speed reader

I am astonished. In just two days of using Google Reader I’m now following over 60 blogs, and have read over 300 articles. All of this in much less than half the time I usually spent browsing the web. The old paradigm of manually surfing somewhere and then surfing somewhere else seems so obsolete, because you never know when there’s new content. If it’s a blog that updates rarely (ie, below the 1 post/day threshold then you might well waste a trip. But with the feed, you only need visit when there really is content to be seen. What’s more, you know the title and an excerpt at minimum so you can also decide immediately whether you want to see more or would rather skip right over it. This is where the time and efficiency improvements come into play – you only end up reading content that is fresh and relevant. I’ve added subscriptions to many smaller blogs with great voices that I always intended to read but never had time; now it is trivial to stay abreast of them.

I briefly became enamored of the idea that blogs “should” publish their full post text in their feed, but am now indifferent. True, it’s easier to read the whole post from within Reader (and saves some time too), but if not, its easy to just click on the full post link (assuming it interested you enough). The page will open in a new tab. This way you also get to appreciate the diversity of blog design out there instead of staying insulated in the sterile Reader environment; plus if its a site where you comment frequently you will have to click through anyway. In fact using Reader makes it easier to stay involved with comment threads because you can subscribe to a thread directly.

Of course, clicking through to the full post also helps out the blogger you’re reading, as you will then be exposed to their ads etc. So there is financial incentive to keep your feed limited to excerpts. But blogger beware; if your excerpts are dull or not properly representative of your post’s interesting-ness, then no one will bother to click through. Using excerpts in your feed raises the bar because there’s extra work involved for me to click through to you. This is an incentive to quality writing. I think it would be better for the internet as a whole if everyone published excerpts instead of fulltext feeds, not just for these advantages but also because it removes the incentive for embedding ads in the feed itself. I’d rather my feeds be truncated but ad free than be full but interspersed with sponsorship.