Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Google Reader and the internet

I’ve mentioned before [probably] that if you want to follow my blog(s), you should probably get yourself some type of RSS “reader”, so that you can be notified when a new post appears. There’s little point coming back here every day to see what’s new when there’s a 90% chance that there won’t be anything. (There’s a 100% chance that even if there is, it won’t be worth your time, but technology can’t help with that problem. That’s just a matter of making poor choices in the blogs you follow.)

Lately, I’ve been using yet another Google product, as my RSS reader: Google Reader. And it’s pretty cool. When I log in, I get a list of all of the blogs (or other sites that have RSS feeds) that I’m watching, and can see at a glance which ones have new posts/items. I can read the posts right in Reader, or I can click the link to go to the blog’s site itself. If I want to, I can “star” an item, so that I can easily find it later, and I can even “share” items—with or without personal comments—and they’ll show up on a special public page, where people can see the posts that I’ve shared. (Which, itself, has an RSS feed, so people could in turn watch my “shared items” in their RSS reader.) I haven’t actually started using the “sharing” feature, though—except for one post from this blog, just to see what it looks like—so at the time of writing, there isn’t much to see at my shared items page. But still, I can definitely see the potential for that to be very cool. If I used it more often, I’d probably even put an RSS feed to my shared items in the sidebar at the side of this blog.

But here’s the issue, which is partially the reason I don’t use the sharing feature: There aren’t that many blogs that I follow. Most of the time when I go into Google Reader, I have the same experience as anyone who follows my blog: Nothing is there. So you’d think that I’d probably just go in once a day, first thing in the morning, and then leave it until the next day. But that’s not how I operate. Any time I have a couple of free minutes, I’m there, seeing the “no unread items” message.

I read a blog post today by someone who was mentioning the fact that the internet has the ability to waste a lot of his time, but I have the opposite problem: When I get a few free minutes at work, my first impulse is to go to the internet and read something, but when I go, there’s nothing to read! I get off a conference call, and have a few minutes to kill before my next one, so I whip out Google Reader, and find… nothing. (There’s even a handy Trends tool, that gives some cool statistics on the blogs I’m following, but that doesn’t do me much good either, when I’m not reading anything.)

So I foresee a future in which I spent a lot of time looking for blogs that I can put in my Google Reader list. Eventually, when I’ve got dozens and dozens, it will become more likely that there will be something to read any time I go into Google Reader. But that will cause other problems: I’ve noticed that I tend to get new items showing up in Reader in clusters; I may not find posts throughout the day, but if I look first thing in the morning, I’ll find a bunch. (Apparently most blog writers do their writing/posting at night, not throughout the day.) So when I get dozens and dozens of blogs added to Google Reader, I’ll also find dozens and dozens of posts showing up every morning—and probably still nothing (or very little) throughout the day!