In the past I have enjoyed your updates to my number one electronic mail service, Gmail, both on the cosmetic level and the features it supports. The most recent version of your email service is clean and effective, visually appealing and easy to find what I need. Features such as Priority Inbox, labeling, and custom skins are all available if I choose to use them, which, in most cases, I don't. I like the basic plain white template and I don't get enough emails to need to prioritize them. But that's ok. I'm not forced into using any of those features.
My blogging days began with this very site, some five and a half years ago! Since then I have posted almost 350 ramblings of varying interest. I have witnessed at least two major updates to the Blogger system. The first I adapted to quickly, considering it an improvement over the previous version, but the most recent I never really warmed to. The "Reading List" at the bottom of the Dashboard cannot be turned off from what I can see. The only thing I have in there is your own "Blogger Buzz", which I couldn't care less about, but I can't turn it off!! I get repeated errors while writing blogs as well, from my paragraph format screwing up when I add an image, to random double spaces, or errors when I hit Enter twice.
Wave was too confusing for me to understand, along with 95% of potential users it seems.
Buzz held absolutely no interest for me, a view I once again shared with 95% of potential users.
All this brings me to Google Reader.
When I was first shown Reader I was mildly impressed. I could read most of my favourite sites without having to have a million tabs open. It even removed the need to compulsively check if a site had updated yet. As more of my friends got into it, I realised that Reader wasn't just mildly impressive, it was freaking incredible!
Not only could I keep track of everything in one tab, I could read the best of what my friends were following when they shared items! My short list of sites grew swiftly, and soon I had to create multiple folders to keep everything in order. Many of the site I follow were suggested to me by items shared by friends. We could comment on the best, the weirdest, the cutest; sharing not only the article, but also our own thoughts and feelings related to it.
But all that is gone. Google Reader is dead. And you killed it. The latest update has, inexplicably, removed the best feature Reader held. Now it is just my sites, with none of the social interactions.
This, of course, is not just a random, insane move. You want me using Google+, sharing my finds there and commenting through the newest addition to House Google. But therein lies the problem. I couldn't give two fucks about Google+. Since it's release I can count on the fingers of two hands how often I have clicked over to it, in an attempt to see if anything of interest is being posted. Every time I close the tab, reminded why I not only dislike this new feature, but why I disliked it's predecessor, Facebook, as well.
And while I can sort my friends into varying sets, the default, which cannot be altered, shows me everything from everyone. If I could guarantee that people would only use Google+ to share articles in the style of Reader, I could just delete anyone that I didn't follow in Reader, and keep it to that small set of friends whose shared posts I enjoyed reading. But that is not how you want it to be, Google. For one thing, the full post doesn't even show up in the feed, just a preview. I have to click through to read more. You are making it harder for me to share with my friends!
But it's not just the whole push towards Google+ that has gotten me all hot and bothered! No. The new Reader doesn't even fit on my screen. I use a small netbook for my internet needs, and the old Reader worked perfectly fine on it, fitting articles into my screen size 95% of the time. The latest update has extended the width of the main area far beyond the right edge of my screen. To read anything I now have to scroll to the bottom, then use the horizontal scroll bar to move right to read the end of a sentence, the last panel of a webcomic, or see the other 33% of an image. And some images or comics require a second scroll bar within their own feed! Arg, Google! ARG! Text cannot describe how infuriated I am right now!
Gmail has all kinds of features, but it is my choice to use them or not. Blogger can switch back to the older style whenever I want, but for how long? Reader is a permanent, complete change, and I don't get a choice in the matter. It's your way or the highway.
You've crossed the line, Google. You're straying into Facebook, and more recently Netflix, territory, trying to force your users to adopt a new system that benefits you when they are more than happy with the previous one.
Tread carefully Google. You are opening yourself to a new start-up that can provide the same features as the old Reader that the fans loved. And when that happens, I for one will be dropping you like a hot rock and jumping on board.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011