Tools for the Google Reader diaspora

Well Google did a dumb thing just a few days ago. A few dumb things, actually..and I can’t help but wonder if it’s the new management or just old structural problems that are leading them down this terrible direction. They got rid of the sharing features of Google Reader and moved them to Google+. Here’s a good explanation for why that was a terrible idea, and I can corroborate that using Reader with G+ is an awful experience. The interface is designed to get you to post about yourself and spy on your friends, not to have meaningful discussions about deep content. Many other people agree strongly. Plus, they bulldozed the old Gmail look in favor of this ugly spartan look (a look which I suspect was actually one reason for Google+’s current failure.)

And since we’ve been kicked out, my friends and I have been pathetically wandering, trying to have a coherent conversation across multiple platforms, email, IM – a conversation that would have been so easy on Reader. We’re holding out for Hivemined, a replacement that is being built (Another one to look into is ridllr,)  and for now we are slogging through with Google+.

For those doing the same, I made some tools to make your reading easier. I’ll go through my Firefox toolbar to show you what I made and what I use. From left to right:

  • Subscribe in Reader plugin (download from me) – Now that your friends’ shares are no longer shown in the Reader interface, it’s harder to subscribe to new content. This button loads the first RSS feed of whatever blog or news site you are on and displays it in Reader, allowing you to subscribe. Perfect to build up your subscription lists.
    To use, download the xpi file and then drag it into the Firefox window. If you don’t have Firefox, then drag this link to your bookmark bar: Subscribe in Reader
  • Video Downloadhelper (download from Mozilla) – When you are watching video on a site like YouTube, Vimeo, or listening to music on a site like SoundCloud, etc., this icon lights up and lets you download the source file directly. Best way I know to grab YouTube videos or SoundCloud MP3s.
  • Share on Facebook plugin (download from me) – Click this to share something directly to Facebook.
    Same usage instructions as Subscribe in Reader plugin above. If you don’t have Firefox, drag this link to your bookmark bar: Share on Facebook
  • Share on Google+ plugin (download from me) – Share to Google+. Once you click it, click inside the little box on the page that pops up and you’ll be able to select which circles you want to share it in. I created a “Readers” circle for my old Reader buddies. It seems like it remembers the circles and uses them as defaults for the next time you click the button, but I haven’t tested it enough to be sure.
    Same instructions as above. Here’s the bookmarklet for those without Firefox: Share on Google+
  • Send as email (download from Mozilla) – Sometimes I want to share on Facebook or Reader, sometimes I want to email a post. I like having everything together.
  • Read It Later (download from ReadItLater) – I love this app, and it’s better than instapaper. Click the yellow arrow in the address bar to add a page to your list of things to read later, which automatically makes it available offline on your computer (by clicking the button at far right) and Android/iPhone. Works flawlessly and is very helpful in queuing articles and closing browser windows.

Credit for the plugins I made goes to the codefisher plugin generator (I had to open the xpi files to tweak the compatibility versions.) Here’s where I got the Reader, Facebook, and Google+ bookmarklets.

Whew! Who knew it was so complicated to read and share things on the internet! God do I miss Reader.

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