After Google Reader: Feedly & Digg Readers

People who have been using Google Reader have been scrambling to find an adequate solution to replace their beloved feed reader.  Back in March, I wrote post on reader options for those looking to migrate before the end of Google Reader.  I never really got into the Google Reader.  I was a Bloglines girl who threw all of her feeds to Google Reader in a panic just before Bloglines disappeared.  In months following the Bloglines blow up, I settled on Netvibes.  At the time, I liked Netvibes integration with my social media and feeds.  As I mentioned in my post in March, I haven’t been reading my Netvibes as much as I used to.  While I liked Netvibes, something was missing.  I suspected it was because it didn’t have an app, but now I think it was a combination of things.

When Google decided to pull the plug on its reader I decided to investigate different feed readers again to determine if I found one better than Netvibes or if I really even needed a reader now.  These days I get a lot of my information from Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook.  People are tweeting their blog posts, or interesting questions, topics, issues, etc. and I wondered whether my social media feeds caused me to move beyond a feed reader.  This is kind of the same thing Marcela De Vivo at Search Engine Journal wondered with her post, “Google Reader Is Almost Gone, But Do You Really NEED An RSS Reader Replacement?

Could it be that Google is transitioning away from the RSS Reader format entirely? They’re switching over to Google Plus, and they want you to come with them.

Consuming social media as part of an RSS feed is not exactly new—that’s exactly what Digg is doing when it launches its own reader, the same day Reader shuts down. But to do away with readers entirely, relying solely on a social platform? When we’re looking at large-scale data consumption, is it a viable transition?

The answer is yes—if Google can pull it off. With the latest Google Plus redesign, this social platform is now much more social, making it easier to stream and share information. It could be possible to amass “feeds” of information… if you’re following the right people. And in order to make sure the right people are on Plus, Google got rid of it’s eminently popular Reader.

It could also be said that Google is simply following on the heels of a major trend in how we access information. RSS readers were designed for people to sit down and browse their collected feeds. But with the increasing number of those who use smartphones and tablets as their primary internet checkpoint, it’s more common to see people who are accessing information all day long, checking the latest news on a constant basis—which makes an integrated social media/reader platform much more probable option.

It is an interesting concept.  Right now I only use Google Plus for work at my institution. (The Department of Education is exploring its use for connecting and sharing within the department and increasing synergy.)  I play on it a bit for personal and library stuff, but I just haven’t gotten into it yet.  Maybe Google knows me better than I do, and Google Plus will be attached to my hip in a year’s time.  I remember saying years ago that Twitter was fun but I couldn’t think of using it professionally. Doh!

In the meantime I have not yet given up my feeds.  I decided to explore Feedly.  I don’t like the fact that Feedly doesn’t work with IE.  I know everybody talks about IE’s decline in the browser wars but the problem is that many major hospitals and larger companies use only IE.  Academia and the open natured technology industry have the flexibility to shun IE in favor of other browsers, but there is a large group of the working population that can’t.    I am not the only one who reads feeds at work, Feedly’s suggestions page has many comments on the IE issue.  Apparently the new Feedly Cloud feature might help IE users, but there are those on the suggestions page that seem to have problems with Cloud.

Now I am lucky in that I am able to use Firefox and Chrome on my work computer.  However, because there are a lot of hospital resources and other web resources that were created specifically for IE, it tends to be my browser of habit at work.  I noticed I am breaking that habit slowly.  I have Chrome up almost all the time for two reasons. 1. Our the Department of Education is exploring the use of Google Plus. 2. My life is on Google Calendar and I need to consult it often.

One of the nice things about Feedly is that it integrates very well with Chrome.  As soon as I launch Chrome the Feedly tab launches with my feeds.  This is actually is quite helpful to me and works perfectly with my morning current awareness reading habit.  When I login to my computer each morning the first thing I do is bring up Chrome for my calendar, so the Feedly tab with my feeds is right there too.  This has gotten me back into the habit of reading my feeds.

Feedly has an app and it is on my iPhone, but like Marcela mentioned, it is a bit clunky.  I don’t use Feedly on my phone as much as I thought.  I still use it more than I used Netvibes, mainly because it is an app on my phone.  I have found that on my phone Feedly has to compete for my attention among my other apps.  I tend to use apps that have the alert icons on more than the ones that don’t.  Because Feedly doesn’t have alerts showing up on the icon, it often gets ignored for other apps like Facebook, Hootsuite, mail, Words with Friends, news apps, etc. that all have alerts.  I see a little red number next to those apps and my brain says, “Ooh what’s new that I need to know about?”  I know I am easily distracted.

I have pretty much left Netvibes, it just didn’t fit into my work flow anymore.  I have moved to Feedly and while I am using it more than I used Netvibes, the jury is still out as to whether I keep it or move to only get information through Twitter.  Intellectually I am not ready for that kind of switch, but we’ll see if my daily life’s actions tell me otherwise.

For those that don’t like any of the options I mentioned in March, Digg is creating a reader that might interest you. They are certainly cutting it close, as they mentioned on their blog, their public release of version 1 will come just before Google shuts Reader down. Currently they sent out their first batch of invites to the survey participants who helped with their development process.  “Over the next few hours”, they’ll open Digg Reader to the rest of the users  signed up for early access.  If you want to try Digg you can sign up here: digg.com/reader. As they scale up over the next day or so, they’ll be adding users in increasingly larger batches. According to Digg, “this beta version is aimed first and foremost at Google Reader users looking for a new home in advance of its imminent shutdown.”  They have instructions on how to migrate from Google to Digg.

As they mentioned the beta version is very basic but they have plans to really improve it in updates.

Things Digg will be rolling out in the next few months include:

  • Search
  • Android app (before end of July)
  • Additional options like “View Only Unread” and “Mark As Unread”
  • Useful ways to rank and sort your posts and stories, such as (1) by popularity within your social networks, (2) by interestingness to you, and (3) by article length
  • Better tools for organizing feeds and folders, as well as support for tagging
  • More options for sharing and sending (e.g., to LinkedIn, Google+, WordPress, Tumblr, Squarespace, Evernote, Dropbox, Buffer), and integration of IFTTT functions
  • Browser extension and/or bookmarklet
  • Ability to import and export your data
  • Uber for cronuts

After reading more about Digg, it looks like I am going to have to check it out.  However, I am going to wait a bit.  I don’t need to jump Feedly’s ship just yet and the things I am interested in are not in the product yet.  Still it is interesting.

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