Are We Really Stuck with Plus-ified Google Reader?

There has been much furor over the deprecation of Google Reader’s built-in social tools, especially the ability to share feed items with comments.

The first problem with forcing Reader users to shift over to Plus is that it brings many more people directly into conflict with the much debated real name policy for the search giant’s shiny new social network. Feed reading and curation is often closely associated with blogging, an activity that has a long and respected tradition (despite the occasional conspicuous failure) of anonymous and pseudonymous authorship. Many such users previously had an easier time following Google’s own advice to not use Plus if they are not in a position to use a real or common name.

This leads to the second problem with Google’s stance on not just this change, but now a couple of recent policies. Namely they have been espousing the view that if you don’t like how they run their services, you can export your data and use some other tool. Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb takes a pretty dim view of that recommendation, reasoning that the popularity of Reader has killed off the alternatives.

I agree only in so far as if you want a feed reader that is accessible from multiple machines, remembering the state of what you have or have not read and offers the ability to directly curate items from the reader, as opposed to using a blog or tumblr, then Google’s stance is indeed incredibly disingenuous.

The optimist in me, however, hopes that Google’s ham-fisting of Reader shakes enough free software and open source developers loose from their complacency to quickly spin up some compelling alternatives. I think there is some serious low hanging fruit here in the form of bridging between the feed reading capabilities in Mozilla’s Thunderbird and their Sync service, a secure and extensible means of sharing state between multiple instances.

The Effect of Multitasking on the Brain

My good friend Chris Miller shared this fascinating article from the New York Times. As a self professed infovore (why else would I blog and podcast so relentlessly?), I’ve followed some of the research threads tied together in this article. They span from findings on the hard wired limits of multi-tasking to knock on effects like email apnea as coined and discussed by Linda Stone. This piece has an excellent survey of the latest research on how the internet and other new information channels are affecting our ability to process information and to focus. The news that multitasking can have sustained impacts after we’ve stopped is news but hardly surprising as part of the larger picture.

Following Thomas Campbell’s personal story of these effects on his life really brings it home way more than even the equally fascinating, detailed account of how some of the research was conducted. It moves the ideas from the drily theoretical into the movingly personal. I admit to not always being as mindful of my info consumption habits as I should be. This serves is a strong reminder, not just to unplug but also to be careful about how information is pursued and consumed when plugged in.

I took the interactive focus test and was pleased to peg the score for both classes of distractions. I do try consciously to be more of a serial single tasker and clearly my efforts there are paying off. I scan my feeds in dedicated bursts throughout the day rather than continuously grazing. I consolidate all of my reading to a single time each day which is also when I digest that material to fuel my own sharing and writing. Based on my apparent success, I think I should perhaps distill my thoughts and experiences into an essay or monologue.