Readertron is an attempt to revive the old "social" Google Reader, and an experiment in building useful software for my friends.
What follows is a lament I wrote on Feb 15, 2012, four months after Google discontinued its social features.
I haven't forgotten about Google Reader. Every so often, in fact -- and now is one of those moments -- I feel this crazy maniacal rage about what we've lost. God it used to be wonderful.
I no longer read as much, think as much, or write as much.
There are certain people I no longer think of as much. It was weird the way a daily stream of shares would seem to feed friendships just like a real conversation; I felt "in touch" with a great wide circle that way.
Is it perverse that I don't care hardly as much about the articles I read without the Reader crew to share them to?
It's amazing how the littlest friction can torpedo a user experience. That "Note in Google Reader" bookmarklet was a difference-maker. The one-click share in Reader was a difference-maker.
It was such a thrill to be able to rely on the fact that a small group of certain people would know what you were talking about when you referenced some "share" you made a couple of weeks ago. It was like the lot of us lived in, or dabbled in, the others' mental context.
I'm not just being nostalgic. I thought this way about Reader while we were using it.
What Reader reminded me most of was this idea in Ender's Game of that online forum where these kids could play the role of "Locke" and "Demosthenes" in a forum of consequence. Reader felt strangely like a forum of consequence. What an outlet!
When you read these essays or e-mails in the early days of the Internet where people imagined the best of what it would be, it always, ALWAYS sounds exactly like what we had with Reader.
I know that "what we had" could exist in other software. Of course the software is incidental to the group and its behavior, and millions of other thriving groups thrive elsewhere. It could be IRC, e-mail, usenet, a more traditional forum, other RSS aggregators, etc. But the community I gave a shit about happened to use Google Reader and that community, for totally reasonable reasons, went up in smoke the moment the software changed. We may never get it back.
How terribly terribly sad.