Miyerkules, Marso 13, 2013

Wishlist for Google Reader

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Google Reader is the most popular feed reader available today, and while this is true, unfortunately, it does not reflect perfection. With the quality of Google’s search and Gmail, I expect more effort with Google Reader. The following are a few suggestions, and most of these ideas can be added with relative ease.  It is only a question of when Google will do it.

Folders or Tags? Why Must This Be So Ridiculous?

Google, please clarify what method of organization you are using within Google Reader. There are many odd references to “tags” and “folders” within the application. A storage scheme based on folders would allow you to place a feed inside of a folder, but tags offer the ability to assign multiple identifiers to any particular feed. That being said, obviously Google Reader has gone with the latter choice. Take five to ten minutes of your time to fix this already as this is a pretty silly issue to begin with.

Arduous Tag Management

Regardless of what Google calls them, the management of tags can be a pain at times. The interface for managing them is a something that could be a bit more intuitive. It requires too many clicks to accomplish things in its current state.

Here are some issues I have with the the way it is done now:
  • It is not possible to delete a tag without going into the settings menu
  • The task of reassigning tags to multiple items is somewhat time consuming
  • Creating a tag requires you to actually have a feed item selected or imported

Google, take a day or two, create some fancy Ajax code, and implement a way to better manage those tags. It is so bad at times that I actually export all my feeds to another application, rearrange them as I see fit, and import them back into Google Reader.  It is an unnecessary amount of work.  I do understand that this is a feature that, perhaps, only the more hardcore users would understand and utilize, but it is still important.

Quasi Content

There are too many times when I am looking through my subscriptions and end up noticing items that are very similar–i.e. the same story being reported multiple times. For someone who subscribes to many news, tech, and web 2.0 sources, it can get really messy at times.

Gizmodo might have just broke an important news story about an iPhone update to version 1.1.4. Naturally, Engadget, Crave, PC World, and others would end up writing about it within a few hours. Gizmodo broke the story, and I would appreciate it if only that particular item appeared as a result with the others given less priority. The more feeds that a person is subscribed to, the more he or she would appreciate a feature like this.

A simple implementation of this feature would look for keywords within the title and content to determine what is being discussed. When similar keywords are present–e.g. Apple, iPhone, smartphone apps, update, 1.1.4, release date, etc.–within multiple feed items, Google Reader should know that this content is just being reported over and over again by different sources. By placing emphasis on which source had written the story first, it help keep things clean.

Sure, it is an ambitious project to add this feature, but if I was working at Google and managing the Google Reader project, something like this would be right up my alley. Google should thrive on features like this. It should be created, labeled as experimental, and placed under the “view settings” menu. Besides, beyond search being added late last year, what has the company done for Google Reader lately?

Supplemental “Mark As Read” Options

Several fellow bloggers I follow, including Jeff and Amit Agarwalm, enjoy using FeedDemon, and I should mention that it is now completely free as of last month. I end up bouncing back and forth between that and Google Reader.  One of the great feature about FeedDemon is the ability to mark items that are older than a certain time period as read.

I tend to pass on those items that are older than 24 hours, and with FeedDemon, it requires only a few clicks to mark everything older than 24 hours, 48 hours or 5 days as read. With Google Reader, items tend to load up pretty fast, and this is especially true if you miss a day or two of checking feeds. I end up sometimes accidentally skipping recent items while using the “mark all as read” feature with Google Reader. This would be something that all users would appreciate.

Final Thoughts

Besides my suggestion for filtering items that are similar, it should only require a day or two of programming to implement these ideas. Google has been slacking off with Google Reader. It is obviously because Google Reader does not generate money for the company, so why would they be bothered with dedicating resources to it? This is simply a request, and if you get around to it, Google, please find a way to make some of these ideas a reality in the future.

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