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Google Reader is Magic

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the new Google Reader Explore functionality.  Some of the stuff might be interesting, but honestly it’s just another distraction that I don’t need.

sort-by-magic

Did anybody catch the new sorting features though? We’ve known that Google is magic for years.  Apparently they’re now being public about it.

Fix Those Pesky Unread Shared Items

I’m a fan of Google Reader. I’ve written here before about their new improvements and how great it is to work in an iterative development area where improvements happen daily.

Even a great team has a failure once and a while. They recently added the ability to see your Google Talk Friend’s shared items within Google Reader. While this shows that Google has great plans for integrating their services, I’ve had problems with this feature right off the bat and from what I understand I’m not the only one.

My biggest problem was that the counter of unread items would go up but my ability to read said items was gone. I could no longer get updates of my friend’s shared items essentially rendering the feature useless. If you’re like me you’ve been plagued by the following screen since they introduced the feature:

Shared Item - Wrong Count

Thanks to Graham the helpful Google Reader Guide we now have a solution and it’s easier than you think.

  1. Make sure you’re logged into Google Reader and goto Settings -> Friends.
  2. Scroll down until you see the user who’s items won’t update correctly.
  3. Click Hide. You should see a picture like so:

    Hidden Google Reader User

  4. Go back to the main page by either clicking ‘<< Back to Google Reader’ or the Google Reader logo.
  5. Your friend should no longer appear at all in the ‘Friends Shared Items’ list.
  6. Go back to Settings >> Friends.
  7. Find Him/Her again.
  8. Click ‘Show.’
  9. Go back to the main page again.
  10. It might take a second but they will appear in the list again. Once they do they’ll have a small red ‘new!’ next to their name. Click their username.

At this point you will have their new shared items displayed. From now on things will act normally and you can mark the items as read as you see fit.

These instructions are a complete interpretation of Graham the helpful Google Reader Guide’s original post.

Iterative Development

Items Shared By I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I’m a fan of Google’s web applications. I make use of Google Notebook, Google Reader, Gmail and Google Docs daily. Every time I see they added some new features it makes me very happy. It also reminds me of just how useful Iterative Development practices are, especially in the Web world. It’s great to get a solid product out there and then update it routinely with enhancements.

Along with all the talk about Gmail 2.0 up and coming, along with their new push for Open Social, Orkut and now Android I’ve found a few other updates.

  • Items Shared By… Google Reader’s shared items now displays who shared the item within the first few lines of the item itself. This is great if you (like me) subscribe to many friend’s shared item feeds and group them all together.
  • Tagging Notebook Entries… You can now tag entries in your Google Notebook. This is great for categorizing and quick lookups. I think I’ll be permanently switching over to Google Notebook over my own wiki now just because of this one feature.

Web applications are the future. There is no comparison. The immediate feedback you get from releasing an update over the web is simply an undeniable advantage over client-side installed applications. Applications like Microsoft Office will become a thing of the past. Bandwidth will cease to become an issue and we’ll have all the same features but with immediate updates at our fingertips. As mentioned on JoelonSoftware a few weeks ago, spending money and time engineering todays software to utilize today’s hardware is a waste. Instead just realize that the hardware will handle it and performance will cease to be a problem

Replacing Feed43

I happened across Kathleen Connally’s Photostream this morning and couldn’t find a feed for it through Google Reader or Firefox. Eventually I did find the RSS 2.0 button at the bottom, but before I found that I thought I’d create a quick (should take less than a minute) feed using Feed43. Unfortunately it appears Feed43 is down this morning. This is not good as I have several feeds created with the service that I read regularly. I’m hoping this is just a temporary hiccup and that they’ll be back but we’ll see.

If you’re looking for a replacement for Feed43 here are some options:

I’ll probably try them all in the next few days (especially if feed43 remains down) and offer my impressions of each.

Rushing your Blog

Blogrush logo
BlogRush caught my eye today. Essentially it’s a way to increase traffic to your website. However, something else it does for you gave me a thought. For a while now I’ve been using my Google Reader Shared Items to let people know what I think is interesting and relevant. BlogRush has the unique ability to let my readers know what IS interesting and relevant. What’s even cooler is the more people that use my link the more interesting and relevant my content will be!

Google Does it Again!

They finally did it! Google Reader added a search box!

Google Reader’s New Search Box

Up my (feed) Arsenal

A while back I posted about feed 43 and Feed Rinse.  Since that time I’ve become even more of a feed junkie.  I find not having to go searching for information a monumental time saver, and as such I’ve let my subscriptions grow to well over 200.  Also I’d say I’ve become much more informed which may or may not turn out to be a good thing.  My weapon of choice is still Google Reader and while talking with my friend Matt I discovered he has been using bloglines.  We talked for a bit about the different features and I came to realize Google Reader is missing a few really nice things.  Since our brief chat I’ve found several new feed tools to enhance my tool set.  There are three features which Matt takes advantage of which I was unaware existed.

  1. E-mail feeds.  Use this feature to sign up for a newsletter which you want to receive but prefer to read in a feed format rather than E-mail.  It can also be used for any site which you don’t want to have your email address.  This is especially handy for those sites which block the ‘+’ operator in your E-mail address (which I wrote about here).
  2. Tracking Shipments.  Create a feed that directly links to your tracking number so you can keep ‘track’ of where it is and what it’s doing.
  3. Public feed sharing.  Let people know what you’re reading and where.  I recently wrote about using the shared items feature on Google Reader but that was just for individual items.  This brings it to a whole new level.  It can also be used to share your blogroll so you can provide an automatic blogroll list via feed.

Let me first tackle #1.  A few days ago I discovered Mail Bucket.  This handy website will create a feed out of any email address you send it.  They allow dots, dashes etc.  All you need to do is have E-mails sent to blurb@mailbucket.org and the feed for that E-mail address instantly available at mailbucket.org/blurb.xml.  Remember though, this is publicly available so make sure no sensitive E-mails are being sent there.

#2. Matt happened across Power Sellers Unite.  This site allows you to create a feed from a UPS or USPS tracking number.  This is something I had previously attempted to find but other sites had been blocked by UPS.  Let’s hope this one doesn’t anytime soon.

#3. This one turned out to be much easier than I had thought.  As it turns out you can make any folder in Google Reader public.  Thanks to Google Reader’s tagging/folder system this turns out wonderfully as any feed can exist in more than one folder.  Therefor you can keep them categorized as you wish, and simply add a feed to the ‘public’ folder (or in my case use the blogroll tag).

Another helpful site I happened across recently that can help you Up Your (feed) Arsenal is Yahoo Pipes.  This fancy little site might one day replace both Feed 43 and Feed Rinse and numerous others but for now it’s just a site to keep an eye on.