Difficult Reading for Google Reader

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Filed under: Canright Writers' Blog, Onlines

Difficult Reading for Google Reader

Google Reader is an RSS reader–RSS for ¬†really simple syndication. RSS readers make it easy to read and organize blogs, both on the desktop and on mobile devices, and I find the Google Reader to be one of the best and easiest to use.

I have my iGoogle home page set up with Reader widgets with either single publications, like the Financial Times, or multiple blogs grouped under tags like “online-media” or “payments.” I like grouping them in folders, which appear in a list of tags, because I can group multiple blogs together, and I can see the post in a fly-out bubble to read the initial part of the post.

I don’t change these tags all that often. Today I wanted to put my personal blog and our Canright Communications blog under the same tag–or in the same folder in Google Reader–so I can monitor how the RSS feeds look.

It wasn’t all that simple. I couldn’t remember how I had done it, I couldn’t find instructions to read, and I had difficulty reading the application, to wit:

I started out on my main Reader page after adding my blog and clicked on Manage Subscriptions link under the blog name (bottom-left on the screen), figuring that would tell me how to put my newly imported Observations-Engagements blog in a folder.

The next screen shows Settings for all of the blogs I have imported into Reader. I looked around and say I could Change Folders and Add to a Folder. But I was looking to add a new folder, so I moved on. . .

. . . to the Folders and Tags tab, figuring I would be able to add a new folder there.

Nope. It listed all my folders, but I didn’t see any controls to add a new one. I went back to the Settings screen, and then back to the main screen, getting increasingly frustrated.

I even searched Google Reader Help for “folders” and “add folder” but didn’t get what I was looking for. It’s funny because the example search you get when you click Help in Google Reader is “create folder.” But the topic you see is “Sharing content with public pages,” which tells you how to share folders but not create them.

I work a lot with computer instructions in our technical writing business, and when I get lost like this I usually start clicking on stuff. Back on the Settings tab, I clicked on the Add Folders button next to by blog name, and there it was, at the bottom of the drop-down list. . . the elusive “New folder” option.

I late found it again off the

It also appears at the end of the list for the “Change folders” button, which is how it reads when a blog is already in a folder.

I like Google software a lot, especially its speed, but this says a lot about Google software and how it’s designed for people who are good with software.

I think it says even more about RSS, which is really simple and still difficult to figure out. It is not a mass market tool and likely never will be, as Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel reported in an October 2008 post that¬†RSS adoption was peaking at 11% and likely would stay near that level. Rubel’s post cited a Forrester survey titled, “What’s Holding RSS Back? Consumers Still Don’t Understand This Really Simple Technology.”

Not to say that RSS isn’t useful. It’s extremely useful as a back-end tool. Our home page, for instance, receives information from our blog and other pages through RSS feeds. News moves from site to site through RSS.

It’s really simple. Just not easy to use. Like Google Reader.

-Collin