These "likes" are public, so anyone reading an item you've "liked" in Reader can see that you're a fan based on your Google profile.
So, when I clicked the like button at the bottom of a story in Reader, it told others I was a fan. Google Reader folks make the case that, "Checking out shared items for people who have 'liked' the same items as you is a great way to discover other people with interests similar to your own."
I quickly found that I don't know these people and therefore don't care that they liked the same articles I liked. Maybe it's because I use Google Reader expressly for work to find story ideas and see what colleagues and rivals are working on.
I don't need to "like" what they're reading and writing. If it's in my coverage bailiwick, chances are good I'm going to cover it, or at the least read it. I don't need to see that strangers like it. Some journalists are fans of the new feature; others, not so much.
Maybe I just have a hard time with Reader being socialized when it's a fine work tool for me. I've already made peace with seeing "likes" at the tops of stories; I choose not to click on them. It's a time-waster for me. I'm going to read what I'm going to read without outside influence. Fortunately, the other changes are more unobtrusive.
Google Reader also lets users find and follow other people with public shared items and subscribe to their shared items with one click, a departure from when Reader let you share your items with others in the hope that they would do the same.
Now there's a people search feature, powered by Google profiles, of course, which lets you look for people who have public shared items. Browse peeps by name, location or topic, and follow them from inside Reader.
Jesus, am I in Facebook or FriendFeed? Feels like it. Thank God I can control what gets shared at least. Clicking on "sharing settings" in Reader lets me choose with whom I share Reader items, right down to coworkers, family, friends and chat contacts from Gmail.
This granularity is refreshing, and I expect nothing less from Google, for which these are uncharted social waters. Only people I add to my sharing groups will be able to see and comment on my shared items.
I can also add a link to my shared items to my Google profile by checking the box marked "Add a link to my Google profile," and give my Reader shared items page a custom URL that uses my Google user name. Thanks, but I'll pass.
Finally, the ability to see and add comments to shared items is still restricted to people I have in a sharing group. Good to know. These features are English-only for now, and the Reader team will add support for other languages later.
Ultimately, I think these changes are absolutely great for users (certainly most in the blogosphere) who wanted Google to socialize Reader. When I want to play, I go to Facebook or Twitter.
Reader is too much a part of my workflow to open myself to the comforts of sharing everything with others. It's a good thing I can choose what I contribute here, which will be little to nothing.