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Friday
Mar152013

Google Reader: Act First, Apologize Later

By Dennis D. McDonald

Click or tap on the above image to download a .pdf of this article.Google’s recent announcement about ending its support for Google Reader caught me by surprise.  I had long ago given up on actively using RSS readers to aggregate feeds and thought most others had done so as well. The outcry that spread throughout Google+, my social network of choice, was therefore a surprise.

It probably should not have been. I regularly use Google’s Feedburner to support RSS feeds to several pages on my own blog and was troubled several months ago when rumors of its demise started circling. I figure its days are numbered as well.

Events such as these remind me of how secretive Google actually is about its plans. The Reader debacle is one example. Then there was Google’s recent unannounced online redirection from Picasa to Google+ for photo management. I’m looking at Flickr again as a result.

I’m also keeping a paid Yahoo email address I had been planning to drop, just in case more “free” services have to be cut.

Perhaps Google, despite its size, success, and sophistication,  is still an amateur when it comes to managing customer support and customer relations. Even before this Reader debacle I expressed concerns about whether or not Google is really set up to manage and support the introduction of a complex technology like Glass. My concerns are even stronger now. This gives me pause about putting all my technology eggs in one basket as Jeff Jarvis has done and I’m at the point where I am thinking I would rather have a basic Ubuntu Linux machine than a basic Chrome OS machine, given I have to support this stuff myself.

Perhaps Google is just practicing “It’s better to apologize later rather than ask permission before.” Google gives an illusion of openness, but maybe it’s really just a small group of people at Google making major infrastructure decisions in light of strategic goals that aren’t always revealed to the public. In the end many users might be inconvenienced by the occasional disturbances but Google management probably figures that afterwards everything will work better together, users will be even more embedded in the Google ecosystem, and ad sales will continue in a positive direction. 

Things would probably be very different — and more open for discussion — if more services required subscription payments. In the meantime, as much as I love Google — and I live in Google to a great extent — I’m not going to ever go 100% with any one vendor, whether it’s Apple, Microsoft, or Google. 
 
Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in digital strategy, project management, and technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. His experience includes government contract research, software and database product development, system integration and consolidation, and IT strategy consulting. Contact Dennis via email at ddmcd@yahoo.com or by phone at  703-402-7382.  

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