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August 31, 2009

Feedly's RSS-Powered Start Page Includes Reader Conversations

As I've mentioned a few times on the blog, the conversations in Google Reader are playing an ever-increasing role in my information consumption workflow. The RSS reader's enhancements have not been lost on the makers of Feedly, who have been working on a magazine-like start page for the better part of a year, gaining loyal users who appreciate its enhanced interface for subscriptions. This weekend, the company added support for friends and comments that you have in Google Reader, meaning you are not missing the conversation by using Feedly instead.

As introduced back in June of 2008 (See: Feedly Brings New Social Experience to Start Page, Leveraging RSS), Feedly operates as a start page or magazine hybrid, consisting of a cover page, a digest, the latest information, and now, "friends" and "comments".


Comments in Google Reader Shares Display in Feedly



Items that are "Liked" In Google Reader are Highlighted in Feedly


Selecting "friends" shows you items recently liked and shared by your contacts, while "comments" exposes the conversations taking place within shared items on Google Reader from your friends. While not every single share spawns a conversation, many of them are, including those on my shared items feed, where I have frequently seen items gain more comments than the original blog post itself of late.

Feedly has also done more than clone Google Reader's utility. They have interestingly added a tool called "Karma", which, if you enter your Twitter ID, will tap into bit.ly, seeing how many clicks a tweet you posted received, as well as how many retweets. It's a good way to see if your activity on that social network is gaining a following.


You Can Gauge Your Twitter "Karma" In Feedly

You can find Feedly at http://www.feedly.com/. For now, the service relies on Firefox, but we've been promised support for Chrome, and maybe other interfaces, is coming.

Fry's Electronics: A Silicon Valley Legend With Legendary Flaws

Despite the fact both retail outlets sell computer equipment, including hardware and software, Fry's Electronics superstores and Apple's retail stores could not be more different. One offers a specialized set of products, and packs its stores to the gills with helpful employees, while giving customers free reign to use their products, and can approve customer purchases through the use of a handheld scanner device. The second offers a dizzying array of products, from vacuums and office chairs to iPod headphones and copper wiring, and its employees haven't won any awards for their product knowledge - while checking out items requires an usher, while your bags are rudely inspected - as if you had the forethought to take on the role of a shoplifter. It's clear which one is which, if you have ever stepped foot in either one - which makes me wonder sometimes why I keep revisiting Fry's, hoping each next experience will trump the last.

Fry's failings are at times comical - including my most recent trip this Saturday. I stopped into the store that afternoon for a simple task, finding Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), which had released the day before. I was unsure whether Fry's in Sunnyvale would have it, but if they did, it would be a longer trip down to the Apple Store at the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose.

Upon entering this geek warehouse, I made a beeline for the Mac area, where Apple products are isolated in a special setting that makes the computers seem more like they belong in a zoo than in the jungle of PC parts and widgets just outside the enclosing aisles.


Mac OS X 15.6. From the Future!

To my surprise, there was no banner, or even a sign, announcing Snow Leopard had arrived. I looked to and fro, and didn't see Apple's famous boxes. I asked one employee, who was in the Mac section, for help and she pointed me to a manager, behind a nearby podium. I asked the manager, and she said that she didn't know where Mac OS X 10.6 would be, and maybe her boss would.

After flagging him down, and explaining, he pointed back to his subordinate, saying Mac OS was her department. She said, "Oh! I thought you meant Mapquest!"

Right. Why would I buy software from Mapquest at Fry's?

With renewed vigor around her newly-reminded knowledge, we turned back to the Mac section, and found Snow Leopard cases quietly hiding on the shelf. Below the DVD cases was a simple descriptor: "Mac OS X 15.6 Snow Leopard", for only $27.99. Of course, that would mean the operating system software was five generations into the future, which is outstanding. Or it was a typo. You decide. And that doesn't even go into the label failing to mention it is a DVD install, not a CD-Rom install.

Did Fry's have what I was looking for? Yes. Did it have it at a cheap price? Yes. Was it nearby? Yes. And that's about all I can say in favor of why I continue to return to this geek mecca of annoyance. I know that if I took the time to drive down to the Valley Fair mall, not only would they be posting banners of Mac OS X 10.6's imminent arrival, I would have gotten somebody to help in minutes, scanning me out right away - without trying to upsell me on a warranty, or walking me through an impulse buy section stock full of electric razors and bulk candy.

Fry's is no doubt a mecca for the do it yourself gadget geek. But the contrast between the warehouse mentality shown at Fry's, versus the personal touch felt in Apple Stores has me wondering if next time I'll just make the extra drive and reward their effort.

As for Mac OS X 15.6, I came home disappointed with merely owning Mac OS X 10.6, so I don't get any early adopter cred.

August 30, 2009

Who's to Blame for Snow Leopard Disabling My Adobe CS4 Licensing?

Yesterday, like many other Mac geek faithful this weekend, I got my hands on a copy of Snow Leopard, the name of Apple's latest operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.6. Though I knew it reportedly had few major feature enhancements, all signs online pointed to it being a harmless upgrade. Even comments around Adobe CS3's having issues pointed to clean sailing with CS4. But my experience, so far, has been anything but clean, and it's not exactly sure what caused the issue, or what will be needed to solve it.

As you may recall, in May, we had to do a little song and dance with Adobe's tech support team to download the full version of the company's CS4 product. But since then, I've been using the product suite practically every day. In fact, practically every blog post you see here features screenshots or graphics that have gone through CS4. But this one won't, unfortunately, and it's like I am operating with one hand behind my back.


My Photoshop CS4 Forgot I Had Permissions to Use It

The issue is an odd one. When trying to start up any of the CS4 products, be it PhotoShop, Illustrator, In Design, or the others, I am simply told that "Licensing for this product has stopped working". The error encourages a restart, and yet, following restarts (plural), the issue remains - suggesting I tell tech support, which I will, but am not extremely excited about, especially after May's fun.


Illustrator Mocked My Trying to Launch It As Well

I have to assume that the issue has arisen as a result of Snow Leopard clawing its way on to my Mac. After all, Photoshop worked before the install, and doesn't work after, and nothing else changed. So far, online repositories aren't much help, and it's not clear which of the three players is at fault - Apple, Adobe, or me. (It could always be the user's fault). I have seen others say their CS4 apps are working great with Snow Leopard, but mine sure aren't. Maybe it's because they had the retail boxes, and going for the download version is coming back to bite me. I sure hope not.

I sent a note 1-1 to an Adobe rep who wrote me back in May, and look forward to seeing if she responds Monday. I'd be curious to see if this is a "Louis-only" issue, or if this is more widespread, and see why this is happening. Until then, get used to text only, or big juicy screenshot images with no resizing and cropping.

August 27, 2009

A Better Retweet Button Is Out There (via @jeresig)

Regardless of what side you are taking in the Retweet.com vs. TweetMeme skirmish I noted on Monday, if you are hosting a button on your blog that encourages readers to send your stuff to Twitter, and count the number of times it has been retweeted, you are probably using one of those two services. Both do a good job, no doubt, but there's an alternative which you can host on your own site, and is powered by bit.ly, the officially "Twitter blessed" URL shortener, which tracks total clicks on your share, not how many individual people have sent it around.


Two Examples of Code And the New Retweet Button

This week, I made the switch, after seeing it shared by Ben Golub of FriendFeed. Now, regardless of which post the button is on, it accurately shows the number of clicks I've gained through Twitter, and I have even configured it to say "(via @louisgray)" when you click the button to share a story.


What It Looks Like When You Click to Retweet from LouisGray.com

The script is very easy to edit and can be themed to match your site, says John Resig, the author of the button. He also says, "The number of retweets may be interesting to some but it's a poor indicator of actual traffic. Instead, the number of clicks coming in is shown instead (a much more useful number)." (Article) And I agree. Not all retweeting is created equal, after all, and for those of us not on the Suggested User List that Twitter has built, we don't have a built-in retweeting army.

I am keeping my TweetMeme ticker on the right side, to show total retweets in a given week, but for each new post, I'd rather own the code myself, and John's made a great alternative. You can get started by visiting his site at http://ejohn.org/blog/retweet/, or in case the site is down, as it was earlier today, at the Google Cache.

My6sense's Digital Intuition Can Now Be Found on iTunes (Free)

A month ago, I introduced you to a new iPhone application designed to find the best of your information intake, while hiding the less-important news. My6sense's approach at utilizing what it knows about you in an effort to tackle information overload spurred a discussion around digital intuition, and now sees the company talking about where they can take their technology - including services like Twitter. But while they were working on this, there was some bad news - the product wasn't even available for download on the iTunes Store! This was due to a small issue on their part, which they took responsibility for, but it still took a month to get the revised app back through the queue and into waiting customers' hands. Yesterday, the app showed up in the iTunes store (for free).

As the founder Barak Hamachov promised last month, the application is not posted in the same area as RSS feed readers or social networking sites, but instead in "Productivity" - as he and the company believe if you can find out all the pertinent information to your industry or hobby while spending less time searching and browsing, you will be more productive.


Browsing New or Best Entries In My6sense

The core elements of My6sense have not changed since my initial review. I have used the application for the better part of six weeks now, and can rely on it to cut through the hundreds of feeds I read each day, finding the few dozen top articles that I won't want to miss. Along with some UI enhancements, the product makes it even easier to share out to Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed or by e-mail.

While the product's algorithm is not 100% in the open, the application learns from your own behavior, including what sources you are most likely to read, what topics you are most interested in, what topics you tend to skip over, how likely you are to "stream" or "share" a post, and how much time you spend reading a specific story. And as you read more stories, the precision of My6sense improves.


Sharing an Item I Like In My6sense is Simple

While I haven't turned away from sites like Google Reader or Lazyfeed for being my initial source for data, My6sense does a great job of accurately knowing what I like. If I am visiting the product after I've seen Google Reader, often those items I had just shared are atop My6sense. If I am seeing it first, it's a good reminder of what to share when I hit Reader.


I'm Moving Up the My6sense Intuition Chain

If you don't already have My6sense, I advise you go grab it. It could make you a lot more productive.

August 26, 2009

Twitterfall Launches Twitter Reply Search Engine


As Twitter develops, the service's users are pushing the envelope beyond the company's initial expectations - taking what was supposed to be vanilla status updates to a small group of friends, and extending it to include features that are practically standards at this point - including replies from one account to another, and retweets. But some of the discovery to find related items from one tweet to another can be very hard. Individual users can see mentions, and with some work, Twitter Search can be useful, but for the most part, individual updates are disjointed pieces of conversation.

Twitterfall, a project undertaken by a pair of 19 year old students in the UK, already seen as a potential news discovery engine, has now extended their prowess to include capturing all data around replies - to one individual, or any specific tweet.


Replies to Facebook Developer Joe Hewitt on Twitterfall

The new Twitterfall Reply Search gives you two ways to find replies.

The first is to enter the ID of the specific tweet. Each tweet has a unique identifier, which is the number at the end of each tweet's specific URL. For example, a tweet with a URL of http://twitter.com/ev/status/3538745942 has the ID of 3538745942. To find replies to that tweet, you would enter "3538745942" in the first box. (Results displayed here)


Replies to President Barack Obama on Twitterfall



Replies to Digg's Kevin Rose on Twitterfall

The second way is to search for an individual user, which will show you their most recent tweets. Click on any result and you will see any replies in the database for those tweets. Fun ones would include popular accounts, from tech leaders, to yes, celebrities, who have highest engagement on Twitter.


You Can See Replies to All of Oprah's Tweets By Clicking on Twitterfall

The results display the original tweet, and each successive reply, in the order it was delivered. Twitter Search, in contrast, may find you each individual reply by finding the user's @alias, but even then, "show conversation" is hit and miss. Assuming the Twitter API doesn't fail us, TwitterFall's new approach is an interesting research tool for concatenating responses. In parallel, the company also launched their own API to access the replies database.

See also: Twitterfall's posterous: See who's replying - right now.

August 25, 2009

No More Beta Codes: Lazyfeed Is Open for Everyone

Almost two months ago, we first introduced Lazyfeed, a real-time blog search and feeds engine, which has grown to be a big part of my information gathering process, following topics which I like, rather than people, or specific RSS feeds. The product's uniqueness is one of the more innovative services I have seen in 2009, which was a big part of why I practically have had a part-time job as a beta code broker, trying to gain people access to the site. As of today, that unpaid gig is done, for Lazyfeed has removed the beta wall, and opened the site to all who want to enter. If you didn't get access to the site, I strongly recommend you go and try it, as you will find the wave of interesting news and blog posts from around the Web addicting.


Topics for Lazy Me from Lazyfeed

As I've mentioned in my previous coverage of Lazyfeed, including a quick how-to video on the service, the site does two major things - first, finding blog posts and news articles relevant to me based on topics I have provided, and second, find related items to those entries I have added to my own social sites, including this blog and my Twitter account. Blog posts that have tags will generate new items, while hashtags on Twitter will do the same. This second portion is what Lazyfeed says gets you the lazy portion of the name, because in "Topics for Lazy Louis", I haven't even had to enter the topics into Lazyfeed - it just happens on my behalf.


The New Lazyfeed Home Page Is Open for Business


Ethan Gahng, CEO of Lazyfeed, uses his own product in a much different way than I do, leveraging the search engine for entertainment, sports, TV and other things, where as I just continue to feed my tech obsession like a bright orange RSS-powered IV drip. But that's what makes a site like Lazyfeed so powerful - it can be whatever you want it to be, and hopefully, without too much work. Stay lazy.

Disqus Launches Version 3 Of Comments, Adds Profiles

The world of comments on blogs has changed quite a lot just in the past few years. Once the central discussion point for all activity around posts, comments have become distributed, floating to a myriad of social networks and RSS feed readers, while still others are simply retweeting the items they like. The changes were enough to see one comment provider, JS-Kit, say that comments were "dead". Meanwhile, amidst the noise, Disqus has rolled out version 3 of its product today, providing a new, smoother look and feel, and most-importantly for today's Web, real-time updating and greatly improved "reactions" that pull in activity from around the Internet.


Disqus Has Now Split Into Two With Profiles and Comments

In parallel with the company's revamp of its comments engine, Disqus has also added a separate product, called your Profile, which lets users add or delete comments, without impacting the original site, and also presents yet another place to add your third party services, so you can tie all your activities on a post through your profile. Other benefits include a personal URL, such as http://www.disqus.com/louismg for me.


My New Disqus Profile



The New Look of Disqus Comments

Disqus's improvements are coming none too soon. With a great deal of comments taking place elsewhere, as I mentioned with my recent post on Google Reader, and have seen with various sites trying out JS-Kit's Echo platform, the world of comments on the blog has to adapt. I just wonder how the real-time aspect of comments can keep people on the site instead of venturing somewhere else, where they may have established a community. I am looking forward to seeing Disqus 3 play a more connected role to the social ecosystem.

Parse.ly Spices Up the News Based On Your Interest Filters

I am enjoying seeing the growth in Web services tailored to finding the very best news just for me. From My6Sense's attempt to only show me the best news, and hiding the less-important items, to Lazyfeed's topics-based blog search engine, we've recently seen two interesting approaches to cutting through information overload and finding the best data. A new invite-only beta service, called Parse.ly, claims to offer "fresh content" with "minimal garnish", and, leveraging my interests, gives me the highest-ranked stories, derived not just from my leanings, but how strongly I find myself aligned with specific topics. The result is another news source with an outstanding signal to noise ratio.

If you are among the lucky few who has thus far obtained access to Philadelphia-based Parse.ly (I am betting the best way is to follow their Twitter account), you start by entering terms you want to find news on, and dragging them to boxes that signify your intensity of interest. The five boxes range from "Most" to "Extremely", "Very", "Moderately" and "Somewhat", in descending order.


Prioritizing My News In Parse.ly

Per my usual approach, I filled the boxes with tech terms, and deigned to see if Parse.ly could find me new, interesting stories about the topics I am most interested in. And it came through - no question.

Each of the buckets ("Somewhat" to "Most") gained a numerical score, from 2 to 10. As a result if a blog post had two of my "10 point words" in its title or excerpt, it would have 20 points, and be pushed to the top of the results queue. Higher yet would be a story on Google around Pubsubhubbub and RSS, which weighed in at 28 points, sporting two 10 point words and an 8 pointer. Like traditional feed readers, Parse.ly shows the title of the story and the date, but it also includes a short summary and, yes, the post's numerical score. Sorting by score shows the highest ranking results.


My Starred Items In A Parse.ly Reading Pane


How Stories Got Scored Based On My Preferences

If you click on a story in the standard view, an excerpt is displayed in the reading pane, which also features a "Score Explanation". And if you click on the story itself, a new window will open with a Parse.ly share bar, prompting you to either save the story for later viewing, or share it to a myriad of other social networks.


The Parse.ly Sharebar In Action on eWeek

Parse.ly clearly states that its focus is all about the content and minimal when it comes to garnish (or design). That's absolutely the case. The product is reminiscent of GMail and Google Reader with its simple interface and the ability to star items, or show only read and unread items. You can also archive old items or delete them, just like you would for old e-mails and RSS feeds.

I am eager to see Parse.ly open up and let people get into the product, for while I have plenty of places to get news, Parse.ly has among the best I've ever seen in terms of quality. The company even says it could be a solid alternative to Google Alerts. Not a single spam blog was found, a testament to Parse.ly's selection from 50,000 different sources. The option to share out to other networks will also make it an interesting part of the social ecosystem.

August 24, 2009

SocialToo Status Extends Facebook Updates to Twitter

Last week, many people were surprised by Facebook releasing a utility that let Fan Page owners update Twitter from the popular social network. But some thought Facebook did not go far enough - as individuals could not utilize this tool to broadcast their own update from their profiles. This morning, Jesse Stay's SocialToo launched a feature which will let users update both Facebook and Twitter - not just for their fan pages, but from anywhere on the site.

Using the SocialToo Status application, you can share your personal status from Facebook to your personal news feed, as well as Twitter.

If you are already a SocialToo user, go to http://www.socialtoo.com and click the "Facebook App" link to activate SocialToo Status. Once the application is enabled for your account, you will see a SocialToo Status icon in the "attachments" section of Facebook, which you can update from the home screen, or your personal profile. If you have already associated your Twitter account with Facebook, it will ask for permission to publish, and following this, you're all set. You can even grant the application permission to publish from fan pages you may run as well.


If enabled, my posts from Facebook can flow to Twitter as well.


For a long time, power users of social media tools have found ways to bring their Twitter updates into Facebook. But now, you're seeing the first tools start to take data the other direction. You can also find the SocialToo application on Facebook here: http://apps.facebook.com/socialtoo/status.


Disclosure: I am an advisor to SocialToo

ReTweet.com's Rip-off Of TweetMeme Is Embarrassing and Wrong


I thought it was a bad sign at the end of 2008 and first half of 2009 when practically every new service or application that came my way was simply an extension to or enhancement of other already-popular social networks, almost always for Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed. Even then, the cacophony of noise around Twitter practically drowned out all of it. Amid an unrelenting flurry of Twitter clients for desktop and Web and Twitter tools for unfollowing, grouping, analyzing and reporting, we also had a rush of Twitter-related sites, all aiming to find their own special niche. Among the most successful, after a slow start, was TweetMeme, the brainchild of Fav.or.it founder Nick Halstead, who managed to repurpose the company and ride the wave of Twitter and retweeting at the perfect time. Seeing his success, a new challenger with a killer domain name (ReTweet.com) is looking to unseat him, by essentially doing the same thing - tabulating the most popular shared items on Twitter.

Scratch that. They're doing the exact same thing, and the complete copycat style is insulting to anybody who deigned to take them seriously. While I had seen complaints about copyright infringement and code borrowing, I had no idea how terrible the attempt had been until tonight, when it became crystal clear how much ReTweet.com stole from TweetMeme before hitting the publish button.

On first glance, both sites display what you would expect - popular articles from often retweeted sites like Mashable.com and the comic XKCD.com. Popular post titles have very similar numerical scores, as you would also expect - varying as little as just over 1 percent on articles that have more than 1,000 retweets. And yes, both let you dice and slice the data by one day or seven (although ReTweet.com calls it one week instead of 7 days and TweetMeme.com calls it 24 hours instead of 1 day. You get it...).

I've seen Digg and I've seen Digg clones. I've seen popular aggregators and their clones. I've seen social networks and their clones. And I recognize that sites that serve similar functions are yes, going to look similar. But once you move past the similar front page, the blatant stealing is jaw-dropping.


TweetMeme has a top level navigation bar, which read from left to right, says:
  1. Home
  2. Comedy
  3. Entertainment
  4. Gaming
  5. Lifestyle
  6. Science
  7. Sports
  8. Technology
  9. World&Business
In remarkable non-contrast, ReTweet.com features this:
  1. Home
  2. Entertainment
  3. Gaming
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Science
  6. Sports
  7. Technology
  8. World&Business
  9. Everything
Wow. Did they really think we were so dumb as to not notice they had the exact same title headers in the exact same order? Even down to the ampersand in "World & Business"? Really?

I don't even want to begin to understand why people think this is okay. While Nick and I once disagreed about his first product's direction and how well that beta was prepared, I never questioned his company's trying to do something different in a competitive landscape. But what ReTweet.com is doing is upsetting. While a service like TweetMeme.com was practically inevitable, and competition is healthy, this kind of stealing and underhanded non-innovation is troubling. If this is what is acceptable from engineering teams these days, then innovative services have got to be worried about protecting their intellectual property.

When, at last month's Lunch 2.0 panel, I asked Bret Taylor of FriendFeed how he felt about services like Facebook and Google Reader borrowing aspects of FriendFeed, such as the "Like" feature, he said he felt "good" because he was making an impact on the Web and it showed alignment between differing Web properties, adding he didn't feel the company could patent words on a Web page. But I am sure the level of copycat dunderheadery on the part of ReTweet.com is not something any of us should "feel good" about. If you want to compete in this space, and you want to take on a market leader, you have got to make sure you offer real differentiation based on different source data, different splicing, different display or different intent. This attempt is a sorry gimmick that has got to have the TweetMeme.com team seeing red, and rightly so.

I'm done linking to ReTweet.com now. The next time I want to be writing about them is if they get sued or when they close down. Not impressed. This kind of launch is bad for innovation and bad for the Web.

August 23, 2009

Blogger Quietly Turns Ten, Plans Slew of Feature Upgrades

Sunday, August 23rd came and went without a peep from Google's Blogger Team, despite the service celebrating its tenth anniversary from its initial founding at Pyra Labs. Cynically, you might construe this silence as Google's not making the product a top priority, or maybe, you could even think that Blogger is ceding the visibility game to other challengers, such as WordPress. But that's far from the case. While WordPress might have a higher level of geek cred, Blogger has many more users, and the company has prepared a slew of updates that should roll out in the next few weeks - which will be welcomed. Don't expect a mass revamp on the level of a "2.0" moniker, but instead, many smaller iterations, either catching up to the competition, or taking advantage of the service's large installed base.

Interestingly, Blogger mentioned their upcoming 10-year mark back on June 18th, and again, this last week, on August 17th, when they said: "we wanted to give you some presents to commemorate this milestone and thank you for letting us be part of your story. Over the next several weeks we will be releasing a number of new features..."

In a given day, I get the opportunity to publish to WordPress, TypePad and Blogger, assuming I update blogs here, at work, or make an addition to my mom's site - still going strong since 2004. Each has its unique differences and challenges. I know that by sticking with Blogger, I've gained some benefits with ease of publishing, and some downsides as advanced widgets make their way to other platforms first. But if I thought the platform were standing still, I'd have jumped, and I know it's not. I'm looking forward to the new releases, as they happen, and congratulate the team on their hitting the big 1-0. Expect more news soon.

See also: Google's Blogger Challenge: Win the Marathon and Don't Bonk.

August 20, 2009

Do PR, Advertising & Marketing Suck? Find Out In a Week.


Criticism of public relations, advertising and marketing is everywhere. Seesmic's Loic Le Meur has been giving a presentation over the last few months saying that they "suck". And agencies need to adapt quickly to be ready for the changes that are seen in social media, the economy and traditional word of mouth.

Next week, on Thursday August 27th, I will be taking part in a panel with Loic, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Patrizi of LinkedIn and Renee Blodgett of Magic Sauce Media, hosted by the San Francisco American Marketing Association, discussing:
  • Is Loic overstating his case?
  • Where are the traditional Advertising, PR, and Marketing agencies failing?
  • What new tools and methods are being used to bypass the need for traditional agencies?
  • What’s next for agencies? What’s next for businesses?
Want to attend?

Ticket Info: SFAMA Members – $35 Non-members – $45
Event Info: SFama.org

For those out of the area, I have it on good word that a UStream video is being prepared as well.

Conversations on Google Reader Shared Items Are Booming

For the world's leading RSS reader, integrating social functions hasn't always been drop-dead simple and easy. With each new addition, be it the recent "Send To" features, the addition of "likes", or the ability to selectively enable friends to make comments on your shared items, the service needs to scale in a way that has brought many other Web-based feed readers to its knees - compounded by Google Reader's accelerating user base. And while the company works to make sharing and engaging simpler, I am already seeing a rapid rise in conversations within Google Reader, both on my own posts, and on those from others I share. Recently, the total number of comments on some posts has even eclipsed those natively here on my site, or on FriendFeed, Facebook or anywhere else.


Almost 600 people can comment on my Reader shares.

Since starting my shared items link blog in Google Reader a few years ago, I've passed along almost 10,000 links (a point I may pass by the end of the month). I recognize my pace of sharing between 20 and 30 items a day is on the high end, but these selections represent the top 4 to 5% of all articles I see online, with the intent of passing on only the best to those who consume the shares downstream. I've even had some people say they have unsubscribed from reading feeds directly, trusting me to be a human filter. That's a little daunting, but a task I can take.

You might remember that back in March, Google turned on comments on these shared items. Though activity was initially slow, I have seen increased velocity, especially after reorganizing my contacts.

As Google Reader does not have public comments on shared items that are visible to everyone, they have taken the middle road - showing these comments to those who are also subscribed to the shares, and only enabling those people to comment who have been added to a specific group by the sharer. After several hundred people had signed up to follow my shares, and I was seeing only a little activity, I realized the problem was mine, so I took some time to organize all my contacts, and enable everyone who follows with the ability to comment, just like in FriendFeed or Facebook. This part is critical, so if you do have a lot of people following your shares, go to your sharing settings in reader, and make sure that they are in a folder that has access.


Each of My Friends Is In a Group that Has Access to Commenting



This Article On Lazyfeed saw Dozens of Comments In Google Reader

With that change, people who may previously have been watching the shares go by, but couldn't comment, now can - and the results have been very interesting. Some of the more popular threads on shares from me have seen on the order of dozens of comments, even when the original post may only have shown a handful on the original blog.


Another Popular Topic of Discussion Within the Reader Shares

While a few years ago, this could have been considered the end of the world by some bloggers, the social Web has grown to understand that distributed conversations are taking place. By Google Reader enabling conversations to happen through their application, readers can act on the news immediately, without having to open a new window and participate there. It's also had me rethinking whether I should be self-sharing, in effect sharing my own posts when they get into Reader. I've personally tried to share only a subset of what I consider the best, but now that I have seen people engage right from within the app, it makes me think I should just share them all and enable the comments to take place where my readers are comfortable.

Now, every time I log into Google Reader, not only do I see new feed items to read, but I see new follower requests looking to see the shared link blog - and also, in bold, a "Comment View" which takes me to see all the comments, not just on items that I have shared, but on items shared by people whose shares that I follow. Google Reader, in a matter of months, has become a very serious part of the conversation. In light of the uncertainty around FriendFeed and how that company will integrate with Facebook, I am betting that some people are looking back at their RSS reader for information consumption and now, social discussion.

So go ahead, comment on my items in Google Reader. I don't need all the comments here. To find my shared items, head to: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/louisgray, and let's get connected.