Having already a Gmail account, it was no trouble to fire up Google Reader, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s not really worthy of an entire essay, but here are my thoughts for improvement:
Yes. It’s slow. Lets get that out of the way, assume Google are working it, and analyse the actual potential of the software.
I imported flawlessly my feeds from Bloglines, and had a go at labelling them. By the way, if you’re doing any serious feed editing, you want to check out the button with the little downward arrow, just to the left of the filter box. It expands the subscriptions box so that all the feeds fit in them.
Naturally, Google are sticking with their ‘persistent tags’ (labels) metaphor that Gmail pioneered. Good. They’re great. They give the spoteneity of tags a bit of permanence and rigour, while still overcoming the limitations of the file/folder paradigm.
Why can’t OPML be extended to mark up which items I’ve read and which ones I haven’t? I know it’s a generic outline language rather than a specific feed reader format, but that’s what it’s mostly used for. It’s extremely frustrating having to wait for people to publish before i can start using Reader.
Another feature imported from Gmail are Stars: if you like an entry by someone, you can give it a star. It then stays in your starred list. (Aside: I guess when you star an entry the text is copied to Google’s servers for permanence, otherwise when you star an entry it would just disappear when it drops off the end of that feed).
Stars at the post level are nice, but I’d like to add stars to specific feeds as well. They’re my priority, must-read-when-a-new-item-appears feeds. I’m making do with a ‘favs’ label, but stars should just be extended.
Secondly, this starring feature is a bit like del.icio.us but without the social side (I’ll come to that later). Why not just integrate with del.icio.us, and instead of internally starring an item, share it with the world?
Social software is red-hot at the moment and yet I see nothing of it in Reader. I want lots of features here: how many people are subscribed to feed X, what people are labelling it, how many other people starred that entry I just starred, and so on. So much potential here, but Google seem to be turning a complete blind eye. We’ll see.