Dear Google: Thank You

I try to be pretty sanguine about changes to the tools I use to access the internet. A lot of them are free, for certain values of free that translate to “we make money by getting you to come here and generate data,” which means I’m generally pretty low-key in my responses to, say, Facebook changing the layout of its feed.

Various Google tools have always been the exception to this. For a few years there I worked from a suite of Google apps that pretty much ran my life: Gmail; Reader; iGoogle; GoogleDocs; Calendar; etc. They pretty much let me run my online life like a ninja, filtering everything I wanted to see through a single iGoogle page that was there when I loaded up my computer.

Then the Gmail layout changed, and it bothered me. Fortunately, this was back when I was working for the dreaded day-job where I didn’t actually do anything, so I had the spare time to Google a work-around and put together an interface that more-or-less did what I wanted it to do. Google tools are frequently handy like that – they’re stripped down, but if you take the time, you can pretty much add in the features you’re looking for.

Then the news came down that iGoogle was going away, and that bummed me out a whole lot. That customized home-page was pretty freakin’ sweet, even if the vast majority of the information I got through it was now available on my phone. There were few irritated hours following the update, but I rolled with it.

I pretty much lost my shit when they announced the death of Google Reader through. I soak up a shit-load of information through RSS feeds; they’re one of the most valuable resources I have in both my day-job and my time spent online away from work. It always struck me as surprising when other people didn’t use them, in that what do you mean you *still go to the website to check out updates* kind of way. When I heard Google Reader was going away (via twitter, which is, oddly enough, probably the reason RSS has lost its importance), I got angry for a good long time.

Now, I pretty much want to kiss whoever killed off Google Reader, ’cause the act of having to migrate to a new RSS reader and actually engage with my feeds in an active way has been kinda awesome. I finally got around to organizing my feed into categories, so the stuff I want to read carefully is all segregated off from the stuff I usually breeze through looking for interesting stuff. I’ve added all my work feeds (previously handled by Outlook RSS) into the same reader, since the set-up was easy enough and there’s a lot of cross-over in the stuff I read for work and the stuff I read for home.

It’s not that the current reader is superior to Google – it’s different, but I’m kinda digging the differences – but Reader was one of those tools I’d grown complacent about. My tangle list of feeds had grown in fits and starts, mostly in the days after everyone abandoned livejournal and started blogs instead; I’d always read the feed in exactly the same way, from start to finish, ’cause that’s the way it showed up on my iGoogle page and there wasn’t an impetus to do anything different; I never bothered learning how to use the damn thing beyond the most basic level, because there was never a reason to do so.
It’s easy to get so familiar with one particular aspect of a tool that you forget about it’s other aspects. Kinda how I’d owned a hammer for about six years before I figured out what the claw-thing on the other side of the hammer was used for (really, given how often I hammer stuff, I’m surprised it only took me that long). Being forced to engage with my RSS feeds in a new way has streamlined the process of getting through them considerably – it used to take me about four hours to get through streams of data on a bad day. Now, I can pretty much knock it over in a hour.
I owe someone at Google a thank-you. And an apology for the many bad things I said about them when I first heard the news.




  3 comments for “Dear Google: Thank You

  1. 30/03/2013 at 1:30 PM

    Just curious: what reader are you using now? I'm also a Google Reader user and have been looking at various options to replace it.

  2. 30/03/2013 at 7:36 PM

    I went with premium NewsBlur accouunt, since it had both an online interface and an android Ap. The subscription is relatively cheap ($24 a year), and I've been pretty happy with it overall.

  3. 01/04/2013 at 12:54 AM

    Hunting for a replacement reader was the dominant topic in my office that day (along with the Veronica Mars Kickstarter). Kinda still is, in a "I'm trying X, what are you using? Oh, does it have cross-platform synchronisation?" way.

    Ditto on choosing NewsBlur, and ditto on actually sorting my feeds for the first time since almost ever. (I finally have my whole tumblr dash channelled through rss as well, which seemed like ridiculous duplication until I was following over 100 tumblrs with no filtering, and missing cool updates from people in the stream of imageblogs.)

Leave a Reply