Among the things Robert Scoble is good at he is definitely good at getting us bloggers talking. Today he shared on Posterous (which I am subscribed and read in Google Reader) his reasons for not using Google Reader any more. Robert was the one that got me into Google Reader in the first place, so coming from him, this is a bold statement. He has some points though – I’d like to put this in a different view. Google Reader is Google’s Walled Garden. There is no public search. There is no public access to comments. There is no public access to seeing what Robert is liking or commenting on or how he is interacting with the site. The only thing public are the shares. I have to be following you for you to be able to comment on, view comments, or like my shares. There is no way to make those comments or likes public. In a social web, that’s unacceptable.
Let’s first contrast that with Facebook. Facebook, the original “walled garden” at least allows those you are friends with to comment and see your comments and likes. The relationship is mutual. Not only that, but you have granularity in who sees what you post, and therefore who can comment on it. Of course Facebook could still do better in this as well.
Now look at Twitter, supposedly the most open environment of all Social environments (if you don’t count MySpace). With Twitter I can respond to anyone. Anyone can see my response. I can retweet, and anyone can see my retweet. I can even create an entire list of people and anyone can see that list of people. Conversely, Twitter doesn’t provide the openness of granularity to allow people to be private as they choose (yes, I define that as openness as well), so even it fails to an extent.
What Scoble is having problems with I think is the fact that his content, his comments,and his likes are encapsulated in this walled garden in Google Reader. Even his shares are pretty hard to find – he has to share the URL for you to have access to them. I think all this lends to a poor User Interface, and a very “unsocial” experience. It’s very hard to share things beyond just the articles in Google Reader.
My suggestion would be, assuming Google Reader wants to be a more social experience: open up more. Make it easier to find peoples’ shares. Make it easier for people to comment on my feeds. Make it easier for people to like my feeds. Give us an API to those comments and likes. Get rid of duplicate content (okay, that’s just an unrelated pet-peeve). At the same time maintain the openness of granularity to enable privacy should people choose. The default should be openness though. Google is not and never was a Walled Garden. Google Reader shouldn’t be either.
At the same time you can follow me on Google Reader here.