I'm finishing my coffee...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reader.l.icio.us - Spice Up Reader with Tasty Features

Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

This quote seems appropriate for this post. I like the parallel between eating what I want and using a great product like Google Reader... Not sure who's fighting it out inside in this equation...

In the day-and-a-half since my last post I've thought a lot about Google Reader. It is a truly amazing product. I briefly touched on the features I really like in my last post, and have learned a lot more about it since then.

I read an informative post at Mitchelaneous (thanks for the link via del.icio.us, O) about getting more from Reader. The author includes pics and links to useful tools such as Reader Notifier for your toolbar, and a pretty cool Reader Notifier Firefox Extension. The most interesting and promising enhancement I noticed was link to an article by the developer of a greasemonkey script promising to merge Reader into you gmail. It sounds as if the developer is also a member of the Reader development team. Interesting reads if you have time.

This article was posted only a couple of days ago and I have to say I am surprised that the following features didn't rate a mention. Did you know that you could drag and drop a next button (and a next button by tag) into your bookmarks toolbar that will load the next unread item in your reader (and mark at read at the same time)? There is also a subscribe button which will search for an XML feed for the page your are currently on and automatically subscribe to it. Pretty cool, huh? (I am new to Reader, so pardon me if these features are not news)...

Like I said, I really like Reader. After having used it for only a few weeks, I'd like to offer the following suggestions to the development team at Google Reader:

First, I love that you can "put Reader in a bookmark". The subscribe, next bookmark, & next bookmark for a specific tag toolbar button features in the goodies section are really valuable. I would love it even more if I could put bookmarks (non-xml/rss url's) in Reader. I know that Reader is based on RSS feeds, but often times I am surfing the web and come across an article on a site that doesn't have a feed and want to share with my social network via my "shared items page" or through the syndicated clip in the sidebar of my blog (or by gmail). Currently, I've subscribed to my del.icio.us feed in Reader and share pages bookmarked via del.icio.us that don't have rss feeds of their own. This is why I use del.icio.us, but is there a better way? It would be powerful not to have to make this circuitous journey to share a bookmark.

If non-xml/rss in Reader bookmarking is a feature they will consider, I hope they will also consider adding a bookmark bar link (much like the subscribe link) that will add the URL of the site you are on to Reader when you click it.

Second, sharing articles is really powerful as a social networking feature of Reader. I have embedded a clip of my shared items on my blog. I love it. One thing I've noticed when you click through to the shared items page is that there is no way to quickly filter or sort by the different categories or tags I have used. It would be really great to have a set of links in the upper right of the shared items page that allow users to quickly filter and sort the posts via categories or tags.

Third, Google's Blogger Web Comments should be a feature within Reader. Web comments is an amazing concept that -- as a feature of Reader -- could be really powerful, far beyond its current existence as a firefox extension (not a knock on firefox, extensions, or Comments). While Reader affords me with an efficient way of keeping up with blogs, etc., there is still an experiential gap between consuming content, reviewing comments, and being able to continue the dialogue (either as a commenter or as someone blogging about a site). Further, every blog has a different and oftentimes painful method for commenting on their posts. Google's Blogger Web Comments, integrated into Reader, could become the default tool for making comments on the web. Features such as comment syndication (for your blog, shared items page, etc.) would serve to further extend the reach and usefulness of "Google Reader Web Comments" (and possibly provide new opportunities for ad revenue).

Lastly, I know that the Reader team is already creating packages of popular RSS feeds from certain categories for folks to subscribe to. It would be really nice to be able to subscribe to, search on, and browse categories such as the most popular, most searched on, most commonly used tags, most commonly starred, and most commonly shared posts among users. I have a friend that does most of his surfing in del.icio.us. He is constantly browsing popular items and the bookmarks of users with whom he has bookmarks in common. Integrating these practical features into Google Reader would position it not only as the most powerful news reader but also as the leading tool for social content management.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Google Reader for making my life easier with reader. I can't wait for next evolution of this product.

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