Google Reader

by Mike Shea on 7 April 2007

For the past few years I've gotten almost all of my web news through RSS feeds. I've built them, parsed them, aggregated them, archived them, and subscribed to them. I've used local client RSS readers. Portals like Yahoo and the Custom Google Homepage. I've used Bloglines. I've even built my own dirt simple self-generated news page.

Most recently, however, I've used . It took me a while to like this tool. It is a different sort of news reader app than I'm used to. It piles all of your latest news into one big pile sorted by time. It can break up the pile into each feed but the most efficient way to use it is to simply click "All" and start reading through. With my most recent list of feeds, I had about 100 to 150 new items a day and I could get through all of them in about ten to fifteen minutes.

Then something horrifying happened. I realized that I could read through so much information so quickly that the two or three hours of regular surfing I did each day turned into about ten to thirty minutes. I started adding feeds but it didn't matter. I could still get through it so much faster than I originally did.

If surfing the internet is like casual pot smoking, is like mainlining heroin.

My day now consists of people saying "hey, did you hear the review of Guitar Hero 2?" and I say "yeah, I heard that." or "Did you hear about John "Daikatana is going to kick your ass" Romero saying that consoles are a dead medium?" and I say "yeah, I heard about that too." There is very little public information in any of my spheres of interest that I do not know within about two hours of it being revealed. And, with , I'm able to process all of it very quickly. It's powerful but also very scary. I don't know what it's doing to my brain to receive that much data so quickly.

has another really powerful feature. By clicking "share this" on any of the items that show up in the list, you can share the links you found of interest in a pseudo-blog. Your friends, family, or fans can bookmark your shared item blog or even subscribe to your own feed in their own . It's sort of incestual, we're all living a life of shared feeds where each single item of new information results in hundreds of links, aggregate feeds, and cross-posts. I must have seen the EMI DRM thing show up in my about 100 times. It was like a hand grenade thrown into my bowl of tasty news. Big news events create news feed splash damage.

I love the idea of a self-building blog for each of us based on what we think is worthy of a click on "share this". I'm not sure mainstream users are at the point where they use a tool like yet. Most of those I know are happy enough to just visit the sites they like. They don't need a faster way to process news and, after sucking down over 3000 news items in one month, I'm not sure I blame them. We just don't NEED that much news.

One other troubling thing about the "Share This" fake blog thing is archivability. I'm still interested in saving as much of my personality as I can into a big archival tarball that I can send to Pluto to be preserved for ten thousand years. I've used the Memory Hole to archive my hand selected news of note but it's a lot clunkier than Google Reder's Share This. I may have to find a way to archive the shared items or connect it to the Memory Hole somehow. It would be a shame for all that information to get lost in just a few months.

If you haven't tried it and you're an information overload freak like me, consider trying . After more than a month of use, it is a new critical device of my daily internet surfing lifestyle.