Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Google Reader is closing... and I am not sure I am upset

"Human souls: trapped like flies in the world wide web" from Dr Who, The Bells of St John (2013) 

At first I was horrified when I read that Google Reader is to close on 1 July 2013.  It was a knee jerk reaction. But am I upset?  I don't think so!  The more I have thought about it the more it seems an opportunity to rethink how I connect with other bloggers rather than a loss of a service.  In fact it is a relief.  Google Reader has become an albatross around my neck and it is high time I did something about it.

Blogging and connections

When I have considered the question "Why do I blog?" the connection with like-minded individuals has always been at the heart of my answers.  You support, inspire and teach me.  When I discovered blog reader technology, it seemed like a passport to that community.  At first every blogger I enjoyed went onto my blog reader.  It worked for a while. 

Google Reader and connections

I still remember my first comment from Cindy on my second blog post.  It was so exciting to be connecting with other bloggers.  Sharing, discussing, discovering, asking answering.  Then I met more and more people online.  I met friends of friends, discovered blogs through events, stumbled upon others.  Before long there was an overwhelming number of people I wanted to keep in contact with.

How to keep up with bloggers I know and admire has long been a challenge.  At first I just visited blogs from my blog roll at random in the hope they might have updated.  Then Lucy told me that Bloglines would alert me when each blog had a new post (using RSS feeds).  It seemed like magic.  Then Bloglines planned to close and I moved to Google Reader.  Oh the irony!  A few years down the track, Bloglines is still going and Google Reader is now planning to close.

Constant change

Early last year Ricki flagged that Google Reader would close.  Forward notice has helped ease the shock.  So has an online landscape that is constantly changing.  I've seen so many changes that it doesn't bother me as much any more.  (And I don't like change!)  Pinterest, Delicious, Eat Your Books.  So many online systems regularly undergo regeneration in the name of updates.  It is the nature of the web. It is best not to get too attached!

Even Blogger changes.  Yet I remain loyal to blogging.  It is open and allows so many options.  Yet it seems that we need to continually be reassessing our options for connecting with other like-minded individuals.  Since beginning my blog in 2007, I have seen many new platforms for connection develop.  Nothing that is better than blogging but much that supports it.  Facebook makes sharing easy but is too exclusive.  Pinterest is a great way to see what others are loving but doesn't connect in a meaningful way.  Twitter is fast and witty but doesn't have enough words for any depth.  Also constant is the capacity of each new system to drain us with excessive demands on our time.


Why I am not sure I will miss Google Reader

Nowadays my Google Reader is a mess!  It needs a serious spring clean.  I had been considering deleting it altogether and starting afresh.

Long term use of a blog reader renders it difficult to keep up to date.  Blogs come and go.  Some bloggers go on sabbatical and might come back.  Or they might not.  There are many blogs on my Google Reader that might be classed as dormant. I think I have kept them there in hope.

It is not just that my Google Reader isn't up to date.  It just has too many blogs.  I think the Vegan Mojo blogroll in 2011 was the last straw.  Far far too many blogs were imported into my blog reader and I couldn't work out a good way to delete them.  Argh!

So I have hundreds of blogs and yet I only read a handful of them.  Despite my good intentions.  The imminent demise of Google Reader has brought home to me the impossibility of keeping up with all the blogs that interest me.  If you are reading this and I don't keep up with your blog, it is not personal.  I wish I could keep up with more blogs.  I want to read more.  I want to comment more.  If only there were more hours in the day. 

It's all about FoMO

We all know about how social media overwhelms us.  It keep us up too late, stops us going outside the house and leaves no time for anything else in our life.  A slight exaggeration but you get the picture.  After giving this post some consideration I returned to the idea of FoMO that I first read about some time ago.

FoMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out.  It is pertinent to this issue because social media is an archive as well as a tool for connection.  When I have a coffee with friends I don't expect to know absolutely everything that has been happening to them.  That would be silly, right!  Yet because the posts are there on blogs I feel compelled to read all of them.  Even though I started food blogging to find great recipes and now I have so many recipes that I could keep making them till I die and never get through them!

So here is my revelation.  It doesn't matter if I don't see every post.  Sounds obvious.  Yet it is in my nature to be thorough.  I have a tendency to keep blog posts unread and keep them for another time.  I guess I just need to let go.

Alternatives to consider after Google Reader closes

What is clear to me is that if I continue to blog, it is important to connect with a blogging community in some way.  I have been thinking about alternatives to Google Reader.  Ways to keep up with favourite bloggers, to discover new blogs and make new connections.  So here are my top five.

1. My sidebar blogroll
My favourite alternative right now is using Blogger's blogroll list on my sidebar of my blog.  This list includes the most recent posts from the blogs listed.  This means that I keep up with current posts and can easily see who has been inactive for some time.  Unlike Google Reader it doesn't tell me how many posts I have missed.  I find this both liberating and a wee bit frustrating.  It is my way of letting go and probably will be my main option in the near future.

[NOTE: I need to do a bit of work on this and sort out my blogroll page which like any blogroll, is guaranteed to be out of date.  However using my sidebar means I am more likely to keep it up to date and pay due tribute to blogs I love to visit!]

2. Email subscriptions
Ricki has also posted the solution of subscribing to email alerts for favourite blogs.  Many blogs seem to have one.  I actually have an email subscription window down low on my sidebar.  I only put it there because a friend asked if she could subscribe, but who knows, it might be useful to you too. 
Google Plus also seems to let people send email alerts on new posts to readers.  The problem with this approach is that I tend to be far more selective than I would be with Google Reader or my sidebar blogroll.

3. Other blog readers
It is so tempting to migrate my current subscriptions to another blog reader or even start afresh adding RSS feeds to a new blog reader.  I could return to Bloglines, try Feedly (which seems to be touted as a good free alternative to Google Reader) or try one that costs such as Feedblitz.  Yet I have neither the energy nor the inclination to start another feed reader after my experience with Google Reader.

4. Social media
Bloggers have options for alerting followers to their latest post on social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  The problem is that not every blogger uses every social media platform.  I am wary of continually signing up to every new platform.  In fact I really dislike leaving my digital fingerprints in too many pies and I just can't keep up with them all.  Like email subscriptions, I may use these but in a far more selective way.

5. Other places where bloggers gather
Whereas the other four alternatives are about me strategically choosing who to follow, this option is about the wildcard.  Sometimes I just want to be open to new bloggers.  I am part of an aggregator blog, Planet Vegmel, which is a great way of reading all the veg*n blogs in Melbourne.  I also love blog events and try to visit the round up to see who participated.  I have toyed with joining Food Bloggers Australia and I sometimes even go to galleries such as Tastespotting and Foodgawker, though Finding Vegan is more of my sort of thing. Not only do I discover new bloggers this way but it sometimes connects me with blogs I haven't read for a while.

What are your strategies for dealing with the demise of Google Reader and keeping up with blogs?

26 comments:

  1. Love, love, love this post, Johanna. FOMO is definitely something to consider with social media but moreso following blogs. I have been trying to cut down on my blog-reading - which means only when on the subway (but then I have no access to reply) - and now that I hope to resume cycling, this will definitely take a lower priority to real-life.

    One of the things I liked about the RSS feeds (as opposed to emails, gah, I hate those) if that I sub-categorize my blogs. All my favourites that I want to read more intently go in one place. Other vegan blogs in another folder, non-vegan blogs another folder and my favourite is the "these people post too much" folder - so I don't get stressed out when I see so many unread messages. I need to get better at "mark all as read" after just perusing the titles. Feedly is good because I also get a little snippet (I turned that off on Google reader but it is probably easier for a quicker "mark as read").

    Balance is key... still working on it, but I still like to hand-pick the blogs I want to hear more of. :)

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    1. Thanks Janet - I loved in Google Reader that I could subcategorise my blogs but once I got too many and too busy I found I wasn't visiting some categories much at all. I love your folder on 'these people post too much' - I had a folder on people who hardly posted at all :-)

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  2. I did a bit of searching about alternatives too but found them all rather techy and thought they would probably add to my IT frustration (due to lack of time) and not reduce it. I've stopped using Google Reader now having registered with Bloglovin.com and importing them in. 10 minutes sifting through and I now have a more manageable list group into categories like cooking, gardening, parenting. I can either check them on-line or wait for the daily bloglovin email that sends me just the new additions for that day. I think it's great and really like the clean simple lines and it means I don't miss out on posts like this when I only get to check my reader from time to time. Nic x

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    1. Thanks Nic - I haven't looked at bloglovin but sounds interesting - another one to investigate - though I am quite enjoying not going to my reader so much

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  3. I started with Google Reader, then also used Feedly as well (having imported the Google Reader feeds). A couple of weeks ago I ditched Google Reader and have not missed it.

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    1. Thanks Bryce - I am gradually weaning myself off google reader and it is fairly painless :-)

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  4. Funnily enough I read this post in feedly this morning, having just made the migration from GReader last night! It took me less than a minute to swap stuff over, so I'm carrying on almost entirely uninterrupted.

    I do strongly identify with your tendency towards thoroughness and am struck with FOMO. But I've learned to skim titles and posts more effectively and focus on the ones I'm really interested in - the 'k' shortcut to mark as read and move on is a lifesaver!

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    1. Thanks Cindy - I have downloaded my Google REader subscriptions but have so many that I am unwilling to just move them across. never come across the k shortcut but I swipe the trackpad past some posts rather quickly :-)

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  5. Ah, see, I only ever added blogs to google reader that I truly wanted to follow, so I never got stuck with hundreds and hundreds of unread posts. So I've just switched to Feedly, and 'sall good.

    (Though FoMO is definitely an issue regardless of reader options for me!)

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    1. Thanks Hannah - I thought I was doing a community-spirited thing to import the vegan mofo blogs but I just didn't quite understand the implications - but I have struggled both years to work out how to follow all the vegan mofo blogs - guess I just need to stick to their feeds and the random mofo url. Sigh!

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    2. Oh, I accidentally (well, stupidly) did that this year, and then quickly deleted the feed as it inundated my reader with blogs of horrendous quality that I never wanted to read :P

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  6. Hi Johanna, to avoid being overwhelmed with info, I never "followed" and I don't subscribe. I rely ony own blogroll, and I remember the addresses of blogs I like to visit, and use the linky section of groups I am in. That way, I avoid being overwhelmed, but can maintain my favourite part of blogging - the personal connection.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I am beginning to think it is wise not to follow anyone - but I am in awe the you remember the urls - I know some of the ones for my favourite blogs but my firefox browser is so good at remembering the urls these days that I am getting worse at it.

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  7. I use the blogroll on the side bar of my blog too as my main "reader"...and I'm always adding & deleting blogs from it. Something that I thought was for me a few months ago often turns out not to be. I'm still on the search for the perfect suite of blogs to read though. Always hunting. I've transferred my google reader to Bloglovin'

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    1. Thanks Mel - glad to hear the adding and deleting regularly works - I regret to say that my blogrolls on my blog and my google reader have got out of date too quickly - I am trying to limit the blogs so I can manage them more. Blogs change so much that you need to keep on top of this.

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  8. I have long abandoned Google reader, and the habit of reading blogs. I do hop on and off, reading my favourite blogs from time to time. But now I don’t mind missing out on new posts. I actually go back to keep reading older posts I haven’t seen. It’s nice and slow, the way “leisure” reading should be…

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    1. Thanks Anh - reading blogs as leisure rather than racing through heaps makes so much more sense - I find that reading my sidebar gives me a more relaxed read than google reader

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  9. Blogger just ate my last (rather long) comment so I am now feeling rather grumpy towards it rather than Reader...but I confess I am still in the 'oh no' phase of the Reader news, although this post helps a lot in taking a step back. I do know what you mean about it being a source of pressure sometimes (and I don't have anywhere near 100 blogs in my feed list!) but suspect I'll just be moving to another feed option when it does retire. I worry that emails would be harder to manage, and whilst I try to remember I don't need to read/ comment on every post I do like being able to at least see them and what they're on. I suppose I'll just have to experiment with the different options. I do appreciate the change in perspective that it may not be a bad thing after all!

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    1. Thanks Kari - bad bad blogger for eating your comment but am glad you still managed to write a thoughtful response. I am still in the experimental mode where I feel that Google REader wasn't working for me but I am not sure exactly how I will replace it - though the sidebar seems the best at the moment

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    2. Having just tried out Feedly I am now leaning towards the sidebar too, which may also help with those times a backlog of posts builds up and there are multiple ones I haven't read on a blog (feels overwhelming in Reader, less so in side bar!). I just can't feel at ease with Feedly and having it as an app you install doesn't appeal either - can't easily move across computers.

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    3. Thanks Kari - I have been using my side bar and am quite enjoying it because it shows me who has been the most recent person to post and I don't have to have lots of feeds showing that I haven't read - if I don't read them it is fine but I don't feel as overwhelmed. I have seen another feedreader recently that sounds interesting - http://theoldreader.com/ - but I would recommend the side bar

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  10. I don't think I have ever used it to be honest. I just follow people by the 'Blogs I Love' column on my blog. I'm sorry you are kind of sad though :P

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    1. Thanks Cass - I like the blogs I love column - it is far easier with blogger now that there is a list by latest posting and a title - when I first started blogging I think you could just write a list which was frustrating with trying to work out who was posting what and when! It is always change in this game!

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  11. I've never really used Google Reader so the news didn't upset me. Prior to starting blogging I used to read heaps of blogs by subscribing to RSS feeds in Microsoft Outlook and have kept adding to the feeds when I like a blog and occasionally deleting one that no longer exists. I should check out feedly and bloglovin and see what they have to offer.

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    1. Thanks Mel - I've never thought to do RSS feeds in Microsoft Outlook - sounds interesting esp as then you can have them offline rather than just on an online program.

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  12. Goodness gracious, this is a subject that must be close to every bloggers' heart. Finding time to read the blogs I want to is nigh on impossible now as I keep finding more and more blogs I want to read. And at the same time the demands of blogging seem to be increasing week by week. Not getting too attached is sound advise, I'm very bad at this and groan every time something is updated. I have no idea yet what to do about Google Reader. I have a very haphazard approach to reading blogs, but I do find Google Reader really useful for keeping track of the blogs I don't want to lose or forget about, even if I don't visit very often. So, I expect I shall just wait a bit longer and see what people are saying and then jump ship.

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