Saturday, October 14, 2006

Google Labs Does It Again - Check Out Reader!

I'm a big fan of Google. I think they are pushing the envelope of what can be done with web applications, but with a focus on usability that is very refreshing in this day and age. Their new AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) applications like GMail, Google Maps, Google Calendar and most recently Doc and Spreadsheets give a very desktop application feel to web delivered applications that bring their utility to another level.

A new addition to their pantheon of services is the Google Reader. It is an RSS (Really Simply Syndication) feed aggregator. I've been using it almost exclusively for reading the "web sites" I typically browse for the past week and I have to say that I love it. I've toyed with RSS readers in the past, but with the exception of Podcatchers, I've never really bought into the concept. Reader has won me as an RSS convert.

Content is King!

The beauty of RSS is the separation of the content of a web site from the page that normally publishes it. For example, a typical story page on MSNBC includes a banner ad at the top of the page. Followed by a line of MSN standard navigation controls. Now add in the MSNBC Logo, their navigation menu, ads, links etc. All of this junk surrounds the stuff you really want, the actual article of interest. The typical RSS feed gives you all the meat without any of the trimmings. It only contains the actual article content, allowing an RSS reader to present content from various sources in a consistent manner.

Google Reader Screenshot

Reader does this in all the AJAX glory of Google's other cutting-edge apps. The interface is very clean, neat and efficient, as we have come to expect from Google. It allows you to group your feeds (referred to as subscriptions in Reader) into folders which can be viewed individually, or as part of the "All items" view. GMail users will be familiar with the "Starred items" concept for highlighting items of particular interest. You can also share items. When you click "Share" on an item, you are adding it to a personal RSS field that you can share with others (mine is linked to this blog for example. See the links section in the side bar). This allows you a one click solution to communicating to interested parties items of particular interest. I'd like to see the folks at Google Labs enhance this functionality to allow for multiple feeds, perhaps a single feed filtered into multiple feeds by tags. For example, some items I want to share with my friends, but others I'd like to share with my colleagues and still others I might choose to share with both.

Reader is worth a look. Even if you have tried RSS catchers before and been dissatisfied, do yourself a favor and check this one out. It it's a winner in my book.

Resurrection!

Hello again everyone. I believe I will be resurrecting this blog. I find that I spend a lot of time restating the same information in various emails and conversations. This indicates that a single point of reference for this type of stuff is called for. Rather than creating an entirely new blog, I'll just bring this one back from the dead.

Not much content to add just now, but be on the lookout for stuff as it comes up.