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March of the Google Reader Zombies

Last night felt like march of the Google Reader zombies, as blog readers went out into the vast Internet in search of RSS feed reading brains.

I have to admit that when I read the news, I thought more about the subtext than the actuality.  I mean, listen, I’ve already switched over to Netvibes.  It took all of 5 minutes to download my Google Reader this morning and move it over there (though I couldn’t get it to work last night due to the insane traffic).

Feedly looks like a good option too, though I worry since they have built their site around a functioning Google Reader (even though they say there will be a seamless transition).  Plus I didn’t want to log into Google within another site since that gives access to my entire Google world.  Newsblur turned out not to be such a great option for me because the free version is limited to 64 blog feeds.  I looked into reading blogs via MacMail (you can’t anymore) or Outlook (was going to be more trouble than it was worth as well as limiting).  If push came to shove, I would go back to what I did before I started using Google Reader which was that I had a big list of blogs that I read, and I clicked down them once a day, opening each to see if there was a new post.  With that method, I was planning to drop anything that wasn’t a personal blog with the exception of Mental Floss and BlogHer.

So, you see, I knew that I would keep reading blogs.

The question was, would you?  And if you weren’t reading blogs, would you still write one?

That’s what I mean when I say that I was more focused on the subtext rather than the logistics.  I felt the message closing Google Reader sent was that Google believes no one reads blogs anymore.  Or few people read blogs.  That most people consume content via other sources, and if they read blogs at all, it’s through links on Facebook or Twitter vs. having blog loyalty where you read every post (mostly) on a site.

It felt very much like this one year in childhood when all of my friends announced that we weren’t going to play with our Playmobil figures anymore because Playmobil was lame.  It was for babies.  I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to give up Playmobil, and one of my friends secretly wasn’t either, so we moved our epic games to our two houses and I continued to play Playmobil for a little while.  But I went from Playmobil 5 days per week to maybe once a week.  But then she folded to the pressure too, and now I was in this limbo state of wanting to play Playmobil very badly (after all, I had the knight set with the pure white horse!) — of NEEDING imaginative play — and no one would play Playmobil with me.  I had to choose between being with my friends or being alone and playing Playmobil and feeling like crap about myself because I had been told that what I wanted to do was babyish.


Last night felt as if Google was the alpha kid telling all of us that blogs are lame.  And I knew that a large chunk of people would follow the alpha kid and agree, blogs are lame.  And some of us would be like my single friend who stuck by me for a bit in the sense that a few of us would still be reading and writing blogs, though fewer than before.  But just as I needed the imaginative play of Playmobil and couldn’t get that creativity-stretching workout from playing video games or hanging out at the mall, I also knew that I needed blogs.

I needed to write my own and I needed to read yours.

There were the immediate fears — no one is going to write or read anymore.  There were the long-term fears — what will happen to all my friends who use Blogger as their software since it sounds like that could one day be on the chopping block too.  There were the even longer-term fears — all social media options out there could disappear in a puff of smoke at any time, leaving the users with no ground beneath them.

The reality is that as much as we treat the Internet like a brick-and-mortar social space, it really isn’t.  We are building relationships in spaces that are virtual, and their virtuality means that they don’t really exist hence how they can be removed at any time.  You can amass 3000 connections on Twitter, but if Twitter decides to close your account or end their company, those connections disappear.  The same with Facebook.  The same with every social media site.  I’ve connected with hundreds of bloggers in my Google Reader, built relationships with most of those blogs that I read.  Google Reader disappearing has the potential to end those hundreds of relationships that I’ve built over 7 loyal years of blog reading.

Isn’t that a scary thought?

I went to bed feeling depressed BY my reaction to the closing of Google Reader.  I was upset with myself for caring so much.  And I was upset by the message sent by the closure because it’s the truth: people are consuming information faster and shallower.  So many are moving towards Twitter or Facebook as their primary form of communication, using it to replace blogging.  And it’s a shallow form of communication — it’s the difference between people calling out to each other as they run past (Twitter) and a sit down conversation (blogs).  And as I thought about the direction we’re heading, walking around with phones in our hands and glass on our faces in order to consume more and more and more, faster and faster and faster… well, the whole thing just made me slip into a Holden Caulfield-like depression.  That moment when you step back and examine humanity and don’t really like what you see.

What I am really worried about is impermanence, the fleeting nature of the Internet.  I don’t read blogs with my brain; I read them with my heart.  I care about the people who write them.  I don’t want the threads tying us to each other to be snapped just because a company decides to discontinue a product.  But that is what will happen on some level.  Some of us will continue on to NetVibes or Feedly or however you choose to consume blogs.  And some people will take this as a sign to jump ship in terms of reading and writing, just as my friends did in my youth when someone declared Playmobil lame.  I wonder how many more people really needed that imaginative play too but denied themselves it just because of that message given by the alpha kid.

And today it’s blogs that the alpha kid is declaring lame.  Tomorrow it could be Facebook or Twitter or whenever you’ve built those relationships.  We’ve built all those relationships not in sand — even sand feels more stable than this — but in the ether.

We’ve literally built castles in the air.

Now that I’ve experienced this connection, I’ve come to need this connection.

Because I can admit this freely: I need to read and write blogs.


1 nonsequiturchica { 03.14.13 at 11:02 am }

I absolutely need this community to stay sane. I’m really not sure what I would have done and who I would have asked when I had questions/fears/etc. I will still be around blogging and reading and I hope that many others that I read will do the same.

2 liljan98 { 03.14.13 at 11:10 am }

I’m still in a state of shock and spend all day looking into alternatives, but so far haven’t found a decent one. I mostly read blogs in the Google Reader on my Android phone and sometimes on my computer, and none of the alternatives seem to let me do just that as perfectly simple as Google Reader did it. I like to get my blog news in a very simple way: read title + first few lines and then I will decide if and when and how to read the entry. Most of the blog readers I checked out so far are way to sophisticated for my taste and … argh! *shakes fists angrily towards Google* What on earth are they thinking?

3 Tracie { 03.14.13 at 11:14 am }

I was so sad this morning when I read the news. It did feel like a comment on blogging, and I didn’t like that.

I need to read and write blogs as well. I’m not going to quit; the community and the connections are too important to me.

4 serenity { 03.14.13 at 11:28 am }

Me too.

And I like to think that there are enough people like us who will adapt and change in the face of impermanence.

But yeah. I feel exactly the same way you do.


5 loribeth { 03.14.13 at 11:49 am }

I feel the same way. Your post reminds me of the very first Childless Living message board I found when I had just stopped IF treatment & was trying to find women in the same situation, which was hosted by a prominent women’s online community (which starts with i and ends in Village). After a couple of years, during which we built strong bonds within a thriving little community — one of the very few I could find on the Internet at that time — the hosting site, in its infinite wisdom, decided to change its message board format. Which was not compatible with the computers I was using at home or at work. I was in a state of panic without my daily support fix. I managed to contact one of the girls on the board by e-mail, and she told me she was having difficulties as well. She set up a Yahoo group for about a dozen of us that she could contact (which will be marking 10 years in existence next month). Eventually, I was able to access the original board again, but many people were still having difficulties, and some just moved on and we never heard from them again. The board never did regain its momentum and limped along for several years until the hosting site decided to make it “inactive” (content still available, but no longer able to post new stuff). (They told us we could hang out at the Childfree by Choice board…!!). There came a day when I clicked over & even that link to the archived board no longer worked — they had pulled the plug on it entirely. I felt so sad to think of those years of accumulated wisdom — my personal history — had just vanished into thin air. I have never quite forgiven the Village for that. :p

6 sharah { 03.14.13 at 11:54 am }

I am going to keep on reading and writing the best way I can find.

7 Chickenpig { 03.14.13 at 11:58 am }

Me too. When I’m having one of those feeling sad for myself days, I need to read everyone else’s blogs. Sometimes it makes me realize my day isn’t too bad, sometimes it feels good to see that other people aren’t having a great day today either. But reading other people’s blogs is the first thing I do when I have some free time in the morning, and the last thing I do when I have a moment at night. When I’m feeling blue, or having a great day, I am writing posts in my head…even if they don’t end up on my blog most days from lack of free time. I don’t care if everyone else thinks it’s lame, I’ll be blogging by myself. 🙂

8 It Is What It Is { 03.14.13 at 12:29 pm }

OMG, Mel, you need a vacation! I love you but you went too deep on this one. It’s dollars and cents for Google. Thinking that Google would fell then entire blogosphere simply by discontinuing ancillary technology would be akin to thinking cell phones would become obsolete with the discontinuance of the flip phone (and, yes, I know folks still have them).

We are stronger than Google reader. Your fans, this tight night community of bloggers, writers and readers alike, we will write and read on.

Why doesn’t BlogHer develop RSS reader technology? Heck, Google would probably let them have theirs…

9 It Is What It Is { 03.14.13 at 12:41 pm }

And, speaking of the power of your blog, I read about Google Reader shutting down here, first, by way of my Google Reader but from my mobile phone where there was not pop-up letting me know…

10 Aisha { 03.14.13 at 1:13 pm }

YES! This. Seriously, this is all the thoughts I’ve felt upon the closing of G-reader. I don’t understand and I’m upset because its how I keep up with people and honestly I’m on FB less and less each day and rarely use Twitter because like you said, the connections don’t feel as real as reading a blog would when it comes to online interactions. Blogs literally pulled me out of the gaping hole of depression I found myself in when I treaded water in the land of infertility. . . I don’t know what I would have done without it. It’s true I comment less on blogs and people comment less on mind but that doesn’t mean the reading has decreased— the devices we read from make commenting hard but make reading easier. . . . I’ve been blogging for nine years— and lame or not I’ll be around, and I’ll be reading yours too.

11 Tiara { 03.14.13 at 1:16 pm }

I had a similar childhood experience with Barbies & dolls…still needing that imaginative play but being told it was babyish…I opted to play secretly, by myself.

So I think I will end up continuing to blog…for myself, by myself if I have to…& I will most definitely keep reading & connecting in this way until it’s completely extinct.

After my temper tantrum last night at the news, my 1st thought was, as you mentioned, how long before Blogger closes up shop? Should I switch to wordpress? Or take the leap to self hosting (is that what it’s called?)

You can count on me, I’ll still play Playmobil with you

12 Sarah { 03.14.13 at 1:18 pm }

I am constantly amazed at how you are able to put what I am actually thinking into words. I agree, I know I will find a way to keep reading blogs and writing at Bio Girl because I NEED TO. But what worries me is what this means for the future of blogger (where I write) and blogs in general. At least we know I will still be reading you and you will still be reading me 🙂

13 KeAnne { 03.14.13 at 1:28 pm }

Google pisses me off. I am so irritated how they presume to decide what is cool and uncool or that no one reads blogs anymore. I’ve thought for a long time that Google is majorly out of touch with its users.

14 a { 03.14.13 at 1:41 pm }

So what ya need to do is, set the Wolvog on this problem, have him create a feed reader with interfaces for all kinds of operating systems, with an alert system for the emotional content level of the post. Should be no problem for him!

And yes, my first thought on seeing the pop-up was – well, I guess that means I won’t be reading much any more. But that was mostly about Damn You Autocorrect, Catalog Living, and all my coupon websites.

15 loribeth { 03.14.13 at 1:46 pm }

I’m sure I/we will all find a Google Reader substitute we can live with, and in time, we’ll adjust. But damnit, it’s just one more thing to worry about, one more new system/piece of technology that I have to learn to use, one more unexpected little surprise popping up to complicate my life. :p Not what I wanted or needed.

16 Anjali { 03.14.13 at 1:47 pm }

Here’s a blog post that links to a petition to sign to keep Google Reader:
My LIFE happens in Google Reader! I don’t want to lose it!

17 Blanche { 03.14.13 at 4:10 pm }

Whether Blogger was next on the chopping block was one of my next thoughts also. Because, you know, now that Reader is dead, why support a platform that produces the things Reader aggregated?

I second A’s suggestion of setting the Wolvog on the problem.

18 persnickety { 03.14.13 at 6:17 pm }

I don’t currently use google reader (that was one of my projects for this year), but I was listening to the guardian media podcast the other day and they were talking how blogs are not the powerhouses they were for providing news, now that twitter largely provides that. They had a guy who used to blog, now does talk radio and has gone back to blogging, he was saying it was different- when he started it was short stacatto posts, more like twitter, now it is more ruminative. The people who want the news flashes are on twitter (although i will say, i find twitter most useful when it links to longer things)
I like to think that there is space for both- that both the quick news flashes and the legnthy pieces have a place, but I think for people on the cutting edge of the tech, they do not see that (yet). One of the things I love about my tablet is how easy it is to read long blogs, or longer stories, because I don’t have to sit at my desk to do so.
blogger may become the next geocities, but there will be a replacement, because there is a space there, a need for this ability to have a small, talky site.

19 Shelby { 03.14.13 at 8:26 pm }

Although I go through periods of time where I’m on hiatus, after almost 5 years on my current blog (though blogging for well over 12), I cannot imagine life without one. I’m way too long-winded for FB or twitter or whatever else to get the job done. Add on top of that that I still feel deeply entrenched in the ALI existence, I can’t imagine life outside of here. It would be a cold, lonely world…

20 Sian { 03.15.13 at 12:18 pm }

I read all the blogs I follow through my blogger dashboard. I hope that isn’t affected by this. If so can someone please let me know. I would hate to lose the links to the blogs I follow.

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.15.13 at 5:31 pm }

I need to write my own and read yours, too.

I’m now reading The Age of Miracles, at your recommendation. The Google Reader announcement seems a bit like the premise of the book — a huge change happens and people know it’s huge and will have ramifications but they get used to it, yet still there is a sense of foreboding about just how far the change will extend, what it will affect.

Yeah. I feel like that.

P.S. I’ve just converted to BlogLovin’. We’ll see how suitable it is.

22 Megan { 03.16.13 at 2:44 pm }

Just tried NewsBlur because it looked like it was sorta similar; stripped-down and not picture-heavy (as a lot of the blogs I read don’t include pictures), but “due to overwhelming demand, free accounts are temporarily suspended.” Bah.

23 loribeth { 03.17.13 at 5:24 pm }

Here’s a dumb question. I’ve been looking at Feedly but all I can see are “for Firefox/for iPhone/for Android” etc. I still use just plain old Internet Explorer. Can I still use Feedly?

24 Battynurse { 03.20.13 at 8:49 pm }

Great post! Gives me a lot to think about.

25 magpie { 03.22.13 at 1:42 pm }

me too.

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