Google’s Walled Garden

2426084610-reader-logo-en.gifAmong 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.

20 thoughts on “Google’s Walled Garden

  1. Google Reader does excel at aggregating _a lot_ of information in a compact layout. Twitter, FriendFeed and FaceBook are a mess by comparison. Lists are making them better, but still not great. It also has great keyboard shortcuts; TweetDeck and Brizzly are still behind in usability for me since they only have minimal keyboard shortcuts, FaceBook's got nothing. If I'm going to read a lot of serious articles, I'm not doing it anywhere else.


  2. I think you hit it on the head there.

    Roberts partly annoyed his reach doesn't happen in G reader. Therefore his ego can't get stroked either ;o)

    I think he biggest asset is he gets people talking, just as you said here.

    I agree with your points though, G reader should be more open.



  3. Google Reader is not replaceable by any other tool today. Their social features are growing and improving. It's all we can really ask. And they are listening to all feedback, constructive or not.


  4. As usual he has to overdo everything and since no one from Google has stroked his ego he has to whine. Google reader may not be perfect but it's the best way I've found to follow a lot of RSS feeds and keep up with many many blogs and websites in a quick and efficient way.


  5. Actually the Google Reader team talked with me a few days ago and they did stroke my ego. Still didn't stop me. It's funny the stuff you guys make up when someone says something you don't agree with.


  6. Google is a walled garden WRT comments, in Reader, Friend Connect and I haven't heard anything about them in Social Search. Most of my non-geek social circle only consumes content (and occasionally comments) so they are the most important part (for me). The salmon protocol seems like right direction, but how will this be implemented in tools with tighter constraints? Right now Google's social strategy seems all over the place .. as new functionality gets added to the core tools (lists, likes etc), how will these integrate into the social search functionality?

    Reader could use a couple of things that _might_ make Robert happier.. pubsubhubbub on the front end (for speed) and an API so it could be better integrated into other systems.


  7. So what you moaning about then… seems funny you can dish it out but not take it Robert… thing is you say crap like “you have no friends” and that sounds so arrogant.


  8. They REALLY think that? hmm .. IF interaction and comments are the keys to a social network, they've got a LONG way to go. The only way my friends can see MY comment on someone's share is IF they are “allowed” to by the person who shared the item (who must also follow my friend AND add them to the correct list). I'm not saying it can't/won't change, but it sure seems like a very “walled” beginning for a social network. The fragmentation of items via the bookmarklet and share with Note verses the source feed makes the likes less valuable too!


  9. I have great respect for Robert and other social media evangelists, but seriously please leave my Google Reader alone. I don't care what one liners people have to spout off when they read the same articles that I do. If I wanted to read comments, I would click through to the full page. If I wanted to know what Robert is reading right now I would scroll through his Twitter stream. Google Reader in its current form is a great information source. Please don't turn my Google Reader into Facebook status updates or FriendFeed. If I feel like sharing or discussing, there are a lot better mediums to do that in. Thanks 🙂


  10. Louis, I agree wholeheartedly there. This criticism is intended
    constructively. I hope they can take it as such. Regardless there is still
    no better solution at ensuring I get the news than Google Reader.


  11. I've only just started using the social elements of Google Reader. So far I like them, but I have to say the biggest problem is finding new people to follow. Other than tweeting about it and asking who wants to follow me, it's hard to find new people. I don't see why Google Reader doesn't make it so that you can see a list of who people are following, or who else has starred or shared the same post as you, so you can find other people based on relevant content. Maybe developments like this are being considered, to make it a more open platform.


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