Sunday, October 08, 2006

Google Reader Upgrade Dissappoints


Yet again, I find myself wishing I could say I like what Google has done with something, only to be forced into admitting: they disappoint me. Well, add one more to the list of things Google can't get right, even with an army of PhD holders and more money than you can shake a redwood forest at: Google Reader has gone from simple gold to contorted crap. The original version was a great excersize in simplicity in design that let me jump in, read, and get on with my life. The "upgrade" is a mess of a noisy interface for me to get lost in as my browser slows to a crawl with far more JavaScript than a simple reader needs, and even the occassional forgetting of everything I haven't read yet.

I was a little late in the Blogscene, which is a relative statement given that most of the world doesn't know what a blog is, despite the fact that most bloggers think otherwise. I started with my trusty KDE's Akregator, which is admirably usable, and then looked for a web-solution to use better from multiple boxes and a laptop, right around the time the first Google Reader was released. I jumped on board, and I loved it. Right off the bat you have your entire reading queue, waiting for you to read through one post at a time. Read, hit the j button, read, j, read, j, j (I skip things, a lot), j, j, j, read, j, read. If I had a backlog, I could just pick labels or subscriptions to read first and be on my way until I had time to read less important things. The key is it was simple. Most of the time, I only ever used a single button: the j. It was fast, showing just what I was reading and a few things coming up on the list. Thanks to (possibly accidental) details of the implementation, I could scrollwheel over the reading list and pre-load hundreds of articles, so that I could read them offline in my web-based reader! Again, best of all, it was simple. It did all this and it was clean, and simple. God, it was simple.

The new Reader is a beast. There is a busy tree of labels and subscriptions listed on the left, repeating my feeds for every label they are in. The unread counts are always inaccurate. It tries to show me everything I've read so far on the page, which adds up quickly. I can't mark anything as read without everything before it getting marked too, which means no holding things to read later. The javascript slows the page down and even locks up FireFox for a few moments when loading the next posts. it is not simple.

Google, use your many brains. I don't know how you could have messed this up so badly. It brings up an interesting question: is it OK to compete with yourself? They say that the new Reader meets the middle-ground between what everyone wants, but does that mean it doesnt actually fit what any one person wants? Re-release the original as Google Quick Reader or something.

I'm sorry. This post was badly written. Call it a rant. I just miss my reader.

2 comments:

k4ml said...

Interesting. I never use the old reader after a few try. I just don't like it so I stay with something simple such as feeds.reddit.com but right now, Google Reader has become my default.

Bob said...

Absolutely spot on!

I hate the way the new reader UI displays many stories on the same page and 'j' brings the next one to the top.

I reverted to the old UI immediately. I'll
be very annoyed if they remove it completely.

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