Google Reader needs GPC

Oh, man, is the Google Reader team under attack for its new social networking features.

There’s a few ways I could take this.

1. I could call people idiots for not understanding the meaning of the word “public.”
2. I could call the Google Reader team idiots for not putting GPC into its social networking and sharing features.
3. I could call the media idiots for not explaining these features better and for even making it sound like stuff that isn’t shared at all is being shared (which absolutely isn’t true).

I’m going to take #2: that the Google Reader team screwed up here and needs to implement GPC as soon as possible. What’s GPC? Granular Privacy Controls.

Here’s how Google screwed up: Google didn’t understand that some users thought that their shared items feeds were private and didn’t know that they were going to be turned totally public. The users who are complaining about this feature assumed that since their feed had a weird URL (here’s mine so you can see that the URL isn’t easy to figure out the way other URLs are) that their feed couldn’t be found by search engines or by people who they didn’t explicitly give the URL to, etc. In other words, that their feed and page would, really, be private, even though it was shared in a public way without a password required or anything like that.

Now, I almost took the stance that the users are wrong. Except, well, in this case they aren’t and the Google Reader team should change the way this feature works.

Here’s how.

When you share a feed item you should have a choice about whether it is made really public (like my feeds are) or whether you keep them for just certain friends to view. Google needs to look to Facebook for leadership here.

If I don’t want you to see some content on Facebook I can lock you out while letting other friends see it. That’s “GPC.”

Facebook has GPC. Google Reader does not.

Social networking services that don’t have GPC will increasingly piss off users and chase them away to competitors that DO have GPC. Look at why SmugMug is so popular (and why its users PAY for the service!) A big part of it is GPC.

But, to the users you still are idiots for not understanding that when Google says “public” Google MEANS public. I’m not sure how much clearer Google could have made it, other than to maybe put a disclaimer that says something like “this feed might look sorta private right now, but we reserve the right to put this feed into public view at anytime for any reason. If you don’t want your shared items to be seen by everyone, please don’t share them.

I think the Google Reader team knew that it was going to have a problem here, though, because they gave its users the ability to delete all items in their shared item feed. Scary feature, too. I’ve spent thousands of hours building up that database and I almost used it by accident cause it sounded like a good feature to try. Yikes, glad I thought a little bit more than I usually do that night.

Anyway, Google Reader team: please enable GPC. Your users will keep yelling and screaming until you do. I know, cause a few of them have yelled and screamed at me about this feature.

UPDATE: I just signed in and there are 444 items shared with me from my friends. That’s not even counting the feed items that come to me just because of my almost 800 feeds. Yikes! Demonstrates that even Christmas can’t stop the information glut we’re seeing.

180 thoughts on “Google Reader needs GPC

  1. Reader just has too many ways to share items:
    1. Email – click email and type in a name and press send. Best for users you know don’t use RSS.
    3. “Share” button. Easy. Press share and everyone you gave your private URL to can see.
    2. Tag – press tag then type in a name or previously thought of “grouping”. Share that out the same way you would have sent a link to the “shared” items.

    Clearly #2 is the easiest. Apparently the reader team really meant for use to accomplish granular sharing by #3.

    Google. The solution is EASY. People want to share “shared” items by clicking the shared button – and remain private. Here’s how you do it. Make the Share button pop open and give a taglike choice: All, group of people, maybe contacts, etc. No one understands what you mean by tags or bother learning what you mean by them in this context. Its hard enough explaining del.icio.us to people. There’s your GPC.

  2. Reader just has too many ways to share items:
    1. Email – click email and type in a name and press send. Best for users you know don’t use RSS.
    3. “Share” button. Easy. Press share and everyone you gave your private URL to can see.
    2. Tag – press tag then type in a name or previously thought of “grouping”. Share that out the same way you would have sent a link to the “shared” items.

    Clearly #2 is the easiest. Apparently the reader team really meant for use to accomplish granular sharing by #3.

    Google. The solution is EASY. People want to share “shared” items by clicking the shared button – and remain private. Here’s how you do it. Make the Share button pop open and give a taglike choice: All, group of people, maybe contacts, etc. No one understands what you mean by tags or bother learning what you mean by them in this context. Its hard enough explaining del.icio.us to people. There’s your GPC.

  3. Reader just has too many ways to share items:
    1. Email – click email and type in a name and press send. Best for users you know don’t use RSS.
    3. “Share” button. Easy. Press share and everyone you gave your private URL to can see.
    2. Tag – press tag then type in a name or previously thought of “grouping”. Share that out the same way you would have sent a link to the “shared” items.

    Clearly #2 is the easiest. Apparently the reader team really meant for use to accomplish granular sharing by #3.

    Google. The solution is EASY. People want to share “shared” items by clicking the shared button – and remain private. Here’s how you do it. Make the Share button pop open and give a taglike choice: All, group of people, maybe contacts, etc. No one understands what you mean by tags or bother learning what you mean by them in this context. Its hard enough explaining del.icio.us to people. There’s your GPC.

  4. Tangentially related: there is no way to turn off sharing your orkut profile in google talk. And similarly, the maps locations you search in google maps are somehow in a separate category from their search history function, which, incidentally, I have disabled yet somehow see a list of searched locations stored by the cookie that I was not aware of. Seems to me it should be either airtight privacy or none at all. What’s the point of giving people a choice if it’s not across the board?

  5. Tangentially related: there is no way to turn off sharing your orkut profile in google talk. And similarly, the maps locations you search in google maps are somehow in a separate category from their search history function, which, incidentally, I have disabled yet somehow see a list of searched locations stored by the cookie that I was not aware of. Seems to me it should be either airtight privacy or none at all. What’s the point of giving people a choice if it’s not across the board?

  6. Tangentially related: there is no way to turn off sharing your orkut profile in google talk. And similarly, the maps locations you search in google maps are somehow in a separate category from their search history function, which, incidentally, I have disabled yet somehow see a list of searched locations stored by the cookie that I was not aware of. Seems to me it should be either airtight privacy or none at all. What’s the point of giving people a choice if it’s not across the board?

  7. > can we now please put to rest the idea that our shared items were previously … easily accessible to the public?

    Obviously not. :) It’s pretty clear that quite a lot of people did NOT expect privacy from a feature that declared itself “publicly accessible” (see the ZDNet poll or the Mashable poll) and your attempting to dismiss the many, many people who have made the reasonable assumption that public/obscure-equals-public is as incorrect as Google’s apparent dismissal of the people who made the leap from “publicly accessible” but obscure to mean “private”.

    @Modulo Noh – Why won’t you acknowledge this? It seems pretty obvious that the issue is divided.

    I like this conversation, it seems good to let people better realize the trade-offs when accepting obscurity as security rather than get surprised by it later.

  8. > can we now please put to rest the idea that our shared items were previously … easily accessible to the public?

    Obviously not. :) It’s pretty clear that quite a lot of people did NOT expect privacy from a feature that declared itself “publicly accessible” (see the ZDNet poll or the Mashable poll) and your attempting to dismiss the many, many people who have made the reasonable assumption that public/obscure-equals-public is as incorrect as Google’s apparent dismissal of the people who made the leap from “publicly accessible” but obscure to mean “private”.

    @Modulo Noh – Why won’t you acknowledge this? It seems pretty obvious that the issue is divided.

    I like this conversation, it seems good to let people better realize the trade-offs when accepting obscurity as security rather than get surprised by it later.

  9. > can we now please put to rest the idea that our shared items were previously … easily accessible to the public?

    Obviously not. :) It’s pretty clear that quite a lot of people did NOT expect privacy from a feature that declared itself “publicly accessible” (see the ZDNet poll or the Mashable poll) and your attempting to dismiss the many, many people who have made the reasonable assumption that public/obscure-equals-public is as incorrect as Google’s apparent dismissal of the people who made the leap from “publicly accessible” but obscure to mean “private”.

    @Modulo Noh – Why won’t you acknowledge this? It seems pretty obvious that the issue is divided.

    I like this conversation, it seems good to let people better realize the trade-offs when accepting obscurity as security rather than get surprised by it later.

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