Adam Mc

Thoughts on the web.

Google Reader – Part 1: Information Addiction


Hello, my name is Adam and I am addicted to information.

I’ve been an info addict for as long as I can remember. For years, the internet has been my dealer. It started innocently enough. I needed the answer to a question, so I looked it up online. Google search, newsgroups, chat rooms, user forums and misc websites were my sources. Then in 2006, I stumbled upon Digg. It was like finding a secret stash of information that was exactly relevant to my interests. I quickly became an avid user.

For those of you that never used Digg, here is how it worked: A user submits a URL from any website, other users click the link, check out the content and either vote it up (Digg it) or vote it down (bury it).

The stories with the most “Diggs” were promoted to the front page of their respective section and/or the front page of the website. It was a community-driven internet newspaper that had a unique social hook. It depended completely on user engagement and the underlying promise was “More Diggs = Better Content.”

About a year and half later, Digg started to change. I had always counted on Digg for content in which I was actively interested. It helped me discover new content and information sources. In late 2007, it was letting me down. The hordes of people on Digg had begun to spoil its ecosystem.

Digg worked so well in the early days because the users had similar interests. The majority of us were all info addicts and digital natives. We had a shared sense of humor and pool of interest.

Then the user base grew and more people from outside that narrow slice of Internet culture joined the site. Those new users expanded the circle of interest on Digg, which expanded the definition of “good content.” The most active and trusted submitters become pseudo-celebrities. The URLs they posted always reached the front page, regardless of how good or bad the content was. More and more I found that all the content on Digg that really mattered to me wasn’t rising to the top and it was coming from just a handful of websites. By early 2008, Digg had lost its authenticity and, more importantly, its relevance to my interests.

Around that same time, a good friend turned my attention to Google Reader. I had been using Google since 2002 and by 2008 I was using iGoogle, Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs on a daily basis. I was already on Google sites for a good portion of the day so making the jump to Reader was an easy choice. Hell, I was using iGoogle as a simple RSS feed aggregator. Why not just move those over to Reader? I knew that I’d be losing the community impact and feel of Digg but I figured that the quality of the content would more than make up for it.

I scoured through my Digg account to find the sites that seemed to have the best information and added their RSS feed. Sites that didn’t have an RSS feed didn’t make the cut. It didn’t take long for Reader to become my new trusted source, my new dealer and my daily fix.

My feed was finally completely under my control and all the content was relevant to my interests. It was all from sites I cared about and about topics I wanted to read about.

But something didn’t feel right…

Continue on to Part 2 – The Love Affair or Skip right to the end: Part 3 – The Anti-Social Update