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Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Google Reader is closing... and I am not sure I am upset
At first I was horrified when I read that Google Reader is to close on 1 July 2013. It was a knee jerk reaction. But am I upset? I don't think so! The more I have thought about it the more it seems an opportunity to rethink how I connect with other bloggers rather than a loss of a service. In fact it is a relief. Google Reader has become an albatross around my neck and it is high time I did something about it.
When I have considered the question "Why do I blog?" the connection with like-minded individuals has always been at the heart of my answers. You support, inspire and teach me. When I discovered blog reader technology, it seemed like a passport to that community. At first every blogger I enjoyed went onto my blog reader. It worked for a while.
I still remember my first comment from Cindy on my second blog post. It was so exciting to be connecting with other bloggers. Sharing, discussing, discovering, asking answering. Then I met more and more people online. I met friends of friends, discovered blogs through events, stumbled upon others. Before long there was an overwhelming number of people I wanted to keep in contact with.
How to keep up with bloggers I know and admire has long been a challenge. At first I just visited blogs from my blog roll at random in the hope they might have updated. Then Lucy told me that Bloglines would alert me when each blog had a new post (using RSS feeds). It seemed like magic. Then Bloglines planned to close and I moved to Google Reader. Oh the irony! A few years down the track, Bloglines is still going and Google Reader is now planning to close.
Early last year Ricki flagged that Google Reader would close. Forward notice has helped ease the shock. So has an online landscape that is constantly changing. I've seen so many changes that it doesn't bother me as much any more. (And I don't like change!) Pinterest, Delicious, Eat Your Books. So many online systems regularly undergo regeneration in the name of updates. It is the nature of the web. It is best not to get too attached!
Even Blogger changes. Yet I remain loyal to blogging. It is open and allows so many options. Yet it seems that we need to continually be reassessing our options for connecting with other like-minded individuals. Since beginning my blog in 2007, I have seen many new platforms for connection develop. Nothing that is better than blogging but much that supports it. Facebook makes sharing easy but is too exclusive. Pinterest is a great way to see what others are loving but doesn't connect in a meaningful way. Twitter is fast and witty but doesn't have enough words for any depth. Also constant is the capacity of each new system to drain us with excessive demands on our time.
Nowadays my Google Reader is a mess! It needs a serious spring clean. I had been considering deleting it altogether and starting afresh.
Long term use of a blog reader renders it difficult to keep up to date. Blogs come and go. Some bloggers go on sabbatical and might come back. Or they might not. There are many blogs on my Google Reader that might be classed as dormant. I think I have kept them there in hope.
It is not just that my Google Reader isn't up to date. It just has too many blogs. I think the Vegan Mojo blogroll in 2011 was the last straw. Far far too many blogs were imported into my blog reader and I couldn't work out a good way to delete them. Argh!
So I have hundreds of blogs and yet I only read a handful of them. Despite my good intentions. The imminent demise of Google Reader has brought home to me the impossibility of keeping up with all the blogs that interest me. If you are reading this and I don't keep up with your blog, it is not personal. I wish I could keep up with more blogs. I want to read more. I want to comment more. If only there were more hours in the day.
We all know about how social media overwhelms us. It keep us up too late, stops us going outside the house and leaves no time for anything else in our life. A slight exaggeration but you get the picture. After giving this post some consideration I returned to the idea of FoMO that I first read about some time ago.
FoMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out. It is pertinent to this issue because social media is an archive as well as a tool for connection. When I have a coffee with friends I don't expect to know absolutely everything that has been happening to them. That would be silly, right! Yet because the posts are there on blogs I feel compelled to read all of them. Even though I started food blogging to find great recipes and now I have so many recipes that I could keep making them till I die and never get through them!
So here is my revelation. It doesn't matter if I don't see every post. Sounds obvious. Yet it is in my nature to be thorough. I have a tendency to keep blog posts unread and keep them for another time. I guess I just need to let go.
What is clear to me is that if I continue to blog, it is important to connect with a blogging community in some way. I have been thinking about alternatives to Google Reader. Ways to keep up with favourite bloggers, to discover new blogs and make new connections. So here are my top five.
1. My sidebar blogroll
My favourite alternative right now is using Blogger's blogroll list on my sidebar of my blog. This list includes the most recent posts from the blogs listed. This means that I keep up with current posts and can easily see who has been inactive for some time. Unlike Google Reader it doesn't tell me how many posts I have missed. I find this both liberating and a wee bit frustrating. It is my way of letting go and probably will be my main option in the near future.
[NOTE: I need to do a bit of work on this and sort out my blogroll page which like any blogroll, is guaranteed to be out of date. However using my sidebar means I am more likely to keep it up to date and pay due tribute to blogs I love to visit!]
2. Email subscriptions
Ricki has also posted the solution of subscribing to email alerts for favourite blogs. Many blogs seem to have one. I actually have an email subscription window down low on my sidebar. I only put it there because a friend asked if she could subscribe, but who knows, it might be useful to you too.
Google Plus also seems to let people send email alerts on new posts to readers. The problem with this approach is that I tend to be far more selective than I would be with Google Reader or my sidebar blogroll.
3. Other blog readers
It is so tempting to migrate my current subscriptions to another blog reader or even start afresh adding RSS feeds to a new blog reader. I could return to Bloglines, try Feedly (which seems to be touted as a good free alternative to Google Reader) or try one that costs such as Feedblitz. Yet I have neither the energy nor the inclination to start another feed reader after my experience with Google Reader.
4. Social media
Bloggers have options for alerting followers to their latest post on social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The problem is that not every blogger uses every social media platform. I am wary of continually signing up to every new platform. In fact I really dislike leaving my digital fingerprints in too many pies and I just can't keep up with them all. Like email subscriptions, I may use these but in a far more selective way.
5. Other places where bloggers gather
Whereas the other four alternatives are about me strategically choosing who to follow, this option is about the wildcard. Sometimes I just want to be open to new bloggers. I am part of an aggregator blog, Planet Vegmel, which is a great way of reading all the veg*n blogs in Melbourne. I also love blog events and try to visit the round up to see who participated. I have toyed with joining Food Bloggers Australia and I sometimes even go to galleries such as Tastespotting and Foodgawker, though Finding Vegan is more of my sort of thing. Not only do I discover new bloggers this way but it sometimes connects me with blogs I haven't read for a while.
What are your strategies for dealing with the demise of Google Reader and keeping up with blogs?