original version Blog feature, which besides saving a feed item would also let you add a note and develop sort of a linkblog instantly. Bloglines Beta on the other hand lets you set which feeds to make private and which feeds to make public and the public url, although in the old bloglines model, lets you view all feeds of the user as organized by him/her and also lets you export all subscriptions to an opml file, which any feed aggregator would import and create the folders and sort the feeds likewise in it.
    Just curious if its possible to customize what labels are shared by default?
  11. Where is the in-place website preview? The 3-pane viewing option in Bloglines Beta lets you view the list of items in a feed on the top, the syndicated content on one lower half and the actual site content for that permalink in the other half. Is there a way to do that in GReader
  12. Bloglines Beta supports OpenID logins. 🙂

I could dig in for more rough edges or perceive more features as bugs but people like me who are considering switching over, don’t need much convincing or too many reasons, to not feel at home with a new aggregator and 12 points at that (ok lets make it 11…ignore the color rant) is not a small number of rough edges at all. Well besides complaining I tried my best to come up with workarounds and solutions here and there, except implementing them. 🙂
The fight between Google Reader and Bloglines Beta is a healthy one with each one bringing improvements to compete against the other and pushing each other to innovate more than just playing catch-up with each other and ripping off features…although that’s most likely here as well but not so much as the office suite competition

p.s. I haven’t used any browser extensions or plugins for either feed reader to avoid any bias. You surely wouldn’The t have thought I’d add Better GReader anyways. 😛

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