When Google Reader Goes Bad

When Google Reader Goes Bad

GoogleReaderErrors.jpgGoogle Reader is an essential element of my daily workflow (even if I forgot to mention it when I summed up my favourite software, and there’s a lot I like about it: no need for extra software, a well-designed mobile version, and plenty of keyboard shortcuts. But in recent weeks I’ve noticed that it’s become somewhat buggier. Here’s a few lingering issues that I think the reader development team would do well to address.

The biggest issue is that the whole thing sometimes just breaks down entirely — displaying unread counts when everything has been read, or otherwise getting itself out of alignment. Normally, I can fix this by visiting another URL and then reloading Google Reader (a straightforward refresh doesn’t seem to work). That’s not a major hassle, but it’s still a nuisance.

The other hassle is the “kept unread” article list on the front page, which Google introduced early this year. I don’t use the keep unread function, yet for weeks Google has listed a bunch of articles on my front page as being kept unread. No matter how many times I mark them as read, clear the cache, or access them on different PCs, they won’t go away. (Even getting conspiracy minded and trying to access Reader in Chrome didn’t make much difference.)

At this stage, neither of these problems (or Reader’s once-every-three-months tendency to mark a bunch of stuff as unread) has put me off Reader altogether. But if the next new feature introduction turns out to be another bug introduction, I might have to rethink my allegiances.


  • The “kept unread” list is just a list of things you last clicked that function for. If you uncheck the option on them at a later date, they stay in the list as the last things you “kept unread” (even though they aren’t anymore).

    It’s not really what I’d call a problem or a bug. Just a strange feature. I’m not sure why I’d want to know which things have been “kept unread” on the home page when they’re clearly marked as unread anyway (I keep up to date with every feed I subscribe to).

  • My biggest put-off for Google Reader, and in fact, most web-based RSS feed aggregators, is that they don’t handle feeds that require authorization.

    I subscribe to the RSS feeds on a number of friends’ Livejournals – which sometimes have private posts, hence you need to be logged in to LJ… but Google Reader (et al) don’t seem to like this at all.

    I also have one or two feeds which require a username/password authorization.

    Mostly I’ve been using the offline reader GreatNews (from CurioStudio) which uses IE as a backend (yes, bad stuff, I know) and this handles all the above quite nicely… it even prompts for username/password on the authorized feed and can save the password (using IE’s password storage feature). However, I regularly use three different computers (work, home, laptop) and having to re-read the same feeds on each is sometimes timewasting. I’d love an “online server sync” RSS aggregator that kept track of what feeds I’d read, but also something that can handle authorized and LJ private feeds, and an offline/system tray icon that can notify when you’ve got new feeds to read (so I don’t have to keep a browser tab open on Google Reader all the bloody time).

    A week or so ago, I did some research (i.e. googling) to find some server based solutions that I could run on a webserver.
    (PHP/MySQL based, etc). There’s quite a few out there, but none of them really have a complete feature set and customisable interface. So I gave up and went back to GreatNews, and reading the same feeds 3 times on 3 different machines. It’s the best solution for now.

    Anyway, it seems that RSS feeds, despite their convenience, don’t have much in the way of decent features available in one nice, customisable package.

  • Ah, but I hadn’t ever used the “keep unread” function on the articles in question — so I’d call it a bug. And even if I had, why keep listing something as “kept unread” after you’ve specifically marked it as “read”? Your point about why this function is needed at all when unread articles are highlighted is an excellent one. What’s needed is a customisation option to take those unwanted features off the front page (I don’t care for the “recently read” section either).

  • For some reason reader also insists on removing the left hand bar whenever I log back on. I know I only have to hit “u” to get it back, but it’s weird, and only started happening about 4 months ago. Still love it though 🙂

  • @Luciano

    Thanks for the link. I had seen freemyfeed.com in my travels but decided to give the PHP/MySQL based solution a try first, as I knew that was on /my/ secure server rather than having to pass through someone elses…

    I’ll now give freemyfeed.com a shot and see how effective it is. I guess it depends on their server too… it was down yesterday when I tried but back up this morning.

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