I’m currently ping-ponging between myEarthLink Reader and Google Reader, since neither really gets me where I want to be anymore. I spend a large portion of my internet days and nights using an RSS reader. It has become the primary way I take in information each day, in multiple visits. When you depend on an application for so much of what you do, what may seem like little things can stand out like sand in your bathing suit. It can be torturous when the app you depend on doesn’t behave. Here are a couple of recent tweets from friends about it:
“@extraface everyday with google reader is a day of punishment.” –J05h
“dear google reader… you are too demanding and i kind of hate you.” –gregg
Hyperbole notwithstanding, this is something we talk about on a fairly regular basis. What’s particularly surprising is the lack of real alternatives in the world of River Of News web applications. I’ve been around, and will continue to get around, until I find one that’s right. Or I’ll pitch in in making a better one.
- It’s too hard to unsubscribe. It’s important to be able to make snap judgements about a feed. Sometimes I notice that I’m subscribed to sources that are extremely duplicative of each other. Or sometimes I decide I’m no longer interested in what a feed has to say. Feeds should be “hire fast, fire fast.” They’re cheap to add and they should be cheap to remove. I’d like to be able to unsubscribe from the entire feed right there within an item. There are five choices in the item footer, and I rarely use any of them: Add star, Share, Email, Mark as read, Add tags. I’ve added a script to give me the option to send articles straight to my Del.icio.us account, and why can’t I have an “unsubscribe from this feed” button down there along with or instead of those other options.
- Let me hide the unread counts. This is easy enough. Some of us don’t like to keep score. It adds stress to know how much is left to be read in each source. It has also encouraged a bad habit in me of skipping around within my sources, favoring one because it’s more fun to read, ignoring others. This is easy to fall in to, and not a habit I want. I’d like to skim through all of my new stuff every time I visit my reader. Offering a preference to hide the unread items count for each source and clean up the left nav would help me with that. I suppose I could hide the entire pane, but I like having that gutter there. If there’s a Greasemonkey script to accomplish this, please let me know. I did find the nice Google Reader Minimalistic script this morning, which strips out the header and footer to help make things cleaner, but it doesn’t remove the unread counts.
- Solve the vacation problem. Expect that I’m going to take a few days off every now and again, and create some kind of new case for that. Notice that I’ve been gone for a while, or that my feeds are really stacking up, and offer me some help in deciding what to read or getting through them all. Treat me like a human, and not a feed-consuming robot.
- Let me disable the infinite scroll. I get ahead of that scrolly thing sometimes, and then I’m stuck waiting around for it to catch up. Sometimes I don’t mind it, but often I don’t have the patience for it. I’d much rather have the option for a manual scroll that wouldn’t get hung up. Maybe it is already and I just don’t know how to do it.
- (added) Let me be done. It’s neat that the application auto-polls and auto-refreshes the source list if it finds new items while you’re reading, but it can prevent me from ever feeling like I’m done with my feed reading session. The yellow highlight that appears on the left to indicate a newly updated feed has started to condition me to feel like I should be waiting around expectantly for new stuff to come in. When I see that, I tend to hit “refresh” in the main pane to see what’s what. And that conditions me to hit “refresh” all the time, much like you can get into the rut of hitting send/receive in an email client. This is another bad habit I don’t want to reinforce. I want to get in, read what’s new, and then go off and be productive in a different way for a while. This should be controllable.
What’s on your RSS reader wish list? I think I’ll also wander over to the Bloglines Beta to see if that might be a viable alternative. Last I checked, they had gone River Of News, so there may be some potential there.