The Shared Items Archive and Sharing on the New Google Reader – A Solution

As mentioned in my previous post, I failed to find a decent replacement for Google Reader. Honestly, I didn’t think there would be a feed reader that would do what I wanted it to do (but I still wanted to look around). Thus, I had to keep in mind alternative solutions for maintaining an archive of interesting items I’ve found in Google Reader.

One option that some people seem happy with is a web browser extension called Reader Sharer. There are two versions of this extension. The second version is Reader Sharer (Original Style), which retains the styling of the new Google Reader. Other than the styling differences, Reader Sharer (Original Style) does exactly the same as Reader Sharer. You can install either version of Reader Sharer depending on which style you prefer.

ReaderSharer Restores Sharing Options For New Google Reader [Chrome] reviews Reader Sharer, which includes styling changes to the new Google Reader. There has been a recent update to Reader Sharer since that review, so I’ll note what you can expect to see if you install Reader Sharer.

Quickly, I’ll review what you see in Google Reader’s new interface. On the left-hand side, there are links to ‘Home’, ‘All Items’, ‘Explore’, and ‘Subscriptions’. Using the drop-down arrow on ‘All Items’, there’s links to ‘Starred Items’, ‘Trends’, and ‘Browse for Stuff’. Click the drop-down on ‘Explore’ to see recommendations. Clicking the drop-down on ‘Subscriptions’ will let you see your subscriptions. On a new item, you’ll see a star, the +1 button, the Google+ share button (this is new as of writing this blog article – see Send Stories from Google Reader to Google+ with the New Share Button), ‘Email’, the ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox, ‘Send To’, and ‘Add Tags’.

Installing Reader Sharer will add these links back to the left-hand side of Google Reader – ‘Your Shared Items’, ‘Notes’, ‘Your Liked Items’, and ‘People You Follow’. The first three are found between ‘Your Starred Items’, and ‘Trends’. ‘People You Follow’ appears before ‘Explore’. Click the drop-down to see the people you were following. A link to the ‘Sharing Settings’ is located there as well. On each item, Reader Sharer adds back the ‘Like’ button, the ‘Share’ button, and the ‘Share with Note’ button. Using ‘Share’ or ‘Share with Note’ will put the item onto your ‘Shared Items’ page. Thus, you have your archive of interesting items back.

While some people are happy with Reader Sharer installed, I see this as a temporary fix. Reader Sharer is a good extension as it does what it says it will do. However, I do think that this ‘fix’ will work only as long as Google maintains the archive of ‘Shared Items’, ‘Followers’, ‘Liked Items’, etc. As for the public pages, there’s no guarantee that Google will maintain those.

Regarding the new Google+ share button: There is one glitch I’ve noticed. After marking an item as ‘read’, I can’t go back to that item and uncheck the box. The ‘Mark as Read’checkbox is there for unread items only. Basically, I can’t mark the item as unread. Problematic if the automatically marking as read option is on for expanded view or if you just marked the item as read by accident.

Although Reader Sharer adds back the old ‘Share’ button to Google Reader and I can continue to add items to my ‘Shared Items’ public page for now, I’ve decided to find another way to publicly archive interesting items. I realize that since the +1s show up on my Google+ profile page, this is actually a public archive of things I’ve found interesting all over the ‘net. However, I want something that just publicly archives the interesting items from my Google Reader. Basically, I’m trying to find a way to replace my ‘Shared Items’ public page in case Google does eventually take down those pages. I decided that my best options for a replacement were blogging sites.

I currently use a WordPress blog, so naturally I thought I could make another WordPress blog. I also thought of Blogger since Google owns Blogger. I wasn’t interested in Blogger before because I’ve been pretty happy with WordPress. I should point out that my WordPress is not hosted on WordPress.com, but it’s the downloaded WordPress on a server that I use. I use a Linode server to which I have admin access. Basically, I have pretty good control over my WordPress blog. I decided to check out Blogger in comparison to WordPress. Blogger does allow you to export your blog as well, but it’s still not as good as WordPress in many ways. For one thing, WordPress has plugins you can install to do a variety of things. While Blogger has a layout and design interface you can use to help you skin your blog, actually writing CSS to skin your blog gives you more flexibility than any layout and design interface. However, the layout and design interface has the benefits of being fairly quick in comparison to writing code for a web page. I note that Blogger allows followers, which makes it a social blog, while WordPress is more of traditional blog. Since Blogger is owned by Google, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s integrated into Google+ at some point. Maybe it won’t be, but I just wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

Lastly, I could set up another Tumblr blog. I’ve been using Tumblr for a while now as something in between traditional blogging like I do on here versus micro-blogging like I do on Plurk and Twitter. Tumblr offers features that WordPress does not have and that’s followers and reblogs. Tumblr is a social blogging site like Blogger, but the reblogs like the retweets on Twitter adds a more social environment. Thus, I’ve found it useful to have both a WordPress blog and a Tumblr blog. Via a plugin to WordPress, my blog posts to Tumblr when I publish an article on here. Tumblr does have a way to export your blog posts, but it’s via a Mac app they’ve created. I do happen to have an old MacBook, so I do have a way to export my Tumblr posts.

I decided to set up another Tumblr blog to use as my public archive of interesting items from Google Reader. I decided to use Tumblr because like WordPress, I can skin the site with my own CSS. I still need to get around to skinning my WordPress blog and my main Tumblr with CSS. For now, I’m using Tumblr themes, which are frankly nicer than the themes on Blogger. My main Tumblr is Pneumatic Blogging and my new Tumblr for feed items is Pneumatise Your Brain. I posted a few items onto ‘Pneumatise Your Brain’ that I had already shared on my Google Reader.

A lot of people have been upset about the ‘Shared Items’ archive and not having access to it. With Reader Sharer, they do again for now. All of the data on a Google Reader account is available to the account holder to download. Unfortunately, aside from the subscriptions, everything else is saved in json files. I spent some time looking for a way to output the json files as html, but the best I could find was json to html. The output wasn’t pretty. The information is there, but then again the information is in the json file readable along with the code in a text editor. Plus, I didn’t see how to copy the html into a file I could save (it really wasn’t pretty). I ended up just going to my ‘Shared Items’ public pages and manually saving each page as html files onto my computer. It actually took me a shorter amount of time than trying to find a way to output the json files in a way that was nicely readable. Tedious as hell manually saving each page, but at least I have the information in a format that is easier to read.

Back to Google Reader. With my new Tumblr set up as my public archive, I can now send items in my Google Reader to my Tumblr. This won’t be as easy as using the old ‘Share’ button. It really was convenient. Just one click and presto, the item in my Google Reader was on my public ‘Shared Items’ page.

Normally, I share items in my social media sites by copying and pasting the url of whatever it is I’m wanting to share. Thus, I’ve never really used the ‘Send To’ button, but I probably should now as it is more convenient than copying and pasting the urls of dozens of web pages (depends on how many items I read in my Google Reader each time). The ‘Send To’ feature isn’t new on Google Reader, it’s been there for a few years now. It’s also customizable. Google has some sites set up on there already such as Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. The other sites I don’t use. MySpace I haven’t signed into in ages. You can check mark the ones listed already to have them appear in the ‘Send To’ drop-down menu. Other sites you have to add manually.

Since I was considering using a WordPress blog as an archive, I checked to see how to add a WordPress blog to the ‘Send To’ in order to show my blog as an option in the drop-down menu. Follow the instructions on Using Google Reader Sent To with WordPress. It works. 😀 Since Tumblr and Blogger were already listed, I didn’t have to add them manually.

If you have other sites you want to send to, you can use ‘Add to Any’ as mentioned in this article, Google Reader’s Send To Feature.

I tried adding Plurk to the ‘Send To’ as well, but I’m not sure what the post url would be. If anyone knows, please comment!

With the ‘Send To’ feature set up, I’m ready to share stuff from my Google Reader again. (Hopefully they’ll fix the missing ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox or I might have to use Feedly instead.)

Here’s a quick review of my sharing options now:

1. +1 the item (the item will show up on my Google+ profile +1 tab; all +1s are public)
2. +1 the item and share on Google+ (can select Public, Extended Circles, Circles; or can list names of Circles; or can list names of people)
3. share the item on Google+ (like #2 above)
4. send the item to my WordPress blog (I can save the post as a draft)
5. send the item to my Blogger blog (if I ever decide to use it; I set one up while checking out Blogger’s features; can also ‘save as draft’)
6. send the item to my Tumblr blog (if you have more than one Tumblr blog, the pop-up window has an option to select which blog; you can also ‘save as draft’)
7. send the item to my Twitter account
8. send the item in email to a person or persons (note that you can email the item to yourself at another account if you want to privately archive it; why is it people seem to forget about email?)

I didn’t bother checking the box to add Facebook to the ‘Send To’ drop-down menu since I’m not planning on sharing on Facebook.

With Reader Sharer installed, I have the option again to ‘Share’ or ‘Share with Note’ for now, but I think I rather like sharing on Tumblr.

(There is an alternative to using Reader Sharer and setting up a blog as an archive. Lipsumarium has written a script, called Google Reader Share, that will add a ‘Share’ button to Google Reader as well as allowing people to follow their friends again by typing in their email addresses. I haven’t tried this script and I’m not entirely sure I would trust just anyone on the ‘net. I mention this only in case others are willing to try it. I don’t necessarily recommend it.

I was never a big user of ‘Following’ others on Google Reader, but I know some people were. In the old version of Google Reader, your ‘Shared Items’ did not have to go onto the public pages. Some people opted to share their items with specific groups of people as set up in their Gmail contacts. With the new Google Reader interface, they couldn’t do this anymore (not unless they install Reader Sharer). How to Share Privately With the New Google Reader briefly discusses this issue.

Here are the ways you can share privately from Google Reader:

1. Email. I’m guessing this is a not-so-attractive option for some people because they might know people they want to share with, but they don’t have the email addresses for those people. People are still generally private about their email addresses which is one reason why social media sites are popular.

2. Share on Google+ to a specific Circle, Circles, friend, or friends. (You can create a Circle of just your Reader friends and share only to them.) To be clear, +1s are always public. So, if you want to share privately with someone, don’t use the +1 button. Unfortunately for people who weren’t already signed up with Google+ when Google Reader’s interface was changed, people were actually missing a way to share the item aside from the +1 button and the ‘Send To’ feature. The ‘Share’ box in the top black bar was missing since they weren’t Google+ users. That likely explains the trouble for most people. Google has made it more obvious how to share on Google Reader now with the new Google+ share button shown next to the +1 button. Some people might still be miffed at having to use Google+ if they weren’t intending on using it. They will have to privately share using email or the ‘Send To’ feature.

3. Use the ‘Send To’ feature to share to a social media site that your followers are using.

Another way you can share items privately with others is through IM. Like email, it seems like people have forgotten about IM. If people are using Google Reader, they all can use Google’s chat feature in Gmail. Copy and paste the url into your chat window to share privately with someone.

Next, I’m going to look at Feedly again in comparison to Google Reader – just in case they don’t fix the missing ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox on already read items. Maybe I’ll also play around with the layout of it. I do admit it looks prettier than Google Reader. Makes reading fun. :)

I’ll also go through some more ‘Shared Items’ on my Google Reader and post some of them to my new Tumblr blog. Note to self to find time to do some CSS for my Tumblr blogs.

˜˜˜C

Leave a Reply