Google Reader Gets Personal (In a Good Way)

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-23 Print this article Print

Google has launched some new features that should please die-hard users of Google Reader, the company's feed reader.

First, the Explore section has a new section dubbed "Popular items" that uses algorithms to find rising images, videos and pages from the entire Internet and orders them by what it divines users will most like:

reader recommended sources.png

Also, Google Reader is leveraging user trends and Web history to put more interesting feeds in front of them with the "Recommended sources" sections. This is only half new; it is the recommendations section renamed and moved into the new Explore section.

Both features were fairly accurate in tailoring content to my tastes. As the proprietor of this blog, I obviously read up on a lot of Google-oriented news. I also read a fair amount of sports, so these topics dominated the Popular items and recommended sources lists for me:

reader popular.png

In another fine change, Google has departed from sorting in default chronological order with a new "magic" sorting option that offers feed items based on personal usage and overall activity in Reader.

Click "Sort by magic" under the "Feed settings" menu of a feed or folder to switch to personalized ranking:

Reader magic sort.png

Beverly Yang, software engineer for search quality at Google, explained:

Unlike the old "auto" ranking, this new ranking is personalized for you, and gets better with time as we learn what you like best -- the more you "like" and "share" stuff, the better your magic sort will be.

Now if that isn't motivation for liking and sharing content, I don't know what it. I may have to rethink my earlier position.

I've already gone on record as not being much for liking and sharing my Reader content, but I'm open to Reader becoming more intuitive about putting content in front of me I'd be inclined to harbor interests in.

Reader gets a lot of criticism from bloggers who have turned away from feed readers in favor of Twitter because of the real-time quotient.

It's true that Google Reader and feed readers at large are lost at sea in the real-time conversation; the curation of Twitter Lists and other aggregation real-time features will only make feed readers seem that much more antiquated.

But I like many of the new features the Reader team is crafting (launch features for Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and Google's facilitation of its Web services with PubSubHubbub will only make Reader more viable later.

I know Twitter and other real-timers are great but don't give up on Reader yet, people. There's good work being done there. |

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