Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tegan's Tech Talk

I've been using Bloglines to quickly read my blogs ever since my Blogmama Elayne introduced me to it years ago. But several sites I read (in Bloglines, no less) have directed me to Google Reader as a viable second option. I've been having minor problems with Bloglines for a long time... not enough to make me dump them (since I'd found nothing better) but definitely enough to make me willing to look at something else.

Here's my thoughts, as I go through the new Google Reader... First off, before I even open the thing, I'm thinking how Google is slowly taking over my life. Their e-mail system is better than many others (I love being able to put emails in multiple "folders" with the labels function, and the spam filter is better than just about anyone else), I use their search engine almost exclusively, and they've bought Blogger. Despite their mantra "Don't Be Evil", they've made some very depressing choices regarding politics and internet freedom. Hmmm... do I really want to turn over my blog reading to them as well?

Ah well, here goes. I poked around the site a bit, constantly being told that there was nothing to see because I wasn't subscribed to any feeds. I finally figure out to click on "Manage subscriptions" in the hopes I can import my feeds from Bloglines. Under this page, there's an "Import/Export" tab. Lovely. *click* Hmmm, must export from Bloglines first. Hey, it says I can "Learn more about exporting your subscriptions from another feed reader." Ok, *click*. Bloglines export instructions. I follow the instructions. Go back to the "Import/Export" tab. Import the file I just exported from Bloglines. WHUMPF! I've got a bunch of feeds. Back to the main page!

Ok, it appears to be an unsorted mess. Of course, the first time you go into a new program, it always looks like an unsorted mess. I'll give this system a chance. First thing to do is mark everything read. I've already read them all in Bloglines, don't want to read them all again. Lucky, there's a "Mark all as read" option. So I start with that. Ok, the sidebar has my subscriptions, good... and they are listed under the "folders" I had in Bloglines. I minimize the folders. Looks better. Ok, new items are appearing, so I can see what happens.

Top of the left sidebar, "Home" item. If I click on that when there are new entries, it gives me a summary of some of the new entries. Not bad! "All Items" shows me the entries, apparently organized by whatever is newest. If I click on a folder, I get just the entries in that folder organized by whatever is newest. So far so good. Bloglines let me sort by feed, but this is good too.

Oh, hey... at the top right there is "Expanded View" and "List View"... I think I prefer the "List View". It shows me the title/first lines of entries, what feed it's from, and time of update. The "Expanded View" shows the whole entry. I can see more entries with "List View", and when I click on a title it expands to the whole entry AND marks the entry as read.

In Bloglines, if I want to save an entry to link to later, I click on the "Keep New" option. There's a "Clip" option, but it requires moving to another tab, and I haven't used it. I prefer everything right in front of me. As usual, Google keeps users in mind and has a "Star" option. Mark an item with a star, and you can use the third option on the top of the left sidebar, "Starred Items", to quickly view everything you have saved.

Not sure what "Shared Items" is for yet, must play around some more.

Ok, entries are sorted by when they come in. This is very different than Bloglines, but all things considered I think I prefer it. And it looks like I can put a single feed into multiple folders, because the folders are just labels, like in Gmail. That could come in VERY handy.

No way to edit subscriptions to only look for new entries and not updated entries. Hmmm. I wonder if that has anything to do with the way this system stores old entries? It sure looks like it keeps EVERYTHING, which is really nice if you tend to read a feed item and then 20 minutes later think, maybe I should blog that, only to be unable to find it on Bloglines, because Bloglines makes everything vanish once you've read it. Ah, there is an option to show only new entries in Google Reader, good. I can have it both ways.

Another advantage to seeing everything... I can see when some of these blogs I have sitting in my feeds were last updated. Some of them haven't been updated in months. I'm going to have to have a good cleaning here soon. I can't do THAT in Bloglines, and I've requested it from them before.

Hrm... site is a little slow. Massive amounts of code, or massive amounts of people hitting it?

I use Bloglines as a blogroll for one of my pages, and I wouldn't mind doing that on other pages. Can I do that with this system? Doesn't really look like it... at least not the same way. It appears that in order to make something shared, I have to mark the item shared, then either direct people to my sharing page, or create a "clip box" javascript app that shows the latest items I enjoyed. Which would be fine if I only wanted to link to items, but doesn't do much if I want to link and comment on them, which is much more my style. Still, a page of links I find cool could be useful. I'll have to ponder this one.

How many people are subscribed to my feed? I can't see a number on any feeds, like in Bloglines. That's another annoyance.

Ok, summary time:

  • Bloglines: has blogrolling capability, shows how many subscribers are on a feed, allows you to view and edit feeds (including ability to not see items that have been updated).
  • Google Reader: has multiple viewing modes, doesn't remove items (just marks them read), has easy way to highlight items for later view, sorts subs in a folder by last updated, allows you to put feeds into multiple folders.
Hmmm. I'm going to give the edge, by a fraction, to Google Reader. I'll probably use both for awhile, then switch to whichever suits me best in a few days.