Reader Manifesto

I first started using RSS aggregators 3 years ago when I noticed a depressing trend of big sites (like Facebook) trying to force you to use the web through their portal. The idea of being able to take any feed I wanted and choose how I wanted to aggregate it was what I really preferred. I can subscribe to Craigslist searches, Twitter pages, blogs, ebay searches, Youtube channels, etc all from my rss aggregator. It wasn’t until I started using Google Reader that I realized how powerful an RSS aggregator could be when coupled with social services (like commenting and sharing with friends). Now, I’d say I do about 80% of my web surfing through Reader. It’s my most visited site, followed by Gmail, Twitter, my own blog, Flickr, and the occasional Wiki search.

Reader already has some fantastic features in place, but below I’ve posted some feature requests that I’d like to see added to the growing service:

Filters- Many of these features requests can be tracked by to my other favorite Google service, Gmail. I’m not a heavy filter user for mail, but I could filters being an awesome tool when following feeds. Say for instance that I was an Android user who enjoyed reading Gizmodo, but wasn’t interested in iPhone news. I should be able to subscribe to the main Gizmodo feed, then add a filter to Reader to never allow any posts tagged with “iPhone” into my feeds. This filter could later be changed or removed. Filters, like Gmail, could be set up to “only allow” or “filter” keywords in categories such as author, tags, subject, or body. When viewing an item in Reader, there could be a “filter items like this” button that will auto fill out a filter based on certain suggestions. I’m thinking about how much more useful some local blogs could be if I could filter any post that ever uses the overly used word “hipster” for instance. If only I could filter snark from a feed.

Auto Send- One of my favorite new iPad apps is Instapaper. Instapaper is a service that allows you to take content from the web and send it to your App to be saved for offline viewing. So if you find a lengthy New York Times article, you can click the “Read Later” bookmarklet to have the content of that article sent to our iPad to read later. Reader has added a “Send To” button that allows you to send items to Instapaper, email, or many other services easily. It’s a great feature for lengthy reads, but imagine how cool it would be to automatically set certain items to automatically send items to another service. I’d love to automatically have Daring Fireball posts sitting in my Instapaper to read during my morning commute.

Report Spam- As Reader becomes more popular and more open, it’s going to encounter issues with spam. Luckily Google already has some experience with spam prevention. I only follow a few people’s shared items, but I’ve set up my Account to allow anyone to comment on my shared items. This has rarely been a problem, but in the few cases of spam I’ve seen, it would be nice to have a “report spam” button. This would automatically delete the comment, block the user from commenting on my feed again, and raise a flag for Google to identify spam.

Dislike button- At first, the desire to have a dislike button was born out of a need to let out some steam. Similar to the “Like” button, disliked items would have a public folder for others to see. The real functionality for a dislike button, however, would be for Google to better develop algorithms to suit your tastes. If you dislike three posts from the same author, maybe Reader could suggest a filter to remove that authors feeds from your view.

Show when objects are missing- Usually the content of Reader items is identical to what you would be reading on the actual site your feed is coming from, but sometimes an item shows up without the pictures, video, or other media. It would be great for Reader to alert you when something might be missing from your feed. I guess the ultimate goal is to never have missing data, but if that’s not possible, it’d be good to know when there is more data that you might be missing.

Better new followers page- Reader alerts you anytime you have a new follower, which is a great tool for finding friends, but the problem that message only shows up once. So if you accidentally click on the “new followers” link when you didn’t mean to, you won’t get another chance to see your most recent followers. If Reader had a list of followers based chronologically (with newest up top), then I could always go back in to see if any of anyone I Know has just found me on Reader.

Attribution- this is the feature I’ve been wanting the longest, and it’s probably just an unnecessary Twitter throwback, but it would be nice to more easily give credit where it’s due. If I share an item that I found via another user’s shared items, it would be nice to have a “Via username”. If the user’s profile is public, then there would be a clickable hyperlink to there Reader profile. This would only occur in the case of looking at shared items and could be opted out of. This also wouldn’t pop-up if I already had a subscription to the blog where that article came from.

I bet there are some other cool ideas I may have left out. Feel free to add them to the comments below, and if you’d like to follow my shared items on Reader, you can find them here.