A Year of Google Reader

A year ago today I switched from visiting websites to consuming through Google Reader as my primary means of reading web content. Like most such time-saving conveniences, rather than letting me read the same amount of Internet chatter faster, it just means I consume more of it. A lot more of it.

The mediocre “Trends” metrics page built into reader tells me I have read 119,568 Items this year, which will grow by something on the order of 2,000 over the course of the day.
To be fair, that statistic is rather misleading for several reasons. First, I tend to skim feeds by locking my hand over j (next item), k (previous item), space (next object), and middle click (open in new tab, there is an upper midddle mouse button for the Trackpoint on Touchpads), so it shows my reading everything even if it flickers by as I parse the headline. Second, I’ve added some ” chatty” feeds in the last couple months, particularly Y-Combinator’s HackerNews feed, which is a ~105 item/day noise machine, full of stereotypical startup douches, presented headline-only. I tolerate HN because it brings me some truly excellent oddities that I wouldn’t see otherwise, and does so on a regular basis. For scale, reader tells me I’ve clicked 406/3000 things from HN in the past month, and only perhaps half of them were inflammatory headlines that were closed as soon as I realized what they were. Which is still more than the next most clicked feed.

The more meaningful metric is that, according to the terrible “Export starred items, then do a wc on the json file, and subtract one” method, I have starred 1188 items in the past year. Also working around the Trends page sucking by making note of the value in the 30-day sliding window from time to time, I seem to actually click into between 750 and 1000 items a month, of which I fully read probably 2/3.

As for Reader itself, I’m not fond of the current visual (re)design, and Plus is wildly inferior to the pre-Plus sharing mechanism, but in terms of features and convenience, it is still the best feed handler I’ve seen. The closest I can find is TinyTinyRSS, which is a self-hosted solution with an Android app. It is apparently something of a resource hog for cheap shared hosting, and currently doesn’t have a good “share with note” mechanism, but I’m keeping a close eye on it because it is very close to a drop-in replacement, the idea of self-hosted appeals to me, and Google dependency makes me nervous. If someone hacks together a clean flow for sharing with note into something a reasonable blog type CMS can syndicate, or Google gets any less functional/creepier, I could easily see myself making the switch.

So I have a slight reader problem, but it is an awful lot of fun, and I think it makes me a more interesting person. For the curious, my exported list of feeds is here.

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2 Responses to A Year of Google Reader

  1. lordjair says:

    When you say you use middle-click to open in a new tab, is this only in the expanded view or, at least, when the item is expanded? I’ve been trying VERY hard to find something that will let me middle-click the title in list view and have the URL of the feed item open in a new tab. It seems the only way to open in a new tab is to expand the item or click it’s [square-arrow] icon all the way on the right.

    • pappp says:

      Unfortunately, only with the item expanded. I use the J/K/Space keys to select items, idle the mouse where the top item’s headline will line up (until the last few items) and just hover my thumb over middle click key to reduce the amount of mousing about it requires.

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