Date: 2006-11-16 20:56:00
google reader
I gave up on Livejournal's RSS feed support a few weeks ago and started using Google Reader instead. As promised, here's a progress report.

I know LJ isn't really intended as an RSS feed reader, but I never really realised just how much it isn't. With LJ, you pretty much have to read your friends page linearly. I would reload my friends page every day or two, and keep hitting "<< Previous 25", opening each window in a new Firefox tab, until I reached the point where I last left off. There isn't any indication about where you last read, so you need to either recognise the older posts or remember to have a quick look at the most recent post before you hit Reload on the first page. Then, you scroll through each page of posts reading everything. If you don't read it when you see it, you'll never find it again. If you find a long article that maybe you want to read later, you need to make a note of the URL or open it in yet another browser tab or something. I can scan stuff pretty quickly, so this whole process maybe wasn't as bad as it might sound.

I subscribe to (as of last count) 60 RSS feeds. Some are more active than others, but a typical day would produce two pages worth (ie. about 50) new posts between my LJ friends and the RSS feeds. If I didn't read LJ for a day or two, the backlog adds up quickly. After not reading LJ for several days, the backlog simply becomes too much and I miss stuff.

Enter Google Reader. After removing all my RSS feeds from my LJ friends list, the daily friends page reload is much shorter and I can easily skip a day or three without having to load up multiple pages of previous posts. All the RSS feeds I read are nicely organised by Google Reader and I can pick and choose what I want to read at the time. It's just as easy to plow through everything that's new, as it is to only read the more interesting feeds and leave the others for later (or even "catch up" on them and just mark all the new stuff as read). And Google Reader has keyboard shortcuts that I didn't think were possible in a browser, which makes it really nice to use.

LJ's RSS support was fine when I was just reading a few RSS feeds. But with the number I have now (which I don't think is terribly many), it just doesn't scale. Google Reader does a much better job.
don't forget that you can "tag" items in google reader. that will come in handy, some day.
oh, and you can "star" them, as well, which is a sort of tag. which reminds me, youtube was down last night, and i starred like three entries because of it. i should go back and read my starred entries now, assuming youtube is back up.
Oh, yeah I've been using the "star" feature but I haven't delved into full tagging yet. I'm starring things that I may want to refer back to later.
You know you're a geek when you think subscribing to 60 RSS feeds is not terribly many!
I know, I know. But google reader lets me scan them really quickly!
Chuck reads his lj friends list via rss.
That seems a bit inside-out. Yes, I do have two separate places to read things, but it's tolerable. And if you want to read friends-only posts on your friends list through RSS, you need to do a bunch of password shenanigans to make sure you're seeing everything you should.
My experience with Google Reader parallels yours. There are a number of features that need to be implemented better, but for a Google Labs project it's pretty nice.
Why not use Google Reader for the LJ RSS feeds?

Personally I like Sage RSS Reader in Firefox.
I don't think LJ has an RSS feed to read your friends page. You can individually add the RSS feed of each of your friends, but that gets pretty tiresome.

I have seen a page by someone describing a custom style template that paying users of LJ can apply to their friends page, which causes it to render as RSS, but it's disappointing that there isn't a builtin way to do this.

I ended writing my own Perl CGI script that web-scrapes my LJ friends page and rewrites it into RSS, but I stopped using it after it broke due to LJ style redesign a while ago.
[info]bovineone : Missing an obvious feature
Since Google is such a search-oriented company, I'm still surprised that Google Reader is missing a search field to let you find a previous RSS entry that you might have remembered reading...
[info]ghewgill : Re: Missing an obvious feature
That's a really good point. I wonder why I can't search my (or any other) RSS feeds. On the other hand, there's always for that.
[info]bovineone : Re: Missing an obvious feature
I just tried searching the Google Reader forum and it turns out that there are lots of other people who have asked for exactly the same thing... search results
Encouraged by your recommendation (and annoyed by yet another flood of old rss entries on my friends page), I have started playing with google reader. Unfortunately it already caused Firefox ( to crash several times in less than an hour when I click on various navigation links. Have you seen this?
I haven't, no. Have you installed any Firefox extensions? I hear anecdotal reports of some extensions possibly causing Firefox to crash (I don't use any extensions). As of a few days ago, I'm also using Firefox 2.0 but even for the several weeks I was using google reader with Firefox 1.5.x I didn't see any such issues.
Greg Hewgill <>