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.
As a user of many (but not all) Google Apps, I have a very important request.
Please give us users some control over the apps that are listed in the Google bar (I’m not sure what you’ve named it).
I’m an avid user of Google Reader; I consumer virtually all web content with it. With that in mind, I was pretty peeved when Reader was removed from the top bar. I get that many people don’t use it, but I do. A lot.
Here are some solutions that would make me very happy, and I’m betting would further endear you to many of your users.
Two Options to Fix The Problem
Give users control of all or some of the links in that bar.
It’s a simple thing to do, and that level of personalization would absolutely improve the Google user-experience.
Google, I know that you know what Google Apps I’m using. You know that I know that.
Why not adjust that bar based on usage?
Either solution would make me a very happy geek.
The Geek Whisperer
Am I the only person who feels like Google drops features into their application like they’re easter eggs?
I recently clicked this arrow in Gmail, and discovered an incredible feature that I don’t think they informed users of (could be wrong).
As it turns out, that’s where they hid the advanced search options. Spoiler Alert – They’re great!
When was this added? I have no idea. It could have been there since the New Gmail Beta, and I missed it.
They do seem to add and change functionality on the fly. I’m cool with it, but I’d like to know that these features exist.
Perhaps Google can put a “something new” call-out on the page, or just draw attention to some of the more obscure features.
Do you know any of Google’s hidden features?
A few weeks ago Google announced Project Glass, or Google Glasses.
A number of people I’ve spoken to are quick to mock these as another bluetooth headset. While I agree that walking around with a bluetooth headset hanging on your ear and no one on the phone is a generally stupid idea, I think that computerized glasses are something much bigger and far more important.
Humans Conforming to Machines
The typewriter was invented in 1868, and we have been conforming to its shape ever since. Our technology does incredible thing, but it still breaks our bodies. Our devices inflict all manner of pain on our backs’, necks’ and wrists’. Tablets and mobiles aren’t an improvement in this regard. They still make us crane our necks’, and strain our wrists’. This is because we must contort our bodies to work with the shape of our technology. It’s a massive design flaw and the only people who benefit are orthopedists, physical therapists, and ergonomics professionals (who make a staggering amount of money for assembling chairs and installing wrist wrests for large corporations).
Computers as Glasses
If Google Glasses are light enough, they will represent the first powerful consumer computer that conforms to human physiology, and this excites me as both a technologist and as a vertebrate.
The combination of a camera, microphone, accelerometer, GPS and small heads up display in an always-on computer could do unbelievable things (which may one day be another post).
Making These Things Magical
The trick will be giving users a ton of control over what notifications will be sent to the user’s glasses. If your eyes are pinging every time you receive an email, tweet, Facebook update, or text message you might go insane. Limiting the active functionality is how you make computerized glasses empower users instead of distracting them. Having geographically activated modes could be cool. What I mean is that the device automatically shifts it’s configuration based on where you are, and possibly who is around you.
They work differently if you’re:
- At work
- At home (and alone)
- At home (with people around)
- Walking in a place you’ve been before
- Walking in a place you’ve never been
- At a museum
- In a store
The opportunities are endless, especially if the devies can recognize who you’re with.
On a personal note, I will be quite peeved if Google neglects us prescription glasses-wearers.
These can’t come fast enough for me. Bring on the future!
Princeton University is hosting a Turing Centennial Celebration on May 10 – 12, 2012. The event honors of Alan Turing, the “father of computer science” who earned his Ph.D from Princeton University in 1938.
Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will be speaking on the 10th, and I’ll be in attendance along with the Princeton Tech Meetup (where I spoke this past Monday).
If you’re interested in attending the free event, register with Princeton.
If you’d like to join the Princeton Tech Meetup check out their page on Meetup.com. It’s free to join, and the group is wonderful.
Either way, let me know if you’ll be in Princeton on May 10th.
Question: “If we take Chrome apps to its logical conclusion: Do you like Samsung 5 Chromebook? Do you see any there at SXSW?”
Browser As An Operating Systems
Rumors circulated for years that Google was creating an operating system environment within a web browser. It’s a natural leap for Google because it benefits greatly from Internet expansion. Due to ubiquitous broadband (at least in the States), and relatively fast, and inexpensive processors have given this idea legs: an inexpensive machine that only accesses the Internet and other software that runs in-browser.
Google has a fun habit of releasing mostly-baked products into the market. They do so with everything: Gmail, Google Music, Android, G+, Chrome (browser). Now, they are doing it with Chrome OS.
When you buy a Chromebook, you are essentially paying to enter an open beta. That’s all well and good if you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind tinkering with partially completed software & hardware, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m happy to beta test a free product from time-to-time, but I won’t pay for the privilege.
What is Chrome OS Good at?
- Browsing the web
- Basic to intermediate word-processing & spreadsheets
- Editing content from within a CMS
Where Does Chrome OS Fall Short?
The Law & The Cloud
Technology moves fast. Regulations and laws creep when they move at all. Steven Levy put it best:
“…the legal and regulatory framework for cloud computing is still evolving, as we are reminded by the government subpoenas for digital information on people tied to Wikileaks. If we’re going to make the leap to the cloud, we’ll need renewed assurances that personal data on the servers of Google or other companies will enjoy the same protections as the information stored on our personal hard drives and in our desk drawers” (Wired).
This is a big deal because with every passing month, the US government has become more aggressive in expanding online search and seizure.
Are People Using Chromebooks at SXSW?
While I’m hesitant to use SXSW attendees’ behavior as a measure of good tech decisions, I have not noticed a single Chromebook. Mostly I’ve seen a ton of Macbook Airs & Pros, Lenovo Thinkpads, and iPads.
Where is This Headed?
For better or worse, our computers are going to become increasingly more dependent on the cloud. That being said, I do not believe that Chrome OS is the answer. Over the next few years we will witness an operating system convergence.
Apple: iOS & OSX will merge
Microsoft: Windows 8 is all about convergence of the desktop, television, phone & tablet
Google: Android & Chrome will become one
Chrome OS is kind of a neat idea if you can already do all of your work in-browser, and can mentally get past the privacy/ legal issues.
Personally, I can’t do all of my work in-browser. I can’t ignore the privacy issues, and completely surrender all of my data to Google. I am deeply troubled by the imbalance between meatspace and cyberspace civil liberties (which is not Google’s fault).
All that being said, this really is an individual decision based on personal values, and use-cases. If Chromebook is all you want and need, enjoy. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Macbook Air.