Nifty Search / Suggestion Features in Google Reader’s ‘Browse for Stuff’

Google reader community

Google reader community

Google Reader is every geeks paradise to keep an eye on their favorite Websites. I use Reader a lot, but I always find new surprises as I explore the site (or train others to use the service). Lately, I decided to go in the ‘Browse for Stuff’ section, and I found a lot of goodness I didn’t know that was there:

With Friendconnect, Reader looks like Friendfeed!

google reader discover feeds

The picture above shows all the social networks that this person shares on his Google profile. From that interface, you can subscribe to the person’s activity on any given network. This looks very much like Friendfeed, except that the feed browsing experience doesn’t bring much satisfaction.

The feed suggestion tool is pretty unique!

google reader recommended feeds

I am having a really hard time extending the number of feeds I read, not because I can’t read them all, but because I don’t have time to explore new sites. Google Reader knows what you read, and provides a fairly ok suggestion of feeds you should follow to read more of what interests you.

Search, Google Reader’s gold!

google reader search feeds

Aside from the traditional keyword search, the search section also invites us to search through all shared items, through a name, a location, an occupation or an interest. This truly turns Reader into a news network. Related to the Friendconnect tool mentioned above, you can specify the name of a friend on a specific social network, and Google Reader will subscribe you to his/her activity. Finally, and that was a total surprise to me, Reader provides a mini Google Alerts interface to enable its users to subscribe to an eBay, Google News, Google Blogs, or Twitter Search.

All in all, those features tend to make RSS feeds for fun because easy to find and to subscribe to, with a touch of social networking. I hope that those features will walk out of their ‘Browse for Stuff’ closet, to play a more prevalent role in the feed reading experience provided by Google Reader. Still no sign that Google Reader is becoming more like Delicious though ­čÖü

Friendconnect, Google Reader, Blogger, All In One Blogger Gadget

Blogger bloglist reader

blogger logo

Blogger just celebrated its ten year anniversary, and promised that a lot of goodness would start popping up in the gadgets section. That’s good news, since Blogger’s gadgets section pretty much sucks. Change is on its way, mostly thanks to Bloggerbuster: Bloggerbuster specializes in building Blogger gadgets, and shares tips on customizing your Blogger experience. Thanks to this third-party developer, Blogger now has a decent library of gadgets with elegant designs:

Recent posts, recent comments, Twitter updates, Twitpic updates, Flickr updates, Picasa updates, Google Calendar event-sharing, and my personal favorite that I still need to figure out a way to best use it: Twitter personalized real-time updates. Bloggerbuster is not Blogger’s only blessing. With a little digging in the gadgets directory, I found a Friendconnect/Reader/Blogger powered gadget that I just have to share here: The ‘blog list’ gadget.

The Blog list enables you to “show off what you read with a blogroll of your favorite blogs”. In the gadget settings, to add your friends’ blogs, you can enter the blogs by their url, or you can select from the list of blogs you follow through Google Friendconnect:

Blogger bloglist follow

Tell me this isn’t the easiest way to build a blogroll! The only flaw is that nobody uses Friendconnect to follow blogs because nobody understands yet how it works. Say no more, if you do not use Friendconnect, but have a Google Reader account, you can also select blogs from the blogs you are subscribed to:

Blogger bloglist reader

Once you created a blogroll, it generates a folder in your Google Reader that track the feeds from the blogs in the blogroll. Quite interesting!

G1 Apps: Newsrob, Google Reader on Android

newsrob google reader android

android rss

UPDATE: Since Google closed down Google Reader, Newsrob became useless.

Accessing Google Reader on the g1 has always been a low-on-adrenalin experience, which is surprising since the Reader should be a central product that Google should push forward in their app ecosystem: It connects people to content, and it also connects people around content. The best Google Reader alternative for me until recently was the mobile site accessible through the browser. This option had a few flaws:

  • If you leave the greader mobile page to open a new browser window, you will lose the items you were reading because newer feeds will be automatically loaded when you come back on the reader’s page. It is a barrier to visiting a blog to leave a comment on an article for example.
  • The loading time (loading new feeds, browsing feed folders…) is extremely long and irritating when you are on the go and you need to feed your brain with as much news as possible. Also, it only loads 15 items at a time.
  • You cannot use your phone social sharing features to select which social network you want to share a specific feed item with. I use Friendfeed to share my shared items with my Twitter followers, but sometimes I want to share content with my Facebook friends, and that’s a pain to do from the greader mobile site.

newsrob google reader android

And then Newsrob came along. Newsrob is a free app for Android to access and interact with your Google Reader account. Here are all the great features of Newsrob:

  1. It synchronizes automatically (and in the background) with your Google Reader account.
  2. You can load content and read it while offline.
  3. You can download the feed content, but you can also set it to download the actual Web page where the feed was sourced. You can customize this feature on a per-feed basis.
  4. You can set where the content is cached (saved temporarily) on your phone, and how much should be cached.
  5. You can enable notifications on a per-feed basis (notification, flash LED or vibration settings).
  6. You can star, share, view in the browser or mark unread.
  7. You can also share feed items through your phone’s social sharing features (send to Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, send as SMS…)
  8. You can jump to the previous or next item simply by pressing on the right or left side of your screen, where arrows appear if you long-press first.

I think Newsrob just nailed how people should access and interact with their feeds online. While subscribing to feeds remains an art of the geekdome (maybe Facebook will slowly change that), reading feeds with Newsrob is accessible to just anyone. In terms of app usability, I love how easy and fast it is to jump from one folder to another.

Become A Super Tweeter While Waiting For The Bus

power twitter

The title is a reference to Steve Rubel just-published post “How to Become a Super Tweeter in Just 15 Minutes a Day with iGoogle”. His tip is to set up 3 widgets that bring you news from the major news provider, and one big Twittergadget widget to interact with your Twitter community and share the news you like.

Well it is a good idea. But here is how you can become s super tweeter while you wait for the bus:

  1. have all the news you need in your Google reader
  2. plug your shared items page to Friendfeed/post2twitter tool or Twitterfeed
  3. each time you share an item you like (or even if you don’t like it), it goes on twitter
  4. want to add a little comment? add a note.

What you do not get is the Twitter interface that Steve Rubel suggests (depending on your phone, you can very well have a Twitter app running). However, you get the simplicity of the Google Reader mobile experience, and posting the items you like on Twitter in one click definitely beats copy/pasting it when you are on the go.

Any better productivity tips here?

New Google Reader Design: Yawn!

About half an hour ago, Scott Beale (aka Laughingsquid) tweeted this:

The article on the Google Reader blog confirms this news.

Right away, I rebooted my Firefox and checked it out. So what’s new? nothing much, really. The design is lighter, with a softer blue. The ‘add a subscription’ box is now on top of the sidebar. The ‘friends shared items’ is more visible… And that’s about it!

Unfortunately, when you go into the settings page, nothing has changed, and the tag management page is still a monumental mess. But it is a change, a good one, and usually a design change never comes for no reason.

In the past week, we have heard of two different products that could make the Greader feel like they need to react. One the PeopleBrowsr, first announced on Sunday by Robert Scoble, and which sparked quite a conversation on Friendfeed. The second reason is Helvetireader, a userscript that makes your Greader experience a breeze.

These two companies are a threat for Google Reader because, as we all know, as of today, feeds are just too geeky for mass adoption. Any RSS reader provider knows that the main challenge in their space is accessibility. Google Reader is a roaming engine under the hood, but its usability is still a little obscure, and as I mentioned above, the tag (or label) manager is hell if you don’t even know the point of tags in the first place.

It makes sense to think that the future of information will happen through feeds. Ideally, any given individual should build its own information resource through an RSS reader, to receive the news that matter to him/her. Making feeds accessible is a huge challenge. RSS is not as simple as its name implies. The first company that manages to offer an ease of use for RSS feeds will probably play a decisive part in the information landscape for the next 10 years.

In this frame of thoughts, Google Reader did add something significant: more feed bundles (that’s probably where any RSS reader business model lies). In other words, there are more groups of feeds suggested. That makes discovering new feeds easier. That also makes setting up and starting using a reader account faster.

I really don’t like this idea of suggested bundles. As Techcrunch underlines, the Techrunch feed is in the technology bundle. Yes, we know. And we also know this is the very reason why the Feedburner ticker on their page keeps going up. Some news providers are set by default in most RSS readers. To my opinion, this is the cornerstone of a new type of information monopoly.

Anyhow, the new design is not revolutionary, so I expect more additions to come in the near future.

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