Google Reader as a Social Tool

Tuesday 13th May, 2008

Google Reader has recently added the option to comment on your shared articles. I like Google Reader, and I like the option to share articles with my contacts. I actually found myself wishing for this feature a while back.

Having thought about it however, I have two problems with the concept of sharing articles via Reader, one is a problem of functionality and the other a problem of scope.


Google Reader is not currently a conversational medium, yet sharing articles is a likely starting point for a conversation. Without the ability to converse users have to shift to another product in order to continue the discussion that was started by the sharing of an article. If that context shift is seen as being more hassle than the comment is worth then the user making it probably wont bother, and you’ve lost that social interaction and hence possible value.


When I share an article via Google Reader, only my contacts can see it. That could be a sensible design choice (after all some people aren’t interested in broadcasting themselves to the world) if all of my contacts used Google Reader, but they don’t. When I share an article, only the 3 friends that use the product can see it. Nor is it really that appealing to ask people to subscribe to my Googler Reader Shared Items Feed (in addition to my blog, photostream, etc.) since I already have enough feeds and in any case I want to be able to comment and discuss the articles I find.


So what’s needed here is really a medium that can simply share articles, and at the same time allows commentary and conversation. A blog is a much more suitable medium for that conversation, but I already have a blog, I don’t want two. It’d be nice if there was some convergence here without having to use an aggregator like Friendfeed (yet another login).

What I think Google should be working towards in this area is something that allows the ease of sharing an article with the flexibility of blogging. I as a Google user should be able to aggregate all of my content at, and allow friends to subscribe to the whole thing or to subcategories. Whats more, I should be able to use open standards to pull data from other services into my aggregated feed, so if I like to use Delicious for bookmarking I could configure that as