I am burning with the fury of a thousand exploding suns over the termination of Google Reader.
My life is an endless quest to learn more and suck less. And for years I have spent countless hours consuming web content through Google Reader to help me work towards that unending goal. I spend a ton of time using Google Reader… A minimum of an hour a day, and a maximum… Well I’m embarrassed to say. I read a lot. On Google Reader.
So, you can imagine my dismay at this love note Google left in my most cherished application:
A Long Time Coming
Google has clearly been working towards the termination of Google Reader for a long time (and this was confirmed by a former Google Reader product manager). They have been hobbling its capabilities for years, but it never pissed me off enough to leave. I just kept adapting around the added weaknesses.
While I’m on the subject, I want to be clear that I am not one of those people who gets pissy over application redesigns, and feature changes. I’ve spent more than a my fair share of time architecting websites and applications. I know what goes into the evolution, and I know that no redesign makes everyone happy.
RSS>Twitter, Facebook & Google+
MG Siegler tweeted:
To which I replied:
And Drew Olanoff of TechCrunch wrote:
“Thanks to Twitter, Flipboard and Facebook, I have more content than I can shake a stick at. I don’t want to read every single thing that WIRED writes, I want to read the things that people I know think are awesome. Google Reader never did that for me, so it must go” (TechCrunch).
I looked Drew up on LinkedIn, and he’s a community manager. Of course he doesn’t give a shit about learning about things that are unfound. He has no need to. That doesn’t mean that Google Reader needs to kick the bucket.
Some folks compare RSS to drinking from the fire-hose of data. I’ve never felt that way about RSS, but that’s exactly how I feel about social media.
Facebook = A lot of partisan political crap + pictures of people’s kids
Twitter = Unmanageable mess, great for spur of the moment interaction & data mining
Google+ = I can’t believe that Google killed Reader to try to boost this snoozfest
If I have to wait for my friends to learn something cool in order for me to learn it, I fail. A large part of my job is to know stuff before the “normals” do.
A Crisis of Faith
I use a ton of Google products to manage my information. Most notably Android, Gmail, Drive/Docs, Calendar, Contacts, Search, Voice, Hangouts, Chrome and the aforementioned Reader. The reason I love Android is the Google suite of integrated apps. These are applications that are critical to me as an individual and a professional.
Let me repeat that.
These applications are critical to my business, and my ability to service my clients. When Google kills one of them, they are cutting off a critical piece of how I work. It makes me wonder if they will do the same to other applications that are so central to my daily life that I think of them as extensions of my own mind. And make no mistake, that’s what Google Reader is to me. It’s an extension of my awareness and memory.
A Data Feed For A Data Feed
The Spira Family motto is “We don’t suffer from insanity, we enjoy it.” If we had a second one it would be, “Don’t get mad, get even.”
If my RSS feed is getting the proverbial axe, well so is one of the largest data feeds Google gets from me: Chrome. I’m switching back to Firefox.
I may also look for other places to split from the Google ecosystem. This incident has really hit home how foolish it is to rely so heavily on one technology provider.
Thanks for the wakeup call Google.
I’m a bit phobic of of dictators & dictatorships. Near as I can tell, there is no dedicated word for it like geniophobia, “the fear of chins” (no joke). I love to travel and what to see as much of the world as possible, but I run the other direction when dictators are in charge. I’m just not that adventurous.
Google North of the Demilitarized Zone
This brings me to Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt’s recent trip to sunny North Korea, the land of forced labor camps, starvation, near-absolute isolation from the outside world, and apparently unicorns.
Schmidt’s goal seemed to be encouraging the North Korean government to open up Internet access for its people. After his trip he stated:
“We made that alternative very, very clear. Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first. They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done. It is their choice now, and in my view, it’s time for them to start, or they will remain behind” (G+).
More on this in a bit.
North Korea Isolation
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think most Americans appreciate how isolated the citizens of North Korea are from the rest of the world. With the exception of a tiny group of elites, they have no connection to the outside world through the Internet, phones, mail, or even physical travel.
They are trapped. They don’t have any modern technology, and most people can’t even fathom it. Unlike so many people living under theocratic dictatorships in the Middle East, most North Koreans don’t even know how oppressed they are. In order to realize it, you have to see or read how other people live, and they can’t. And that’s not even getting into the forced labor camps for political prisoners.
Much of this is noted by Schmidt’s daughter Sophie. Quartz broke down the low-lights of Sophie’s recent blog post:
- The English-language customs form for North Korea requires declaration of ”killing device” and “publishings of all kinds.”
- None of the buildings visited by the delegation was heated, despite the cold. Sophie writes: “They’re proudly showing you their latest technology or best library, and you can see your breath. A clue to how much is really in their control.”
- The delegation had two official minders always present with them (“2, so one can mind the other”) and no interaction with North Koreans not vetted by officials.
- Eric Schmidt’s “reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open.”
- The group saw a room with roughly 90 North Koreans at computers in the Kim Il Sung University e-Library. But, Sophie writes, “One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared.”
- The group could make international calls on rented cell phones but had no data service. (Quartz)”
This stuff is very telling because dictators like to impress powerful guests. If they had computers in a heated room, that’s the room that would have been on display.
Now to my point.
Schmidt is Wrong
I’m a huge advocate for the transformative powers of the Internet. It’s why I get so pissed off at any attempt to censor the network. That being said, I don’t think that the Internet is what North Korean citizens need in 2013. A few things that they do need…
- An end to forced labor camps
- Basic civil rights
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great reference for what is important in life. The idea is that starting from the bottom, each layer must be achieved in order to get to the next. For example, you aren’t worried about fulfilling your dreams if you don’t have access to drinkable water.
The point is, as powerful as the Internet is, and I have no doubt that it will one day play a critical role in transforming the lives of the people of North Korea, it’s just not the solution right now. Schmidt’s visit and message are brutally self-serving.
Google can benefit from an Internet-connected North Korea.
The people of North Korea can benefit from an Internet-connected North Korea… But only after some of the most brutal trappings of dictatorship are eradicated. Schmidt had a chance to see a bit of life behind the DMZ, and make his message heard. He could have done some real good, but instead he chose to push Google’s agenda, and promote his upcoming book.
I’m flying home from Kansas City after spending New Years with a couple of friends who recently relocated to this bastion of BBQ. If you’ve never had “burnt ends,” you really oughta.
My flight home was delayed, and United emailed to inform me of said delay as I was walking into the airport. Fortunately this tiny airport has the one thing I care about .
And not free wifi the way most airports and hotels do it. You know the type where they push you through some poorly designed login portal; bombard you with ads; make you agree to a whole bunch of unreasonable, obvious, and stupid things that you didn’t actually bother to read; all before the connection fails, or is so slow that you’d rather go to the overpriced gift shop, and buy a few post cards because mailing them is faster than email on their hobbled network.
Yeah, KCI didn’t have that problem.
I turned on my computer. Clicked the little wifi button, selected “kci,” and went about my business. The delay was actually kind of pleasant.
KCI doesn’t have much in the way of food, drink, or shopping (as far as I could see), but it’s got it where it counts.
Also, foursquare gives you a badge for leaving Kansas… Which is funnier than any joke I could crack about happily leaving Kansas.
“When did apps become like porn?” The delightfully crazy lady ask.
The tired traveler stared back at her with a look of befuddlement.
She laughed, “Ok, that wasn’t clear… I mean, there’s like a porn for everything you can imagine… And the things you can’t. When did apps become like that?”
So that was an except of my interaction with a stranger on the shuttle from the San Francisco Airport to my hotel back in September (I wrote most of this weeks ago and then forgot to finish it). I had just arrived in Palo Alto for the Quantified Self Conference. Back to the crazy lady’s question sans third person…
After she asked the question I pondered it seriously for a moment, came up with my answer, and the asked myself, “does she really want me to answer her?” The expression on her face scream that she was dead serious.
“When did apps become like porn? I’m not really sure of the exact day and time; it’s been a couple of years. But… I’m pretty sure that both porn and apps became so widespread for the same reasons:
- Low cost technology
- Low barrier to entry production
- Free tutorials
Pretty much anyone can afford a computer, mobile, and a camera. The software to produce code and edit film ranges from dirt cheap to free, and there are free tutorials all over to learn how to do it… Also, tripods. They helped too.”
To cap it all off, this conversation was set to a cultish radio preacher ranting about the impending end-times… Which is in part the fault of ubiquitous porn. It was an interesting ride, made all the more surreal by days of sleep deprivation.
In response to this much “liked” Facebook post, the “CEO” of Bodyform took to YouTube with a hilarious, and entertaining yet very empathetic (to their actual customers, not whiny dudes) video response.
Genius. It’s fun, and delightfully British.
But here’s what you might have missed. Click through to the Bodyform YouTube Channel… It’s unbranded.
Now I’m sure that this will change rather quickly, but it’s important to take note.
Bodyform saw a unique opportunity to connect with people online in a fun and engaging way, and they did it. And they didn’t let the details get in the way of good content. Where many companies would spend months debating whether it was ok to be on YouTube; and spend more months debating the mundane design details of the Channel’s header design; and still more many months producing dry content that will neither excite, nor offend anyone; Bodyform just made something great and let it loose into the wild.
This is a valuable lesson for all companies.
Quality content wins.