I said that comments on Reader really suck in my last post, and I want to
Google Reader has changed my life (this is no big statement; lots of things
change my life; including whichever bastard on one of the many overcrowded trains
I catch coughed on me and gave me this cold; keeping me home from work and thus
with too much time to blog inanities, like this one).
Reader started out as a feed aggregator. Technologically, this means checking
the timestamps of a predetermined list of remote files, and downloading any that
have changed. The point of which was to keep up-to-date with news (real news,
from newspapers; tech news, from procrastination web sites; or friends' news,
When Reader was released, there were hundreds of desktop applications that did
exactly the same thing -- Reader's advantage was that it followed you between
desktops, being online.
But it's so much more now.
Reader is how I keep in contact with friends. People of my generation don't
actually want to talk to their friends, or even SMS or email them. That kind of
contact is far too personal and touchy. All we need is some way of indicating
that we thought about each other, if only for a moment. This can be achieved on
Facebook with a nudge, on MySpace with a chain letter, on Twitter with a
140-character brain broadcast, and on Reader by sharing something. To each their
own (or, in the case of some people I know, all of them).
When you share an article on Reader, you're telling them, "Hey, I saw this
and think you should read it." Which is how most conversations go anyway.
Except for Austin, who mostly shares pictures of animals, but mostly talks about
Originally you could only share articles from feeds; typically ones you'd
subscribed to. But some time recently Google added the ability to share any URL
with a single click. This has changed my friend's sharing habits from keeping
each other up-to-date on the few blogs that we don't subscribe to in common, to
keeping each other up-to-date with what we're doing all day. For example, based
on Sofie's shares from yesterday, I can surmise that she was passing the time by
reading about penises and Star Trek cakes. This tells me much more about Sofie
than I could ever have learned by actually talking to her.
And then there's commenting. In response to a friend's share, you can write
something back. Usually "hahaha", with the number of "ha"'s
being proportional to the amount of enjoyment you received. This comment is then
viewable by any other friend looking at that shared item.
Occasionally one of us tries to start some discourse via the comments. Say, if
you didn't agree with the shared article, you might comment, "lolz no way
ps3 is teh better than poniez". But this is where it all breaks down,
because anyone who's already read that item will not see your comment, unless
they specifically go looking for it. There isn't even a flag or a number to
indicate that articles you've read have since been commented on.
At the moment Reader is like a party where everyone is telling jokes, and
everyone is hearing the jokes, but no-one can hear all the laughter, which is
isolated. If comments were integrated into the main view -- say, given
first-class status as another article, then we'd be able to continue the
discussion past a single retort, and have a real argument. It makes me think of
Slashdot, except that the posting of articles and comments would be restricted to
just the people on your friends list. It's what I want!
(Side note: apparently whatever spell-check dictionary I have loaded on my Mac
at the moment understands "MySpace" but not "Facebook" or
"Google". Figure that one out!)