— 10 October 2006 —

Google Reader vs. Bloglines

I didn’t really like Google Reader when it first came out; much preferred Bloglines. But I heard that Google Reader had received some updates recently, so I thought I would try it out.

I’ve also read recently that Bloglines is failing to innovate in a space that is rapidly being filled by “silver bullet” solutions. Fair enough. I still like Bloglines and have no intention of jumping ship until a feed reader comes along that really works well. But, to give Google Reader a fair shake, I thought I would use both over the course of a week. Just to see if I prefer one over the other, or at least to figure out what aspects of each I prefer over the other.

How Did Google Reader Rock?

google.com/reader

Not so much with the rocking. My biggest complaint is that it takes forever to update. Bloglines had new content sometimes hours before Google Reader.

I like the visual design better than Bloglines. Bloglines is just boring from a visual perspective. I am not asking for big, shiny, diagonal-lined, drop-shadowed buttons, but a little visual updating would be nice.

I love that I can tag within the reader itself. Very handy. What’s not so handy is when I click on the recently added tag and get an info message that I have no unread items with the selected tag. k… So I click the back button. Doh! I am at the login screen? WTF? Damn AJAX, JSON, or other acronym du jour. Clicking forward I am back at the reader splash screen. And I have no clue how to find my tags.

Ah! Press the “t” key… why didn’t I think of that.

Life Within The Left Nav

I live by the left nav. Bloglines and Google Reader us a left nav of links to give you access to recently updated feeds. Since I am used to this on Bloglines, I had no issue transitioning to Google Reader. Using Google Reader, I realized just how much I rely on the left nav to get to content. And not just updated content.

I use the “Keep New” check box on Bloglines when I want to come back to an article. Bloglines shows me (thanks to Mike D) how many articles are new and how many I have decided to keep new after reading. Keep New isn’t the best label for what’s really happening. Basically, Bloglines is making sure I can click the link for my fav blog on the left and easily find the content I care about. I care about new items and things I want to come back to; both of which are associated to the object on the left. I

Google Reader offers similar functionality with “Add Star.” The trouble is, “Add Star” is even more removed from the goal than “Keep New.” Why am I adding the star? Because I want to make it special. Why? Well, for many reasons. Maybe that’s the design here. Google Reader doesn’t want to limit you as to why it is a special article. Just star it and move on. I can click “Stared Items” in the top nav and get all my starred items, but the problem for me is that the action is removed from the object.

Where’d It Go?

Things just disappear on Google Reader. I just clicked an item in the left nav with 2 unread articles. It loaded up and I realized I had read both already in Bloglines earlier today. So I clicked each item in the content area to mark it as read*. As soon as I clicked the first item, it disappeared. Why? Maybe I wanted to star it, or add a tag. Is Google Reader assuming I am done with the item because I “read it?”

*Which, frankly, is another gripe. Making me click to tell you I read something just slows me down. The Bloglines model is better. Loading content is marking it read. If I want to keep it as unread, then I can take an action.

When (not) To Use a Drop-Down

Honestly.

Now during this little experiment, I found myself becoming familiar with some old 9rules members that, for many different reasons, are no longer in the network. The reason is that when Google Reader first came on the scene, I needed an easy way to fill it with content. So I grabbed the 9rules OPML file and uploaded it. Easy peasy. But being a file it doesn’t get updated each time the source is updated. So yesterday I found myself reading a girlspoke entry. I don’t like the girlspoke blog. So I tried to unsubscribe.

option of one

It took me a minute to figure out that I was supposed to click the “Feed Settings…” drop-down-like thingy. Once I did, I was given the opportunity to roll my eyes… one option. One. It was the option I wanted, but still. Who the hell puts one option in a drop-down?

Drop-downs should only be used when you have screen real estate issues and more than 3 options. Done.

If the Google Reader team is going to add more options to that widget in time, fine. But for now, why are they hiding my functionality?

Bloglines Failures

bloglines.com

Some of the points Paul hits on in his post about Bloglines are spot on. Particularly, “Bloglines has always been the leader in its field, but due to the lack of innovation their marketshare continues to dwindle and it doesn’t seem that any change is on the horizon.”

Bloglines IA is horrible. While the main task of reading articles is fine, everything else requires too many steps or is hidden. There are also tech issues. Some of the articles I have decided to keep “unread” are no longer available to me. The left nav display tells me the unread articles are there, but when I click… nothing.

What Innovation?

Both apps should integrate with some popular blog software. Google should use… oh I don’t know. How about Blogger? That should be a snap. Yet there’s no “Blog This” for me to take action on within the Google Reader. Bloglines already does this, but not as well as they should. There is a “Clip/Blog This” link at the bottom of every item within the content area. Clicking it launches a new window that, while lacking the aforementioned visual design goodness, does provide easy to use editing tools. The downside is, what if I already have a blog? Which I do. You’re reading it. :) I want to be able to blog “this” directly to my blog. If a Bloglines user doesn’t have a blog, why not integrate with WordPress.com?

Show me 3 related blogs each time I load content into the reading area. Make subscribing and previewing easy with one click. Make it unobtrusive, but make it available. I want to know about other sites! Running Pink for October has led me to find about 600 sites I’d never heard of before. I am not interested (as a reader) in some of them, but it is good to branch out once in a while.

Tap some users to run monthly “You Should Be Reading This” campaigns. This would be somewhat similar to the “Lensmaster” concept of the ill-fated Squidoo. This point would take effort, but once it was rolling would be easy. Get the users to offer up 3 to 5 sites with reasons/reviews as to why the site should be read.

Give me a way to read my content at 600 words a minute. :) Yes, there is a way and if you want to pay me money I will tell you how. Or, I can get off my ass and follow up with the kind 9rulers who offered to help me at the start of summer.

Who Wins? or I need a Wrap-up Section

Bloglines wins solely because I am familiar with them. And actually I think that is a fair reason. Familiarity is why most of us stick with the things we start with. Granted, I am not an early adopter. On the typical bell curve I fall somewhere between Early Adopter and the top of the curve.

Others have commented on this topic recently and made some very good points. Gina’s breakdown of the two apps is very well done. Maybe it’s the fact that she reads twice as many blogs a day as I do. But I stand by what I wrote above. I don’t think it would take much work for Bloglines to come out with some great upgrades. But I think Google will have trouble. Mostly because they always do for a number of months after they launch something. I get why; they launch early and let everyone “beta” test.

Bloglines has 3 months tops to step up, otherwise Google Reader will win over the marketshare, just like Google does with everything else.

That is unless something truly better comes along. And frankly the only thing keeping it from coming along is lack of money. Cuz there’s a lot of talent there.

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