Alex Beutel's Blog

Google Reader vs. Netvibes, and Jetpack Notifications

July 18th, 2009 · No Comments

A couple of weeks ago I decided to give Google Reader a try.  I have been addicted to Netvibes for at least 2-3 years now, but I saw that Reader had a more active community around it, so I thought it was worth trying out.  Almost immediately I disliked the look and feel.  I am subscribed to over thirty fairly active RSS feeds and  in Reader it was hard to see which blogs had new posts.  The default action is to just look at a long list and viewing posts by blog is almost hard to do.  As a result “Mark[ing] all as read” for a specific blog takes many more scrolls and clicks, which had been extremely easy in Netvibes.   About this time I was giving Mozilla’s Jetpack a try and found the Google Reader Notifier, which would notify me via Growl of new posts.  So I decided to give Reader a longer try, despite some initial disappointments.

Ultimately, I became addicted to these near instant updates for new blog posts that the Jetpack extension provided.  At the same time I learned to love the fact that by default I was forced to read the title for every blog post in Reader.  Where as before in Netvibes I would never scroll through the backed up posts from Gizmodo and Engadget, Reader’s chronological ordering makes me go through each post.  Recently, this is just another case where what I think I want does not match up with what actual creates a better user experience (similar to Google’s analysis of users searching more with 10 results despite asking for as many as possible or  Dan Curtis’s explanation that we are not in control of our deicions).  Also, this reminds me of Aza Raskin‘s statement “Every time you make the user make a decision they don’t care about, you have failed as a designer.”  Interestingly, Google forced me to make a harder decision than I wanted to make; where before I could avoid deciding whether or not to remove the blog by just leaving it on my page and just easily clicking away new posts with “Marking all as read,” I now had to decide to either read the post titles or make the leap to get ride of the RSS feed all together.  While I was able to be lazy before, it made for a more concrete decision and user experience.

The other thing I realized was that the Jetpack extension for Reader notifications was causing my browser to hang when I had a bad internet connection.  Sadly, living in an off campus apartment with spotty Internet this happens all too often, and I decided to disable Jetpack.  However, I missed the notifications and decided to fix the Jetpack extension.  I reworked the old extension to only perform asynchronous AJAX calls, getting rid of the browser hanging issue, and modified the extension to display notifications to show new posts by blog title, thus making the notifications more informative.  The status bar display and the new Growl notifications can be seen below.  Click here to install this extension or here to view the code.  Of course, let me know your thoughts or any bugs you run into.  Thanks.

Also, as some friends like Niru, DJ, and Marc have pointed out, I have somewhat decreased my blogging but have been posting a good number of posts on Twitter.  So of course, you should follow me on Twitter here.

Tags: Javascript · Jetpack · Musings · Web Development

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