Why I switch services so often (why I don't use Google Reader anymore)

Terry Storch, over on Twitter, noticed I was slamming Google Reader and wrote “is it me…or did you go from Google Reader being the best thing in tech, to Google Reader sucks? Hot or Not with Scoble…”

Yes, two years ago I thought Google Reader was the best thing to come along for news freaks like me. Then they started adding features and messed it up.

See, teams can go off the rails.

How bad did they mess it up? My account, today, took 1 minute and 16 seconds to start up. This is a very common experience.

Why does it take so long to start up?

Because I have about 1,500 friends and the code that starts up is VERY POORLY DESIGNED.

Now, lots of people point out that I’m an exception. Joel Houseman, for instance, did just that. “I would point out that you are the exception. With my 150 feeds and 20-30 friends, it loads very fast and is snappy.”

The thing is, I’m an exception everywhere, right? But over on Twitter I have 12,128 friends and Twitter loads in less than a second. Over on FriendFeed I have more than 10,000 friends and it loads in less than a second. Over on Facebook I have about the same number of friends as I have on Google Reader and it opens in a second or two. Heck, even on FourSquare, a service that has not gone mainstream yet, I have more than 1,000 friends and it always opens fast.

So, yes, I loved Google Reader. Before they added crapily-written and crapily-designed code to it.

Now I hate it and never use it.

What does this mean for regular users? Maybe not much. BUT I remember the days when people like Joel used to make fun of me for being the first person to hit more than 1,000 friends on Twitter. Now that is very commonplace.

Keep that in mind if you are using Google Reader. Do NOT use its social networking features.

Oh, and I can’t figure out how to delete all my friends there so I can make it work again.

No biggie. Twitter has replaced Google Reader for me anyway. Howso?

Check out my Twitter list of Tech News Brands. This is far better than anything I ever had in Google Reader, even with thousands of RSS feeds coming in there.

And head over to Listorious.com. Twitter’s list feature has only been around a day and look at how many lists there already are. This is FAR FASTER GROWTH than Google Reader EVER saw. Especially among “normal” users. Did you notice how many celebrities are on Twitter but aren’t on Google Reader? There’s a reason for that.

52 Replies to “Why I switch services so often (why I don't use Google Reader anymore)”

  1. Interesting post. I guess there are those of us out there that still enjoy reading more than 140 characters (blogs) from as few of sources as possible. Eating as much info as we can isn't a good thing, just because we can do it. Would be interesting to hear your take on the consumption of media – information that actually does good.

  2. The thing is now that Twitter has lists you can set it up to read however you like. You can have one feed with 500 loudmouths in it. Another with just four of your best friends. Another with just news brands, like the one I linked to. You could do same with Google Reader, but Google Reader falls apart if you add more than about 500 friends.

    1. I guess what I am saying is that maybe it’s not Google Reader that’s the problem. Maybe it’s what you are expecting out of them when comparing them to Twitter’s processing of lots of smaller bits of info? For a reader (Google) to process many blogs is a totally different thing than processing tweets.

      It’s not just a bad service if you choose that reading tweets fits your style more than blogs do. The good thing – it’s your opinion. The bad thing – doesn’t make it the opinion of Google Reader.

  3. I guess what I am saying is that maybe it's not Google Reader that's the problem. Maybe it's what you are expecting out of them when comparing them to Twitter's processing of lots of smaller bits of info? For a reader (Google) to process many blogs is a totally different thing than processing tweets.

    It's not just a bad service if you choose that reading tweets fits your style more than blogs do. The good thing – it's your opinion. The bad thing – doesn't make it the opinion of Google Reader.

  4. I'm still hooked on Google Reader. But I agree the startup time can be a problem. In fact sometimes it doesn't start at all – I just get the outer shell and no articles. Sometimes if you use https rather than http it will load.

    You've often commented about the temporal nature of Twitter, and that's a problem that Reader solves, because everything you've downloaded becomes a permanent part of your personal knowledge base. In fact, I send some Twitter feeds to Reader for that very purpose.

    It would be nice if they fix these problems…

  5. I take your point. Since a week I'm on Google Wave and apart from commonly noted shortcomings that are obvious (lack of friends being able to join, lack of usable functions), the systems just lets my CPU do overtime. I'm using Chrome as a platform, so I do not want to know what my CPU was doing wit IE or Firefox.
    I have now put Google Wave on a second computer and that has stabilized much of my other activities, but if they cannot solve this little problem in their design, it might develop as a major restraint.

  6. Hmmm, I see your point but I don't agree. For me, Google Reader is a time saver. You could have a very nice glimpse of the article before you choose to press the link to read the rest. With Twitter you will only see the title of the article which usually is a catchy phrase most of the blogs use.

    I also use Twitter as a real time rss feed but I see that I spend more time with it comparing to Google Reader. If only rsscloud.org, which brings real time on rss feed, had a future, the problem will be solved.

    Btw, don't know how you handle such information flow with thousands followers and friends in Twitter & Google Reader. Personally, I find difficult to catch all the news from the 50 sources I follow. Kudos for that

  7. Don't agree at all. As a 'regular' user Reader works well for me. Reading news/RSS feeds isn't a willy waving contest. I don't need to read the news a nanosecond before anyone else, I'm happy to read it when it hits the blogsphere, as, TBH, being in the UK most of the techie blog entries are irrelevant to a UK resident.

    I don't have the time, nor inclination to plough through the noise on Twitter just to get 140 chars 10 mins before I read it in Reader. I prefer the more in-depth, thought out articles in Reader anyway.

    I don't make much use of the 'social' bit of reader. It's an RSS Feed reader FFS, not Faecesbook 🙂 I used to follow you in Reader, but there was so much irrelevant 'crap' (to me anyway) that I dropped your feed, as most of it I saw elsewhere anyway.

  8. I remember you started a secondary twitter account, using which you were following very few people. Why? To cut down on noise and speed up twitter experience. Why not do the same for Google Reader?
    Download a list of all feeds you're subscribed to (I remember seeing it somewhere in settings or so) and upload them to a fresh account. Google Reader as a simple RSS reader is not screwed up, the problem is with the social features, as you pointed out. If you still like the reader start afresh and just use them in a new account.
    I have discarded a couple of email ids in the past, mainly because I was getting way too much spam. Shifting reader that way is not a big deal at all!

  9. Didn't you once think newspapers should provide the whole feed and not just the link? Just when most newspapers are opening up, you go back on your comments. Now you say, link would do (provided it's on twitter!) IS this Scoble's evil twin speaking 😉

  10. Exactly. If Robert considers that list of tweets an upgrade from GR, then I suspect he's been trying to use GR in some rather unusual ways. But then, he's Robert… violating the norms of software interaction is pretty much his career. 🙂

    Sub-140 character limits, obfuscated URLs, being forced to load someone's full site every time I want to read something, random mixing of conversation with content, and so on mean that Twitter has no shot at replacing GR for me.

  11. I have asked this elsewhere but no responses so here I go again…what are lists? How do they differ from groups? Why should I care? And was anyone going to explain this or am I supposed too guess or just 'understand' somehow?

    I am too busy to go in search of answers to questions that are caused by someone else's actions (see Facebook live feed)…if something isn't broke, don't f*ck with it OR if you 'improve' it, tell me what's the benefit to me and how to use it properly.

  12. > Did you notice how many celebrities are on Twitter but aren’t on Google Reader?
    > There’s a reason for that.

    its funny how you threw in that one. The best reason to switch to any medium or software is to measure how many “celebrities” are using it.

    Just use any reader as tool to get to your news. Don´t treat it as the news itself. Whatever makes you happy. I am too bummed about Google adding many features to their products. iGoogle, ya, guess its fun for some people. Does it make me go out and complain about it. Nah not really. Google reader is still the next best bet though. Aren´t many good, in sync rss readers available which tend to work around the globe.

  13. Agreed. I remember how Robert used to rant about non-full-text RSS-feeds – forcing the user to go to the blog to read the rest of a post. Now he's replacing his full-text feeds with a headline/obfuscated link service. While his critique seems to be about a particular feed reader implementation. Maybe switch feed readers instead of giving up on RSS?

  14. Hi all.

    My full list of replies to Scoble from earlier today:

    My point was, Friendfeed, Facebook and Twitter were all designed to be Social Networks, first…thus they handle lots of friends gracefully. Google Reader was designed to be an RSS reader, first…and only recently (within the last year) have they started to add Social features. Unless someone on the Google Reader team is stupid (perhaps), I don't think they're claiming they're a social network.

    Oh and Robert, there is no 'E' in my last name 😛

  15. I use Google Reader social networking features, I find they work great.

    Also, you don't know as much about coding as I do (in another words, next to nothing).

    Twitter can't handle deploying lists, a basic feature that Twitter clients have had forever, without going down. By your definition, they write crap code too.

    It's ok that you hate it, fine. It's fine you are pointing out there flaws (it is a legit flaw to point out and something needs to be done about it), but don't talk about things you don't know about it and have no access to.

  16. I completely agree with you Gabe. I think Google Reader is more about what a person writes. Twitter is rather about what a person does and shares.

    Both are totally different services Robert. I have been using lists for quite some time now. But i still don't understand how can they ever replace GR.

  17. Well i think you made my reply for me… “Did you notice how many celebrities are on Twitter but aren’t on Google Reader? There's a reason for that.” …Yeah and the reason is Twitter has become all about celebrity.
    I took a look at Lists on Twitter and all i saw was a place for people who create lists to feed their own ego. Look how many subscribers i have.. a sort of ego feedlist more than real news.

  18. > But over on Twitter I have 12,128 friends and Twitter loads in less than a second.

    I can not believe you missed the point. Twitter is pulling all the data from the same server but your google reader has to read hundreds of server to get your data.

    Secondly, you are only reading tweets on twitter but in reader, you are getting much bigger content.

  19. “Oh, and I can’t figure out how to delete all my friends there so I can make it work again.”

    Not too bright are you? I'd click the 'Unfollow xxxxx' next to their picture! I guess the fact that it isn't hidden in a menu makes it tougher for you?

    To be honest, I'm sure you could never read all the posts from Twitter any more than you could read posts from a Feed Reader. Why do you make it a personal attack against Google Reader? It isn't designed to be the 'fastest'.

    The 'fastest' reader is actually Opera.

    You're making a fundamental error in comparing a web application (Google Reader) with Twitter – Twitter is NOT an application. It is actually a microblogging service – which offers a feed in real time.

    They both have separate uses. I prefer a quieter microblogging experience, so I use identi.ca – which also posts to Twitter. I get up-to-date news alerts that way, and this isn't what I use a feed reader for.

    I'm also sick of spam in Twitter – something you can't get with a feed reader. Currently I have a fair few feeds – and over a thousand unread messages. I know that if I wanted to read them, I'd have to sit and go through them for several hours – it's just not interesting enough to do that. For realtime, I subscribe to feeds through my microblogging client. This is NOT Twitter. This means I get OSD displays of Dents, Tweets, and headlines – and can open my client when something interesting flashes by… or simply open a browser and search for it myself.

    Twitter is NOT a client.

  20. I do a LOT of my feed reading on my iPhone. I didn't realize Firefox would work there. Hint, it does not. So Feedly does NOT work for me. On my desktops I don't use Firefox either. Google Chrome is better.

  21. I love those things about Google Reader but I got over them. Mostly because I have switched from using a desktop computer to using my iPhone for most of my reading.

  22. Hi Robert, Thx so much for your opinion on Google Reader. Although I have an account, it has always seemed inconvenient when there are so many other ways to find what I'm looking for.
    NOW, though, I'm trying to figure out the List-thing and how it differs from what I've been able to do on Tweet Deck.

    Could you do a post on the application of Twitter Lists for small businesses . . . or at least direct me to some sources.
    THX, Shari Weiss [whose SFSU students are still talking about your visit to us]

  23. Small businesses? Twitter's lists can be used to curate their partners together. Or their favorite customers. Or their favorite tools. I'm using it at Rackspace to demonstrate that I'm following the web hosting industry, for instance. We're also keeping a list of all employees, which makes us more accessible. We also have multiple Twitter accounts, so we are keeping a list of that. And so on and so forth.

  24. Ok, so how has that changed you? Do you read more headlines now, but less content (“meat”)? Or did you use Google Reader just to read headlines as well and liked the fact, that you could read the rest of the post without having to click (and wait)?

    Because for me there is still a fundamental difference between RSS and Twitter. Feeds provide depth in a way that Twitter can't match.

  25. There is a huge difference but it's up to personal preference I guess. In Twitter, it's headline only and unless you caught the news quick enough, it's usually too far down the stream to try to catch. I don't have these issues in Google Reader and never need to leave the Tab to find out more (with Better GReader Add-on). Twitter Lists also still lumps everything in a single stream, RSS allows you find new items easily as each feed has it's own folder with unread counts. To me, that makes a much better experience on information flow.

  26. So you're justifying your decision because you're on a platform that won't run Firefox or Chromium?

    Of course, you're working on an iPhone, where Twitter is easier to use than a feed reader – and I doubt if you can find a microblogging client that will allow you to recieve identi.ca dents, feeds, or anything else not sponsored by Apple right?

    Based on this, you're making a decision that it's better? Or perhaps you're simply trying to justify your decision to spend tons of cash on an iPhone and therefore it must be the best way to do it.

    Google Chrome is not better than Firefox for feed reading, and Opera is faster than both of them – it has feeds built in. Actually, I never thought I'd be interested to load up over a thousand feeds and actually try to read them. With merely a hundred or so, when they load up 1000+ messages, I already start to simply mark entire feeds as read without even looking at them. I once spent about 5 hours trying to get through as many as I could – starring ones that stood out as interesting – but the excercise was futile. It's simply not feasible, and you miss out on a lot of interesting stuff that just doesn't look so interesting on the surface.

    Actually, it worries me not whether you give up on feeds and go to Twitter. I find Twitter to be rather annoying and full of spam, I prefer more private microblogging – and have enough contacts to keep me busy – less than 100 is fine. Any more than that I'd rather have queued up in a feed reader to be subsequently overlooked or ignored.

    You made an incredible comment that 'Google Chrome is better than Firefox' also – and you're entitled to your opinion. However, this is simply incorrect. Firefox 3.7 reads feeds faster than Chrome. Chromium is faster than Chrome (I currently use Chromium – which is a lot faster than Chrome) – but I still find reading feeds in a prism to be more convenient, or Firefox 3.7 with various add-ons to make the display clearer (mozilla prism – it's a single web application in a window. Links open in Chromium for fast loading).

    Of course, with an application like Pidgin, or Gwibber, you can subscribe to Twitter, identi.ca, friendfeed, jaiku, RSS, Atom, AIM, Google Talk, IRC, MSN, QQ, XMPP, Yahoo and Zephyr.

  27. Google Reader isn't designed for 'finding things'.

    Google Reader is designed to recieve and display feeds.

    Is this a campaign? similar in nature to the one waged against netbooks – to try to redefine them into a category in which they were never designed to compete?

  28. I agree with your assessment. The problem with RSS readers is the “management/maintenance” of feeds which is daunting. With Twitter lists, the inherent crowdsourcing process makes it a lot easier to manage.
    But we shouldn't under-estimate the role of the curator. A list is as good as its on-going curation. And not everyone will succeed in emulating Scoble's herculean and diligent efforts at curating and managing his lists.
    That said, I would like to see a Twitter List widget come out of the Twitter Labs. Hey, how about a pull-down or tabs on that Favs Widget you've got Robert where I can quickly switch between your Lists?

  29. Hey Robert, digging your new twitter favorites embed. Excellent share. Sorry that wiping the slate clean on Google Reader (friend resetting) is not an option. I thought and was hoping that would be a surefire way for you rekindle the fire of information utility from Greader.

  30. Robert I am listening to you. As I said earlier, twitter lists are the best way to gobble breaking news. Or rather say any news, tech or non-tech. But that is not all I read and my concern is about all the other feeds.

    My point is it is easier for me to follow what you write on this blog in Google Reader than on twitter where you also share links or your opinions. For you, it might be easier separating the individual posts from the shared links in twitter stream. Not for me 🙂

  31. As someone already mentioned (@ben2talk) it seems like GReader is not designed to discover/find (the river of news) but only to read/archive feeds… sigh

    I used to think GReader's shortcomings would be solved with an API and a client at least similar to the FriendFeed Desktop one but with Twitter's list feature and mainstream adoption I am not entirely sure anymore.

    Anyway, Robert keep up the great value you provide with scoblefaves feed, it is one of my preferred “link blogs” around.

  32. I disagree, not on Google Reader, but on the use of a RSS Reader. Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook won't ever be the substitute of a RSS Reader. You can have billions of friends, lists, contacts or whatever on your Social Networks, but you won't ever be able to track all the news you're interested to.

    An Example? If you have 1000 RSS Feed in your Reader are you sure that every 1000 has an account in a Social Network? And if so are you sure that they use this account in order to spread their links?

    I'm not so sure.

    Secondly, the RSS Reader is done for those that have not the time to follow all day long the Social Stream, for those who want have the pleasure to “taste” a blog post quietly. This is a huge difference, and if you want these tools could be dangerous for a blog lifetime, because there's a lot of people that now prefer to post a topic on Facebook or FriendFeed instead of writing something on their blog.

  33. Why on earth would you use a Feed reader in that way – to get extra input from 1500 friends is incredibly silly.

    You should use a microblogging service to follow your friends, and feed reader to recieve feeds!

    Tell me, how long does it take you to check the extra input just from 1500 friends (ignoring any feeds you actually subscribed to because you want to read them)

  34. Lolz nice comment – and yes, this is where you should use a microblogging client where it's easier to just let such spammy stuff go past, and use the reader to follow your most trusted sources.

  35. It's not incredibly silly. I have that many friends on Foursquare. I have 10x that many on Twitter. I have 10x that many on Facebook. 10x that many on FriendFeed. Just because I don't use the tool in the same way you do doesn't mean it's incredibly silly. If it were so silly, why do they let you add more than, say, 100 friends?

  36. Andrea: I've actually found I like Twitter better because there's more brands and more news flowing through it. And, anyway, everytime I look at my RSS reader I see stuff that is mostly already on Twitter or on TechMeme. The stuff that's left isn't really all that interesting and if it were, it would get shoved to me by my 12,000 friends I'm listening to now on Twitter.

  37. Twitter is about context and GR is about Content

    Twitter show the context of the moment, but you have do find content elsewhere, Google reader is for grouping intersting content so it can be read in one place!

    The best solution is to use both services, you can use twitter to get in context with waht is happening in the world ant that moment, and than later, you can get good content about the subjext!

    to bad twitter is becaming a big public chat room, people forget funcions like Direct message in twitter, or other very old but efficient tool for discution, a EMAIL!

  38. For my team when we are discussing testing, I always mention “the Scoble test” which is if the assumption is that a function will pass in a handful of accounts, what if we pass in 2,000? If we expect x amount of things, we apply “the Scoble test” of x multiplied by 1,000. Yeah, Scoble's usage is the edge case, but if you can handle that edge case, you can be pretty sure you can handle anything else.

  39. 15000 friends on Twitter, 15000 on facebook, 15000 on Friendfeed – this is a total of 45000 friends. Just to view one message from each friend, taking a total of 1 second to do so will take you a total of 12.5 hours.

    How would you ever find time to view any feeds?

    This isn't silly?

    Opera doesn't delay in loading up, but as feeds come in – faster than they do with Twitter, or Google Reader, and I recieve 40 feeds – when I had around 150 feeds, I was simply trying to scan the headlines and pick one out from the page before deleting the whole lot without bothering to see if they had any interesting content – we're down to simply scanning the headline there, and it's still taking hours. This is on a fast interface, with no delays…

  40. Feedly lays out feeds like a web page – it takes way too much time to mark them read (you have to physically click each one) – and that won't work when you have a thousand feeds to get through (let alone if you have an extra 50,000 friends to check up on!)

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