Google Speedreader

I’m an avid skimmer of Google Reader. On most days, I periodically login and use quick keys to flip through 100 or so items. I might read one or two of them, start another few items, publish one or two as shared items. The key is to use it as productive digression, not to get bogged down with it as an obligation or labor-intensive duty. When I miss a day or find the feeds creating an insurmountable backlog, it’s easy enough to mark all as read.

This morning I noticed Google Reader’s down-counting ticker kept hitching–stopping on a number and no longer counting down, no matter how many times I pressed ‘N’ext. For months I’ve had Helvetireader working through Greasemonkey in Firefox; figured that must be it. But even after I deactivated Greasemonkey, the ticker continued to act up, firing only for the first few items and then sticking. The ticker would stop on a number (e.g., 80), and the fed RSS items would continue skipping down the page, many of them reruns. The service wasn’t broken, exactly. But it was (and remains) up on the blocks. Somebody is tinkering with it.

I caught a few clues on Twitter during the day (Thurs., a day I usually spend at home, half fathering, half professing) speculating about whether Google had activated Pubsubhubbub, a nearer to real-time relay process for RSS deliveries. Then, a few minutes ago, both in Google Reader and via Will Richardson’s Twitter stream, I saw this entry from The Next Web, “Has Google Reader Just Gone Real Time?” Possibly: Google is adjusting Reader so it will turn around RSS-fed content momentarily. Until now, Google Reader-fed material was delayed, arriving anywhere from 30-90 minutes after the content was first published. Google’s demure response (cited in The Next Web piece) is unsurprising in light of reactions to Google Buzz. But an upgrade to Google Reader that nudges it toward the ever-unfolding now is an intriguing, promising development, nevertheless. Moving Reader toward the now may dislodge assumptions about its readerly orientation and help us come to terms with it differently as a writerly/receivable mechanism–a platform for collaborative filtering (like Delicious networks) and threaded conversational annotation (both of which take GR well beyond a flat consumption practice). I’m encouraged to see some new energy routed Google Reader’s way. In fact, while it’s much too early for me to be decided about Google Buzz, if it makes any appreciable impact on Google Reader, all the better.


  1. Hey Derek! This is Sean, from your ENG328 class last semester.
    It’s interesting that you just posted about Google Reader considering I just started using it yesterday, and subscribed to your blog after a flurry of subscribing to favorite blogs, news sites, webcomics, etc.
    I don’t really fully understand Google Reader yet, but it does make following all of my online readings much, much easier. And I have no idea what Google Buzz is, but I’ll have to look into it.
    As a follow-up to last semester – I feel like what I’ve taken from your class as far as writing and revising has improved my own writing ten-fold. I’ve never been much of an editor, for my own work or anyone else’s, but I definitely am now.
    Also, as far as the blog I mentioned setting up – I decided to go with WordPress over Movable Type mainly because my friends’ domain is hosted on, which has a lot of support for WP but none for MT. It was much easier to set up. It’s currently up at, although the entries are skeletal since it’s been functional since yesterday.
    Finally, I recall that you wanted to talk about the analysis and metrics I used for that Vonnegut passage. I’m not sure if I ever got back to you on that, but I believe I still have my notes on it somewhere around here, along with the slideshow itself.
    Anyway, I hope this semester of ENG328 is going well for you. Take care!

  2. Hey Sean,
    Great to hear from you. Are you in Pray-Harrold often this semester? Stop by sometime, and we can catch up, talk about Google Reader, your blog installation, and the methods you used with the Vonnegut piece late last semester. What you’re saying about WordPress sounds sensible to me. Certainly you want something that gives you the most flexibility. I probably mentioned that I hang on to Movable Type because it’s what I know, and I can tinker with the style sheets to my liking.

  3. I’m in Pray Harrold nearly every day, I’ll have to check out your office hours and see when I can stop in. I’m not sure if WordPress has more or less flexibility, but installing it on the domain took literally one click. A friend of mine will be handling the design so that is out of my hands, mainly I will be doing the editing, some writing, and some admin stuff.

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