Google Reader, Google+, and retweets.

Something I said yesterday on Twitter got a bit of traction, and admittedly, it’s because it was reactionary. I read this post and something didn’t sit right with me. So I started talking about it… in slightly elevated tones. And then other people started talking too. And before long, I had riled up more than a few people, and judging from the retweets (still coming in this morning), a few more people have joined the fray.

But now, in the cold light of the new day, I’m re-reading everything, and I may have overreacted. I make it a point of pride that I can readily admit when I’m wrong, because I find more value in learning than being right all the time. I may have read a little too much into the post itself. I may have seen the movement of Google Reader closer to Google+ as a strategic move by Google to force some more social down our already fatigued internet throats in an effort to increase activity in a social network I tired of within weeks of its closed launch. I may have done those things. But there’s a very good reason why I might have:

“We think the end result is better than what’s available today, and you can sign up for Google+ right now to start prepping Reader-specific circles.”

If you read that post, and parse it for what it’s worth, you can’t make out what is actually going to take place:

“We recognize, however, that some of you may feel like the product is no longer for you.”

Will Google Reader be completely subsumed by Google+? Or will we just get a +1 button where the other sharing options used to be? Those are two very different extremes that affect the user base in drastically different ways. Considering that a great many users of GR may do so through third-party apps, if Google decides to silo that product within the busy walls of G+, it could really bother some folks.

And that’s precisely why I reacted the way I did – because I just don’t know. I’ve come to rely on GR as a dedicated and reliable news tool, and I use it with a handful of different apps. I never go to the web to view it. If that post had been clear about the changes (for instance how it affects different user types, i.e. web users vs. app users syncing with the service) I would have felt very different about it. But that’s not the position that the post took, and that’s exactly why I’m uneasy about it.

Google’s been pushing very hard for G+ to become a thing for everyone. After a short while, it felt like a part-time job to me. I don’t want to work to have to get my news, and that kind of movement for GR will likely polarize a lot of its users. Let’s hope Google, a company that trumpets how open it is (whether accurate or not) allows that flow of information to continue the way we’ve grown to enjoy receiving it. Part of me thinks they will, just for the “eyeballs” argument, but part of me doesn’t know. That social data buy-in is very tempting.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking for clarification on these points, and if anyone has any, please don’t hesitate to send it my way, here or on Twitter.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.